February 27, 2013
It is hard to believe we have entered the last week of February. When there are so many exciting things happening on Grounds—John Kerry's first speech as Secretary of State, Earth, Wind & Fire at JPJ, and the Georgia Tech game all in one week—it is not easy to keep track of time. The intellectual activities and ferment on Grounds really cannot be listed or reported in this brief note, but allow me to update you on a few initiatives that I observe from the second floor of Randall Hall.
Committee on Undergraduate Excellence: One of the most important initiatives the College has undertaken this year is the rethinking and reimagining of our general education. In November, we engaged a small working group of faculty to take a fresh look at the way our students navigate the non-major portion of their studies. The work of the committee will span the remainder of the 2012-13 academic year and the beginning of next year, culminating in a report on three sets of recommendations: (1) defining the purpose and goals for general education in the College of Arts & Sciences; (2) the framework of a curricular model and co-curricular experiences to achieve those goals, including any new initiatives, course clusters or suggested restructuring of existing requirements; and (3) insights on pedagogy and methods of instruction. The committee is chaired by Bruce Williams in Media Studies, with fourteen faculty members participating.
Educational Technologies: Three courses in the College, one each in History, Philosophy and Physics, are underway this semester as part of the University's partnership with online-learning pioneer Coursera. These courses each have enrollments ranging from 40,000 to 55,000 students. The partnership with Coursera is an opportunity for the College to experiment with new forms of technology-enabled learning and engage with other elite university partners as a test-bed to accelerate our own thinking. We are examining the interaction between online and residential learning and the effect of "flipping" the classroom. Among other questions, we are exploring whether providing content in an online platform can enrich the on-Grounds experience, increase engagement and provide more opportunities for active learning. Our online-learning initiative was recently featured in an NBC Nightly News report and on UVa Today. Currently the committee is deliberating on new RFP for MOOC and other innovative courses.
Mellon Initiative in the Humanities: With the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, the first three interdisciplinary hires are inching toward successful completion. Willis Jenkins, currently an Associate Professor in the Divinity School and Forestry Department at Yale University, will be joining us this Fall to teach in thearea of "Religion, Ethics and the Environment"—an area that connects many programs: Religious Studies, Environmental Sciences, Politics, the Bioethics Program in Philosophy, the Environmental Law Program in the Law School, and the Department of Public Health Sciences in the School of Medicine. Othersearches include "Connective Cultures: Reframing the Post-Classical Mediterranean, " which focuses on the cultures and societies of the late antique and post-Classical Mediterranean; and "Cultural and Environmental Transformations in the Globalizing World," which studies environmental transformations together with their human costs and responses in the globalizing world. In the same Mellon Initiative, two entering graduate students have received one-year recruitment fellowships, and the first of the Mellon graduate teaching seminars for Excellence in the Humanities is also underway.
Quantitative Collaborative (QC): In year three of our effort to enhance quantitative research in the social sciences, we are starting to see some concrete results. Two faculty, Daniel Gingerich and Dan Spitzner, have received NSF grants after receiving QC seed grant support. We see cross-department collaborations, such as a joint research project between Josipa Roksa of Sociology and Spitzner of Statistics. Faculty from all of the social sciences are working together to investigate the possibility of bringing a Census Restricted Data Center to Grounds, possibly as an anchor in a quantitative social science district in Wilson Hall. This spring, we will admit our first class in a new minor in the Statistical Analysis of Social Behavior (SASB), created to encourage our majors in Politics, Economics, and Sociology to acquire an extra level of training in quantitative analysis. This degree will offer these students access to careers and further training in the new era of Big Data.
A New Era in Astro-Chemistry: Next month, on March 13, the Atacama LargeMillimeter Array (ALMA), consisting of 66 high-precision radio telescopes working as one, will be inaugurated on the high plains of the Atacama Desert in Chile, three miles above sea level. Planning for this moment began over three decades ago, and the inauguration ceremony marks the completion of this major international project involving more than 20 nations. ALMA will provide a new window on the heavens, and a new way to study the molecules and processes present when new stars and solar systems form. This event is of great interest in Charlottesville; the North American ALMA Science Center is located on the Grounds at the NRAO headquarters, and the College has identified the emerging field of astro-chemistry as one of its key strategic interdisciplinary initiatives. Faculty members in the Chemistry and Astronomy departments are using early science data from ALMA,taken over the last year, to study star forming regions in unprecedented detail. These early results provide a tantalizing hint of the discoveries to come now that ALMA is finally complete.
Graduate Tuition Reform: The January session of the College's Committee on Priorities & Resources (CPR) focused on the GSAS Graduate Tuition Reform Proposal. The proposal applies a new flat rate in years 1-3 to doctoral students (using present maximum rates) and also increases the rate charged in years 4 and onward. It adds an appropriate differential rate for terminal and professional master's degrees. U.Va. would remain highly competitive in the amount of tuition charged, coming in substantially below other public research I peer universities andeven further below private peers. Graduate directors concerned about the short-term impact of the reform on some of their students can apply for transitional support in such cases. Graduate students studying abroad would notice only a slight increase in tuition, as GSAS has negotiated a new, lower "non-resident fee" system that will almost entirely offset the proposed tuition increase for the out years. The new system also opens up new opportunities in the sciences to hire graduatestudents in years 1-3 as GRAs, a practice not supported in the present system. The overall impact of charges to a PI's grant in the new system is only modestly above the current level, with no F&Acharge on the tuition.
New Cabell Hall Update: The comprehensive renovation of New Cabell Hall is halfway through construction and making excellent progress. In fact, we will begin teaching in some of the renovated classrooms on the second floor following spring break, so please plan to come to New Cabell to look around. We will also be adding a new courtyard between Old and New Cabell halls and a bench-lined terrace connecting the building to the Lawn. The building will open into the courtyard from a number of locations, including from a new café on the second floor.
Drama Building Update: A major part of the Drama Building expansion includes the construction of the Ruth Caplin Theatre, which will be completed this spring. The distinguishing feature of this new two-story, 300-seat theater is a "thrust" stage, which is surrounded by the audience on three sides, creating an immediacy and connection with actors and dancers and greatly expanding the Drama Department's repertoire. The theater will be completed this spring. The theater is named in honor of Ruth Caplin, who, together with husband Mortimer Caplin (Col '37, Law '40), made the lead gift for the project. Click on these links to see renderings of the New Cabell renovation and the Ruth Caplin Theatre.
Campaign for Faculty Excellence: You may recall that last year our campaign exceeded its $60 million target, and we are on course to meet this year's target as well. Nested within this larger campaign is the Campaign for Faculty Excellence to raise $130 million by 2016 to support the world-class faculty who will lead the College into the future. This includes $100 million for endowment and an additional $30 million in expendable gifts. Although we have not yet entered the public phase of the campaign, I am pleased to report robust results. Through the end of December, gifts, pledges and expectancies given for faculty support had reached $47 million. These new resources will all be used to help us become more competitive in recruiting and retaining exceptional talent; bolster start-up packages and research infrastructure for science hires (a crucial factor in their decision to come to U.Va.); and increase support for the graduate students essential to achieving the College's ambitious research and teaching goals.
New Learning Initiatives Fund: As part of the Campaign for Faculty Excellence, the College has launched the New Learning Initiatives Fund, with a target of $5million within the $130 million total campaign. We have already received $400,000 for this new Fund, of which $150,000 has been allocated toward the College's online-learning partnership with Coursera and $125,000 to fund a new position to lead the College's efforts in instructional technologies. I am most grateful to the College Foundation Board, the Benefactors Society Board, the Emeritus Trustees and the many alumni and friends who have helped us get off to such a great start on the Campaign for Faculty Excellence.
Mid-Year Salary Increase: Based on the peer review process completed in November-December 2012, and with input from committees of within departments and programs, chairs and associate deans, we were able to provide approximately $2 million in new base budget toward faculty compensation. The source of funding for this round comes from the recent growth of the Livy and other endowment income; increase in the unrestricted gifts to the College Fund; and prioritization and reallocation within the College's E&G budget. 93 percent of the tenure and tenure track faculty received raises.
That is it for now. I hope you will have a great week.
Meredith Jung-En Woo, Dean
College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences