UNESCO designated UVA as America's first and only collegiate World Heritage Site in 1987, an honor shared with nearby Monticello. The university was established in 1819, and its original governing Board of Visitors included Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Monroe was the sitting President of the United States at the time of its foundation. Former Presidents Jefferson and Madison were UVA's first two rectors and Jefferson conceived and designed the original courses of study and Academical Village.
UVA was the first elected member of the Association of American Universities from the South, in 1904, and remains the only member institution in Virginia. UVA is classified as a Research University with Very High Research by the Carnegie Foundation, and is considered Virginia's flagship university by the College Board. In 2015 the journal Science honored UVA faculty for discovering two of its top 10 annual scientific breakthroughs; from the fields of Medicine and Psychology. UVA faculty and alumni have founded a large number of companies, such as Reddit, that produce more than $1.6 trillion in annual revenue, equivalent to the 10th-largest economy in the world.
UVA's academic strength is broad, with 121 majors across the eight undergraduate and three professional schools. Students come to attend the university in Charlottesville from all 50 states and 148 countries. The historic 1,682-acre (2.6 sq mi; 680.7 ha) campus is internationally protected by UNESCO and has been ranked as one of the most beautiful collegiate grounds in the country. UVA additionally maintains 2,913 acres southeast of the city, at Morven Farm. The university also manages the College at Wise in Southwest Virginia, and until 1972 operated George Mason University and the University of Mary Washington in Northern Virginia.
Virginia student athletes compete in 26 collegiate sports and the Cavaliers lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in men's team NCAA championships with 18, additionally placing second in women's national titles with 7. UVA was awarded the men's Capital One Cup in 2015 after fielding the top overall men's athletics program in the nation.
In 1802, while serving as President of the United States, Thomas 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," and that it might even attract talented students from "other states to come, and drink of the cup of knowledge". Virginia was already home to the College of William and Mary, but Jefferson lost all confidence in his alma mater, partly because of its religious nature – it required all its students to recite a catechism – and its stifling of the sciences. Jefferson had flourished under William and Mary professors William Small and George Wythe decades earlier, but the college was in a period of great decline and his concern became so dire by 1800 that he expressed to British chemist Joseph Priestley, "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." These words would ring true some seventy years later when William and Mary fell bankrupt after the Civil War and the Williamsburg college was shuttered completely in 1881, later being revived only in a limited capacity as a very small college for teachers until well into the twentieth century.
In 1817, three Presidents (Jefferson, James Monroe, and James Madison) and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Marshall joined 24 other dignitaries at a meeting held in the Mountain Top Tavern at Rockfish Gap. After some deliberation, they selected nearby Charlottesville as the site of the new University of Virginia. Farmland just outside Charlottesville was purchased from James Monroe by the Board of Visitors as Central College. The school laid its first building's cornerstone late in that same year, and the Commonwealth of Virginia chartered the new university on January 25, 1819. John Hartwell Cocke collaborated with James Madison, Monroe, and Joseph Carrington Cabell to fulfill Jefferson's dream to establish the university. Cocke and Jefferson were appointed to the building committee to supervise the construction. The university's first classes met on March 7, 1825.
In contrast to other universities of the day, at which one could study in either medicine, law, or divinity, the first students at the University of Virginia could study in one or several of eight independent schools – medicine, law, mathematics, chemistry, ancient languages, modern languages, natural philosophy, and moral philosophy. Another innovation of the new university was that higher education would be separated from religious doctrine. UVA had no divinity school, was established independently of any religious sect, and the Grounds were planned and centered upon a library, the Rotunda, rather than a church, distinguishing it from peer universities still primarily functioning as seminaries for one particular strain of Protestantism or another. Jefferson opined to philosopher Thomas Cooper that "a professorship of theology should have no place in our institution", and never has there been one. There were initially two degrees awarded by the university: Graduate, to a student who had completed the courses of one school; and Doctor to a graduate in more than one school who had shown research prowess.
Jefferson was intimately involved in the university to the end, hosting Sunday dinners at his Monticello home for faculty and students until his death. 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 national accomplishments, such as the Louisiana Purchase and any other aspects of his presidency, in favor of his role with the young university.
Initially, some of the students arriving at the University matched the then-common picture of college students; wealthy, spoiled aristocrats with a sense of privilege which often led to brawling, or worse. This was a source of frustration for Jefferson, who assembled the students during the school's first year, on October 3, 1825, to criticize such behavior; but was too overcome to speak. He later spoke of this moment as "the most painful event" of his life.
Although the frequency of such irresponsible behavior dropped after Jefferson's expression of concern, it did not die away completely. Like many universities and colleges, it experienced periodic student riots, culminating in the shooting death of Professor John A. G. Davis, Chairman of the Faculty, in 1840. This event, in conjunction with the growing popularity of temperance and a rise in religious affiliation in society in general, seems to have resulted in a permanent change in student attitudes, and the streak of seriously antisocial behavior among students which had so bothered Jefferson finally vanished.
In the year of Jefferson's death, poet Edgar Allan Poe enrolled at the university, where he excelled in Latin. The Raven Society, an organization named after Poe's most famous poem, continues to maintain 13 West Range, the room Poe inhabited during the single semester he attended the university. He left because of financial difficulties. The School of Engineering and Applied Science opened in 1836, making UVA the first comprehensive university to open an engineering school.
Unlike the vast majority of peer colleges in the South, the university was kept open throughout the Civil War, an especially remarkable feat with its state seeing more bloodshed than any other and the near 100% conscription of the entire American South. After Jubal Early's total loss at the Battle of Waynesboro, Charlottesville was willingly surrendered to Union forces to avoid mass bloodshed and UVA faculty convinced George Armstrong Custer to preserve Jefferson's 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 mission. However, an extremely high number of officers of both Confederacy and Union were alumni. UVA produced 1,481 officers in the Confederate Army alone, including four major-generals, twenty-one brigadier-generals, and sixty-seven colonels from ten different states. John S. Mosby, the infamous "Gray Ghost" and commander of the lightning-fast 43rd Battalion Virginia Cavalry ranger unit, had also been a UVA student.
Thanks to a grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia, tuition became free for all Virginians in 1875. During this period the University of Virginia remained unique in that it had no president and mandated no core curriculum from its students, who often studied in and took degrees from more than one school. However, the university was also experiencing growing pains. As the original Rotunda caught fire and was gutted in 1895, there would soon be sweeping change afoot, changes much greater than merely reconstructing the Rotunda in 1899.
Jefferson had originally decided that the University of Virginia would have no president. Rather, this power was to be shared by a rector and a Board of Visitors. But as the 19th century waned, it became obvious this cumbersome arrangement was incapable of adequately handling the many administrative and fundraising tasks of the growing university. Edwin Alderman, who had only recently moved from his post as president of UNC-Chapel Hill since 1896 to become president of Tulane University in 1900, accepted an offer as president of the University of Virginia in 1904. His appointment was not without controversy, and national media such as Popular Science lamented the end of one of the things that made UVA unique among universities.
Alderman would stay 27 years, and became known as a prolific fund-raiser, a well-known orator, and a close adviser to U.S. President and UVA alumnus Woodrow Wilson. He added significantly to the University Hospital to support new sickbeds and public health research, and helped create departments of geology and forestry, the Curry School of Education, the McIntire School of Commerce, and the summer school programs at which a young Georgia O'Keeffe would soon take art. Perhaps his greatest ambition was the funding and construction of a library on a scale of millions of books, much larger than the Rotunda could bear. Delayed by the Great Depression, Alderman Library was named in his honor in 1938. Alderman, who seven years earlier had died in office en route to giving a public speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, is still the longest-tenured president of the university.
In 1904, the University of Virginia became the first university in the American South to be elected to the prestigious Association of American Universities. After a gift by Andrew Carnegie in 1909 the University of Virginia was organized into twenty-six departments including the Andrew Carnegie School of Engineering, the James Madison School of Law, the James Monroe School of International Law, the James Wilson School of Political Economy, the Edgar Allan Poe School of English and the Walter Reed School of Pathology. The honorific historical names for these departments are no longer used.
The university first admitted a few selected women to graduate studies in the late 1890s and to certain programs such as nursing and education in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1944, Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, became the Women's Undergraduate Arts and Sciences Division of the University of Virginia. With this branch campus in Fredericksburg exclusively for women, UVA maintained its main campus in Charlottesville as near-exclusively for men, until a civil rights lawsuit of the 1960s forced it to commingle the sexes. In 1970, the Charlottesville campus became fully co-educational, and in 1972 Mary Washington became an independent state university. When the first female class arrived, 450 undergraduate women entered UVA, comprising 39 percent of undergraduates, while the number of men admitted remained constant. By 1999, women made up a 52 percent majority of the total student body.
The University of Virginia began the process of integration even before the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision mandated school desegregation for all grade levels, when Gregory Swanson sued to gain entrance into the university's law school in 1950. Following his successful lawsuit, a handful of black graduate and professional students were admitted during the 1950s, though no black undergraduates were admitted until 1955, and UVA did not fully integrate until the 1960s.
In December 1953, the University of Virginia joined the Atlantic Coast Conference for athletics. At the time, UVA had a football program that had just broken through to be nationally ranked in 1950, 1951, and 1952, and consistently beat its rivals North Carolina and Virginia Tech by such scores as 34–7 and 44–0. Other sports were very competitive as well. However, the administration of Colgate Darden de-emphasized athletics, barely allowing the school to join the nascent ACC. It would take until the 1980s for the bulk of programs to fully recover, but approaching the 2000s UVA was again one of the most successful all-around sports programs with NCAA national titles achieved in an array of different sports.
UVA established a junior college in 1954, then called Clinch Valley College. Today it is a four-year public liberal arts college called the University of Virginia's College at Wise and currently enrolls 2,000 students. George Mason University and the aforementioned Mary Washington University used to exist as similar satellite campuses, but those are now wholly self-administered.
Due to a continual decline in state funding for the university, today only 6 percent of its budget comes from the Commonwealth of Virginia. A Charter initiative was signed into law by then-Governor Mark Warner in 2005, negotiated with the university to have greater autonomy over its own affairs in exchange for accepting this decline in financial support.
The university welcomed Teresa A. Sullivan as its first female president in 2010. Just two years later its first woman rector, Helen Dragas, engineered a forced-resignation to remove President Sullivan from office. The attempted ouster elicited a faculty Senate vote of no confidence in Rector Dragas, and demands from student government for an explanation. In the face of mounting pressure including alumni threats to cease contributions, and a mandate from then-Governor Robert McDonnell to resolve the issue or face removal of the entire Board of Visitors, the Board unanimously reinstated President Sullivan. In 2013 and 2014, the Board passed new bylaws that made it harder to remove a president and possible to remove a rector.
In November 2014, the university suspended fraternity and sorority functions pending investigation of an article by Rolling Stone concerning an alleged rape story, later determined to be a "hoax" after the story was confirmed to be false through investigation by The Washington Post. The university nonetheless instituted new rules banning "pre-mixed drinks, punches or any other common source of alcohol" such as beer kegs and requiring "sober and lucid" fraternity members to monitor parties. In April 2015, Rolling Stone fully retracted the article after the Columbia School of Journalism released a report of what went wrong with the article in a scathing and discrediting report. Even before release of the Columbia University report, the Rolling Stone story was named "Error of the Year" by the Poynter Institute.
UVA experienced significant triumphs of both academia and athletics in 2015 as Science found its faculty to have discovered two of the world's top ten scientific breakthroughs that year, and the athletics department was awarded the Capital One Cup for fielding the nation's top overall men's sports program. In the same year, Charlottesville (largely because of UVA founders and funders) was named the No. 1 fastest growing U.S. metropolitan area for venture capital, and UVA won the 2015 Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization on the basis of its global citizen initiatives.
The Grounds, a term commonly used to refer to the UVA campus, is renowned for its Jeffersonian architecture and place in U.S. history as a model for college and university campuses throughout the country.
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." 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."
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, 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. The space was designed for students and professors to live in the same area. The Rotunda, which symbolized knowledge, showed hierarchy. The south end of the lawn was left open to symbolize the view of cultivated fields to the south, as reflective of Jefferson's ideal for an agrarian-focused nation.
Most notably designed by inspiration of the Rotunda and Lawn are the expansive green spaces headed by similar buildings built at: Duke University in 1892; Columbia University in 1895; Johns Hopkins University in 1902; Rice University in 1910; Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1915; Killian Court at MIT in 1916; the Grand Auditorium of Tsinghua University built in 1917 in Beijing, China; the Sterling Quad of Yale Divinity School in 1932; and the university's own Darden School in 1996.
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.
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 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 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 moved to the South Lawn in White's new buildings.
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. Queen Elizabeth II came to visit the Rotunda in that same year for the Bicentennial, and had a well-publicized stroll of The Lawn.
The university, together with Jefferson's home at Monticello, is a World Heritage Site, one of only three modern man-made sites so listed in the U.S. with the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall. The first collegiate World Heritage Site in the world, it was codified as such by UNESCO in 1987. The university was listed by Travel + Leisure in September 2011 as one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States and by MSN as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world.
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). Alderman Library holds the most extensive Tibetan collection in the world, and holds ten floors of book "stacks" of varying ages and historical value. The renowned Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library features one of the premier collections of American Literature in the country as well as two copies of the original printing 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. Clark Hall is the library for SEAS (the engineering school), and one of its notable features 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. As of 2006, the university and Google were working on the digitization of selected collections from the library system.
Since 1992, the University of Virginia also hosts the Rare Book School, a non-profit organization in study of historical books and the history of printing that began at Columbia University in 1983.
Housing for first-year students, Brown College, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the University of Virginia Medical School are located near the historic Lawn and Range area. The McIntire School of Commerce is situated on the actual Lawn, in Rouss Hall.
Away from the historic area, UVA's architecture and its allegiance to the Jeffersonian design are controversial. The 1990s saw the construction of two deeply contrasting visions: the Williams Tsien post-modernist Hereford College in 1992 and the unapologetically Jeffersonian Darden School of Business in 1996. Commentary on both was broad and partisan, as the University of Virginia School of Architecture and The New York Times lauded Hereford for its bold new lines, while some independent press and wealthy donors praised the traditional design of Darden. The latter group appeared to have largely won the day when the South Lawn Project was designed in the early 2000s.
Billionaire John Kluge donated 7,379 acres (29.86 km2) of additional lands to the university in 2001. Kluge desired the core of the land, the 2,913-acre Morven, to be developed by the university and the surrounding land to be sold to fund an endowment supporting the core. Five farms totaling 1,261 acres (510 ha) of the gift were soon sold to musician Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, to be utilized in an organic farming project to complement his nearby Blenheim Vineyards. Morven has since hosted the Morven Summer Institute, a rigorous immersion program of study in civil society, sustainability, and creativity. As of 2014, the university is developing further plans for Morven and has hired an architecture firm for the nearly three thousand acre property.
The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains the roads through the university grounds as State Route 302.
The primary housing areas for first-year students are McCormick Road Dormitories, often called "Old Dorms," and Alderman Road Dormitories, often called "New Dorms." The Old Dorms are in the process of being fully replaced with brand new dormitories that feature hall-style living arrangements with common areas and many modern amenities. Instead of being torn down and replaced like the original New Dorms, the Old Dorms will see a $105 million renovation project between 2017 and 2022. They were constructed in 1950, and are also hall-style constructions but with fewer amenities. However, generally the Old Dorms are closer to the students' classes.
There are three residential colleges at the university: Brown College, Hereford College, and the International Residential College. These involve an application process to live there, and are filled with both upperclass and first year students. The application process can be extremely competitive, especially for Brown.
It is considered a great honor to be invited to live on The Lawn, and 54 fourth-year undergraduates do so each year, joining ten members of the faculty who permanently live and teach in the Pavilions there. Similarly, graduate students may live on The Range. Edgar Allan Poe formerly lived in 13 West Range, and since 1904 the Raven Society has retrofitted and preserved his room much as it may have existed in the 1820s.
The university has several affiliated centers including the Rare Book School, 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 Fralin Museum of Art 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. The university has its own internal recruiting firm, the Executive Search Group and Strategic Resourcing. Since 2013, this department has been housed under the Office of the President.
In 2006, then-President Casteen announced an ambitious $3 billion capital campaign to be completed by December 2011. During the Great Recession, President Sullivan missed the 2011 deadline, and extended it indefinitely. The $3 billion goal would be met a year and a half later, which President Sullivan announced at graduation ceremonies in May 2013.
As of 2013, UVA's $1.4 billion academic budget is paid for primarily by tuition and fees (32%), research grants (23%), endowment and gifts (19%), and sales and services (12%). A mere 10% of academic funds come from state appropriation from the Commonwealth of Virginia. For the overall (including non-academic) university budget of $2.6 billion, 45% comes from medical patient revenue. The Commonwealth contributes less than 6%.
Though UVA is the flagship university of Virginia, state funding has decreased for several consecutive decades. Financial support from the state dropped by half from 12 percent of total revenue in 2001-02 to six percent in 2013-14. The portion of academic revenue coming from the state fell by even more in the same period, from 22 percent to just nine percent. This nominal support from the state, contributing just $154 million of UVA's $2.6 billion budget in 2012-13, has led President Sullivan and others to contemplate the partial privatization of the University of Virginia. UVA's Darden School and Law School are already self-sufficient.
Hunter R. Rawlings III, President of the prominent Association of American Universities research group of universities to which UVA is an elected member, came to Charlottesville to make a speech to university faculty which included a statement about the proposal: "there's no possibility, as far as I can see, that any state will ever relinquish its ownership and governance of its public universities, much less of its flagship research university". He encouraged university leaders to stop talking about privatization and instead push their state lawmakers to increase funding for higher education and research as a public good.
The University of Virginia is one of only two public universities in the United States that has a Triple-A credit rating from all three major credit rating agencies, along with the University of Texas at Austin.
UVA 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. It has never bestowed an honorary degree to any person.
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.
UVA was recently recognized by Science as leading two of the Top 10 scientific discoveries in the world in 2015.
The first breakthrough was when UVA School of Medicine researchers Jonathan Kipnis and Antoine Louveau discovered previously unknown vessels connecting the human brain directly to the lymphatic system. The discovery "redrew the map" of the lymphatic system, rewrote medical textbooks, and struck down long-held beliefs about how the immune system functions in the brain. The discovery may help greatly in combating neurological diseases from multiple sclerosis to Alzheimer's disease. The second globally recognized breakthrough of 2015 was when UVA psychology professor Brian Nosek examined the reproducibility of 100 psychology studies and found that fewer than half could be reproduced. The discovery may have profound impacts on how psychological studies are performed and documented. More than 270 researchers on five continents were involved, and twenty-two students and faculty from UVA were listed as co-authors on the scientific paper.
UVA is home to globally recognized research on hypersonic flight. The United States Air Force, NASA, National Science Foundation, and National Center for Hypersonic Combined Cycle Propulsion have given UVA researchers millions each in funding for the university's ongoing broad and deep research into ultra-high velocity flight.
In the field of astrophysics, the university 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.
The University of Virginia has been an elected member of the Association of American Universities since 1904, and remains today the only Virginia-based member of this research organization of leading American universities. As of 2012, UVA received $218,499,000 in U.S. federal research grants, the most of any university in Virginia.
The Charlottesville area has been named the No. 1 fastest growing metropolitan area for venture capital in the United States, with $27.7 million in annual funding as of 2015. A majority of the successful startups in the Charlottesville region have been started by or funded by UVA students and graduates. One example of a startup launched by university students is Reddit, now one of the top 40 most viewed websites in the world with nearly 100 billion annual pageviews, founded by UVA dormitory roommates Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian in 2005. They were students at the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the McIntire School of Commerce, respectively. Having grown so large, Reddit is now headquartered in San Francisco.
In addition to McIntire and SEAS, the Darden School has spawned highly innovative graduates and entrepreneurs. For example, a wearable glove that helps to rehabilitate stroke patients was brought to market by a Darden graduate in South Korea during 2015. According to a study by researchers at the Darden School and Stanford University, UVA alumni overall have founded over 65,000 companies which have employed 2.3 million people worldwide with annual global revenues of $1.6 trillion.
U.S. News & World Report ranks UVA 24th overall and 2nd among public universities in its 2017 report. Among the professional schools of UVA, U.S. News & World Report's 2016 rankings place its law school tied for 8th overall and tied for 1st among public universities, its graduate Darden School of Business 11th overall and 2nd among public universities, its medical school tied for 25th overall and tied for 17th among public universities in the "Primary Care" category and 28th overall and 10th among public universities in the "Research" category, and its engineering school 39th overall and 21st among public universities. In its 2015 rankings, The Economist lists Darden 2nd overall internationally and 1st among public institutions. In its 2016 listing, Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranks the McIntire School of Commerce, UVA's undergraduate business program, 5th overall and 2nd among public universities.
Washington Monthly ranked UVA 54th in its 2016 ranking of National Universities. The Daily Caller ranks UVA 1st overall, and states it "blows away the competition" for the second consecutive year as of 2015, when additional factors such as cost, professor ratings, and "student hotness" are added to the more traditional methodology. In its 2016 report, Business Insider, which strives to measure preparation for the professional workforce, ranks UVA 9th overall and 1st among public universities.
A National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) study of "high-achieving" undergraduate applicants found UVA to be the highest preference for these students among public universities of the United States in December 2005, noting that "all of the top twenty, except for the University of Virginia, are private institutions." "High-achieving" applicants were defined as those ranking at or near the top of their classes at 510 outstanding high schools across the country.
The University of Virginia has been recognized for consistently having the highest African American graduation rate among national public universities. According to the Fall 2005 issue of Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, UVA "has the highest black student graduation rate of the Public Ivies" and "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."
For the undergraduate Class of 2021, the University of Virginia received approximately 36,800 applications, admitting 27 percent. The university has seen steady increases in the applicant pool throughout the past decade, and the number of applications has more than doubled since the Class of 2008 received 15,094 applications. Interested applicants may arrange an overnight visit through the Monroe Society, a student-run organization. In 2014, 93% of admitted applicants ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. Matriculated students come from all 50 states and 147 foreign countries. The average LSAT score was 169 at the School of Law, while at the Darden School of Business the average GMAT score was 706.
Financial aid is an area of focus at UVA, and the university meets 100 percent of demonstrated need for all admitted undergraduate students, making it one of only two public universities in the U.S. to reach this level of financial aid for its students. For 2014, the university ranked 4th overall by the Princeton Review for "Great Financial Aid". In 2008 the Center for College Affordability and Productivity named UVA the top value among all national public colleges and universities; and in 2009, UVA was again named the "No. 1 Best Value" among public universities in the United States in a separate ranking by USA TODAY and the Princeton Review. Kiplinger in 2014 ranked UVA 2nd out of the top 100 best-value public colleges and universities in the nation.
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 lifelong process, rather than one to be completed within four years.
Professors are traditionally addressed as "Mr." or "Ms." at UVA instead of "Doctor" (although medical doctors are the exception) in deference to Jefferson's desire to have an equality of ideas, discriminated by merit and unburdened by title. UVA facilitates close interactions between students and professors in a number of ways.
First-year students have the opportunity to take two University Seminars, one per semester, which are later made available to other students as well. These small classes, numbering from 4 to 19 students each, provide opportunities to work closely with professors at the university from the outset of a student's academic career. The small groupings also help facilitate more frequent and intense discussions between students in this closer environment.
Select faculty live at Brown College at Monroe Hill, Hereford College, International Residential College, and in Pavilions on The Lawn. This gives more opportunities for professors to invite students to lunches and dinners, which regularly happens, and creates chances for impromptu meetings and interactions between faculty and students around Grounds.
So committed to close student-faculty interaction is UVA that it once welcomed Nobel Laureate William Faulkner to a position as "Writer-in-Residence" from February–June 1957 and again in 1958. He had no teaching responsibilities, and was paid merely to live among the students and write. He was badly injured in a horse riding accident in 1959, and did not return to the state before his death in 1962. Faulkner then bequeathed the majority of his papers to Alderman Library, giving UVA the largest Faulkner archives in the world.
UVA has several programs in place to make each of its students a citizen of the globe, not just of the United States.
The International Residential College is a residential college at UVA that attracts and celebrates students from across the globe who choose to attend the university. It is one of three major residential colleges at UVA. Students there come from 45 different countries, representing 40% of the student population; but U.S. students are encouraged to live at IRC as well to learn about the countries from which their classmates have journeyed to attend UVA.
UVA has been the academic sponsor for Semester at Sea since 2006. Throughout the history of the program since 1963, nearly 55,000 undergraduate students from more than 1,500 colleges and universities have participated in Semester at Sea. During the spring and fall semesters, the approximately 100-day program circumnavigates the globe, with up to 720 undergraduates traveling from North America heading either east across the Atlantic or west across the Pacific, visiting from 8 to 11 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and South America, before ending the voyage in another North American port. The program previously had voyages that would sail through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, but due to piracy concerns in the Gulf of Aden, voyages now typically travel around Africa. Past lecturers and guests of Semester at Sea include Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa.
UVA received the 2015 Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization, by the Association of International Educators. This award confirms the university's success and commitment in educating its students on a global scale as well as nationally.
There are a number of UVA undergraduate leadership opportunities that are offered in addition to the standard student government or fraternity and sororiety positions found at many universities. They include UVA's secret societies and debating societies, the student-run honor committees, and the chance to be recognized as a fourth-year student at the pinnacle of student leadership by being asked to live on The Lawn.
The Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, established in 2007, expands on these unique student leadership opportunities to study Leadership itself as a cross-disciplinary subject of focus and is closely aligned with many of the university's schools, including the Architecture, Education, Engineering, Law, Medical, and Darden schools, as well as with programs in politics, economics, and applied ethics.
A number of secret societies at the university, most notably the Seven Society, Z Society, and IMP Society, have operated for decades or centuries, 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.
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.
The nation's first codified honor system was instituted by UVA law professor Henry St. George Tucker, Sr. in 1842, after a fellow professor was shot to death on The Lawn. There are three tenets to the system: students simply must not lie, cheat, or steal. It is a "single sanction system," meaning that committing any of these three offenses will result in expulsion from the university. If accused, students are tried before their peers – fellow students, never faculty, serve as counsel and jury.
The honor system is intended to be student-run and student-administered. Although Honor Committee resources have been strained by mass cheating scandals such as a case in 2001 of 122 suspected cheaters over several years in a single large Physics survey course, and federal lawsuits have challenged the system, its verdicts are rarely overturned. There is only one documented case of direct UVA administration interference in an honor system proceeding: the trial and subsequent retrial of Christopher Leggett.
Many events take place at the University of Virginia, on the Lawn and across grounds. One of the largest events at UVA is Springfest, hosted by the University Programs Council. It takes place every year in the spring, and features a large free concert, 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.
The student life building 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 6 p.m. 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.
In 2005, the university was named "Hottest for Fitness" by Newsweek magazine, 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 and 2008 than any other "medium-sized" university in the United States. 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, an organization called Hoos Against Hunger, which gives leftover food from restaurants to the homeless of Charlottesville rather than allowing it to be discarded, among numerous other volunteer programs.
As at many universities, alcohol use is a part of the social life of many undergraduate students. Concerns particularly arose about a past trend of fourth-years consuming excessive alcohol during the day of the last home football game. President Casteen announced a $2.5 million donation from Anheuser-Busch to fund a new UVA-based Social Norms Institute in September 2006. A spokesman said: "the goal is to get students to emulate the positive behavior of the vast majority of students". On the other hand, the university was ranked first in Playboy's 2012 list of Top 10 Party Schools based on ratings of sex, sports, and nightlife.
The University of Virginia has a number of Greek organizations on campus, encompassing the traditional social fraternities and sororities as well as coeducational professional, service, and honor fraternities. Social life at the university was originally dominated by debating societies. The first fraternity chapter founded at UVA was Delta Kappa Epsilon in 1852, and it was quickly followed by many more; the University of Virginia was the birthplace of two national fraternities, Kappa Sigma and Pi Kappa Alpha, which exist at the university to this day. Through the twentieth century, the Greek system at UVA evolved to encompass social sororities, professional fraternities and sororities, service fraternities, honor societies, black fraternities and sororities, and multicultural fraternities and sororities. Roughly 30% of the student body are members of social Greek organizations, with additional students involved with service, professional, and honor fraternities. Rush and pledging occur in the spring semester for most organizations. Three social fraternities hold reserved rooms on the Lawn.
Charlottesville Union Station is located just 0.6 miles (0.97 km) from the University of Virginia, and energy efficient Amtrak passenger trains serve Charlottesville on three routes: the Cardinal (Chicago to New York City), Crescent (New Orleans to New York City), and Northeast Regional (Virginia to Boston). The long-haul Cardinal operates three times a week, while the Crescent and Northeast Regional both run daily. Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport, 8 miles (13 km) away, has nonstop flights to Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Charlotte, and Philadelphia. The larger Richmond International Airport is 77 miles (124 km) to the southeast, and the still larger Dulles International Airport is 99 miles (159 km) to the northeast. The Starlight Express offers direct express bus service from Charlottesville to New York City, and I-64 and U.S. 29, both major highways, are frequently trafficked.
The Cavaliers lead the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference in NCAA championships for men's sports with 18, and are second in women's sports with 7. They have been the Cavaliers since 1923, predating the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers by five decades, and have competed in the ACC since 1953. The Athletic Director is Craig Littlepage, the first African American to hold that position anywhere in the ACC when hired in August 2001. Since then, UVA has added many significant hires who have demonstrated success near the top of their respective sports, including Tony Bennett, Brian O'Connor, Bronco Mendenhall, Augie Busch, and Brian Boland, who led UVA men's tennis to an undefeated run of 140–0 in ACC matches spanning more than an entire decade (2006–2016), unprecedented in any sport. Among coaches who have longer tenures, George Gelnovatch has won two NCAA men's soccer national titles since 2009. Steve Swanson has led women's soccer teams to six ACC titles and 24 consecutive winning seasons. Kevin Sauer has led UVA women's rowing to two NCAA titles since 2010 and nine consecutive Top 6 national finishes as of 2015.
UVA has ranked near the top of NCAA collegiate programs in recent years. In 2015, Virginia won the Capital One Cup for the best overall program in men's sports after its teams won the 2014 College Cup, the 2015 College World Series, and the 2015 NCAA Tennis Championships. UVA ranks similarly high nationally in the yearly NACDA Directors' Cup combined men's and women's standings: taking third place nationally in 2009–10, and finishing fourth in 2013–14.
The Cavaliers often, but not always, finish first among ACC programs in each of these all-sports measures.
In the 21st century alone, UVA has won twelve NCAA team national championships. The men's teams have won recent NCAA titles in baseball (2015); soccer (2014 and 2009); lacrosse (2011, 2006, and 2003); and tennis (2016, 2015, and 2013). UVA women have won recent NCAA titles in lacrosse (2004) and rowing (2012 and 2010).
The ACC is particularly known for college basketball, often being called the nation's best basketball conference. Under Tony Bennett the Cavaliers have experienced a renaissance, winning back-to-back ACC regular season titles in 2014 and 2015, and dispatching Duke for the 2014 ACC Tournament Championship. UVA has become just the third ACC program, after Duke and UNC, to win 30 games in two consecutive seasons.
The baseball team under Brian O'Connor has also experienced tremendous success. UVA finished as national Runners Up in the 2014 College World Series and came back to win the 2015 College World Series. His teams have made the NCAA Tournament in all twelve of his years coaching at Virginia as of 2015.
Official ACC designated rivalry games include the Virginia–Virginia Tech rivalry and the brand new Virginia–Louisville series. These two rivalries are guaranteed home-and-away games each year in all sports but football, in which there is a guaranteed annual game. The Cavaliers competed against the Hokies in the Commonwealth Challenge and more recently compete in the Commonwealth Clash, under new rules, for many sports in which they compete head-to-head. The Cavaliers were 2–0 against the Hokies in the Challenge and are also 2–1 in the Clash (4–1 overall) as of 2017.
Perhaps the most significant rivalry game ever played against the Hokies was on March 1, 2007. The two teams played a men's college basketball game in which the winner would clinch at least a share of the ACC regular season title. UVA won the game 69–56 and took their fifth (of seven) such ACC titles.
The stakes have never been so high, yet, for the annual football game to contest the rivalry's Commonwealth Cup. The Virginia football team also competes in what is called the South's Oldest Rivalry against North Carolina, a historic rivalry game which a sitting President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, once attended in Charlottesville. UVA currently trails in both these series, a lasting vestige of the period when Colgate Darden de-emphasized football in 1952 at a time when Art Guepe was regularly beating both of these rivals by scores such as 34–7 and 44–0. Darden turned down a bid to the 1952 Orange Bowl, and Guepe left. (After building back a winning program forty years later, UVA football was briefly ranked AP No. 1 for several weeks in October 1990 and won at least seven games each year for thirteen consecutive years between 1987 and 1999; however even with the arrival of Bronco Mendenhall in 2016, UVA has again seen down times.)
The Cavaliers are sponsored by Nike, from which the program receives $3.5 million per year.
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).
The university's faculty includes a National Humanities Medal and National Medal of Arts winner and former United States Poet Laureate, an awardee of the Order of Isabella the Catholic, 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. 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,
VIRGINIA.EDU, became the first registration under the
.EDU top-level domain originating from the Commonwealth of Virginia on what would become the World Wide Web.
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. Civil rights activist Julian Bond, a professor in the Corcoran Department of History from 1990 to 2012, was the Chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2009 and was chosen to host the Nobel Laureates conference in 1998.
As of December 2014, the University of Virginia has 221,000 living graduates. According to a study by researchers at the Darden School and Stanford University, UVA alumni have founded over 65,000 companies which have employed 2.3 million people worldwide with annual global revenues of $1.6 trillion. Extrapolated numbers show companies founded by UVA alumni have created 371,000 jobs in the state of Virginia alone. The relatively small amount that the Commonwealth gives UVA for support was determined by the study to have a tremendous return on investment for the state.
Eight NASA astronauts and launch directors are UVA alumni: Karl Gordon Henize, Bill Nelson, Thomas Marshburn, Leland Melvin, Jeff Wisoff, Kathryn Thornton, Patrick Forrester; and Michael Leinbach.
The Pulitzer Prize has been awarded to eight UVA alumni: Edward P. Jones, Ron Suskind, Virginius Dabney, Claudia Emerson, Henry Taylor, Lane DeGregory, George Rodrigue, and Michael Vitez.
Fifty-three Rhodes Scholars have graduated from UVA. This is the most from any state-supported university, the most from any public or private university in the American South, and the eighth-most overall (placing UVA between Brown University at 55, and the University of Chicago at 50). UVA's alumni ranks also include others who have achieved widespread fame: computer science pioneer John Backus; polar explorer Richard Byrd; scientists Walter Reed, Stuart Schreiber, Daniel Barringer, Richard Lutz, and Francis Collins; artists Edgar Allan Poe and Georgia O'Keefe; musicians Stephen Malkmus and Boyd Tinsley; self-made billionaire Paul Tudor Jones; national news anchors Katie Couric and Brit Hume; actors Tina Fey and Ben McKenzie; Team USA Olympic team captains John Harkes, Dawn Staley, and Claudio Reyna; and NBA All-Star MVP Ralph Sampson.
Famous government leaders include NATO Secretary General Javier Solana; United States President and Nobel Laureate Woodrow Wilson; U.S. Speaker of the House Robert M. T. Hunter; widely known United States Senators Harry Byrd, Robert F. Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy; the first African American Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, Leroy Hassell; the United States Supreme Court Justices Howell Edmunds Jackson, James Clark McReynolds, and Stanley Forman Reed; and President of the Supreme Court of Israel Asher Grunis.
Fourteen Governors of Virginia are UVA alumni: Gerald Baliles, Jim Gilmore, Chuck Robb, George Allen, John Dalton, Albertis Harrison, James Almond, John Battle, Colgate Darden, Elbert Trinkle, Westmoreland Davis, Claude Swanson, Andrew Jackson Montague, and Frederick Holiday.
Fourteen Governors of other U.S. states and territories, as well: James Paul Clarke, William Meade Fishback, and Joseph Taylor Robinson (Arkansas), Janet Napolitano (Arizona), Lowell Weicker (Connecticut), Charles Terry (Delaware), Millard Caldwell (Florida), Evan Bayh (Indiana), Brereton Jones (Kentucky), Sam McEnery (Louisiana), William Preston Lane (Maryland), Mark Sanford (South Carolina), Henry Mathews (West Virginia), and Luis Fortuño (Puerto Rico).