In the last issue of Virginia Magazine, I described the strategic planning process that was just beginning in Charlottesville. A few months later, we are seeing the first fruition of this work. Working groups drawn from faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents have reported their initial priorities in seven areas: faculty recruitment and retention; student life; technology; streamlining; resources; synergies; and what it means to be a public university in this century.
Alumni can be valuable sources of advice as the planning continues. All University alumni will soon receive a survey that we will use to inform the planning process. The working group focused on streamlining recently sent a survey to all UVA employees, and 1,900 employees responded to make their voices heard. The forthcoming survey represents an opportunity for alumni to make your voices heard. I encourage you to respond.
The 20-plus ideas that appear in the working group reports will eventually be distilled into a handful of priorities that we will pursue. Several overarching themes have already emerged. First, our plan must outline strategies that will allow us to successfully recruit and retain world-class faculty at a generational turning point when many of our long-term faculty will be retiring. This is our opportunity to remake the University for its third century, and we must do this in a competitive environment in which many other universities are recruiting for the same reason.
Second (and this is related to the first theme) our greatest potential to solve complex societal problems will come by creating multidisciplinary teams of faculty who pursue discoveries at the nexus of disciplines—medicine and engineering, technology and design, and so on. And we should recruit our new faculty with this reality in mind. Cross-school collaboration also has implications for the construction and renovation of our facilities, presenting opportunities for greater efficiency while nurturing innovation in the faculty.
Our plan must include strategies for integrating emerging technologies in the academic enterprise. This will include experimenting with new technologies to teach students both on Grounds and in remote locations, defining and supporting scholarship in the digital age, and harnessing tools to compute, analyze, and interpret massive data sets—and doing all this while strengthening UVA's trademark commitment to face-to-face, residential education.
Our plan should position UVA as a leading institution in advising—not just academic advising, but also career advising that we will dispense to students in accord with the values of honor and ethics that we espouse here.
And finally, our plan will include a reconsideration of our core purposes and relationships as a public university in this century, including our relationships with a broad range of stakeholders in the Commonwealth.
The current environment for higher education is as challenging as any period in our history. At a time when European and Asian countries are racing to imitate America's research universities because they view us as models of excellence, our own universities are imperiled by progressive disinvestment coupled with increasing demands for affordability, productivity and efficiency. The pressures and criticisms are tremendous.
UVA can emerge as the leader in American public higher education during this period of profound challenge, and I believe we are qualified to lead for several reasons. Thomas Jefferson founded this University nearly 200 years ago with a specific purpose: to create an educated citizenry to sustain the Republic. This founding story makes us different from our peers, and it gives us inspiration and a clear sense of purpose today. We have a historical precedent to be the training ground for national (and increasingly global) leaders.
UVA is capable of leading because innovation is in our institutional DNA. Mr. Jefferson redefined higher education when he created a wholly new, unprecedented type of secular university, unfettered by religious doctrine, constrained only by the "illimitable freedom of the human mind." We can draw momentum from that tradition of innovation to redefine higher education in UVA's third century.
UVA can define a new model based on its uncommon scale. Our university combines the vast resources of a research university with the smaller size of a liberal arts college. At large research universities, faculty focus on their own research; at small liberal arts colleges, faculty mostly reproduce knowledge discovered elsewhere. At UVA, we produce knowledge, and our students and faculty are partners in discovery and innovation. Our professors guide our students through an intellectual progression by transforming information into data; data into knowledge; and knowledge into wisdom.
And finally, UVA has the moral authority to lead because this is a secular institution where values matter. Honor and ethics; self-governance; leadership; diversity—these values give moral and ethical underpinnings to University life and culture.
In its third century, UVA will be known as a truly global university with a distinctively American story intertwined with the nation's founding. We will leverage our unique scale to create the best residential education and to drive collaboration and innovation at an unequaled pace and quality. And we will proudly promote a set of values in an age when moral relativism is perhaps the more fashionable stance.
The plan for UVA's future is a work in progress. But in a sense, we already know where we want to be—at the forefront, leading the way, as we have been since the University's founding.