Since arriving at the University of Virginia in the summer of 2008, Meredith Woo has developed and implemented a strategic plan to advance the distinctive position of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences as an institution that provides a transformational educational experience, amid the benefits and energy of a major research university. She has sought to enhance the College’s scholarly visibility, particularly in the sciences, global studies, and collaborative and multidisciplinary research.
Dean Woo came to U.Va. from the University of Michigan, where she served most recently as professor of political science and associate dean for the social sciences in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Prior to her eight years on the Michigan faculty, she taught for 12 years at Northwestern University, where she helped rebuild the department of political science and co-founded the Center for International and Comparative Studies.
An expert on international political economy and East Asian politics, she has written and edited seven books, and was the executive producer of an award-winning documentary film, Koryo Saram: The Unreliable People, about Stalin’s ethnic cleansing of Koreans living in Far Eastern Russia during the Great Terror.
A native of Seoul who was educated in Seoul and Tokyo through high school, she came to the United States to study at Bowdoin College in Maine. She completed her master’s and doctoral degrees in international affairs, Latin American studies, and political science at Columbia University.
Woo's teaching and research interests include international political economy, economic development, East Asian politics, and U.S.-East Asian relations.
Since joining U.Va., Dean Woo and her leadership team have launched many new initiatives, including the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures, the Quantitative Collaborative, the Asia Institute, and the Joint Institute between the College, Peking University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
In the sciences, the College has invested in areas in which it is well positioned for distinction. These include global environmental challenges, life sciences in the post-genomic era, human life span development, and cosmic origins and astrochemistry. Thanks in part to these investments, faculty hires and retentions, external research grants in Arts & Sciences have increased about 20 percent in the past three years, to $47.6 million for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
Strengthening graduate education is another strategic priority for the College. Starting in 2009, the College has re-assessed its doctoral programs and restructured them for better performance. This restructuring has resulted in improved fellowship offerings and provided, for the first time, multi-year guarantees to its graduate students.
To enhance the undergraduate experience, the College has launched and expanded new programs to allow for greater interaction between undergraduate students and senior faculty through smaller classes and a broader array of curricular offerings. These include a new interdisciplinary program, “Pavilion Seminars,” which brings together great teachers with students in small, intimate settings. The College has expanded another innovative program for first-year students that combines advising with interdisciplinary discussion seminars. The College has also added a new undergraduate major in Global Development Studies, which covers interdisciplinary interests in social justice, sustainable economic development, public health, global interconnection, and public service.
To provide a smooth transition to undergraduate enrollment growth and a retirement surge of eminent faculty, the College has focused on bolstering the quality and reach of its faculty. Faculty hires have moved ahead in areas of strategic priority. With the help of the College Foundation Board, a $5 million initiative was completed to provide “bridge funds” to replace leading faculty before they actually retire, enabling new faculty to work alongside the scholars they will replace.
The College has recently overseen the completion of several major capital projects, including the South Lawn, the Physical and Life Sciences Building, and the Hunter Smith Band Building. The renovation of New Cabell Hall, which provides classroom and office space for thousands of students and faculty each day, is well underway, as is the Ruth Caplin Thrust Theater addition to the Drama Building.
Financial management and fundraising in the College has been strengthened. The College has reorganized its financial operation, moving from a budget-centric organization to a financial planning-centric organization. The new model takes a comprehensive approach that brings together the College’s operational, capital and philanthropic needs and aspirations, informed by its strategic directions and core foundational needs.
The College has also revamped its fundraising organization with very positive results. For fiscal year 2012, the College set and exceeded its ambitious fundraising goal of $60 million, with the aggregate new commitments and expectancies for 2011-2012 totaling $66.5 million. New commitments for 2010-2011 totaled $41.8 million, and for 2009-2010 were $28.4 million. This represents nearly 50 percent increase year over year.
Meredith Jung-En Woo
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400772
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4772
fax: (434) 924-1317