Teresa Sullivan Photo by Jane Haley

Teresa A. Sullivan, the University of Michigan’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, and a leading scholar in labor force demography, will become the University of Virginia’s eighth president on Aug. 1. Sullivan, 60, will succeed John T. Casteen III, 66, who announced last summer that he will step down after 20 years as president. But don’t expect Sullivan to be overwhelmed by the job that lies ahead. At one point in her career, nine college presidents reported to her when she was the University of Texas system’s chief academic officer. And at Michigan, she’s not only the provost, but also the school’s chief budget officer.

Sullivan’s ‘To-Do List’
(as identified by the Board of Visitors)

  • Focus on a financial model that will ensure the long-term health of the University.
  • Strengthen academic excellence across the University and further enhance the student experience.
  • Successfully complete the current $3 billion fundraising campaign.
  • Strengthen the University’s graduate programs and increase graduate student financial support.
  • Increase the University’s funded research in the sciences, technology and engineering.
  • Sustain AccessUVa, the University’s financial aid program.
  • Enhance international outreach and reputation.

The University’s Board of Visitors unanimously elected Sullivan on Jan. 11 at a meeting in the Rotunda’s Dome Room. University Rector John O. Wynne, who chaired the board’s 19-member presidential search committee, officially welcomed Sullivan to the University community, calling her “an extraordinary talent who brings to the University an enormous depth and breadth of experience in every aspect of public higher education.”

Sullivan says she was drawn to the University of Virginia because of its Jeffersonian values and traditions, its academic reputation, its powerful undergraduate student experience and its firm commitment to a public mission. “It is one of the truly great public universities in the country,” she says. “In fact, it is one of the great universities in the world.”

Not surprisingly, she comes highly recommended by her current employer. Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, says working with Sullivan has been one of the highlights of her career. “Terry Sullivan is both a distinguished academic and a stellar administrator, known for her sparkling intellect as well as her superb people skills,” Coleman says. “She has won the utmost respect of the faculty and the administration for her inclusive management style and her strong leadership.”

Along with her commitment to strong academics, Sullivan believes that a thriving athletics program is an important part of university life. “There are great advantages to having athletics on college campuses,” she says. “Games are a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together and to connect in special ways, particularly with alumni, parents and friends of the University.”

During her first 100 days as president, Sullivan plans to make her way around the University and the state, listening and learning. University alumni are one of the groups she’s eager to meet. “I look forward to introducing myself to them and learning from their insights,” she says. “It is an enormous strength of the University to have such a loyal body of alumni.” 

One thing seems certain: It won’t take Sullivan long to get to know her way around Grounds. She is known for making time to explore every corner of a university. In fact, the day after she was named U.Va.’s president, she stopped by a Maury Hall classroom to take in a January-term lecture. “There were some people at Michigan who had never seen a provost before and were quite surprised when they did,” she says. “You just don’t know where I might turn up when I get to Charlottesville.”

The Terry Sullivan File

  • Graduated from Michigan State University in 1970.
  • Earned master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Chicago.
  • Spent 27 years at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a professor; chair of the sociology department; vice provost; vice president and dean of graduate studies; and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs for the university’s system.
  • Joined the University of Michigan in 2006.
  • Has written or co-written six books and more than 80 scholarly articles and chapters.
  • Married to Douglas Laycock, who will join the faculty of the University’s School of Law. They have two sons: Joseph, 29, and John, 22.