Mission and Purpose
Over its first two hundred years, the University of Virginia has been at the forefront of producing global citizen leaders, groundbreaking research and scholarship, and world-class patient care. As the University enters its third century, we continuously seek to define and redefine ourselves, motivated by our shared passion for discovery, innovation, community, service, and social justice. The University of Virginia’s top priority is to create a living, learning, and work environment that supports—and challenges—our academic community. In this environment, we expect to graduate students who will become thoughtful, caring, responsible leaders in an increasingly global, multicultural, and interconnected environment, whatever path they choose once they leave; support a diverse and distinguished faculty who not only push the boundaries of their academic fields, but come together to pursue multi- and trans-disciplinary research which creates the knowledge needed to address the world’s most complex challenges. Lastly, we support and operate a health system which is strongly committed to both providing world-class, culturally competent patient care to anyone in need and training the next generation of medical researchers and health-care professionals.
To achieve its mission, the University must be a place in which all faculty, students, and staff – with a broad range of talents and interests and diverse personal, academic, and professional experiences – are active participants in its work, where those groups historically excluded from participation in University life are present in numbers that prevent isolation of the spirit and of the mind, and where each individual is conscious of the many ways in which they contribute uniquely to the creation and dissemination of knowledge that enhances the well-being of our community, our state, our nation, and the world.
Why Diversity and Inclusion Matter
Diversity is broad, complex, multileveled, intersectional, and dynamic. It is a concept, a process, and a shorthand for how we describe the unique collections of human characteristics, both seen and unseen, of our community members. Inclusion goes beyond diversity, to recognize that people from diverse backgrounds must be truly included and participatory in order for their diversity to influence the community. Both diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission and they work best when they are an integral and celebrated part of our community and its teaching, learning, and research activities. In terms of our teaching, an engaged diverse community will provide our graduates with a greater awareness of the problems facing communities around the world, a greater empathy for those who struggle with those challenges, and a deeper commitment to improving the lives of others. In terms of our research, a diverse academic community stimulates deeper thinking and more rigorous questioning, leading to insights and ideas that might never be conceived in a more homogenous environment. The knowledge created by a richly diverse and deeply engaged community is likely to be more revealing, more relevant, more meaningful, and more questioning and less reinforcing of conventional thought than the knowledge that derives from a less diverse educational environment.
A true commitment to diversity and inclusion takes time, intentionality, and vigilance. However, merely valuing and prioritizing diversity and inclusion is not enough to ensure a sustainable and just future. We must be open to diversity changing us, and our institutional structures and culture, if we are to fully realize and leverage its benefits.
Creating a truly diverse and inclusive environment is a challenge for any institution, because it requires overcoming historical prejudices, aligning future goals, and integrating the opinions, talents, and aspirations of people with different backgrounds and perspectives into a unified whole. At UVA, this challenge is particular acute because of the University’s specific history.
The University was designed to educate southern white gentlemen. It was built by enslaved laborers, on Monacan tribal land, and slaves provided the labor that supported the students and faculty through the Civil War. In the twentieth century, the University was a pioneer in the eugenics movement and supported segregated schools; indeed, the University itself only desegregated and opened its doors to women when forced to by lawsuits in the 1960s and 1970s.
This history of exclusion still shapes the University today, both in its reputation and in its identity. Creating a truly diverse and inclusive UVA will require acknowledging these realities and taking thoughtful, intentional action to break down the barriers that have traditionally shaped the university. An inclusive UVA must welcome and facilitate full participation from members of many races, ethnicities, genders, and abilities. It must also recognize its historical relationship to the City of Charlottesville and surrounding region, and work to be a better partner with the local community. A diverse and inclusive UVA in the present day also requires the University to overcome its parochial origins and recognize that its influence has been, and will continue to be, global in scope. We cannot change the past, but we can each ask ourselves what positive contributions we intend to make to the University’s future.
A Unifying Vision
Achieving a truly diverse and inclusive University of Virginia will not happen overnight, and it will not happen using a solely top-down approach. Each school and unit within the University must assess its own individual challenges, and create and implement a diversity and inclusion plan tailored to meet those challenges. These plans will vary according to the individual missions of the schools and units, and will reflect the unique circumstances experienced in various fields. Several broad goals, however, transcend disciplinary and professional boundaries. To achieve our potential as a University, we commit to the following vision for the future:
We will be unafraid to speak and listen to the truth about ourselves, our place within the broader communities we serve, and our impact on the world and people around us. The University of Virginia has been an extraordinarily influential university for 200 years. Much of this influence has been positive, but not all of it has been. We must recognize our past, embracing the good and acknowledging the bad. We must assess our present, celebrate and nurture our strengths and understand our shortcomings while working to change them.
We will deploy our significant institutional resources to make diversity and inclusion a top priority in everything we do. The future of the University lies in its potential to be a model of discovery, community, and service for the globe. To achieve this goal, our community must reflect a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and we must work to recruit students, faculty, and staff who will bring their diverse experiences to bear on the work we do. Recruiting and retaining a diverse community will require substantial financial support.
We will attract, sustain, and empower a diverse and culturally competent community. Each of us, regardless of our background, must be able to thrive in a diverse community. This requires cultural competence in the work we do, whether it is mentoring students, providing patient care, making scientific discoveries, researching in an archive, or engaging with our local community. We have enormous potential to influence the world, through discovery, education, and service.
We will settle for no less than a University where our diversity enriches our experiences and understanding of others and ourselves, where community members are open and interested in learning about different backgrounds and perspectives, and where people feel physically and emotionally safe and have a strong sense of belonging—a place where prospective students, faculty, and staff from many backgrounds eagerly choose the University because they are confident it is a place where they will thrive and fulfill their dreams.
As part of the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, the schools are engaged in targeted diversity programming as well as planning for the next several years. These plans and programming will vary according to the individual missions of the schools and units, and will reflect the unique circumstances experienced in various fields. You can read more by visiting the websites listed below.