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Sullivan reports UVA Cornerstone Plan off to a great start

uva-logoUniversity of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan said the school’s guide to its future, the Cornerstone Plan, made good progress in its first year.

Speaking Friday at the Board of Visitors meeting on Grounds, Sullivan gave a detailed accounting of several new initiatives launched since last November, when the administration presented the plan as a “vision and set of strategic directions” to move UVA into its third century.

Sullivan said the new Meriwether Lewis Leadership Institute, supported by private philanthropy, is set to begin in the spring, with the first 25 students all accepting their invitations to participate. The two-year interdisciplinary ethical leadership program brings together academic coursework, leadership training, mentorship with faculty and field-based independent study. “The institute is a model for integrating academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular programs,” she told the board. “We’re quite excited about getting that started.”

A new set of programs designed to more fully position students for lifelong success, called “Total Advising,” is also doing well, she said. The advising approach and process combines high-quality academic advising, career advising and coaching, and capitalizes on relationships with U.Va. alumni. Sullivan said the number of College of Arts & Sciences advising seminars, known as COLAs, increased to 61 this fall and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences launched an additional six pilot seminars.

“We’ve got a number of programs under way that are focused on career issues and particularly in getting students engaged in their first and second years in thinking about careers,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also said a two-day intensive career summit, which provided job search tools and career development, launched last May and was so successful it will be offered twice in 2015, in January and May.

Also, a new, one-credit course will be offered to first-year students in the spring aimed at helping them create an electronic portfolio. “We’ve found that it is one thing that is exciting to employers,” she said, perhaps more so than a transcript.

Sullivan reported on new opportunities in research, including relationships with four German universities in a variety of disciplines.

She also noted the creation of U.Va.’s new global internship program, which placed 40 interns at sites in eight countries last summer, and the creation of the Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation.

Sullivan also addressed faculty recruitment. “This is an important issue for us. … One of the issues is people who say ‘a small town in the South doesn’t sound like where I want to be.’”

To help promote the region, the University has partnered with the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce and other large Central Virginia employers to create a promotional video that Sullivan previewed to the board members, several of whom complimented the piece. “The purpose is to let potential candidates and their spouses know what Charlottesville has to offer,” she said.

To enhance staff excellence, Sullivan noted the establishment of the Center for Leadership Excellence, a new Staff Senate and an Exceptional Assistants Conference.

“Because of the Cornerstone Plan, by 2018 I hope that every U.Va. student will be able to experience a small seminar class in the first year, and be able to study or work abroad or conduct globally oriented research,” she said. Other aspirations include students working directly with a faculty member and new opportunities to connect with potential employers.

Goals for faculty include the ability to conduct “a substantial level of new research,” and to bring newfound strength to disciplines and fields of “critical importance to the commonwealth, nation and world” in areas such as economics, data science and engineering.