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University of Virginia

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Seal of the University of Virginia



Established 1819
Founder Thomas Jefferson
School type Public University
President John T. Casteen III
Location Charlottesville, Va.
Enrollment 13,000 undergraduate,
  6,200 graduate
Faculty 2,015
Endowment US $2 billion
Campus Suburban, 1,682 acres
Sports teams Cavaliers
Website Virginia.edu (http://www.virginia.edu/)
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Signature of Thomas Jefferson

The University of Virginia (also referred to as UVa and often called simply Virginia for short) is a research university in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was founded by one of America's most prominent Founding Fathers, the primary author of its Declaration of Independence, and third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. Some time before his death, he insisted that his grave bear the words "Father of the University of Virginia" as one of the three greatest accomplishments of his life. Today, the university that bears his legacy is widely regarded as being one of the best institutions of higher learning in the United States and as perhaps its foremost Public Ivy.

Contents

History

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Statue commemorating James R. McConnell, University of Virginia alum and World War I aviator

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia's first classes did not meet until March 1825. Jefferson hosted Sunday dinners at his home in nearby Monticello for faculty and students (including Edgar Allan Poe) until his death the next year.

Many of America's political leaders have gravitated to the University of Virginia over the years. In 1826, Fourth U.S. President James Madison became Rector of the University, at the same time America's Fifth President James Monroe made his home on the Grounds (and was a member of the Board of Visitors). 28th U.S. President Woodrow Wilson attended the University of Virginia Law School, as did assassinated 1968 candidate for the Presidency, Robert Kennedy, and his brother, Ted Kennedy. Other alumni in leadership roles have included three United States Supreme Court Justices, two Surgeons General, a Speaker of the House, a Senate Majority Leader, Secretaries of State, Defense, Energy, Transportation, Treasury, and the Navy, and the Secretary General of both NATO and the Council of the European Union.

Unlike many other southern schools, the University of Virginia remained open through the American Civil War. In March 1865, Union General George Armstrong Custer marched troops into Charlottesville. Faculty and community leaders convinced him to spare the University. Union troops camped on the Lawn and ravaged many of the Pavilions but left four days later without any bloodshed.

"Public Ivy" is a term that was first coined to describe the University of Virginia. The term is attributed to Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner at around the time the Ivy League was forming in the northeast. Some at the time thought the University should privatize a few of its schools (in the style of Cornell University) and attempt to join them. Later, in 1957, Faulkner became writer-in-residence at the University, keeping open office hours until his death in 1962.

Though all-white until 1950 and all-male until 1970, the University of Virginia is now much more diverse. The makeup of the entering Class of 2008 was 10% African-American, 14% Asian-American, 5% Hispanic, 5% Other and 5% International. Less than two-thirds identified themselves as being white.

In 2004, 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. UVa, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University ("Virginia Tech"), and the College of William and Mary are currently undergoing a Charter initiative that would enable these institutions to run themselves more independently in the face of continued budget cutbacks in the state's General Assembly.

Grounds

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The Pantheon, Rome engraving after Antoine Desgodetz in Les edifices antiques de Rome, Paris, 1779

Jefferson's original architectural design is centered around the Lawn, a grand, terraced green-space surrounded by residential and academic buildings. The principal building of the design, the Rotunda, is at the north end of the Lawn, and stands as one of the founder's greatest architectural achievements. It is half the height of the Pantheon in Rome, which was its primary inspiration. The Lawn and the Rotunda were the model for many "green areas" at universities across the country (including the East Campus of Duke University and Killian Court at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded by William Barton Rogers, former professor at the University of Virginia). Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., a scholar at the University of Virginia, has written the definitive book on the original buildings, or Academical Village (http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/grizzard), at the University of Virginia.

Flanking both sides of the Rotunda and extending down the length of the lawn are 10 "pavilions" interspersed with student rooms. Each has its own classical architectural style, as well as its own walled garden separated by uniquely Jeffersonian "serpentine walls." Today the Grounds of the University of Virginia, along with Jefferson's Monticello estate, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This honor is bestowed on only three other man-made sites in the US, the others being the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, and Pueblo de Taos.

On October 27, 1895, the Rotunda burned to the ground with 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 the main building. 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, 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, which had been built in 1853 to house classroom space (now moved to the South Lawn in White's new buildings).

The Great Fire of 1895. Students and faculty mourn.
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The Great Fire of 1895. Students and faculty mourn.
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The Rotunda today.

In 1940, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to the University's Memorial Gymnasium and made his "Stab in the Back" speech denouncing Italy's declaration of war on France. Two decades later, John F. Kennedy visited and spoke in the same space with brothers Robert and Edward (both graduates of the University's law school) at his side.

In concert with the bicentennial of the United States in 1976, the Rotunda was returned to Jefferson's original design. Renovated according to its original plans, a three-story Rotunda opened on Jefferson's birthday, April 13, 1976. To commemorate the anniversary of America's independence, 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 and Desmond Tutu graced The Lawn with their presence in 1998 to attend the University's Nobel Laureates Conference. During his visit at UVa, the Dalai Lama emphasized his desire for autonomy for Tibet and his willingness to cede foreign policy and defense strategy to the main Chinese government.

In 2001, John Kluge donated 7,378 acres (30 km²) of additional lands to the University. Much of this gift was sold by the University with Kluge's permission to musician Dave Matthews.

In the near future, the Lawn will change considerably. The McIntire School of Commerce will move to a new building adjoining Rouss Hall and the College's Economics department. At this time, Monroe Hall (current home of the McIntire School) will become part of the College. New Cabell Hall will be torn down, and in its place will be a technology-equipped classroom space that will straddle both sides of Jefferson Park Avenue. The Lawn will then extend to the space above where today is a faculty parking lot across the street.

Academics

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Pavilion Gardens.

First in 1993, and again 8 times since, U.S. News and World Report ranked the University of Virginia as America's #1 public university. It is a perennial battle between UVa, the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley to see which is declared the best public university in the United States. In the most recent (2005) edition, Berkeley was ranked #1 and UVa #2 (tied with Michigan) out of roughly 200 doctorate-granting public universities in the United States. In addition to Berkeley and Michigan, there is a friendly academic rivalry with #6, the College of William and Mary. This exists primarily because these leading public universities are both in Virginia. This particular rivalry is a bit one-sided as the University of Virginia has been rated higher than William & Mary in each and every year since the inception of the U.S. News rankings.

UVa possesses a distinguished faculty, including 25 Guggenheim fellows, 26 Fulbright fellows, six National Endowment for the Humanities fellows, two Presidential Young Investigator Award winners, three Sloan award winners. and three Packard Foundation Award winners. The University is known for its schools of Architecture, Business, Commerce, Law, Medicine, and Education, as well as for its departments of Art History, Astronomy, Astronomy-Physics, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Economics, English, Finance, French, German, History, Management Information Systems, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Spanish/Portuguese, and Systems Engineering. UVa hosts the National Radio Astronomy Observatory headquarters.

The University of Virginia Library System holds 5,000,000 volumes. Its Electronic Text Center, established in 1992, has put 70,000 books online as well as 350,000 images that go with them. No university in the world can claim more electronic texts. These e-texts are open to anyone, and that is one reason that the electronic collection gets ten times as many visitors per day as do the physical libraries at the University.

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 also participated in Arpanet and now participates in Internet2 and Abilene. In March of 1986, the University's website Virginia.edu became the first contribution to the World Wide Web originating from the state of Virginia.

The University of Virginia offers numerous special scholars programs. The Echols and Rodman Scholars programs include 6-7% of undergraduate students and offer these students the "keys" to the university, in the form of advisors, separate first-year dorms, and priority course registration. Echols Scholars are also freed from the area requirements of the basic liberal arts curriculum. Perhaps the most selective program is the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, which offers full 4-year scholarships based on rigorous regional, international, and at-large competitions. Students are nominated by their respective high schools, and then have to pass various interviews before being invited, for a weekend, to participate in various tests of character, aptitude, and general suitability. Approximately 3% of those nominated are successful, making the scholarship one of the most competitive in the nation.

Organization

Colleges and schools

Athletics

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The University of Virginia's sports teams are called the Cavaliers. The mascot is a mounted swordsman referring to the time when Virginia earned its nickname, the "Old Dominion." The Commonwealth was a hotbed for royalists to the crown, called cavaliers in the days of the English Civil War. An unofficial moniker, the Wahoos (or Hoos for short), is also commonly used. Though originally only used by the student body, both terms (Wahoos and Hoos) have come into use by the media.

Since joining in 1953, UVa's teams have participated in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Its men's basketball team has twice been to the Final Four, and its football team has twice been honored as ACC Champions [shared]. In recent years, the University's strongest sports have been Soccer and Lacrosse, both winning numerous NCAA championships in the past fifteen years. The men's soccer team won five national titles, four consecutively (1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994) and men's lacrosse added national championships in 1999 and 2003. The women's lacrosse team added the University's most recent NCAA championship in 2004.

Scott Stadium sits across from the first-year dorms along Alderman Road, and it is home to the University of Virginia's most popular sport: football. The University's team shares the "Oldest Rivalry in the South" (among Division I-A programs) with UNC and the schools have played 109 times, including every year since 1919. In what has become an even more heated rivalry, the team faces off with in-state foe Virginia Tech annually for the Commonwealth Cup, given to the winner of this game played 85 times and every year since 1970.

Basketball is also very popular at the University. At its recent height in the 1980s, the men's basketball team was better than perennial power Duke and second only to UNC in that decade's cumulative ACC standings. The 1990s and 2000s have seen a bit of a slide for the program to the middle of the pack in the conference, but UVa is currently building a new facility, John Paul Jones Arena, to replace what had become the smallest facility in the ACC, University Hall. The new arena is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2006.

The controversial Virginia Pep Band, a scramble band, was removed from athletic events in 2003 but continues to operate in a reduced role. With funding from benefactor Carl Smith, the athletic department replaced it with a marching band, the Cavalier Marching Band, which was introduced in 2004 and has already grown to 200 pieces.

Student life

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Statue of Homer on the Lawn.

The motto around Grounds is "work hard, play hard". Students at the University take this motto seriously, and they combine their academic pursuits with a lot of exercise and partying (not necessarily at the same time). It is often joked that "everyone is a runner" at the University, and many students can be seen on a run in any season of the year. Indeed, the 2005 Kaplan/Newsweek guide "How to Get into College" (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5626574/site/newsweek/), which lists twenty-five universities its editors consider notable in some respect, recognizes UVa for being the "Hottest for Fitness", mentioning that 94% of the students take advantage of at least one of the four recreation centers. Rugby Road and the fraternities are home to much of the social scene, as are private apartments along Jefferson Park Avenue and around the outskirts of the University.

Student life at UVa is marked by a number of unique traditions that set the University apart from other American colleges. The campus of the University is referred to as "the Grounds," and seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen are instead called Fourth, Third, Second and First Years. A number of benevolent, secret societies, from The 7 Society to The Z Society, have operated at the University for decades, leaving painted marks on buildings which they help to fund. Other significant secret societies include IMP Society, the Purple Shadows, the Raven Society, the Sons of Liberty and the Rotunda Burning Society.

A positive attitude regarding the libraries exists among the students. A national publication's survey recently revealed that UVa's students give their library system higher marks than students at any other school in the United States. The most famous library may be Alderman Library for the humanities and social sciences, which contains seemingly endless stacks of arcane subject matters (and many useful study nooks hidden among them). UVa's renowned Small Special Collections Library feature one of the premier collections of American Literature in the country. 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 gets high marks.

Serpentine wall.
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Serpentine wall.

Relative to nearly all other public universities, the University of Virginia has minimal red tape, paperwork, or bureaucracy. UVa's ratio of staff-to-faculty is kept low, allowing for an efficient allocation of funds directly into paying faculty (who enjoy the top 1% among public university salaries across the country) and educating its students. It is also a frequent observation that the faculty are very approachable and enjoy interacting with their students. Several of the faculty live 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 Residential College, and the International Residential College).

Volunteerism at the University is centered around Madison House, which offers numerous opportunities to serve others. Among the numerous programs offered are Tutoring, Housing Improvement, and Hoos Against Hunger (where leftover food made at restaurants is given to Charlottesville's homeless rather than being thrown away).

The ideas of student governance, left from the school's Jeffersonian roots, still hold strong at UVa. UVa's Honor System originated in 1842 and was the first to be administered by student elected officials, with student juries. In this "single sanction" system, the penalty for lying, cheating, or stealing is expulsion from the University. The Honor System here was the model for similar systems in place at West Point, Washington and Lee, and other American universities notable for their adherence to systems of honor. A well-known verse written by a student over 100 years ago (James Hay Jr. in 1903) ends "I have worn the Honors of Honor; I graduated from Virginia."

Distinguished Alumni

For a partial listing of these individuals, please see the article Notable Alumni of the University of Virginia.

External links

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