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Board of Visitors discusses rising costs of construction projects, new Public Service pathway at meeting of the full board

Board members heard from incoming student member Lily Roberts

<p>During the meeting, President Ryan presented the Public Service Pathways program which will launch next semester as a component of the 2030 Strategic Plan.</p>

During the meeting, President Ryan presented the Public Service Pathways program which will launch next semester as a component of the 2030 Strategic Plan.

During a meeting of the full board Friday, members discussed rising costs of construction across Grounds and a new Public Service Pathways program. The group also heard from Lily Roberts, incoming student member of the Board of Visitors and rising fourth-year Architecture student.

The Board of Visitors is the governing corporate body for the University, made up of 17 members appointed by the Governor of Virginia for four year terms. Members of the board meet quarterly to vote on the University’s policies and budget, entrusted with all long-term planning decisions involving the University. 

University President Jim Ryan began the meeting by asking members of the Board to provide advice on how to navigate rising construction costs for a variety of projects ongoing across Grounds. 

Current construction projects include the Ivy Corridor and Brandon Avenue Projects, as well as renovation of Alderman Library and expansion of U.Va. Health. These projects are part of the University’s 2030 Strategic Plan, a 10-year roadmap aimed at improving making the University the best public university by 2030.

“A lot of attention will need to lean into construction over the next couple of years,” President Ryan said. “I think it’s going to take all of us paying really close attention to doing whatever we can to be as efficient and cost effective as possible in the many construction projects that we have going on.”

Members also discussed the development of the University’s Public Service Pathways program at length. Presented to the board by Louis Nelson, vice provost for academic outreach and professor of architectural history, the Public Service Pathways aims to provide a forum for students to explore public service while studying at the University. 

“The basic idea behind [Public Service Pathways] was we don't need to generate entirely new programs to help students who are interested in public service because there are all sorts of opportunities both within the curriculum and outside of the curriculum,” Ryan said. “What we really need to do is curate what we have available.”

The Public Service Pathways program has three goals — to expand the ways University students imagine public service and what it requires, to orient students towards opportunities already present at the University to engage in public service and to allow students to mentor one another.

The program will be offered as an optional addition for undergraduate students, and those who commit to the program for the entirety of their time will graduate as a Presidential Public Service Scholar. 

Program requirements will be met through internships, research or service related to the public service sector and students completing the pathways program will have access to mentoring and alumni connection opportunities as they navigate their time at the University. Students will choose amongst five different domains — subjects offered during fall 2022 include public health and global sustainability, with public interest technology and justice launching in fall 2023 and education launching in fall 2024. 

“I am thrilled that we're able to offer the Pathways Program to our students,” Nelson said. “U.Va. is about educating citizens leaders who are going to make a difference in the world. And the Public Service Pathways program is a great way to prepare for that journey.”

To conclude the meeting, Roberts thanked the members for providing her with the opportunity to represent students on the Board.

Roberts said she has noticed several concerns in conversations with other University students — most notably, a weakened sense of belonging. Roberts said she thinks two contributing factors include Charlottesville’s increasingly unaffordable housing market and a political environment where some students do not feel as though their opinions are valued.

“I hope to see the Board and senior administrators greatly support current and future efforts toward addressing this diminished sense of belonging,” Roberts said. “And I especially hope to work with you all in this unique era in the University’s history.” 

Friday’s meeting also marked the last for faculty member Joel Hockensmith, outgoing provost Liz Magill and members L.D. Britt, Frank Conner and Barbara Fried, who received commending remarks by Ryan.

“I don't want to let this moment pass without offering my thanks for your incredibly generous support and your unfailingly wise advice,” Ryan said. “I honestly can't quite imagine this board without its members, which is why I'm really glad that you all agreed to attend every public session.”   

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