University of Virginia

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Photo of the Rotunda from the Lawn by Sanjay Suchak, UVA Today.

The University of Virginia (UVa, or informally, The University) is a major economic and development partner for Charlottesville and Albemarle County. The current president is James E. Ryan, who took office on August 1, 2018.

The Central Grounds are technically in Albemarle County, although Charlottesville completely surrounds the original grounds.

In 1987, the United Nations designated the Rotunda and Jefferson's Academical Village as World Heritage sites.[1]


19th Century

Planning for the University

On April 5, 1814, Jefferson assumed the role of trustee for the Albemarle Academy in Charlottesville as it was being planned. In a letter to a Dr. Thomas Cooper, Jefferson described his own vision for the academy:

“I have long had under contemplation, & have been collecting materials for the plan of an university in Virginia which should comprehend all the sciences useful to us, & none others, the general idea is suggested in the Notes on Virginia Qu. 14. this would probably absorb the functions of Wm & Mary college, and transfer them to a healthier and more central position. perhaps to the neighborhood of this place.”[2]

Now a trustee planning for the academy, Jefferson finally found an opportunity to establish this university. "Jefferson’s “hidden agenda,” as it has been called, was to transform the duly approved preparatory school into a first-rank university in Albemarle."[2]

In the winter of 1815, Jefferson turned to Joseph C. Cabell after the petitions of the Albemarle Trustees failed to be presented at the General Assembly. Cabell, after a great deal of struggle, passed the bill on February 14, 1816. By the time it was passed, it had been stripped of several important provisions.

The University was first planned by Jefferson and Edmund Bacon, Jefferson's business manager. "Mr. Jefferson looked over the ground some time and then stuck down a peg. He stuck the very first peg in that building, and then directed me where to carry the line, and I stuck the second. He carried one end of the line, and I the other, in laying off the foundation of the University... he rode there from Monticello every day while the University was building."[3]

Slavery and the University

The University could not have been built without labor by enslaved persons, as well as maintenance and cleaning once the Academical Village was open. Enslaved laborers lived in the basement of the new buildings. Students were not allowed to bring the people they owned with them, but many did so anyway and housed them off-grounds. Some slaves were purchased directly by the University such as Lewis Commodore who was bought in 1832 for $580. His duties including ringing the bell and opening the library. [4]

In 2010 a student-led group from the University proposed an idea for a memorial dedicated to the enslaved laborers that built and maintained the University. It is under construction in 2020. [citation needed]

Early days

The University of Virginia opened to students on March 7, 1825. Sixty-eight men were there as students along with 6 faculty members.[3][5] [6]

Great Fire

On October 27, 1895, a "Great Fire" spread throughout Grounds, damaging many buildings and destroying several. [7] [8]

20th Century


The second term of the University of Virginia's 110th session began on January 3, 1934 with 2,341 students enrolled, 105 students suspended, and 71 on probation. [9] Around the same time, the Public Works Administration announced the award of $379,000 for the construction of three buildings for engineering that were to be built on McCormick Road. [10]

Prepping for the baby boom

On October 8, 1960, President Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. announces formation of long-range planning committee to study the institution's educational and physical needs through 1975. [11]

21st Century

Sullivan ouster and return

On June 10, 2012, Helen E. Dragas, Rector of the BoV, announced that Teresa Sullivan would retire effective August 15, 2012 after a two-year tenure. [12] On June 19, 2012, the McIntire School of Commerce Dean Carl P. Zeithaml was named interim president effective August 16, 2012.[13] However, he announced three days later he would suspend all duties related to the presidency while the Board of Visitors considered a vote to reinstate Sullivan. [14] Following a "Rally for Honor" protest, which drew over 1,500 Sullivan supporters to protest on the lawn, an emergency meeting of the Board met on June 26, 2012 after which Sullivan was unanimously reinstated as president of the University.[15]

Ryan Presidency

Sullivan, who took office on August 1, 2010, announced her intention to retire in January of 2017 and requested that the board of visitors begin a search process for a new president at that time. She officially left office on September 30, 2018. On September 15, 2018, the Board of Visitors voted unanimously to name James E. Ryan and the University's next president. Ryan took office on August 1st, 2018 but was inaugurated formally on October 19th.

Enrollment and employment


In August 2014, the University welcomed it largest first-year class ever with 3,690 incoming students. [16]


There were 22,985 students enrolled at UVA for the 2018-2019 academic year.




The school is ranked #3 for the best public national university and #1 for best value public college. The University of Virginia Health System is nationally renowned academic health system recognized for excellent patient care along with education and research.[18]

Online Learning

On July 17, 2012, the University announced they would begin making online classes available in fall 2013. The classes, created in collaboration with a technology corporation based in Stanford, California called Coursera, would be free of charge and would generate no revenue for the University.[19]

Impact on Community

Transportation and the University

In order to limit the number of new parking spaces required and to reduce congestion, the University has created and is implementing a Transportation Demand Management plan that "seeks to establish a strategic approach to meet the evolving parking and transportation needs of its students, faculty, staff, patients, and visitors." A new iteration of the plan was developed between April 2018 and March 2019, updating TDM plans from 2007 and 2011. The plan covers 1,150 acres including Central Grounds, North Grounds, West Grounds, UVA Health, Fontaine, and Northridge. [17] [20]

Economic impact on the community

There are over 12,500 employees at UVa, with an additional 5,500 working at the University Medical Center. These figures represent 15 percent of the total employment for Charlotteasville and Albemarle County. Over 20,000 students contribute to the economy.[21] The University is holding a capital campaign to raise $3 billion by December 31, 2010, and has raised $2.2 billion as of early December 2010.[22] Sullivan has claimed that there is enough physical space to accommodate such an expansion. However, she has said there is not enough faculty to do so.[23] The expansion would likely promote a focus towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics, areas of study being requested by state officials.[24] Outgoing vice president Leonard Sandridge said in a February 2011 interview he felt U.Va could grow within its existing footprint within the next 25 years without having to expand to land near Birdwood.[25]

For the 2010-11 academic year, UVa has 14,297 undergraduate and 6,598 graduate students[26]. UVa officials are also exploring the possibility of expanding enrollments by 1,400 undergraduates over the next five years[26]. President Sullivan told the Chamber of Commerce on November 30, 2010 that the growth will not detract from the community's quality of life[27]. UVA received a record number of applications for the class of 2015, with 23,942 students applying. [28]

Connections to area planning

The University of Virginia participates in local planning as a member of several planning groups. This is called for in a document signed in 1986 called the Three Party Agreement.

For many years, the U.Va Architect or a designee served as a non-voting member of the Albemarle Planning Commission or the Charlottesville Planning Commission.

The Office of Community Relations coordinates interaction with citizens of Charlottesville and Albemarle County that are affected by the university's growth.

Recent projects

The University office of Architect released a Grounds Plan in 2008 that outlines a strategy for infill growth.[29]

UVa oversaw the building of the North Grounds Connector, completed in 2006.

Master planning at the University is overseen by the University of Virginia Master Planning Council.

Future planning

In 2009, the University instituted the Grounds Plan that will direct land-use planning for the next 20 years.[30] The Plan is organized into four sections: The Setting, Framework and Systems, Program and Precincts, and Case Studies.[31]

  • The admissions office offered 7,750 places to the class of 2015 with an eye towards a class size of 3,360. [33] That's an increase in enrollment of 120 over the class of 2014.
  • The school began a new strategic planning process with a series of public forums in December 2012. [34]
  • Design for a second residence hall in the area of he Brandon Avenue Master Plan was approved by the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the UVa Board of Visitors on March 5, 2020. The 350-bed is for upper-class students and will include a dining hall and gathering spaces. [35]

UVA will name a residence hall on Brandon Avenue for Paul M. Gaston when it opens in 2024. [36]

Architectural preservation

In 2010, the UVA Board of Visitors approved spending $22.9 million to renovate the Rotunda. The leaking roof will be repaired and the Corinthian decorations on the columns will be replaced[37]. Funding will come from private donations as well as a request from the state of Virginia.

See also

Three-party agreement


  1. Web. UVa developing strategy for increasing enrollment, Brian McNeill, Daily Progress, November 27, 2010, retrieved November 30, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. Central College, Monticello, 28 June 2011, retrieved March 25, 2019.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Barefoot, Coy. The Corner: A History of Student Life at the University of Virginia. Howell Press, 2001.
  4. Web. History of African-Americans at UVA, Kiera Givens, October 14, 2015, retrieved November 4, 2015.
  5. Web. Short History of the University, University of Virginia, retrieved April 18, 2012.
  6. Web. Slavery at the University of Virginia, Brendan Wolfe, Encyclopedia Virginia, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, retrieved November 4, 2015.
  7. Web. "Arise and Build!": A Centennial Commemoration of the 1895 Rotunda Fire, University of Virginia Library, retrieved May 12, 2019.
  8. Web. Sunday's Big Fire - Aftermath of the University Conflagration, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, October 29, 1895, retrieved October 29, 2022. Print. October 29, 1895 page 1.
  9. Web. University Opens for Second Term of 110th Session, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, January 3, 1934, retrieved February 23, 2023. Print. January 3, 1934 page 1.
  10. Web. [January 8, 1934 Engineers Will Get Model Home], Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, January 8, 1934, retrieved February 23, 2023. Print. January 8, 1934 page 3.
  11. Web. Long Range Planning Group to Study Needs of University, Daily Progress Digitized Microfilm, Lindsay family, October 8, 1960, retrieved October 8, 2022. Print. October 8, 1960 page 1.
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  13. Web. UVa board selects commerce dean as interim president, Ted Strong & Aaron Richardson, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, June 19, 2012, retrieved June 21, 2012.
  14. Web. Carl Zeithaml to 'suspend' UVA interim presidency negotiations, Brianne Carter, WJLA ABC 7, June 22, 2012, retrieved June 25, 2012.
  15. Web. Timeline of Sullivan's ouster and return, The Richmond Times-Dispatch, The Daily Progress, June 26, 2012, retrieved July 18, 2012.
  16. Web. Largest class yet joins student body, Owen Robinson, Cavalier Daily, August 25, 2014, retrieved August 27, 2014.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Web. UVA Parking and Transportation Master Plan, UVA Parking and Transportation, Presentation, University of Virginia, July 2019, retrieved February 25, 2020.
  18. Web. University of Virginia
  19. Pedersen, Krista. "University pursues online education" Cavalier Daily. 17 July 2012. Web. 26 July 2012. <>.
  20. Web. UVa increasing efforts to reduce vehicles, Sean Tubbs, News Article, Charlottesville, May 27, 2010, retrieved February 25, 2020.
  21. Albemarle County. Department of Community Development. Places 29: A Master Plan for the Northern Development Areas. 2009 DRAFT. Page 3-14. < /Places29_Master_Plan_3_Existing_Conditions_Future_Trends_2_2009_Complete.pdf>
  22. Web. $3 billion campaign fails to meet targets, Cavalier Daily, December 2, 2010, retrieved December 6, 2010.
  23. Web. Sullivan finishes eventful fall term, Mike Lang, Cavalier Daily, December 6, 2010, retrieved December 6, 2010.
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  25. Print: Sandridge talks UVa past, present and future, {{{author}}}, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises February 6, 2011, Page .
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  27. Web. Alvin Clements honored with Chamber award, Bryan McKenzie, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, retrieved December 1, 2010.
  28. Web. UVa sees record number of applicants, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, January 24, 2011, retrieved January 25, 2011.
  29. Office of Architect, retrieved on 4/9/09,
  30. Canzi, Chiara. "Planning for the next 20 years." C-Ville Weekly. 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 18 Nov. 2009. <>.
  31. Office of Architect, retrieved 11/18/09,
  32. Web. UVA ANNOUNCES AFFORDABLE HOUSING GOAL, Wes Hester, News Article, UVA Today, March 10, 2020, retrieved November 26, 2020.
  33. Web. University of Virginia Offers 7,750 Applicants a Place in the Class of 2015, Dan Heuchert, University of Virginia, March 28, 2011, retrieved March 28, 2011.
  34. Web. U.Va. To Host Public Forums As Part of Strategic Planning Process, Rob Seal, UVA Today, University of Virginia, December 6, 2012, retrieved December 10, 2012.
  35. Web. UVa panel approves design for Brandon Avenue dorm, Staff reports, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, March 6, 2020, retrieved March 8, 2020. Print. March 7, 2020 page A2.
  36. Web. Building and Grounds Committee approves plan for new video scoreboard at Scott Stadium, naming of two new upper-class residence halls, Priya Kommu, News Article, Cavalier Daily, September 15, 2023, retrieved Septmeber 28, 2023.
  37. Web. UVa OKs Rotunda renovation, Brian McNeill, Daily Progress, September 14, 2010, retrieved September 15, 2010.

External links