President Sullivan Looks to the Future in State of the University Address

On Monday afternoon, President Teresa A. Sullivan delivered the annual “State of the University Address” in the Special Collections Library’s Harrison-Small Auditorium. With a large crowd of attentive audience, President Sullivan spoke strongly about the bright future ahead of the University of Virginia.

Photo courtesy NBC29
Photo courtesy NBC29

One of the main attributes of the University of Virginia that was discussed was the University’s bicentennial celebration. With the first events taking place on October 6th, 2017 to mark the 200th anniversary, the events will continue through May 2019 to commemorate the first graduating class of the University’s third century alumni.

The 200th anniversary is a unique opportunity which offers time reflect on the University’s history. One aspect of University history that cannot be forgotten is slavery.

As President Sullivan states, “If we want the bicentennial to tell the complete story of UVa, and we do, we know it needs to include recognition of the historical role of slavery at UVa.”

While most schools would shy away from their unglamorous past, the University makes it evident that tribute must be paid out of respect for those enslaved. As this is the case, the Gibbons House on Alderman Road was named to commemorate William and Isabella Gibbons. The couple was enslaved at UVa and after their emancipation, became active leaders in the community.

Additionally, UVa is taking significant strides to create a diverse and distinctive environment for its students. As the bicentennial helps the University look at its future as well as its past, the University is making significant efforts in preparing the students for tomorrow.

President Sullivan explains, “this was the most diverse new class of faculty ever. 40% of our tenure, tenure-track hires were women. And 31% of our tenure, tenure-track hires were underrepresented minorities… The schools and departments have worked hard to evaluate what UVA’s needs will be in future decades. Fields that are important today are often different from those that were important 30 or 40 years ago. And our hiring reflects that.”

Not only is UVa interested in creating new classes and learning environments for its students, but it is also concerned with reforming the entire curriculum. The Arts and Sciences graduate and undergraduate schools have already designed a new curriculum that better prepares students to succeed at future jobs and to be contributive and productive citizens in the world. The reformed curriculum will be based on three fundamental ideas, “engagements, literacies, and disciplines.” Utilizing these three components as a basis for the curriculum, UVa students will be ready to be impactful role models and set the standard for this University’s third century.

President Sullivan sums up these aspirations, “with our bicentennial right around the corner, this is the right time to ask ourselves, what will the world expect of this university in its next 100 years or its next 200 years? The answer now is the same as it was in Jefferson’s time. The world will continue to expect something very great and very new from UVa.”


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