The University is currently working to further develop Morven Farms, a 2,913 acre University-owned property just south of Monticello and Ash Lawn-Highland, and will partner with architectural firm Hart Howerton to explore opportunities for continued growth and improving present initiatives at the farm.
“[We hope to create a] place that students can take advantage of and engage in a different kind of learning,” said Stuart Siegel, an architect from Hart Howerton.
The farm was originally gifted by John Kluge in 2001 with the intention of helping reposition the University as a major player in international education and research.
Morven Project Director Stewart Gamage said student programs at Morven began five years ago with the start of Morven Summer Institute. Since then, the organization has developed three central circles of focus: civil society, sustainability and creativity.
The Morven Summer Institute, which the University operates in two sessions each year, offers students credit for courses taken.
“[The institute has] very intensive courses, [offering a] two week immersion experience [for] 50 or 60 students,” Gamage said.
Morven aims to encourage experimental, multi-disciplinary and applicable learning, with a conscious understanding of how different fields of study overlap, Gamage said.
“What we did, really, was use John Kluge’s notion of experimentation to, instead of taking maybe one or two issues, take a broad net and experiment with a number of possibilities,” Gamage said. “… We are still in the experimental phase, [but] I think the next five years is going to be more towards targeting and execution.”
Tentative plans are in the works creating a Morven Institute, which would take advantage of the “intersection of opportunity” where self-governance, sustainability and creativity all overlap, Siegal said.
“What we are doing is basically assembling input from all of the various stakeholders, which include the University, the U.Va. foundation, some of the potential programmatic participants and donor wishes,” Siegel said, “and synthesizing that into an understanding and helping the University create an identity and personality.”
Siegel said Hart Howerton commonly undertakes similar projects and uses teams of real estate planners, landscape architects and business strategists. This is also not the first time the firm has partnered with the University. Hart Howerton just finished a project for the University’s Center for Design and Health and is currently working with the University on Boar’s Head Inn.
“We are often asked by owners to take a piece of property and think through potential use of the property,” Siegel said.
In addition to helping Morven form a more definitive identity, Siegel said he hopes to strengthen the connection between Morven and Grounds.
Outside of the summer institute, one of the projects the University has helped develop at Morven is Presidential Precinct, a program started in 2012 as a collaboration with William & Mary, Monticello, Ash Lawn-Highland and Montpelier. Since its beginning, the program has welcomed 135 emerging leaders from 65 countries and was lauded by Secretary of State John Kerry last year.
Four of the seven individuals working on the Morven project, including Siegel, are University graduates. For them this is a “fun way to give back” and a means of taking “what we do in our commercial practice and use it to help the University,” Siegel said.
In order to care for the nearly 3,000 acre property and the developments it is undergoing, Gamage said the University formed an endowment by selling part of the original 7,379 acre gift received from Kluge. At the time of the transfer in 2001, the land was valued at more than $45 million, one of the largest gifts the University had received to date. Gamage also mentioned researchers had “found artifacts on the property from 2000 BC.”
In addition to the endowment, Morven has received support through the President’s Fund for Excellence, which gave $112,600 for research in 2009, and Morven Kitchen Garden, which has raised more than $26,000 from grants and produce totalling nearly 1,000 pounds.