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Sullivan on accomplishments, goals in State of the University address

Ahead of bicentennial celebration, U.Va. president reflects on school's history, points to new undergraduate curriculum

<p>University President Teresa Sullivan gave her annual State of the University Address this Monday.</p>

University President Teresa Sullivan gave her annual State of the University Address this Monday.

University President Teresa Sullivan gave her State of the University Address Monday, titled “Something Very Great and Very New.”

During her speech to the University community, Sullivan outlined the University’s goals going into the bicentennial celebration next year and highlighted past moments of success.

“This is an opportunity to connect with the faculty, staff and students — if they wanted to come — about what we got accomplished last year,” Sullivan said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “This is a way for them to find out that we had a great year across the board.”

Sullivan began by discussing University accomplishments such as the reopening of the Rotunda this fall. Classes being taught there include college advising seminars and an architecture class.

“We saw the Rotunda renovation as an essential step for preparing the University for its moment in the spotlight,” Sullivan said in her address. “Not many students get to attend class in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an acknowledged masterpiece of American architecture.”

Sullivan also cited the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University, the naming of Gibbons dorm after slaves, the restoration and commemoration of a slave cemetery and other courses and symposiums offered as part of the University’s efforts to recognizing its history with slave labor.

“If we want the bicentennial to tell the true story of U.Va., which we do, we know it needs to include recognition of the historical role of slavery at U.Va.,” she said.

Additionally, Sullivan covered accomplishments in hiring new faculty. Last year the University hired 107 new tenured or tenure-track faculty members, 40 percent of whom were women and 31 percent of whom were underrepresented minorities.

“We plan to continue to hire more diverse and interdisciplinary faculty in the coming year,” Sullivan said.

Recently, different departments and schools within the University have been focusing on cluster hiring, which is the appointment of an interdisciplinary-focused faculty member in more than one school or department. They have also been encouraged to use “Target of Opportunity” searches to recruit off-the-market scholars and researchers.

“For the coming year, we’ve authorized and encouraged each school to seek out a TOPS hire,” Sullivan said. “This will give school leaders the opportunity to think expansively and ambitiously about top faculty that they think we should recruit.”

Sullivan pointed to the development of a new undergraduate curriculum as another show of innovation. Within the College, the new curriculum will center on three main components. The first consists of two-credit courses called engagements, which are designed to encourage students to use ethical and critical thinking.

“Engagements will be designed to help students engage the world from the moment they arrive at U.Va.,” she said.

In addition, the curriculum will include literacies, which are subjects created to help students better understand the rhetoric of world languages and data analysis. The final component is disciplines, in which students will study a variety of subjects and learn from different perspectives.

“The changes are designed to build upon U.Va.’s historic academic strengths while better preparing our students to succeed as professionals and as active, articulate citizens,” Sullivan said. “Constant reinvention, including curricular reinvention, will be an essential part of our effort to prepare students for success in the careers and communities they will enter after graduation.”

The Strategic Investment Fund, authorized by the Board of Visitors last February and revealed to hold at least $2 billion last July, was listed as another point of innovation at the University. The fund can assist with faculty recruitment, laboratory equipment, student life initiatives, philanthropic opportunities and endowed student scholarships, Sullivan said.

“U.Va. has a longstanding record of prudent financial stewardship,” she said. “The Strategic Investment Fund will help us advance priorities we’ve identified in the Cornerstone Plan and the medical center’s strategic plan.”

Few students attended the address, but Sullivan said she plans to keep students up-to-date by meeting with student leaders and teaching.

“I met with three or four groups this year, and that’s my principal way of [incorporating student voices],” she said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “I also teach a class that keeps me in touch with a lot of students, so I’m teaching a J-term this year.”

At the conclusion of the address, Sullivan called on members of the University community to reflect on the last two centuries of University history and look forward to shaping the next century.

“The hard work that we do together now, today and tomorrow will become in later years the history of U.Va.’s third century,” she said. “That’s a big responsibility and a great opportunity. I’m grateful to everyone in the U.Va. community who embraces that task every day.”

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