University of Virginia

University of Virginia
The Rector and Visitors of the
University of Virginia
Established 1819
Type Public
Endowment US $ 5.24 billion[1]
President Teresa A. Sullivan
Academic staff 2,102
Undergraduates 14,039[2]
Postgraduates 6,515[2]
Location Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
Campus World Heritage Site
1,682 acres (6.81 km2)
Founder Thomas Jefferson
Colors Orange and Navy blue
Athletics NCAA Division I ACC
25 varsity teams
Nickname Cavaliers, Wahoos
Mascot Virginia Cavalier
Affiliations AAU, Universitas 21
UVa logo
Official name: Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
Type: Cultural
Criteria: i, iv, vi
Designated: 1987 (11th session)
Reference #: 442
Region: Europe and North America

The University of Virginia (also The University,[4] Mr. Jefferson's University, or Virginia; often abbreviated as U.Va. or UVA) is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson. Conceived by 1800 and established in 1819, it is the only university in the United States to be designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, an honor it shares with nearby Monticello.

The 2012 edition of U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Virginia as the 2nd best public university in the United States, and the overall 25th best university in the nation.[5] The University is notable for having highly ranked programs, including its law school (Ranked 9th), undergraduate business school (Ranked 5th), graduate business school (Ranked 13th), nursing school (Ranked 15th), medical school (Ranked 20th in Primary Care and 22nd in Research).[6] The University is one of the eight original Public Ivy universities, which recognizes top public research universities in the United States.

The University is notable in U.S. history for being the first educational institution to offer academic programs in disciplines now common, such as astronomy and philosophy.[citation needed] Its School of Engineering and Applied Science was the first engineering school in the United States to be part of a comprehensive university.[7] Officially, the University of Virginia is incorporated as The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.

The early Board of Visitors was filled with former Presidents of the United States: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Although Jefferson undertook all planning of the University, the land underneath it was once a farm belonging to Monroe. His farmhouse was located on Monroe Hill, which today is the site of one of three undergraduate residential colleges.

Historical secret societies such as Seven, IMP, and Z are very active; as are two rival literary and debating societies, the Jefferson Society and Washington Society. Many students live in residential colleges such as Brown College, Hereford College and the International Residential College. Yet some aspects of student life are more recognizable to those familiar with other universities across the nation, as there are also fraternities and sororities, and the athletic teams participate in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. Notably the University has had the highest African American graduation rate of all public universities in the United States for 15 years running. Achieving a graduation rate of 87% for its black students, UVA topped its nearest public rival, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, by 11 percentage points in 2009.[8][9]



On January 18, 1800, Thomas Jefferson, the Vice President of the United States, alluded to plans for a new college in a letter written to British scientist Joseph Priestley: "We wish to establish in the upper country of Virginia, and more centrally for the State, a University on a plan so broad and liberal and modern, as to be worth patronizing with the public support, and be a temptation to the youth of other States to come and drink of the cup of knowledge and fraternize with us."[10]

In 1802, then serving as President of the United States, Jefferson wrote to artist Charles Willson Peale that his concept of the new university would be "on the most extensive and liberal scale that our circumstances would call for and our faculties meet."[11] Virginia was already home to one university, the College of William & Mary, but Jefferson lost confidence in his alma mater, partly because of its religious biases and lack of education in the sciences.[12] Although Jefferson flourished under the tutelage of W&M professors William Small and George Wythe, his concerns with the College became great enough by 1800 that he wrote: "We have in that State, a college just well enough endowed to draw out the miserable existence to which a miserable constitution has doomed it."[13] Thus, he began planning a university more aligned with his educational ideals.[14]

The University of Virginia stands on land once owned by President James Monroe, who sold the land when he moved into the White House.

The University of Virginia stands on land purchased in 1788 by an American Revolutionary War veteran (and eventual fifth President of the United States), James Monroe. The farmland just outside Charlottesville was purchased from Monroe by the Board of Visitors of what was then Central College in 1817; Monroe was beginning the first of his own two terms in the White House. Guided by Jefferson, the school laid its first building's cornerstone later in 1817 and the Commonwealth of Virginia would charter the new university on January 25, 1819.

In the presence of James Madison, the Marquis de Lafayette toasted Jefferson as "father" of the University of Virginia at the school's inaugural banquet in 1824. The University's first classes met in March 1825. Other universities of the day allowed only three choices of specialization: Medicine, Law, and Religion, but under Jefferson's guidance, the University of Virginia became the first in the United States to allow specializations in such diverse fields as Astronomy, Architecture, Botany, Philosophy, and Political Science. Jefferson explained, "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."[15]

The non-denominational chapel near the Rotunda of the university was established in 1890, beyond the original scope of Jefferson's plans.

An even more controversial direction was taken for the new university based on a daring vision that higher education should be completely separated from religious doctrine. One of the largest construction projects in North America up to that time, the new Grounds were centered upon a library (then housed in the Rotunda) rather than a church—further distinguishing it from peer universities of the United States, most of which were still primarily functioning as seminaries for one particular religion or another.[16] Jefferson even went so far as to ban the teaching of Theology altogether. In a letter to Thomas Cooper in October 1814, Jefferson stated, "a professorship of theology should have no place in our institution" and, true to form, the University never had a Divinity school or department, and was established independent of any religious sect. Replacing the then-standard specialization in Religion, the University undertook groundbreaking specializations in scientific subjects such as Astronomy and Botany. (However, today the University does maintain one of the highest-rated Religious Studies departments in the U.S. and a non-denominational chapel, notably absent from Jefferson's original plans, was constructed in 1890 near the Rotunda.)

Jefferson was intimately involved in the University, hosting until his death Sunday dinners at his Monticello home for faculty and students. So taken with the import of what he viewed the University's foundations and potential to be, and counting it amongst his greatest accomplishments, Jefferson insisted his grave mention only his status as author of the Declaration of Independence and Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and father of the University of Virginia. Thus, he eschewed mention of his Presidency and national accomplishments in favor of being remembered for the newly established university.

The Lawn during winter, with tracks through the snow. At center is the Rotunda, which was the original library building at the head of Jefferson's Academical Village.

In 1826, the nation's fourth President James Madison became Rector of the University of Virginia, at the same time America's fifth President James Monroe made his home on the Grounds (at Monroe Hill) and was a member of the Board of Visitors. Both former Presidents stayed at the University until their deaths in the 1830s.

The School of Engineering and Applied Science opened in 1836, making it the first engineering school in the United States to be attached to a comprehensive university.

At the onset of the American Civil War, the University of Virginia was the largest in the Southern United States and second nationwide only to Harvard University in its scope.[17] Unlike many other colleges in the South, the University was kept open throughout the conflict, an especially remarkable feat with its state being the site of more battles than any other. In March 1865, Union General George Armstrong Custer marched troops into Charlottesville, whereupon faculty and community leaders convinced him to spare the University. Though Union troops camped on the Lawn and damaged many of the Pavilions, Custer's men left four days later without bloodshed and the University was able to return to its educational routines.

Jefferson, ever the skeptic of central authority and bureaucracy, had originally decided the University of Virginia would have no President. Rather, this power was to be shared by a Rector and a Board of Visitors. As the nineteenth century waned, it became obvious this arrangement was incapable of adequately handling the many administrative and fundraising tasks that had become necessary to support the growing University.[citation needed]

Father of the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson was the first and only President of the United States to found an institution of higher learning.

In 1904, Edwin Alderman resigned as President of Tulane University to take the same position at the University of Virginia. As the University's first President, he embarked on a number of reforms for both the University and the state of Virginia's public educational systems in general. A reform specific to the University of Virginia was one of the first school-sponsored financial aid programs in all of higher learning and, though primitive by today's standards, it included a loan provision for those "needy young men" who were unable to pay. Initially controversial and opposed by many at what had become a very traditional school, Alderman's progressive ideas stood the test of time. He remains the longest-tenured President in the University's history, having served for twenty-six years until his death in 1931. Alderman Library, a popular landmark among today's students, is his namesake.

During World War II, Virginia was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[18]

Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner became writer-in-residence at the University in 1957, keeping open office hours until his death in 1962. He was also a lecturer at the school, as well as taking the title "Consultant on American Literature to the Alderman Library". Faulkner had a large collection of his manuscripts and typesets given to and made available (the request reaffirmed by his wife and daughter) at the library upon his death.

In 2004, resulting from a stark decrease in state support, the University of Virginia became the first public university in the United States to receive more of its funding from private sources than from the state with which it is associated. Thanks to a Charter initiative that passed the Virginia General Assembly and was signed into law by then-Governor Mark Warner in 2005,[19] the University—and any other public universities in the state that choose to do so (currently Virginia Tech and William & Mary)—will have greater autonomy over its own affairs.[20]

President James Madison served as the second Rector of the University of Virginia until his death in 1836.

Also in 2004, the 100th anniversary of Alderman becoming President, the University announced the AccessUVa financial aid program. This program guarantees the University will meet 100% of a student's demonstrated need. It also provides low-income students (up to 200% of the poverty line – as of 2009, about $44,000 for a family of four) with full grants to cover all of their educational needs, and it caps the level of need-based loans for all other students. This program is the first to guarantee full grants to students of low-income families at any public university in the United States.

In 1944 the Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia became the Women's Undergraduate Arts and Sciences Division of the University of Virginia. Until that time, the University of Virginia had not admitted women as undergraduates, except in the education and nursing schools. In 1970, the Charlottesville campus became fully co-educational and in 1972 Mary Washington became an independent state university.[21] All-white until 1950 and generally all-male, the University of Virginia is now very diverse. The story of the racial integration of the University is movingly told in Sarah Patton Boyle's classic book The Desegregated Heart (1962). Boyle was a faculty wife and civil rights activist who worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (He singled her out for praise in his famous "Letter From Birmingham Jail".) The makeup of the Class of 2008 was 10% African American, 14% Asian American, 5% Hispanic, 5% Other and 5% International; over one-third of the members of the class reported themselves as being non-white. Approximately eighty-five percent of the University's entering Class of 2009 were ranked in the top 10% of their graduating high school class and 56% are female.

Today, minority students are particularly successful at the University of Virginia. According to the Fall 2005 issue of Journal of Blacks in Higher Education,[22] the University "has the highest black student graduation rate of the Public Ivies at 86 percent." The journal goes on to state that "by far the most impressive is the University of Virginia with its high black student graduation rate and its small racial difference in graduation rates."

The University of Virginia joined with Harvard University and Princeton University as the three universities announced the end of their Early Decision and Early Action programs in September 2006, stating that such policies limit poor and middle class students from competing on an equal footing with applicants from rich families.[23][24] For its part, U.Va. noted that of 947 Early Decision acceptances for the Class of 2010, fewer than 20 of those students had applied for financial aid.[25] Non-binding early action was reinstated for the class of 2016 as “early action did not have the same impact on students of lower socioeconomic means because it is not binding.” [26]


Main articles: The Lawn, The Rotunda, and The Range
Elevation of The Rotunda drawn by Thomas Jefferson in 1819
The Great Rotunda Fire, 1895
The Rotunda today
Pavillion VII, Club Colonnade

Throughout its history, the University of Virginia has won praise for its unique Jeffersonian architecture. In January 1895, less than a year before the Great Rotunda Fire, The New York Times said that the design of the University of Virginia "was incomparably the most ambitious and monumental architectural project that had or has yet been conceived in this century".[27] In the United States Bicentennial issue of their AIA Journal, the American Institute of Architects called it "the proudest achievement of American architecture in the past 200 years".[28] Today, the University of Virginia remains an architectural landmark and popular tourist destination.

The University, together with Jefferson's home at Monticello, is a World Heritage Site, one of only three modern sites so listed in the 50 states, the others being the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall. It was the first collegiate campus worldwide to be awarded the designation.

Jefferson's original architectural design revolves around the "Academical Village", and that name remains in use today to describe both the specific area of The Lawn, a grand, terraced green space surrounded by residential and academic buildings, the gardens, The Range, and the larger University surrounding it. The principal building of the design, The Rotunda (RotundaCam), stands at the north end of the Lawn, and is the most recognizable symbol of the University. It is half the height and width of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building. The Lawn and the Rotunda were the model for many similar designs of "centralized green areas" at universities across the country.

Most notably designed by inspiration of the Rotunda and Lawn are the expansive green spaces headed by Rotunda-like buildings built at Duke University in 1892, Johns Hopkins University in 1902, Rice University in 1910, Dallas Hall, the central building at Southern Methodist University (1912), Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1915, the Green at the University of Delaware in 1916, Killian Court at MIT in 1916 (which was coincidentally founded by William Barton Rogers, who immediately prior to founding MIT was a Natural Philosophy professor at the University of Virginia for 19 years), the "Grand Auditorium" of Tsinghua University in Beijing built in 1917, the campus of Yale Divinity School (the Sterling Quad, 1932), and, indeed, the new grounds of the University's own Darden School of Business (designed by Robert A.M. Stern).

Flanking both sides of the Rotunda and extending down the length of the Lawn are ten Pavilions interspersed with student rooms. Each has its own classical architectural style, as well as its own walled garden separated by Jeffersonian Serpentine walls. These walls are called "serpentine" because they run a sinusoidal course, one that lends strength to the wall and allows for the wall to be only one brick thick, one of many innovations by which Jefferson attempted to combine aesthetics with utility. Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., a former scholar at the University, has written the definitive book on the original academic buildings at the University.[29]

On October 27, 1895, the Rotunda burned to a shell because of an electrical fire that started in the Rotunda Annex, a long multi-story structure built in 1853 to house additional classrooms. The electrical fire was no doubt assisted by the unfortunate help of overzealous faculty member William "Reddy" Echols, who attempted to save it by throwing roughly 100 pounds (45 kg) of dynamite into the main fire in the hopes that the blast would separate the burning Annex from Mr. Jefferson's own Rotunda. His last-ditch effort ultimately failed. (Perhaps ironically, one of the University's main honors student programs is named for him.) University officials swiftly approached celebrity architect Stanford White to rebuild the Rotunda. White took the charge further, disregarding Mr. Jefferson's design and redesigning the Rotunda interior — making it two floors instead of three, adding three buildings to the foot of the Lawn, and designing a President's House. He did omit rebuilding the Rotunda Annex, the remnants of which were used as fill and to create part of the modern-day Rotunda's northern-facing plaza. The classes formerly occupying the Annex were now moved to the South Lawn in White's new buildings.

Although undoubtedly useful to the University in providing additional classroom space, and not unattractive, if pedestrian in comparison to the Jeffersonian Pavilions, the White buildings have the effect of closing off the sweeping perspective, as originally conceived by Jefferson, down the Lawn across open countryside toward the distant mountains. The White buildings at the foot of the Lawn effectively create a huge "quadrangle", albeit one far grander than any traditional college quadrangle at the University of Cambridge or University of Oxford.

In concert with the United States Bicentennial in 1976, Stanford White's changes to the Rotunda were removed and the building was returned to Jefferson's original design. Renovated according to original sketches and historical photographs, a three-story Rotunda opened on Jefferson's birthday, April 13, 1976.

Inside the Dome Room of the Rotunda

Though student enrollment has grown well beyond the original Lawn facilities, the University further distinguishes itself by extending the original Academical Village ideal with two exclusively First-Year (freshman) living areas: The Old Dorms (Bonnycastle, Dabney, Echols, Emmet, Hancock, Humphreys, Kent, Lefevre, Metcalf, Page), located on McCormick Road, and The New Dorms (Cauthen, Courtenay, Dunglison, Dunnington, Fitzhugh, Kellogg, Lile, Maupin, Tuttle, Webb, Woody), adjacent to Scott Stadium, both situated wholly on Grounds and considered integral to establishing peer discourse. The common bonding experience proves such a fixture to the University experience, students often identify themselves by individual "Old" or "New" dormitory. First-Year living areas also include Hereford College, International Residential College, and Brown College at Monroe Hill.

In 2001, John Kluge donated 7,378 acres (29.86 km2) of additional lands to the University. Kluge desired the core of the land to be developed by the University, and the surrounding land to be sold to fund an endowment supporting the core. A large part of the gift was soon sold to musician Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, to be utilized in an organic farming project. It is unknown what the University will do with its "core" portion of the land.

The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains the roads through the University grounds as State Route 302.[30]

Modern luminary gatherings and events

The Kennedy brothers appeared at U.Va. in 1958 while John was preparing to run for President. Ted and Robert F. Kennedy were both educated by the School of Law after attending Harvard College as undergrads.

On June 10, 1940, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to the University's Memorial Gymnasium to watch his son Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. graduate, and to give the commencement address. Instead, "in this university founded by the first great American teacher of democracy" he made his impromptu "Stab in the Back"[31] speech denouncing the act of Italy joining beside Nazi Germany to invade France on that day.[32] (Graduation ceremonies are traditionally held on the Lawn, but rain had forced a move to "Mem Gym" for the Class of 1940.)

Nearly two decades later, in 1958, Senator John F. Kennedy visited and spoke in the same space with brothers Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, the latter of whom was managing JFK's 1958 Senatorial re-election campaign from his dormitory at the University of Virginia.

In the early 1960s, civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., <<link:0>>, Aaron Henry, Bayard Rustin, and others spoke at the University under the sponsorship of the Virginia Council on Human Relations, a student organization which presented speakers on Grounds who opposed the state's prevailing policy of racial segregation. John Lewis, Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee spoke in 1965 while his head was still bandaged from a police beating he received leading the first march from Selma.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech at Old Cabell Hall in 1963 met with no resistance of any kind among the student body or administration.[33] He called for a doubling of black registrations at universities in the South. African-American enrollment has since been increased tenfold at the University. Five years later in 1968, when King was shot, the Rotunda flag was flown at half-mast and then-President of the University Edgar Shannon, Jr. led a U.Va. memorial service in Cabell Hall. All classes at U.Va. were made optional during the service.[34]

To commemorate the United States Bicentennial in 1976, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II strolled the Lawn and lunched in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, one of five American sites she publicly visited.

The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and several other Nobel Peace laureates stayed on Grounds for one week in 1998 while attending the University's historic Nobel Laureates Conference.

Student housing

The housing units that permit families are Copeley Hill Apartments and University Gardens.[35] Copeley Hill is within the Albemarle County Public Schools.[36][37] Residents of Copeley Hill are zoned to Greer Elementary School,[38] Jouett Middle School,[39] and Albemarle High School.[40] University Gardens is within the Charlottesville City Schools.[41] University Gardens is zoned to Venable Elementary School, Walker Upper Elementary School, Buford Middle School, and Charlottesville High School.[42][43][44]


High preference among high achievers

Alderman Library includes one of the largest Tibetan collections in the world,[45] one of many special collections housed beneath its "stacks".

Admission to the University of Virginia is competitive, with 90.2% of admitted applicants ranking in the top 10% of their high school classes.[46] A December 2005 National Bureau of Economic Research study of "high-achieving" undergraduate applicants found U.Va., at twentieth overall, to be the most preferred college located in the state of Virginia, some twenty-three spots ahead of the next highest ranked Virginia school (Washington and Lee University), and the second-most preferred in the American South, just one spot behind Duke University. The study also revealed the University to be the most preferred public university in the entire United States, placing five spots above both the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley. The stated purpose of the NBER study was to produce a ranking system that "would be difficult for a college to manipulate" by basing it on the actual demonstrated preferences of highly meritorious students.[47]

Early Admissions Abolished, Reinstated

Three American universities — Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Virginia — announced in September 2006 that they were discontinuing their Early Decision or Early Action rounds of admission in an effort to promote economic diversity in their student bodies.[23][24] Early Decision programs force a student to accept an offer of admission before evaluating the financial aid offers of various universities, while Early Action entails no commitment upfront but may also prevent a comparison of offers before making a decision. The College Board states that an applicant "should not apply under an Early Decision or Action plan if he plans to weigh offers and financial aid packages from several colleges later in the spring."[48]

Through the 2006-2007 admissions cycle, 30% of each class at the University was made up of Early Decision applicants. Financially, their families were far wealthier than those of other students at the University. In the most recent year, only 1 student received a full financial aid package under the AccessUVa program out of 947 students who were accepted under Early Decision.[49] Less than 2% of Early Decision candidates applied for any financial aid at all.[25] During the 2008 admissions cycle, there was no early round at the University for the first time since the 1960s[49] and all undergraduate applications were due on one date. The University again received a record number of applications despite eliminating the Early Decision admissions round.

In November 2010, the University announced it would again offer non-binding early action for entering members of the class of 2016.[26]

Admissions statistics

The mark of one out of many secret societies active on Grounds at the University

For the Class of 2011, the University of Virginia received a record 18,013 applications.[50] The University saw increased interest from various groups of students, as applications rose by 13 percent for African American applicants, 20 percent for Asian Americans, 16 percent for Hispanic Americans, and 26 percent for international students. The University enrolled 70 more first-years than it did the previous year, as it continued to expand the scope of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Another record was established for the Class of 2012, with 18,776 applications for 3,170 spots.[51] Applications rose for each of the four undergraduate schools that accept first-year students into their programs: Architecture, Arts & Sciences, Engineering, and Nursing.

The Class of 2013 saw a tremendous increase to yet another new record high of 21,511 applications.[52] 37% of applicants were accepted.[53] The University continued to see interest from an increasingly diverse pool, as applications increased by another 22 percent for African American students, 56 percent for Hispanic students, 50 percent for international students, and 100 percent for Native Americans.

The record-setting trend of the previous years was continued for the Class of 2014. Application numbers rose to 22,516, of which 32% were offered admission.[46] Average SAT scores (math, critical reading, writing) rose 10 points from the previous year to 1,993 points. 30% of the Class of 2014, or 983 students, identified themselves as members of one or more minority group.


Madison Hall, located across from the Rotunda, has housed General Studies since 1960.

Degrees from the University of Virginia must be earned academically – there has never been an honorary degree offered.[54] The policy was instituted by Thomas Jefferson. When the Virginia Legislature's Committee of Schools and Colleges was reconsidering it in 1845, then-U.Va. professor and future Massachusetts Institute of Technology founder William Barton Rogers wrote, "[T]he legislators of the University have, we think, wisely made their highest academic honor—that of Master of Arts of the University of Virginia—the genuine test of diligent and successful literary training, and, disdaining such literary almsgiving, have firmly barred the door against the demands of spurious merit and noisy popularity." When MIT was chartered in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1861, Rogers carried the U.Va. policy through to the new institute.[55][56]

The University of Virginia places #1 among state-supported universities in the United States in the production of Rhodes Scholars.[57] The University's 47th Rhodes Scholar was named in 2010.

Georgia O'Keeffe was inspired to take up painting again during U.Va. Summer Session in 1912. Little more than a decade later, she had become one of the world's best known modernists.

Tuition is lower for both in-state and out-of-state students than at most other top universities. The student composition of the University is such that it was described in a feature article in the 2006 America's Best Colleges edition of U.S. News and World Report as being "chock full of academic stars who turn down private schools like Duke, Princeton, and Cornell for, they say, a better value."[58] Indeed, in 2008 the Center for College Affordability and Productivity named the University the top value among all national public colleges and universities;[59] and in 2009, the University was again named the "#1 Best Value" among public universities in the United States in a separate ranking by USA TODAY and the Princeton Review.[60][61]

Rankings and recognition

University rankings (overall)
U.S. News & World Report[62] 25
ARWU[63] 96
QS[64] 126
Times[65] 72

In 2009 and 2010, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Virginia as the number two public university among "National Universities" in the United States and #130 among the world's best universities. [5][66] In the 2011 edition, the undergraduate program at U.Va. ranked #2 out of roughly 200 public universities in the United States, tied with UCLA,[67] and #25 overall (including private schools), tied with UCLA, University of Southern California, and Wake Forest.[68] In the 26-year history of the rankings, U.Va. has never dropped out of the Top 25 listing and has always ranked either #1 or #2 among public schools.[69] In every published edition of the report going back to 1983, the undergraduate program at the University has also retained its position as the highest ranked school, public or private, in its home state of Virginia. Forbes Magazine ranked the University #44 in its 2010 ranking of U.S. universities, the highest ranking for a public university on the list.[70] Internationally, in 2010 U.Va. ranked 72nd in the world according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.[71] The 2011 QS World University Rankings placed Virginia at 126th overall, four places up from 2011, and 96th in Arts & Humanities.[72] GQ magazine recognized the University of Virginia noting classroom attendance of scholarship athletes as well as student traditions such as referring to the institution as "the University", ranking it 25th.[73]

U.Va. has been recognized numerous times as having the highest African American graduation rate among public universities, and by a wide margin.[9][74][75][76] Among the Top Four public universities that consistently rank highest in the ubiquitous U.S. News rankings, the University of Virginia has an 87% black student graduation rate, some 15 to 20 percentage points higher than the 70% at the University of California, Berkeley, 68% at the University of Michigan, and 73% at UCLA.[76] In addition, due in part to California Proposition 209 and the Michigan Proposal 2, the University also has much higher African American populations than these peer universities. The University of Virginia has an undergraduate student body that is 8.7%[77] African American, while the University of California undergraduate student bodies at Berkeley and UCLA are just 3.2%[78] and 3.7%[79] African American, respectively. Only 5.2%[80] of University of Michigan undergraduates are African American. Thus, relative to its closest peers, the University of Virginia has twice to three times the proportion of African American undergraduate students, and they go on to graduate at significantly higher rates.

The University of Virginia has many highly regarded graduate programs. Programs ranked in their respective fields' top 10 by U.S. News & World Report include Law, Tax Law, International Law, architecture,[81] 18th through 20th Century British Literature, African-American Literature, American Literature, American Literature Before 1865, U.S. Colonial History, Political Theory, Developmental Psychology, Adult/Medical-Surgical Nursing, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, Management, Elementary Teacher Education, Secondary Teacher Education, and Special Education.[82]

Edgar Allan Poe attended the University during its second session in 1826, taking classes in French and German while columns were still being constructed on the original Rotunda.[83]

The Jefferson Scholars Foundation offers four year full-tuition scholarships based on regional, international, and at-large competitions. Students are nominated by their high schools, interviewed, then invited to weekend-long series of tests of character, aptitude, and general suitability. Approximately 3% of those nominated successfully earn the scholarship.

Echols Scholars (College of Arts and Sciences) and Rodman Scholars (School of Engineering and Applied Sciences), which include 6-7% of undergraduate students, receive no financial benefits, but are entitled to special advisors, priority course registration, residence in designated dorms and fewer curricular constraints than other students.[84]

The University offers 48 bachelor's degrees, 94 master's degrees, 55 doctoral degrees, 6 educational specialist degrees, and 2 first-professional degrees (Medicine and Law) to its students.

The University of Virginia Library System holds 5 million volumes. Its Electronic Text Center, established in 1992, has put 70,000 books online as well as 350,000 images that go with them. These e-texts are open to anyone and, as of 2002, were receiving 37,000 daily visits (compared to 6,000 daily visitors to the physical libraries).[85]

The University of Virginia is a member of a consortium engaged in the construction and operation of the Large Binocular Telescope in the Mount Graham International Observatory of the Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona. It is also a member of both the Astrophysical Research Consortium, which operates telescopes at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy which operates the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, the Gemini Observatory and the Space Telescope Science Institute. The University of Virginia hosts the headquarters of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which operates the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Very Large Array radio telescope made famous in the Carl Sagan television documentary Cosmos and film Contact. The North American Atacama Large Millimeter Array Science Center is also located at the Charlottesville NRAO site.

UVA also hosts the Rare Book School, a non-profit organization that studies the history of books and printing. The University is one of 60 elected members of the Association of American Universities, and the only member representing the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is the United States' sole member of Universitas 21, an international consortium of research-intensive universities. On May 14, 2007, University President John Casteen was named Chairman of the Board of the organization.

Graduate placement

In 2003, The Wall Street Journal studied the undergraduate backgrounds of entering students at "elite" graduate programs.[86] The University of Virginia with 82 placements (2.6% of class) placed 33rd overall and third among all state-supported universities in elite graduate placement.[87] No other state university on the Atlantic Seaboard had greater than one-third the number of placements as the University of Virginia (e.g., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had 26 placements, Georgia Institute of Technology had 20).


Kathryn C. Thornton, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the School of Engineering and Applied Science

The University of Virginia possesses a distinguished faculty, including a Nobel Laureate, 25 Guggenheim fellows, 26 Fulbright fellows, six National Endowment for the Humanities fellows, two Presidential Young Investigator Award winners, three Sloan award winners, three Packard Foundation Award winners, and a winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.[88] The University's faculty were particularly instrumental in the evolution of Internet networking and connectivity. Physics professor James McCarthy was the lead academic liaison to the government in the establishment of SURANET, and the University has also participated in ARPANET, Abilene, Internet2, and Lambda Rail. On March 19, 1986 the University's domain name,, became the first registration under the .edu top-level domain originating from the Commonwealth of Virginia.[89]

Faculty were originally housed in the Academical Village among the students, serving as both instructors and advisors, continuing on to include the McCormick Road Old Dorms, though this has been phased out in favor of undergraduate student resident advisors (RAs). Several of the faculty, however, continue the University tradition of living on Grounds, either on the Lawn in the various Pavilions, or as fellows at one of three residential colleges (Brown College at Monroe Hill, Hereford College, and the International Residential College).

Some of the University of Virginia's faculty have become well-known national personalities during their time in Charlottesville. Larry Sabato has, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, become the most cited professor in the country by national and regional news organizations, both on the Internet and in print.[90] Julian Bond, a lecturer in the Corcoran Department of History since 1990, has been the Chairman of the NAACP since 1998. Professor Bond was also chosen to be the moderator of the 1998 Nobel Laureates Conferences, which included His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and other living winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Media Studies and Law professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, an expert in copyright law and Internet issues, moved from New York University to the University of Virginia in 2007. Spanish professor David Gies received the Order of Isabella the Catholic from King Juan Carlos I of Spain in 2007.[91]

Beginning in 2002, the Cavalier Daily student newspaper has posted faculty compensation online annually.[92]

Colleges and schools

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Randall Hall houses the History Department.
The room of Edgar Allan Poe has been returned to the 1820s conditions under which he lived there (except for the fanciful addition of a stuffed raven in the window).

The University is also endowed with several affiliated centers including the Rare Book School, Center for Chemistry of the Universe, headquarters of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, University of Virginia Center for Politics, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership, and Miller Center of Public Affairs. The University of Virginia Art Museum is dedicated to creating an environment where both the University community and the general public can study and learn from directly experiencing works of art.

Financial strength


Managed by the University of Virginia Investment Management Company, and with $5.24 billion as of August 4, 2011[1] the University of Virginia has a per capita endowment of $255,000 per student; this is the largest per capita endowment of any public university in the United States. Considering public university endowments across the country, the University of Michigan ($122,000) is second to U.Va. among national publics in per capita endowment funds. Both are in the top 5 for recent growth rates nationwide.

When compared to other public universities in its home state, the per-student endowment at the University of Virginia is several times larger than its nearest competitors, The College of William & Mary ($73,000 per student) and Virginia Tech ($16,000). It is also several times larger than the highest among flagship institutions of nearby states, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ($55,000) and University of Maryland, College Park ($8,600).

Triple-A credit rating

The University of Virginia is one of only two public universities in the U.S. that has a Triple-A credit rating from all three major credit rating agencies, along with the University of Texas at Austin.[93] This allows it to borrow money and fund projects with the best possible conditions and terms.


Chris Long, #2 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft

The University of Virginia's athletics program competes in Division I (and the Football Bowl Subdivision for football), and has been a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1953. The current Athletic Director at Virginia is Craig Littlepage. The Virginia Cavaliers, also called "Wahoos" or "Hoos", have won 20 recognized national championships, 15 of them since 1980. Virginia has won multiple national titles in five different sports, including three men's sports (lacrosse, 6; soccer, 6; and boxing, 2) and two women's sports (lacrosse, 3; and cross country, 2). It also holds a national championship in track and field. The men's college basketball team has won either the ACC regular season (1981, 1982, 1983, 1995, 2007) or ACC Tournament (1976) titles six times and has been to the Final Four twice, while the women's squad has been three times.

The football team won a share of the ACC Championship in both 1989 and 1995 (both before the conference had a championship game). After never reaching a bowl before 1984, the team has played in 17 bowl games since. The program is also notable for its recent high draft picks in the National Football League, including the #4 overall pick of 2006, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and the #2 overall pick of 2008, Chris Long. The program is a party to three major rivalry games in the conference: the longest series in the ACC, the South's Oldest Rivalry with North Carolina; the Commonwealth Cup with Virginia Tech (part of the greater Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry); and the Beltway Brawl with Maryland. While the Cavaliers have played UNC more times (114) than any other rival, all of these opponents – North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Maryland – each list Virginia as their schools' longest-standing football rivals.

In 2006, the men's lacrosse team won its fourth NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship, and sixth including the pre-tournament era. In the title game, Virginia defeated UMass 15-7 in front of a record crowd of 47,062 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, the first lacrosse crowd to surpass the crowd size of the men's basketball Final Four and the largest crowd to witness any NCAA Championship during the year.[94] The team finished the season a perfect 17–0, the best record in NCAA lacrosse history.

Claudio Reyna won 3 national championships at Virginia and was later captain of the USA team for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. Dubbed "Captain America" by his British fans, he was named Player of the Century by Soccer America.

The new John Paul Jones Arena opened in the fall of 2006 for men's and women's basketball. It seats 14,593 fans, making it the third largest on-campus basketball facility in the ACC and the largest arena not located in a major metropolitan area. The arena's inaugural year witnessed the Virginia men's basketball team's first place finish in the ACC.

Davenport Field, where the UVa baseball team plays, is also new, opening in 2002. In Brian O'Connor's first 4 seasons at the helm after being made the head baseball coach in July 2003, the team has averaged 44 wins per year and become a nationally-ranked power. The team has led the ACC in team ERA for 4 consecutive years. In 2009, the baseball team won a place in the College World Series for the first time.

The soccer teams are also national powers, with men's soccer having won 6 national championships to date including its most recent in December 2009. The women's team is regularly ranked in the top 10 nationally. The teams play their home matches at Klöckner Stadium, the largest soccer stadium in the ACC. The men's team has been invited to the NCAA Tournament for 26 consecutive years and made the College Cup many times. Former Coach Bruce Arena has coached the US national team and currently coaches the Los Angeles Galaxy in Major League Soccer.

The Aquatics and Fitness Center (webcam) has been popular among University students for working out and swimming since its opening in Fall 1996, and it is also where the Swimming & Diving teams compete in home meets. The men's swimming and diving team won 8 consecutive ACC Championships between 1999 and 2006. The women's swimming team won its fourth consecutive ACC Championship on February 19, 2011.[95]

Also winning consecutive ACC titles has been the men's tennis team, which has won 4 consecutive regular season ACC Championships. Playing their home matches at the Sheridan Snyder Tennis Center, the men's tennis team had their best season ever in 2007, finishing with a 30-4 record and a #2 national ranking. Somdev Devvarman became the first ACC player in conference history to win the NCAA Singles Championship, which he won in two consecutive years. In addition, the tennis team beat Ohio State for the 2008 National Indoor Tennis Championships, 4-1.

Now that Virginia Tech has joined the ACC, the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry has been strengthened across a number of sports. This rivalry between the University and its larger neighbor to the southwest is followed statewide. UVA's athletic teams have bested the Hokies through the years in many of the major sports. The two universities also faced off in the Commonwealth Challenge between 2005 and 2007, with the Cavaliers routing the Hokies in each Challenge: 14.5 to 7.5 in 2005-2006 and 14 to 8 in 2006-2007. The competition was then dropped out of sensitivity following the Virginia Tech massacre.

Fight song

The Cavalier Song is the official fight song of the University of Virginia. The song was a result of a contest held in 1923 by the University. The Cavalier Song, with lyrics by Lawrence Haywood Lee, Jr. and music by Fulton Lewis, Jr., was selected as the winner.[96] Generally the second half of the song is played during sporting events. Until the 2008 football season, the entire fight song could be heard during the Cavalier Marching Band's entrance at home football games.

Student life

Student life at the University of Virginia is marked by a number of unique traditions. The campus of the University is referred to as "the Grounds." Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors are instead called first-, second-, third-, and fourth-years in order to reflect Jefferson's belief that learning is a never-ending process, rather than one to be completed within four years. Also, students do not "graduate" from the University; instead, they "take" their degrees. Professors are traditionally addressed as "Mr." or "Ms." instead of "Doctor" (although medical doctors are the exception and are called "Doctor") in deference to Thomas Jefferson's desire to have an equality of ideas, discriminated by merit and unburdened by title.

In 2005, the University was named "Hottest for Fitness" by Newsweek magazine,[97] due in part to 94% of its students using one of the four indoor athletics facilities. Particularly popular is the Aquatics and Fitness Center, situated across the street from the Alderman Dorms.

The University of Virginia sent more workers to the Peace Corps in 2006[98] and 2008[99] than any other "medium-sized" university in the United States. Volunteerism at the University is centered in Madison House, which offers numerous opportunities to serve others. Among the numerous programs offered are tutoring, housing improvement, and an organization called Hoos Against Hunger, which gives leftover food from restaurants to the homeless of Charlottesville, rather than allowing it to be discarded.

The University Amphitheater

A number of secret societies at the University, most notably the Seven Society, Z Society, and IMP Society, have operated for decades, leaving their painted marks on University buildings. Other significant secret societies include Eli Banana, T.I.L.K.A., the Purple Shadows (who commemorate Jefferson's birthday shortly after dawn on the Lawn each April 13), The Sons of Liberty, and the 21 Society. Not all the secret societies keep their membership unknown, but even those who don't hide their identities generally keep most of their good works and activities far from the public eye.

The student life building on the University of Virginia is called Newcomb Hall. It is home to the Student Activities Center (SAC) and the Media Activities Center (MAC), where student groups can get leadership consulting and use computing and copying resources, as well as several meeting rooms for student groups. Student Council, the student self-governing body, holds meetings Tuesdays at 6PM in the Newcomb South Meeting Room. Student Council, or "StudCo," also holds office hours and regular committee meetings in the newly renovated Newcomb Programs and Council (PAC) Room. The PAC also houses the University Programs Council and Class Councils. Newcomb basement is home to both the office of the independent student newspaper The Declaration, The Cavalier Daily, and the Consortium of University Publications.

Boyd Tinsley's "jam sessions" would last for entire nights while he was a student at the University, attracting not only college musicians, but professional musicians as well; such as Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane.

Student Societies have existed on grounds since the early 19th Century. The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, founded in 1825, is the second oldest Greek-Lettered organization in the nation (the oldest being the Phi Beta Kappa honor fraternity). It continues to meet every Friday at 7:29 PM in Jefferson Hall. The Washington Literary Society and Debating Union also meets every week, and the two organizations often engage in a friendly rivalry. In the days before social fraternities existed and intercollegiate athletics became popular, these Societies were often the focal point of social activity on grounds.[100] Several fraternities were later founded at the University of Virginia including Pi Kappa Alpha (March 1, 1868) and Kappa Sigma (December 10, 1869). Many of these fraternities are located on Rugby Road.

A national publication's survey recently revealed that U.Va.'s students give their library system higher marks than students at any other school in the United States. The best-known library is Alderman Library for the humanities and social sciences, which contains 10 floors of stacks with many useful study nooks hidden among them. U.Va.'s renowned Small Special Collections Library feature one of the premier collections of American Literature in the country as well as an original copy of the Declaration of Independence. It was in this library in 2006 that Robert Stilling, an English Graduate Student, discovered an unpublished Robert Frost poem from 1918.[101] Clemons Library, next to Alderman, is a popular study spot. Hundreds of students can be found gathered on its various quiet floors on any given night. Clark Hall, home of the Science & Engineering Library, also scores high marks. One of the notable features of Clark Hall is the Mural Room, decorated by two three-panel murals by Allyn Cox, depicting the Moral Law and the Civil Law. The murals were finished and set in place in 1934.[102] As of 2006, the University and Google were working on the digitization of selected collections from the library system.[103]

As at many universities, alcohol use is a part of the social life of many undergraduate students at the University. Responding to the prevalence of alcohol and a recent tradition observed by a portion of the student body called the Fourth-Year Fifth (where some fourth-year students strive to drink a fifth (750 ml) of alcohol during the day of the last home football game),[104] President Casteen announced a $2.5 million donation from Anheuser-Busch to fund a new UVA-based Social Norms Institute in September 2006.[105] A spokesman said: "the goal is to get students to emulate the positive behavior of the vast majority of students."

Student Safety

While Charlottesville, which typically registers zero to three murders per year, is generally considered a safe city, students have been involved on both sides of homicides in recent history.

  • On March 22, 1986, physiology graduate student Pat Collins disappeared after using an ATM in downtown Charlottesville. He was never found.
  • On November 8, 2003, student Andrew Alston stabbed an Albemarle County firefighter to death during a fight on 14th Street. His manslaughter sentence resulted in a jail term of three years, prompting allegations[106] of special treatment for students.
  • On May 3, 2010 in what has become known as the UVA Lacrosse Killing, 22-year-old UVA women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found unresponsive in her 14th Street apartment. Later that day, former romantic partner and then-current lacrosse player George Huguely was charged with her murder.

Student Events

One of the largest events at the University of Virginia is called Springfest. It takes place every year in the spring, and features a large free concert and various inflatables and games.

Another popular event is Foxfield, a steeplechase and social gathering that takes place nearby in Albemarle County in April, and which is annually attended by thousands of students from the University of Virginia and neighboring colleges.[107]

Honor System


On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment/examination.

The University of Virginia has an honor code, formally known as the Honor System.[108] The Honor System is entirely student-run and was founded by Virginia students in 1842 after John A. G. Davis, chairman of the faculty and professor of law, who was attempting to resolve a conflict between students, was shot to death.[109] Originally, the student was expected to hold himself to a gentleman's code of conduct. In the wake of the shooting, law professor Henry St. George Tucker, Sr. proposed a basic honor pledge as a gesture of confidence in the honor of Virginia students.[110] In modern times however, the Honor System is composed of only three tenets: a student will not lie, cheat, or steal. It extends to all matters academic and personal, and the sole sanction for a confirmed Honor System violation is dismissal from the University. This is called the "single sanction".

A plaque regarding 150 years of the Honor System, placed on the Lawn in 1992

The system is not without its detractors — it has been criticized because the required severe penalty may prevent more moderate violations from being reported or acted upon.[111] As the system is entirely student run, a change to the Honor Committee constitution could have the effect of ending the single sanction system of punishment. Although students have voted on numerous proposals to weaken or eliminate the single sanction over the past few decades, none has ever succeeded. Support for the honor system has waned in recent years, and in the Spring of 2007 a referendum to limit single sanction failed to pass by the necessary 60% margin after earning only 49.5% of the votes cast.[112]

In theory, the Honor System allows the faculty to do such things as assign timed take-home examinations, and research or studies to be done in a particular way, with the assurance that the strictures placed on the student will be observed. However, no professor is required to extend such courtesies. The student is often required to sign all examinations or assignments with the following pledge: "On my honor as a student, I have neither given nor received aid on this assignment/examination." The Honor System allows the student to purchase books and supplies on-Grounds upon giving his or her word to pay, and some members of the Charlottesville community accept the word of the student regarding off-Grounds business transactions.

While cheating convictions are relatively rare (24 students were dismissed during the 2003 academic year, and 21 more were dismissed in 2004), one large cheating scandal occurred in 2001. Physics professor and Hereford College Dean Louis Bloomfield, based on a student's complaint, had suspicions that some of his students had copied portions of their term papers from fraternity archives in his Introduction to Physics class. After devising a computer program to detect copied phrases of at least six sequential words, over 150 students were accused of plagiarizing or allowing others to plagiarize their work over the previous five semesters. Although over 100 of these students were eventually exonerated, 48 students either admitted guilt or were convicted, and were therefore dismissed from the University. Three of these students had already graduated, and their degrees were subsequently revoked.

Notable alumni

Among the individuals who have attended or graduated from the University of Virginia are writer Edgar Allan Poe,[113] medical researcher Walter Reed,[114] painter Georgia O'Keeffe,[115] polar explorer Richard Byrd,[116] computer scientist John Backus,[117] pioneer kidney transplant surgeon J. Hartwell Harrison,[118] five NASA astronauts (Patrick G. Forrester,[119] Karl Gordon Henize,[120] Bill Nelson,[121] Thomas Marshburn,[122] and Kathryn C. Thornton),[123] deep sea vent researcher Richard Lutz,[124] NASA Launch Director Michael D. Leinbach,[125] Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Karl Shapiro[125] and Henry S. Taylor,[125] short story writer Breece D'J Pancake,[126] Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins, Dale Elizabeth Wright,[125] journalist Katie Couric,[125] author David Nolan,[127] comedian Tina Fey,[125] film director Tom Shadyac, author Barbara A. Perry,[128] musician Boyd Tinsley,[129] billionaire commodity trader Paul Tudor Jones,[125] noted philanthropist and founder of Landmark Communications Frank Batten,[125] influential indie rock artist Stephen Malkmus,[125] hip-hop artist and Peabody Award winner Asheru,[130] and TV personality Vern Yip.[131]

Notable athletes who have attended or graduated from the University of Virginia include 3-time NCAA Player of the Year for men's basketball Ralph Sampson,[125] pro wrestler Virgil,[132] 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist for women's basketball Dawn Staley,[125] NFL Pro Bowlers Ronde Barber,[125] Tiki Barber,[125] and James Farrior;[133] NFL Super Bowl appearances Thomas Jones,[134] Antwan Harris,[135] and Terrence Wilkins,[136] and professional baseball players Mark Reynolds and Ryan Zimmerman,[125] Olympic medalist Wyatt Allen,[125] Indian tennis player Somdev Devvarman,[137] The University of Virginia has been home to several top soccer players throughout the years — several former U.Va. players have gone on to play for the United States men's national soccer team, including Tony Meola,[138] Jeff Agoos,[139] and former USA team captains Claudio Reyna[140] and John Harkes.[141]

Numerous political leaders have also attended the University of Virginia, including the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson,[142] the 18th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, U.S. Senator and 1968 Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy,[125] and his brother, Senator Ted Kennedy.[125] Many of Virginia's governors studied at the University, including Colgate Darden,[143] George Allen,[125] Albertis S. Harrison, Jr., Frederick W. M. Holliday, Claude A. Swanson, Elbert Lee Trinkle, John S. Battle, James Lindsay Almond, Jr., John N. Dalton, Gerald L. Baliles, and Jim Gilmore.[125]


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