UVA President James Ryan appoints working group to identify issues for improving UVA-community relations

university of virginia uvaStrengthening the University’s relationship with the City of Charlottesville, County of Albemarle and the surrounding region is the goal of a new working group established by UVA President Jim Ryan.

The group will determine the highest-priority issues for consideration, which might include wages, housing, education, health care and other matters.

“Building a stronger relationship between UVA and the surrounding community is one of my top priorities as president,” Ryan said. “The creation of this working group is a first step in what will be a robust effort to strengthen that relationship, and I am grateful to the members of the group for their willingness to help us get started.”

The group is co-chaired by Dr. Michael Williams, associate professor of surgery and director of the UVA Center for Health Policy, and community members Erika Viccellio, executive director of The Fountain Fund, and Juandiego Wade, chair of the Charlottesville School Board.

The charge of the working group is to identify the most pressing issues for the community and to explore the best long-term structure for developing solutions, possibly through the establishment of a council or board. A report from the group will be delivered to Ryan by February.

“I am excited to be part of an effort to identify pressing community needs and look at ways the community and University can best deploy their assets in service to common goals,” Viccellio said. “This is an important initiative to build collaborative rapport between the University and the community. There are important community assets that the University may not be aware of, and I appreciate this effort to listen, learn and lead together.”

“I am honored to have been asked to serve on this committee,” Wade said. “I believe my insight, along with the insight of the other committee members, will lead to recommendations that will be beneficial to the entire community. I hope we are able to consider and learn ways to strengthen past, current and potentially new partnerships.”

“The working group represents a next stage in growth for the University,” Williams said. “As a physician-leader in our health system, it has become clear to me that excellent nurses, social workers, pharmacists, doctors and the myriad others who care for our patients can only take us so far toward our goal of achieving a well society. The societal factors that drive as much as half of our health and well-being are beyond the capabilities of a health system. But they are likely not beyond the fully realized capabilities of a university community that is fully partnered with the communities it serves.

“I am confident that we can identify not only opportunities for deeper learning and scholarship about the needs of the citizens of Charlottesville, the region and the commonwealth as a whole, but also develop the community-driven solutions to those needs. The working group provides us an opportunity to redefine servant leadership at a university-wide scale and serve as a role model for other academic communities around the nation.”

In addition to the three co-chairs, the group of community members and UVA faculty, staff and students includes:

  • Elizabeth Beasley, community relations lead at the UVA Health System.
  • Harold Folley, community organizer for the Legal Aid Justice Center.
  • Bonnie Gordon, associate professor of music.
  • Brennan Gould, president and CEO, Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.
  • Charlene Green, manager, Charlottesville Office of Human Rights.
  • Denise Johnson, program director, City of Promise.
  • Mark Lorenzoni, founder, Ragged Mountain Running Shop.
  • Cristine Nardi, executive director, Center for Nonprofit Excellence.
  • Louis Nelson, vice provost for academic outreach and professor of architecture.
  • Ridge Schuyler, dean of community self-sufficiency programs, Piedmont Virginia Community College.
  • Lorie Strother, SWaM contract administrator at the University.
  • Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor of urban and environmental planning.
  • Toccara Nelson, UVA School of Law student.

Community is one of the three pillars of Ryan’s “Ours to Shape” initiative, an effort to seek input on questions about three thematic areas that define the University, with the other two being discovery and service.

As part of “Ours to Shape,” Ryan is having conversations with key groups throughout the University and Charlottesville community and collecting thoughts and ideas around those themes. That feedback will in turn be used to develop a strategic plan for the University.

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