It is a delight to welcome Jim Ryan as the University of Virginia’s ninth president. For several years I have had the pleasure of serving on the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and so have witnessed first-hand Jim’s leadership and commitment to academic excellence, to service, and to inclusion. His ability to see connections across disciplines and across stakeholders’ interests, and to mobilize academic and scholarly resources to address complex societal challenges were among my strongest impressions of his work as dean. Students across all groups and programs were uniform in their praise and enthusiasm for Jim’s vision and his willingness to be creative and think into the future. I am confident we will soon see those attributes in his work here and it will be energizing.
I believe Jim is particularly well-suited to lead the University at this time in our history. There is a special role in society for a public research university like UVa, and our work under Terry Sullivan’s leadership has positioned us well for deeper and more authentic engagement with communities locally and worldwide. Increasingly, universities are being called to extend our teaching and scholarship into the seemingly intransigent challenges facing societies, work that draws on knowledge and skills that transcend traditional disciplinary, professional, or institutional boundaries. This perspective on the role of a public, research university will create exciting new opportunities for our students to be involved in learning that matters to them and their communities. Jim’s work in law and education, as both scholar and practitioner, provide him with direct experience of the role that contemporary universities can play in the world and with skills that can help lead us to discover new ways of working as teachers and scholars. And Jim’s background as a leader creates for many of us a sense of anticipation for what can be created here at UVa.