UVa Board of Visitors August retreat

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors meets Friday at Morven Farm in Albemarle County for a retreat. Much of the discussion focused on President Jim Ryan's strategic plan, which the board approved.

The University of Virginia can move forward on its new strategic plan after the Board of Visitors approved it Friday — but how it will be implemented, financed and evaluated is still being figured out.

“This is still a work in progress,” UVa President Jim Ryan told board members at the start of their two-day retreat at Morven Farm in Albemarle County on Friday.

The 2030 Plan includes four strategic goals and 10 key initiatives, including financial aid, new student housing, adult education, community and faculty development and new fields of study. The end goal is to make UVa the No. 1 public university in the country.

After several hours of discussion, the board unanimously approved the plan.

“With the adoption of this strategic plan, the board has helped launch the entire university community with a new sense of purpose,” UVa Rector Jim Murray said in a statement.

To begin the retreat, UVa Provost Elizabeth Magill presented “a conceptual framework” for how the 10-year plan will be implemented. They’ll track the 10 initiatives through a comprehensive dashboard that details who is in charge of which initiative, funding sources, progress and time frame for completion.

Several of the initiatives are in the planning phase, according to the dashboard included in Friday’s presentation.

Ryan told board members that his biggest concern right now is figuring out where to start and the order in which to tackle the projects.

“We simply can’t start 40 projects all at once,” Ryan said.

In addition to donations, state dollars and other resources, the university’s Strategic Investment Fund will be a significant funding source for implementing aspects of the plan, according to Friday’s presentation.

The SIF — which was started in 2016 — is aimed at supporting transformational projects. On Friday, the Board of Visitors gave senior leadership more flexibility in spending money from the fund and to ensure it goes toward the strategic plan.

Under the new guidelines, the board will approve three-year funding plans at a strategic level, but the line-item allocations will be up to senior officials. Previously, board members would have approved those expenditures, as well.

Magill said those items still will be part of the annual budget. Ryan and other officials also will have the ability to adjust the funding plan by as much as $15 million without full board approval.

Dr. L.D. Britt wanted a guarantee from officials that neither the SIF’s principal nor the $1 billion set aside in the fund for the Health System would be touched.

“I want to have it for the record,” Britt said.

Dr. Babur Lateef advocated for more oversight of SIF spending, but a majority of the board ended up approving the revised guidelines.

“It’s not a lack of trust,” he said. “I would use the word ‘responsible’ oversight.”

Only the rector and vice rector have to agree to allocation changes ranging from $5 million to $15 million for the expenses to be authorized.

The Board of Visitors will continue to receive updates on the financing and implementation of the strategic plan.

“This is just the beginning of the journey,” Ryan said at the meeting. “I feel like we are on the right path.”

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Katherine Knott is a reporter for The Daily Progress and author of The Cheat Sheet, an education-focused newsletter. Contact her at (434) 978-7263, kknott@dailyprogress.com, or @knott_katherine on Twitter.

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