We’re pleased to see the University of Virginia looking outward in its new strategic plan, even as it also looks inward toward strengthening its foundation, mission and values.
And by “looking outward,” we especially have in mind the university’s connection with its immediate neighbors — Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
For a time there, it subtly seemed as if UVa, in both its rapid growth and its focus on being a world-class university, sacrificed a measure of friendship with the two jurisdictions and with the permanent residents who live here, although of course, the university never actually disconnected itself from its neighbors.
But a specific acknowledgement that we are, at heart, one community is good to see.
Not that UVa will cease focusing on world-class status — far from it — but rather that it will emphasize the university’s cooperation with Charlottesville, Albemarle and the commonwealth of Virginia alongside other goals.
President Jim Ryan’s 2030 Plan, a strategic look at long-term goals for the university, envisions strengthening UVa’s position as not only a great school but also a good one — that is, an institution that does good for the world and for the community, and that motivates its students, staff and faculty with this noble goal.
The plan looks to improve the student experience and to link students more securely with their peers and with UVa itself. The idea is to create a stronger sense of community within the university.
At the same time, the plan calls for enhancing UVa’s national and international reputation. Mr. Ryan hopes that UVa, now ranked as the No. 3 public university in the country by U.S. News & World Report, will become No. 1.
But with all this looking inward at improving student connections and the student experience, and outward at improving national and international recognition, the 2030 Plan also addresses the immediate community. Says one portion of the plan:
“Our relationship with Charlottesville and the surrounding counties is critically and mutually important. Our success as a university depends in no small part on the strength of those communities, and on the strength of our relationship with them. We will reach our potential as a university only if we partner with our neighbors to ensure that the Charlottesville region is an attractive and equitable place to live. At the same time, as an anchor institution we must take seriously our responsibility to be a good neighbor and employer.”
One change proposed in the plan will have an immediate effect on that effort.
Plan 2030 envisions housing all first- and second-year students on Grounds. This policy shift was inspired by the plan’s goal of helping students become more connected to each other and to the university.
It was not aimed at helping to relieve Charlottesville’s affordable housing problem. Yet, removing second-year students from competition for housing in the private market could serve to drive down prices.
That might not be good news for landlords, but could please city leaders who struggle with ways to ensure adequate housing for low-income residents.
Plan 2030 covers a wide range of topics, some of which we may address in the future.
And it does not dictate mechanisms for achieving its broad and wide aims, intending to serve instead as an overview of goals and a call to further action.
But it is remarkable in its combination of idealism and realism, inspiration and common sense.