When I travel across the country and around the world for University events, alumni often tell me about the powerful impact UVA has had on their lives after graduation. They speak of the beneficial effects of their UVA education on their professional and personal lives and describe how their experiences in Charlottesville nurtured a lifelong connection to the University.

President Teresa A. Sullivan Jane Haley

Further proof of the UVA impact came this past winter with the results of a new Gallup survey. We have collaborated with Gallup on two surveys in recent years. The first, in 2014, polled a random selection of alumni from the past 65 graduating classes. The more recent survey polled about 8,000 alumni from the most recent 15 graduating classes.

The survey focused on three broad categories: workplace engagement, well-being and attachment to the University. In each category, UVA’s young alumni exceeded national averages, as measured across the 61 member schools of the Association of American Universities.

Among the UVA graduates that Gallup surveyed, 80 percent are employed full-time, compared with 73 percent of graduates nationally; 51 percent of our alumni reported being engaged in their work, compared with 43 percent of graduates nationally.

The survey included five measures of personal well-being—purpose, social, financial, community and physical. UVA alumni exceeded the national averages in all five categories.

In the measure of alumni attachment, 30 percent of our graduates showed a strong emotional connection to UVA, compared with 25 percent nationally.

Across three Gallup categories—well-being, engagement in the workplace and attachment to their university—UVA’s young alumni beat the national averages.

While the Gallup results demonstrate that UVA is excelling across many categories, we know we have opportunities to further enhance the UVA student experience and to better prepare our students for life after graduation.

Gallup has found that working with a mentor and engaging in experiential learning are two of the most consequential experiences for undergraduates.

Through the Cornerstone Plan, we are strengthening our advising and mentoring programs while offering a greater range of experiential learning opportunities for students, including research with faculty members, entrepreneurial experiences and internships.

The UVA Career Center has launched an Internship Center, which serves as a clearinghouse for all kinds of internships while offering students access to related resources. Our Internship Center staff works with employers regularly to assist them in building high-quality learning experiences for students.

The Career Center offers a course for credit, funded by a grant from the Jefferson Trust, that teaches students how to design a professional summer experience. The Career Center also offers internship grants, sponsored by the Parents Fund, for students seeking unpaid internships, particularly those focused on public service.

The Career Center, in partnership with the College Foundation and the Alumni Association, launched the Virginia Alumni Mentoring program to match students with alumni based on the student’s career interest. Students can choose a long-term relationship with a mentor or opt for a one-time networking connection.  Last year, more than 1,000 of our students connected with UVA alumni through this program, and this past semester more than 500 students were actively engaged with mentors.  

The Gallup survey gave us significant insight into the post-graduation lives of UVA students who were the first members of their families to go to college; these first-generation students made up 11 percent of respondents. These alumni were just as likely as other alumni to be employed full-time, but were less likely to feel engaged in their jobs—46 percent compared with 52 percent, respectively. These first-generation graduates were also slightly less likely than other graduates to report thriving in each of the categories of well-being.

To provide extra support while first-generation students are at UVA, we have begun hosting a series of events to bring these students together with faculty who were the first members of their families to go to college. And we are now developing a comprehensive program for our first-generation students that will be piloted in the 2017-18 academic year, following completion of data analysis, peer institution benchmarking and program planning.

All of these initiatives are elements of the Total Advising concept that we first articulated in the Cornerstone Plan. Total Advising combines academic and career advising with personal mentoring to give students a holistic advising experience that prepares them for life and work after they leave Charlottesville.

The greatest value of the Gallup survey is that it provides evidence we can use to build on existing strengths at UVA while identifying areas for improvement. With feedback from our loyal alumni providing direction, and with the Cornerstone Plan as our blueprint, we are building a better, stronger UVA for today’s students.

Teresa A. Sullivan