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Chapter One: History, Organization, and Mission

1.1 History

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in 1819. He planned the curriculum, recruited the first faculty, and designed the Academical Village. Comprised of a central lawn and surrounded by residences and gardens, the “village” symbolizes Jefferson’s intent to create an institution that supported the free and open exchange of ideas, close interaction among students and faculty, and collegial collaboration across disciplines.  The Academical Village is an architectural design of global significance; UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site in 1987, in recognition of its universal cultural value.

The University was innovative for its day because it was dedicated to educating leaders in practical affairs and public service rather than for professions in the classroom and the pulpit exclusively. It was the first nonsectarian university in the United States and the first to use the elective course system.

The University opened for classes in 1825 with a faculty of eight and a student body numbering sixty-eight. Jefferson took great pains to recruit the most highly qualified faculty, five of whom were found in England and three in the United States. Instruction included ancient languages, modern languages, mathematics, moral philosophy, natural philosophy, chemistry, law, and medicine. The students came from the American South and West and were predominantly non-Virginians. Jefferson opposed the granting of degrees on the grounds that they were "artificial embellishments." In 1824, however, the Board of Visitors authorized granting the Master of Arts degree, which throughout most of the nineteenth century remained the University's most prestigious academic award. The M.D. degree had been awarded to the first graduates of the School of Medicine in 1828, and the LL.B. was first awarded for law school graduates in 1842. The bachelor's degree was awarded beginning in 1849, but became the standard undergraduate degree and a prerequisite for the master's degree in 1899, bringing the University into conformity with other institutions of higher learning. The Ph.D. has been awarded since 1883.

Still small for a state institution, the University of Virginia today enrolls over 20,000 on-Grounds students. About 69 percent of the undergraduate student body come from Virginia, two-thirds of the student body are undergraduates, and there are approximately equal numbers of men and women. The bachelor's degree is offered in over fifty fields and programs, the master's in sixty-seven, the educational specialist in six, the first professional in two, and the doctorate in fifty-seven. In some fields, more than one degree is offered at a particular level.

1.2 Organization

To better understand the University's administrative structure it is helpful to consult a graphic presentation of its plan of organization

The Rector and Board of Visitors

In 1819 an act of the General Assembly of Virginia established the University as a public corporation with the name "The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia." The governing body of this corporation is styled the "Board of Visitors." The sixteen members of the Board of Visitors are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate and House of Delegates of Virginia for four-year terms. Thirteen must be from the commonwealth at large and eleven must be alumni or alumnae of the University; no more than three alumni/ae may live outside of the Commonwealth. The board may appoint a full-time student at the University as a nonvoting member of the board for a one-year term.  The duties and powers of the board are exercised in order to carry into effect the Statement of Institutional Purpose of the University (see section 1.4). The major powers and duties of the board are as follows:

  • to preserve the ideals and traditions of the University, especially to encourage and maintain the Honor System;
  • to establish general educational policy;
  • to establish any additional center, branch, college, or school and to present such action to the state government for its approval, if necessary;
  • to authorize the creation or discontinuation of degrees;
  • to elect a rector, vice rector, president, chief financial officer, secretary, and salaried members of the faculty (except those appointments vested in the president);
  • to determine the salary ranges of all faculty ranks and the establishment of insurance, retirement programs, and other benefits of faculty;
  • to approve promotions of faculty members;
  • to establish named chairs;
  • to regulate and govern the discipline of students and the renting of rooms and dormitories;
  • to approve general policy governing student scholarships and loans;
  • to fix tuition charges and other fees;
  • to issue revenue bonds to finance student facilities;
  • to approve regulations for use of automobiles by students;
  • to care for and preserve University property, including the sale or purchase of real estate;
  • to grant easements and exercise the power of eminent domain;
  • to approve the annual budget; and to formulate and revise long-range plans.

Finally, on nomination from and concurrence of the president, the Board of Visitors elects the vice presidents of the University and the chancellor of the University of Virginia's College at Wise, all of whom are responsible directly to the president.

The President

The president is responsible to the Rector and Board of Visitors as the chief executive and academic officer of the University. The president is also:

  • a member of the General Faculty and of the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences and each of the schools and serves as the president of the Faculty Senate;
  • responsible for operating the University in conformity with the purposes and policies determined by the Board of Visitors;
  • an adviser to the board, and recommends policies and programs, including educational programs and new degrees, that will best promote the interests of the University;
  • active in determining the internal administrative structure of the University, appointing or providing for the appointment of all administrative officers (except the vice presidents and the chancellor of the University of Virginia's College at Wise, who are nominated to the board by the president.)

The president is authorized to suspend any faculty member at any time for proper cause, in accordance with appropriate procedure, after consultation with the dean, department head, and other affected administrative officers. A full list of the president's duties appears in the Manual of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia.

Senior Administrative Officers

The president delegates authority to eleven senior administrative officers are responsible for the major functional areas (subtitles are hyperlinked the webpages belonging to the Senior Administrative Offices):

Executive Vice President and Provost:

The Executive Vice President and Provost of the University is the chief academic officer of the University.

The provost is charged by the Board of Visitors and the president with overseeing education, research, and public service in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, in each of the other schools of the University, in the University's libraries and museums, and in numerous other academically related units of the University.

The budgets of these units flow through the Office of the Provost. The provost also oversees the recruiting, hiring, retention, performance, promotion and tenure of faculty. In the University's organizational structure, offices associated with athletics, budget, development, health affairs, financial aid, student affairs, and technology report to the president through different vice presidents.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer:

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer is charged by the Board of Visitors and president with overseeing the non-academic support areas of the University, including operations of the Health System, and supporting special initiatives that have a University-wide impact. The office is guided by its commitments to:

  • integrity and sound management practices
  • academic excellence
  • customers, including students, patients, and visitors
  • people, respecting and empowering them, holding them accountable, and rewarding them for performance
  • simplification of processes and improvements in effectiveness and efficiency.

Senior Vice President for University Development and Public Affairs:

The Senior Vice President for University Development and Public Affairs supports the University's threefold mission of teaching, research, and public service by providing resources and services to development offices around the University Grounds, and by establishing policies and procedures.

University Development offers regional fundraising, planned giving, information services, research, gift accounting, communications, and donor relations services.

In cooperation with academic units and related foundations, the office also institutes policies for the conduct of development activities.

Public Affairs produces a variety of public relations activities, communications, and community relations initiatives for the University, designed to increase public understanding of programs in classrooms, research labs, and other service activities. Public Affairs' functions include management of web-based electronic communications, liaison with print and television media, and communication within the University community.

Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center:

The Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center is responsible for the operation of U.Va.’s hospital and clinics, in addition to all its affiliated financial and information technology functions.

Vice President and Chief Financial Officer:

The Vice President and Chief Financial Officer establishes and maintains financial policies and infrastructure for all units and divisions of the University, serving a wide range of customers. Among the officer's areas of responsibility are debt and credit management, managerial analysis and costing, financial performance measurements, and financial planning. The Vice President for Finance has administrative oversight of the University's affiliated foundations and the University's policy program.

Vice President and Chief Information Officer:

The Vice President and Chief Information Officer facilitates the effective coordination of information technology-related activity across the Grounds and developing collaborations among U.Va.'s academic and administrative units that advance the University's missions. The CIO coordinates the University Committee on Information Technology and the Deans Technology Council, both of which help to guide institution-wide information technology projects and to establish strategic direction.

Additional duties include working with the University community and its leaders to define a vision for the role of information technology at U.Va. and in higher education, as well as making specific proposals, and advocating for resources to realize that vision.

Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity:

The Office of the Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity assists and monitors all units of the University in their efforts to recruit and retain faculty, staff and students from historically underrepresented groups and to prove affirmative and supportive environments for work and life at the University of Virginia.

Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer:

The Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer supports the University's primary purpose of enriching the minds and lives of its students. The division promotes the intellectual, cultural, personal, and social development of students while enhancing their physical and psychological well-being. Student affairs programs and services help students learn responsible decision-making; clarify personal values and identity; foster interpersonal relationships; facilitate career exploration; and promote the value of diversity, of informed citizenship, and of full membership of all students within the University community. The Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer oversees: the Office of the Dean of Students, the Office of Residence Life, the Office of African-American Affairs, University Career Services, the Department of Student Health, and WTJU.

Vice President and Dean, School of Medicine:

The Office of the Vice President and Dean of the School of Medicine is responsible for all operations of the medical school, graduate school of biomedical research, programs leading to Master of Science in Health Evaluation Sciences, and the Medical Center Library/Informatics. The vice president is a member of the President's Cabinet providing input on University-wide initiatives.

Vice President for Management and Budget:

The Vice President for Management and Budget oversees operations that fall under an array of University departments and programs, including budget, capital programs, facilities management, procurement, state governmental relations, and process simplification.

Vice President for Research:

The Office of the Vice President for Research manages five principal activities: research compliance, research enhancement, intellectual property management, graduate studies, and postdoctoral enhancement. In addition, the directors of five interdisciplinary research institutes and programs report to the VPRGS: Morphogenesis and Regenerative Medicine, Nano and Quantum Science and Engineering, Programs in Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Healthy Aging, and Environment, Conservation, and Culture.

VPRGS also coordinates the various University units that comprise the research infrastructure, including the acquisition of research funding, the planning and development of academic research space, research commercialization, the incubation of new companies and recruiting of corporate research partners to local research parks, and public outreach.

Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer:

The Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer oversees all human resource functions for the academic division of the University, as well as having oversight responsibility for the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and for health plan and other benefits for the University's Medical Center.  Functional areas of responsibility in University Human Resources (UHR) include benefits, classification and compensation, learning and development, employee relations and career services, payroll, records, recruitment and staffing, information management, and leadership development.  The Vice President also has responsibility for non-academic aspects of the faculty personnel system.

In addition to these vice presidents, two other senior officers, the General Counsel and the Athletic Director, report to the president and serve as members of the president's senior cabinet. The General Counsel is the University's chief legal officer and is responsible for providing advice on all legal matters affecting the University under the direction of the attorney general, the Board of Visitors, and the president. The Athletic Director is responsible for supervision of all University intercollegiate athletic and intramural programs and facilities. Other officers who report directly to the president include the:

  • Chancellor of the University of Virginia's College at Wise
  • Director of the Audit Department
  •  Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review
  • Director of Equal Opportunity Programs
  • Executive Assistants for State Governmental Relations
  • Executive Assistant for Federal Relations
  • Director of the White Burkett Miller Center for Public Affairs, and the
  • Secretary of the Board of Visitors (who, like the General Counsel, is an Officer of the Board of Visitors.)


The president and vice presidents manage a diverse enterprise that is organized for budgeting purposes into three operating divisions:

  • The central functions of instruction, research and public service are conducted by the Academic Division.
  • Health care services are provided by the Health System.
  • University of Virginia's College at Wise is the third division.

Academic Division

Teaching and research are conducted by faculty members organized into schools and departments. Approximately 2,000 full-time faculty members teach in programs leading to bachelor's, master's, doctoral and first professional degrees. The eleven schools of the University are as follows:

Summer and Special Academic Programs is an extension of the regular academic year with course offerings to meet the academic needs of resident, degree students, as well as non-degree seeking students who are enrolled in courses for their professional development. Summer and Special Academic Programs is a separate administrative unit with its own director who works directly with departments and schools in selecting the courses offered and faculty employed during the summer. Each summer the University of Virginia offers a rich selection of courses to over four thousand students.

The University is host to several academic organizations with statewide, regional or national affiliations. These include the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the University of Virginia Press.

Several federal and state centers of professional activity are also located in the University community. They include the state's Division of Forestry, the Division of Mineral Resources, the Virginia Highway and Transportation Research Council, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the Federal Executive Institute. The U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's School teaches military law to lawyers in the armed forces.

Health System

Comprehensive health care services are provided by the University of Virginia Health System, which consists of University of Virginia Medical Center, the School of Medicine, and the Health Services Foundation, and which operates more than forty clinics at numerous sites within and distant from the main precinct of the Medical Center. Satellite clinics include those at Northridge, Stoney Creek, and Orange. The Medical Center (originally called University Hospital) was established in 1901, to complement the teaching and research activities of the School of Medicine and to provide hospital and related services to a broad region.

University of Virginia’s College at Wise

This four-year undergraduate college was opened in 1954, initially as a two-year branch of the University. It functions to some extent as an independent institution, although its chancellor reports to the president of the University of Virginia and its Board of Visitors. In 1999, the University of Virginia's College at Wise was established in the southwestern part of the state to serve an area that has limited access to higher education. It currently enrolls more than 1,800 students.

1.3 Standing Committees

The University draws on the knowledge and resources of faculty, students, and staff to serve on a number of committees dedicated to furthering the mission of the institution. University committees serve a variety of functions and vary in terms of their charges and memberships. Their charges, committee structures, and current memberships may be explored online.

The Faculty Senate also supports a broad range of standing committees and task forces, offering faculty the opportunity to contribute to the governance of the University. The full listings of these opportunities can also be found online.

1.4 Statement of Institutional Purpose of the University of Virginia

The central purpose of the University of Virginia is to enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understanding the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it. Activities designed to quicken, discipline, and enlarge the intellectual and creative capacities, as well as the aesthetic and ethical awareness, of the members of the University and to record, preserve, and disseminate the results of intellectual discovery and creative endeavor serve this purpose. In fulfilling it, the University places the highest priority on achieving eminence as a center of higher learning (Adopted by the Rector and Board of Visitors in May, 1985.)

The University of Virginia seeks to achieve its central purpose through the pursuit of the following specific goals:

  • To offer instruction of the highest quality to undergraduates from all walks of life, not only by transmitting established knowledge and skills, but by fostering in students the habits of mind and character required to develop a generous receptivity to new ideas, from whatever source; a disposition for applying the most rigorous criticism to all ideas and institutions, whether old or new; an ability to test hypotheses and re-interpret human experience; and a desire to engage in a lifetime of learning.
  • To sustain liberal education as the central intellectual concern of the University, not only in the curricula of the College of Arts and Sciences, but also as a foundation for the professional undergraduate programs.
  • To educate men and women for the professions in certain undergraduate and in graduate programs leading to degrees in the School of Architecture, Business Administration, Commerce, Education, Engineering and Applied Science, Law, Medicine, and Nursing.
  • To lead in the advancement and application of knowledge through graduate study and research and to disseminate the results among scholars and the general public.
  • To attract and retain eminent faculty in order to provide the highest quality of instruction and leadership in research.
  • To seek the ablest and most promising students, within the Commonwealth and without; and, in keeping with the intentions of Thomas Jefferson, to attend to their total development and well-being; and to provide appropriate intellectual, athletic, and social programs.
  • To strive for diversity in the student body and in the faculty and to promote international exchange of scholars and students.
  • To provide for students and faculty an atmosphere conducive to fellowship and understanding and to their constructive participation in the affairs of the University and the community at large.
  • To expand educational opportunities for persons with special challenges such as minority status, physical disability, ethnic heritage, or insufficient financial resources.
  • To engage in research in the medical sciences and to provide innovative leadership in health care and medical services in the local community, the Commonwealth, and the nation.
  • To offer to the local community, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation the various kinds of public service and intellectual and cultural activities which are consonant with the purposes of the University.
  • To provide continuing education programs of the highest quality to the Commonwealth and the nation.
  • To cooperate with and assist other colleges, educational institutions, and agencies, especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia, by making available to them the facilities of the University and the experience and counsel of its members so as to contribute to education in the Commonwealth and beyond.
  • To establish new programs, schools, and degrees, and to undertake such research as the needs of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation may require.

1.5 Accreditation

The University of Virginia has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) since 1904. The last reaffirmation of the University’s accreditation was in 2007.  In addition, a significant number of the University’s programs and schools undergo review by accrediting bodies or licensing and certification entities.  This listing does not include Medical Center accreditations.


 Accrediting/Review Agency

College & Graduate School of Arts and Sciences


     Chemistry (baccalaureate)

American Chemical Society (ACS)

     Psychology-Clinical (Ph.D.)

American Psychological Association (APA)

Curry School of Education


     Administration & Supervision

Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)

     Clinical Psychology (Ph.D.)

American Psychological Association (APA)

     Kinesiology (M.Ed.)

National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA)

     Reading Education (M.Ed.)

Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)

     School Counseling (M.Ed.)

Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs

     Speech Communication Disorders (M.Ed.)

American Speech, Language & Hearing Association (ASHA)

     Teacher Education

Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC)


Virginia Board of Education

Darden School of Business Administration


     Business Administration (M.B.A., Ph.D.)

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

McIntire School of Commerce


     Accounting (M.S.)

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

     Commerce (B.S.C., M.S.)

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

     Management of Information Technology    

Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)

School of Architecture


     Architecture (M.Arch.)

National Architectural Accrediting Board, Inc. (NAAB)

     Landscape Architecture (M.L.A.)

Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board  (LAAB)

     Urban & Env. Planning (B.U.E.P, M.U.E.P.)

Planning Accreditation Board (PAB)

School of Engineering & Applied Science


     Computer Science (B.S.)

Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) of ABET

     Other baccalaureate programs (except Eng. 

Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC) of ABET

School of Law


     Law (J.D.)

American Bar Association (ABA)

     Law (J.D.)

Association of American Law Schools (AALS)

School of Medicine


     Continuing Medical Education

Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME)

     Medicine (M.D.)

Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

     Public Health (M.P.H.)

Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)

School of Nursing


     Nursing (B.S.N., M.S.N.)

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

     Nursing (D.N.P.)

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

     Nursing (B.S.N., pre-licensure programs)

Virginia State Board of Nursing