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UVa Grounds Tour
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RESULTS [51 .. 101]
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Coordinates: 38°02′06″N 78°30′18″W / 38.035°N 78.505°W / 38.035; -78.505

University of Virginia
UVA Rotunda Logo.svg
Established 1819
Type Public
Endowment US $ 6.4 billion[1]
Budget US $ 2.7 billion (2013 - excludes capital spending)
President Teresa A. Sullivan
Academic staff 2,102
Undergraduates 14,641[2]
Postgraduates 6,454[2]
Location Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
Campus World Heritage Site
1,682 acres (6.81 km2)
Founder Thomas Jefferson
Colors Orange and Navy blue
Athletics NCAA Division I
Sports 25 varsity teams
Nickname Cavaliers
Mascot Cavalier
Affiliations Association of American Universities, Atlantic Coast Conference, Universitas 21
UVa logo
Official name: Monticello and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville
Type: Cultural
Criteria: i, iv, vi
Designated: 1987 (11th session)
Reference No. 442
Region: Europe and North America

The University of Virginia (often abbreviated as UVA, UVa, Virginia, or The University) is a research university in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States. Its initial Board of Visitors included U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. UVA's campus and original course offerings were conceived and designed entirely by Jefferson, and established in 1819. President Monroe was the sitting President of the United States when the university was founded, and previously owned the land and original buildings of Brown College, a residential college at the university.[4][5]

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has designated the University of Virginia as a World Heritage Site since 1987, an honor shared with nearby Monticello.[6] The university has been recognized, both historically and in the modern day, as a pinnacle of education in its state and region. At the onset of the American Civil War, Virginia was second only to Harvard University in the size and scope of its faculty and programs.[7] A leading research institution, it has been an elected member of the Association of American Universities since 1904.

The University of Virginia is affiliated with 7 Nobel Laureates, and has produced 5 NASA astronauts, 7 Marshall Scholars, 4 Churchill Scholars, 29 Truman Scholars, and 50 Rhodes Scholars, the most of any state-affiliated institution.[8][9][10] Supported in part by the Commonwealth of Virginia, it receives far more funding from private sources than public, and its students come from all 50 states and 130 countries.[11][12]

Since 1953, Virginia's athletic teams have competed in the Atlantic Coast Conference of Division I of the NCAA and are known as the Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia has won 23 National Championships total, and 63 ACC Championships since 2002 (as of 2014), the most of any conference member during that time.[9][13]


Thomas Jefferson was heavily involved in virtually every detail of the planning, structure, and architecture of the young university.

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".[14] Virginia was already home to the College of William & Mary, but Jefferson lost confidence in his alma mater, partly because of its religious stances and lack of courses in the sciences.[15] Although Jefferson flourished under the tutelage of College of William & Mary professors William Small and George Wythe, his concerns with the College became great enough by 1800 that he wrote: "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".[16] Thus, he began planning a university more aligned with his educational ideals.[17]

Farmland just outside Charlottesville was purchased from James Monroe by the Board of Visitors as Central College in 1817. The school laid its first building's cornerstone in late 1817, 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.[18] The university's first classes met on March 7, 1825.[19]

Other universities of the day allowed only three choices of specialization: Medicine, Law, and Religion. Under Jefferson's guidance, the University of Virginia became the first in the United States to allow specializations in such diverse fields as Astronomy, Architecture, Botany, Philosophy, and Political Science. An even more controversial direction was taken for the new university based on a daring vision that higher education should be completely separated from religious doctrine. One of the largest construction projects in North America up to that time, the new Grounds were centered upon a library (then housed in the Rotunda) rather than a church – further distinguishing it from peer universities of the United States, most of which were still primarily functioning as seminaries for one particular religion or another.[20] Jefferson even went so far as to ban the teaching of Theology altogether. In a letter to Thomas Cooper in October 1814, Jefferson stated, "a professorship of theology should have no place in our institution" and, true to form, the university has never had a Divinity school; it was established independent of any religious sect. The School of Engineering and Applied Science opened in 1836, making it the first engineering school in the United States to be attached to a comprehensive university.

Jefferson was intimately involved in the university, 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 presidency and national accomplishments in favor of being remembered for the newly established university.

The Lawn during winter, with tracks through the snow. At center is the Rotunda, which was the original library building at the head of Jefferson's Academical Village.

In 1826, poet Edgar Allan Poe enrolled at the university, where he excelled in Latin.[21] 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).[22]

At the onset of the American Civil War, the University of Virginia was the largest in the Southern United States and second nationwide only to Harvard University in its scope.[7] Unlike many other colleges in the South, the university was kept open throughout the conflict, an especially remarkable feat with its home state being the site of more battles than any other. In March 1865, Union General George Armstrong Custer marched troops into Charlottesville, whereupon faculty and community leaders convinced him to spare the 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 routines.

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. As the 19th century waned, it became obvious this cumbersome arrangement was incapable of adequately handling the many administrative and fundraising tasks that had become necessary to support the growing university.[23] In 1904, Edwin Alderman resigned as President of Tulane University to take the same position at the University of Virginia. As the university's first president, he embarked on a number of reforms for both the university and the state of Virginia's public educational systems in general. A reform specific to the University of Virginia was one of the first school-sponsored financial aid programs in all of higher learning[citation needed] and, though primitive by today's standards, it included a loan provision for needy men who were unable to pay.[citation needed] Initially controversial and opposed by many at what had become a very traditional school, Alderman's progressive ideas stood the test of time. He remains the longest-tenured president in the university's history, having served for twenty-six years until his death in 1931. Alderman Library is named in his honor.

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.[24] 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 like other southern schools continued to resist full integration until well into the 1960s.[24]

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.[25] In 1944, Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, became the Women's Undergraduate Arts and Sciences Division of the University of Virginia. U Va resisted admitting women as undergraduates on the main Grounds in Charlottesville until a civil rights lawsuit forced it to do so.[26] In 1970, the Charlottesville campus became fully co-educational, and in 1972 Mary Washington became an independent state university.[27] In 1970, the first class of 450 undergraduate women entered UVA (39 percent), while the number of men admitted remained constant. By 2003 women comprised 55 percent of the undergraduate student body.[25] The University of Virginia established its first and only branch campus at Wise, Virginia, in 1954. The UVA Wise campus currently enrolls 2,000 students.

William Faulkner lived and worked at the university as Writer-in-Residence in 1957 and 1958

In 2004, resulting from a stark decrease in state support, the University of Virginia became the first public university in the United States to receive more of its funding from private sources than from the state with which it is associated. Thanks to a Charter initiative that passed the Virginia General Assembly and was signed into law by then-Governor Mark Warner in 2005,[28] the university—and any other public universities in the state that choose to do so (currently Virginia Tech and William & Mary) – will have greater autonomy over its own affairs.[29]

Also in 2004, at the 100th anniversary of Alderman becoming President, UVA announced the AccessUVa financial aid program. This program guarantees the university will meet 100% of a U.S. student's demonstrated need. It also provides low-income students (up to 200% of the poverty line – as of 2009, about $44,000 for a family of four) with full grants to cover all of their educational needs, and it caps the level of need-based loans for all other students. This program was the first to guarantee full grants to students of low-income families at any public university in the United States. Today, minority students are particularly successful at the University of Virginia. According to the Fall 2005 issue of Journal of Blacks in Higher Education,[30] UVA "has the highest black student graduation rate of the Public Ivies at 86 percent". The journal goes on to state that "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".

In 2010 the university welcomed Teresa A. Sullivan as its first woman President.[31] Two years later, during the Spring of 2012, the first woman Rector Helen Dragas decided to remove President Sullivan. Instead of convening the Board of Visitors to discuss firing the President, Ms. Dragas secretly lobbied Board members in one-on-one phone calls, and then surprised President Sullivan in her office on June 8, 2012, with a demand for her resignation.[32] Rector Dragas convened a three member Executive Committee meeting to accept the forced resignation, and then required Sullivan's subordinates to report directly to the Rector's office, effectively removing President Sullivan from any remaining management role.[33] The resignation elicited strong protests, including a faculty Senate vote of no confidence in the Board of Visitors and Rector Dragas,[34] and demands from the student government for an explanation for Sullivan's ouster.[35] In the face of mounting pressure, including alumni threats to cease contributions,[36] and a mandate from Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell to resolve the issue or he would remove the entire Board,[37] the Board unanimously voted to reinstate Sullivan as president.[38]

The Grounds (Campus)[edit]

See also: The Lawn, The Rotunda, and The Range
The Rotunda today

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".[39] 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".[40] Today, the University of Virginia remains an architectural landmark and popular tourist destination.

Elevation of The Rotunda drawn by Thomas Jefferson in 1819

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 Rotunda-like buildings built at: Duke University in 1892; Johns Hopkins University in 1902; Rice University in 1910; Dallas Hall, the central building at Southern Methodist University (1912); Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in 1915; the Green at the University of Delaware in 1916; Killian Court at MIT in 1916 (which was founded by William Barton Rogers, who immediately prior had been a Natural Philosophy professor at the University of Virginia for 19 years); the "Grand Auditorium" of Tsinghua University in Beijing built in 1917; the campus of Yale Divinity School (the Sterling Quad, 1932); and the new grounds of the university's own Darden School of Business (designed by Robert A.M. Stern).

An example of the serpentine wall design

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.[41]

Jefferson financed the building of the university through personal loans from James Monroe and General John Hartwell Cocke II. Monroe, Cocke, and Jefferson each put up a third of the money to procure the land and build the initial buildings. Gen. Cocke was a General in the War of 1812, a local plantation owner, and friend of Thomas Jefferson. He owned Bremo Plantation, located southwest of Charlottesville near where Bremo Bluff, Virginia, is today. These loans were never repaid by Jefferson.[citation needed]

The Great Rotunda Fire, 1895

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 now 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.

Inside the Dome Room of the Rotunda

In 2001, John Kluge donated 7,378 acres (29.86 km2) of additional lands to the university. Kluge desired the core of the land to be developed by the university, and the surrounding land to be sold to fund an endowment supporting the core. A large part of the gift was soon sold to musician Dave Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, to be utilized in an organic farming project. It is unknown what the university will do with its "core" portion of the land.

The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains the roads through the university grounds as State Route 302.[42]

The university, together with Jefferson's home at Monticello, is a World Heritage Site, one of only three modern sites so listed in the 50 states, the others being the Statue of Liberty and Independence Hall. It was the first collegiate campus worldwide to be awarded the designation. The university campus was listed by Travel + Leisure in September 2011 as one of the most beautiful campuses in the United States[43] and by MSN as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the world.[44]

Student housing[edit]

The room of Edgar Allan Poe has been largely returned to the 1820s conditions under which he lived there.
Main article: Student housing at the University of Virginia

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 New 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. The Old Dorms 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.


Preference of high achievers[edit]

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.[45] Indeed, the study noted that "all of the top twenty, except for the University of Virginia, are private institutions."[45] "High-achieving" applicants were defined as those ranking at or near the top of their classes at 510 outstanding high schools across the country.[45]

Admission statistics[edit]

Admission to the University of Virginia is thus competitive, with 93% of admitted applicants ranking in the top 10% of their high school classes.[12][46] Matriculated students come from all 50 states and 130 foreign countries.[12] The middle 50% of matriculated students scored between 620 and 720 on the Critical Reading portion and 640 and 740 on the Mathematics portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test (but the other 50% of students scored outside of these ranges).[12] Interested applicants may arrange an overnight visit through the Monroe Society, a student-run organization.[12]

For the Class of 2018, the University of Virginia received 31,042 applications, admitting 8,972, for an acceptance rate of 28.9 percent.[46] 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.[47] The university saw increased interest from various groups of students, as applications rose by 13 percent for African American applicants, 20 percent for Asian Americans, 16 percent for Hispanic Americans, and 26 percent for international students. The university enrolled 70 more first-years than it did the previous year, as it continued to expand the scope of the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Collaboration with Harvard, Princeton, and Yale[edit]

The University of Virginia joined with Harvard University and Princeton University in 2006 to end early admissions programs in their respective universities. The three universities then decided to have their admissions departments tour the country together to speak about this and other aspects of admissions. In 2011, all three decided to reinstate early admissions, but Princeton and Virginia, which had earlier used Early Decision programs, moved to Early Action.

Although they decided to reinstate their early action programs, the admissions department of UVA still teams up with those at Harvard and Princeton to tour the country and meet with high school students about their programs. In recent years, they have added Yale University to the mix, and now the four join together for this informational tour. The website, maintained by the four universities, provides updated information about where the admissions tour will be visiting in a given year.

Financial Aid and AccessUVa[edit]

Thanks in part to its $6.4 billion endowment and the generous contributions of its alumni, UVA is nationally known for its financial aid program, known as AccessUVa. As of 2014, it is ranked #4 overall by the Princeton Review for "Great Financial Aid."[48] In an age of rapidly increasing private university costs, this can be an attraction to top students considering UVA, and it was described in the America's Best Colleges edition of U.S. News & World Report as being "chock full of academic stars who turn down private schools like Duke, Princeton, and Cornell for, they say, a better value".[49] Indeed, in 2008 the Center for College Affordability and Productivity named the university the top value among all national public colleges and universities;[50] and in 2009, the university was again named the "#1 Best Value" among public universities in the United States in a separate ranking by USA TODAY and the Princeton Review.[51][52] Kiplinger in 2014 ranked Virginia 2nd out of the top 100 best-value public colleges and universities in the nation.[53]

AccessUVa assists students and families through four key components: it (1) meets 100 percent of demonstrated need for all admitted undergraduate students; (2) replaces all loans with grants in the financial aid packages of low-income students (defined as those students eligible for Pell Grants, or whose family income is 200 percent or less of the federal poverty line, and whose family assets do not exceed $75,000); (3) caps the amount of need-based loans offered to any student at approximately 25 percent of UVA's in-state cost of attendance; and (4) offers unlimited one-on-one counseling to all admitted students and their families.[12]


Madison Hall, located across from the Rotunda, has housed General Studies since 1960.

There has never been an honorary degree offered by the University of Virginia, and all degrees must be earned in the classroom.[54] The policy was instituted by Thomas Jefferson. When the Virginia Legislature's Committee of Schools and Colleges was reconsidering it in 1845, then-U.Va. professor and future Massachusetts Institute of Technology founder William Barton Rogers wrote, "[T]he legislators of the University have, we think, wisely made their highest academic honor – that of Master of Arts of the University of Virginia – the genuine test of diligent and successful literary training, and, disdaining such literary almsgiving, have firmly barred the door against the demands of spurious merit and noisy popularity." Rogers later brought the UVA tradition to MIT.[55][56]


The University 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.

The University of Virginia has many highly regarded graduate programs. Programs ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News & World Report or other prominent field-specific rankings include Astronomy and Astrophysics,[57] Law (and specialities Tax Law and International Law), Architecture,[58] English (and specialties 18th through 20th Century British Literature, African-American Literature, American Literature, American Literature Before 1865, and Creative Writing[59]), U.S. Colonial History, Political Theory, Developmental Psychology, Adult/Medical-Surgical Nursing, Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing, Business Management, and Education (and specialties Elementary Teacher Education, Secondary Teacher Education, and Special Education).[60]


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).[61] 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.[62] 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.[63] As of 2006, the university and Google were working on the digitization of selected collections from the library system.[64]

UVA also hosts the Rare Book School, a non-profit organization that studies the history of books and printing.

Special Scholars[edit]

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.[65]

Astronomical affiliations[edit]

The University of Virginia 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.

Rankings and recognition[edit]

U.S. News & Others[edit]

University rankings
ARWU[66] 53-67
Forbes[67] 29
U.S. News & World Report[68] 23
Washington Monthly[69] 51
ARWU[70] 101-150
QS[71] 132
Times[72] 112

In 2014, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Virginia as the number two public university among "National Universities" in the United States, tied with UCLA, and 23rd overall tied with UCLA, USC, and Wake Forest University.[73] In the history of the rankings since 1983, U.Va. has never dropped out of the Top 25 listing, has always ranked first or second among public colleges and universities, and has consistently retained its position as the highest ranked school, public or private, in its home state.[74] Forbes magazine ranked the university 29th in its 2013 ranking of U.S. universities.[75] Internationally, UVa ranked 112th in the world according to the 2013–2014 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.[76] The 2013 QS World University Rankings placed Virginia 132nd in the world.[77]

Graduate school placement[edit]

In 2003, The Wall Street Journal studied the undergraduate backgrounds of students entering elite graduate programs in the United States.[78] The University of Virginia with 82 placements (2.6% of class) placed first among state-affiliated universities in elite placements by percentage, and third in raw numbers (behind the University of California, Berkeley and UCLA).[79]

Federal classification system of 1911[edit]

The first known record of college and university rankings in the United States were compiled on behalf of the U.S. federal government in 1911, and showed UVA to be in the highest class of universities.[80][81] The classification system, published by the chief specialist of what is today the United States Department of Education, estimated that it would take just one year for a Class I graduate to obtain a top Master's degree at a leading institution, whereas it would take two additional years for a Class IV graduate to obtain that same degree.[80]

The University of Virginia was ranked as Class I. The only other modern public university in the state to be listed was a Class IV, Virginia Tech.[80] Most Commonwealth-supported schools of the modern day did not yet exist, and unranked William and Mary had barely recovered from going bankrupt some thirty years prior. UVA was also the only Class I university in today's Atlantic Coast Conference. Seven future members (Boston College, Duke University [Trinity College until 1924], UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, and Wake Forest University) were ranked just one step down, in Class II.[80]

Association of American Universities[edit]

Even before the above classification system, the University of Virginia was elected to the Association of American Universities in 1904. UVA remains the only college or university within its state to be selected to the organization, which recognizes outstanding research talent and programs. It was also the first member of the modern Atlantic Coast Conference to be elected and is now joined by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 1922, Duke University since 1938, the University of Pittsburgh since 1974, and the Georgia Institute of Technology since 2010.

African-American performance[edit]

The University of Virginia has been recognized numerous times as having the highest African American graduation rate among national public universities, and by a wide margin.[82][83][84][85] Among the top four public universities that, as of 2009, consistently ranked highest in the national rankings, the University of Virginia had a 87% black student graduation rate, some 14 to 19 percentage points higher than its national peers: 70% at the University of California, Berkeley, 73% at UCLA, and 68% at the University of Michigan.[85]


Kathryn C. Thornton, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the School of Engineering and Applied Science

The university's faculty includes a Pulitzer Prize winner and former United States Poet Laureate, 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.[86] 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,, became the first registration under the .edu top-level domain originating from the Commonwealth of Virginia.[87]

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).

Commonwealth professor of English and former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove receives the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

Some of the University of Virginia's faculty have become well-known national personalities during their time in Charlottesville. 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.[88] Civil rights activist Julian Bond, a professor in the Corcoran Department of History from 1990 until his retirement in 2012, was the Chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2009. Bond was also chosen to be the moderator of the 1998 Nobel Laureates Conferences, Media Studies and Law professor Siva Vaidhyanathan, an expert in copyright law and Internet issues, moved from New York University to the University of Virginia in 2007. Professor of Spanish David Gies received the Order of Isabella the Catholic from King Juan Carlos I of Spain in 2007.[89] 1987 Pulitzer Prize for poetry recipient Rita Dove, professor in the English department since 1989, served as United States Poet Laureate from 1993 to 1995; in 1995, together with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and chaired an unprecedented gathering of Nobel laureates in literature in Atlanta. In 1996 Rita Dove received the National Humanities Medal from President Bill Clinton, and President Barack Obama honored her with the 2011 National Medal of Arts,.[90]

In 2002, the Cavalier Daily student newspaper began annually posting faculty compensation online.[91]

Prominent UVA faculty

Julian Bond
1990 to 2012
Civil Rights Movement activist
Ronald Coase
1958 to 1964
Father of the Coase theorem
William Faulkner
1957 and 1958
Author of The Sound and the Fury
William Barton Rogers
1835 to 1853
Founder of MIT
Richard Rorty
1982 to 1997
Father of neopragmatist philosophy
Henry St. George Tucker, Sr.
1841 to 1845
Author of the first honor pledge

Colleges and schools[edit]

School of Engineering and Applied Science

The university has several affiliated centers including the Rare Book School, Center for Chemistry of the Universe, 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.

Financial strength[edit]

Endowment and Fundraising[edit]

Managed by the University of Virginia Investment Management Company, and with $5.2 billion as of 2013, UVA's endowment ranked 19th among all colleges and universities in North America, and fourth among public universities.[92] The endowment has done especially well in recent decades. For instance, in 1990, the UVA endowment of less than half a billion dollars trailed a bit behind such peer universities as Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University while being roughly half that of Cornell University.[93] Today, the Virginia endowment is the equal of Cornell's and nearly twice that of Johns Hopkins or Vanderbilt.[92]

In 2006, then-President Casteen announced an ambitious $3 billion capital campaign to be completed by December 2011.[94] During the Great Recession, President Sullivan missed the 2011 deadline, and extended it indefinitely.[95] The $3 billion goal would be met a year and a half later, which President Sullivan announced at graduation ceremonies in May 2013.[96]

Credit rating[edit]

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.[97]


Main article: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia has competed in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a major conference of Division I (and the Football Bowl Subdivision) since 1953. The current Athletic Director at Virginia is Craig Littlepage. The program has won 23 national team titles, including in men's lacrosse (7), men's soccer (6), women's lacrosse (3), men's boxing (2), women's crew (2), women's cross country (2), and men's tennis (1). Additionally, the program has won five (of the past six) indoor tennis national titles, and a track and field national championship.

Since 2002, Virginia has won 63 ACC titles, the most in the conference. It regularly places highly in the yearly NACDA Directors Cup program-wide standings. Most recently, it finished fourth in the nation in 2013-14, and its highest finish is third place in 2009-10.

Chris Long, #2 overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft

The most visible and widely attended sports are football, basketball, baseball, and soccer. The facilities for each of these sports are among the best in the NCAA, and include Scott Stadium, John Paul Jones Arena, Davenport Field, and Klöckner Stadium. Each of these programs, except football, have seen a high standard of success in recent years, with men's basketball, baseball, and men's soccer all finishing in the top four nationally in their sports during the 2013-14 year.[98] Coaches Brian O'Connor, Tony Bennett, and George Gelnovatch are considered to be at or near the top of the coaching ranks in their respective sports.

Rivalry Games[edit]

Official ACC designated rivalry games include the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry and the brand new Virginia-Louisville rivalry against the Louisville Cardinals. These two rivalries are guaranteed a home-and-away game each year in all sports but football, in which there is a guaranteed annual game. Against the Virginia Tech Hokies, this is for the Commonwealth Cup, which Virginia has not seen for 14 of the past 15 years even as it has been on the winning end of the vast majority of other sports. The program is also a part of the more evenly balanced South's Oldest Rivalry against the North Carolina Tar Heels, a rivalry game which a sitting President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, once attended in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers faced off with the Hokies in an all-sports challenge called the Commonwealth Challenge between 2005 and 2007, with UVA routing Tech: 14½ to 7½ in 2005–06 and 14 to 8 in 2006–07. The competition was then dropped for fear of sending a wrong message following the Virginia Tech massacre. The rivalry is now renewed for 2014-15, renamed the Commonwealth Clash and sponsored by the Virginia 529 College Savings Plan.[99]

Fight song[edit]

The Cavalier Song is the University of Virginia's fight song. The song was a result of a contest held in 1923 by the university. The Cavalier Song, with lyrics by Lawrence Haywood Lee, Jr., and music by Fulton Lewis, Jr., was selected as the winner.[100] Generally the second half of the song is played during sporting events. Until the 2008 football season, the entire fight song could be heard during the Cavalier Marching Band's entrance at home football games.

Student life[edit]

The University Amphitheater
The mark of one out of many secret societies active on Grounds at the university

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 never-ending process, rather than one to be completed within four years. Also, students do not "graduate" from the university; instead, they "take" their degrees. Professors are traditionally addressed as "Mr." or "Ms." instead of "Doctor" (although medical doctors are the exception and are called "Doctor") in deference to Thomas Jefferson's desire to have an equality of ideas, discriminated by merit and unburdened by title.

In 2005, the university was named "Hottest for Fitness" by Newsweek magazine,[101] 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[102] and 2008[103] than any other "medium-sized" university in the United States. Volunteerism at the university is centered in Madison House which offers numerous opportunities to serve others. Among the numerous programs offered are tutoring, housing improvement, and an organization called Hoos Against Hunger, which gives leftover food from restaurants to the homeless of Charlottesville, rather than allowing it to be discarded.

A number of secret societies at the University, most notably the Seven Society, Z Society, and IMP Society, have operated for decades, 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.

The student life building on the University of Virginia 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.

Boyd Tinsley's "jam sessions" would last for entire nights while he was a student at the university, attracting not only college musicians, but professional musicians as well; such as Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane.

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.[104] Several fraternities were later founded at the University of Virginia including Pi Kappa Alpha (March 1, 1868) and Kappa Sigma (December 10, 1869). Many of these fraternities are located on Rugby Road.

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 seniors consuming excessive alcohol during the day of the last home football game.[105] President Casteen announced a $2.5 million donation from Anheuser-Busch to fund a new UVA-based Social Norms Institute in September 2006.[106] A spokesman said: "the goal is to get students to emulate the positive behavior of the vast majority of students". However, based on ratings of sex, sports, and nightlife, the college was ranked at number one in Playboy's 2012 list of Top 10 Party Schools.[107]

Student safety[edit]

While Charlottesville, which typically registers zero to three murders per year, is generally considered a safe city, students have been involved on both sides of homicides in recent history.

  • On March 22, 1986, physiology graduate student Pat Collins disappeared after using an ATM in downtown Charlottesville. His remains were identified in 2013 after sitting in in a police locker for 25 years[108]
  • On November 8, 2003, student Andrew Alston stabbed an Albemarle County firefighter to death during a fight on 14th Street. His manslaughter sentence resulted in a jail term of three years, prompting allegations of special treatment for students.[109]
  • On May 3, 2010, in what has become known as the UVA Lacrosse Killing, 22-year-old UVA women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found unresponsive in her 14th Street apartment. Later that day, former romantic partner and then-current men's lacrosse player George Huguely was charged with her murder.

Student events[edit]

One of the largest events at the University of Virginia is called Springfest. It takes place every year in the spring, and features a large free concert and 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.[110]

Honor system[edit]

The nation's first codified honor system was installed 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. The honor system, along with that of Princeton University, is set apart from that of other universities in that it is entirely student-run and student-administered.[111]

Notable alumni[edit]

Alumni Hall

Among the individuals who have attended or graduated from the University of Virginia are author Edgar Allan Poe,[112] Nobel Laureate James M. Buchanan, medical researcher Walter Reed,[113] painter Georgia O'Keeffe,[114] novelist Robert Miskimon polar explorer Richard Byrd,[115] computer scientist John Backus,[116] pioneer kidney transplant surgeon J. Hartwell Harrison,[117] five NASA astronauts (Patrick G. Forrester,[118] Karl Gordon Henize,[119] Bill Nelson,[120] Thomas Marshburn,[121] and Kathryn C. Thornton),[122] deep sea vent researcher Richard Lutz,[123] NASA Launch Director Michael D. Leinbach,[124] Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Karl Shapiro[124] and Henry S. Taylor,[124] short story writer Breece D'J Pancake,[125] Director of the National Institutes of Health Francis Collins, journalist Katie Couric,[124] journalist Margaret Brennan,[124] author David Nolan,[126] comedian and creator of 30 Rock Tina Fey,[124] film director Tom Shadyac, author Barbara A. Perry,[127] musician Boyd Tinsley,[128] billionaire commodity trader Paul Tudor Jones, hedge-fund manager, television commentator and philanthropist Mansoor Ijaz,[124] noted philanthropist and founder of Landmark Communications Frank Batten,[124] influential indie rock artist Stephen Malkmus,[124] hip-hop artist and Peabody Award winner Asheru,[129] TV personality Vern Yip [130] and TV political commentator Michael Shure.[131]

Edgar Allan Poe attended the university in 1826, excelling in French and Latin.[132]

Notable athletes who have attended or graduated from the University of Virginia include three-time NCAA Player of the Year for men's basketball Ralph Sampson,[124] pro wrestler Virgil,[133] three-time Olympic Gold Medalist for women's basketball Dawn Staley,[124] NFL Pro Bowlers Ronde Barber,[124] Tiki Barber,[124] and James Farrior;[134] NFL Super Bowl appearances Thomas Jones,[135] and professional baseball players Mark Reynolds and Ryan Zimmerman,[124] Olympic medalist Wyatt Allen,[124] Indian tennis player Somdev Devvarman,[136] The University of Virginia has been home to several top soccer players throughout the years—several former U.Va. players have gone on to play for the United States men's national soccer team, including Tony Meola,[137] Jeff Agoos,[138] and former USA team captains Claudio Reyna[139] and John Harkes.[140] Nikki Krzysik went on to play soccer professionally in the WPS and NWSL.[141]

Numerous political leaders have also attended the University of Virginia, including the 28th President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson,[142] the 18th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, U.S. Senator and 1968 Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy[124] and his brother, Senator Ted Kennedy,[124] New York House of Representative candidate Sean Patrick Maloney,[143] Janet Napolitano, and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

Many of Virginia's governors studied at the university, including Colgate Darden,[144] George Allen,[124] Albertis S. Harrison, Jr., Frederick W. M. Holliday, Claude A. Swanson, Elbert Lee Trinkle, John S. Battle, James Lindsay Almond, Jr., John N. Dalton, Gerald L. Baliles, and Jim Gilmore.[124]


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