Opening remarks by Rector Drages at August 15 BOV retreat
Let me begin by acknowledging the many difficulties of the last few months. I again offer my sincere and personal apology for the controversies that, at best, have been distractions from the important work ahead of us.
Even though we are not gathered in his beloved Albemarle County today, the words of Thomas Jefferson are never far from mind. He once advised that one should "Take things always by their smooth handle." These words should guide us all as we return to where we started prior to June of this year– with a focus on the people we all agree are paramount– the University's students and our medical center patients.
Many have noted that today really affords us a chance to take that smooth handle, to reconcile our differences, rejuvenate our leadership and reshape our future outcomes. Thank you for showing the courage and commitment to do so.
My hope for this retreat is that we can lay a foundation for collective and collaborative success...
that we sow the seeds to join together and find true common ground with President Sullivan, the university community, alumni and the greater community of Virginia citizens...
and that it leads us to a plan and vision that bring to fruition our shared dreams and hopes for this great institution, the University of Virginia.
U.Va. is the best public university in America– and thank you Forbes Magazine for confirming it again so recently. Many measures tell us that U.Va. is an outstanding educational asset.
Yet, we are neither exempt from– nor oblivious to– the winds of change.
We live in a time where the traditional operating principles and the possible future of higher education generate serious debate and questioning. Major shifts are afoot affecting sustainable funding, educational delivery and academic quality.
These shifts and trends afford new challenges afford new challenges and new opportunities, including the chance for this Board to rethink its own historical systems and procedures, some of which may now be out of date.
It's also about the pace of change.
Several experts, including the Aspen Institute and others, believe that as much as half of what undergraduates learn, especially in science, technology and engineering, could be obsolete by graduation– even with the best faculty and the most cutting-edge thinking.
These perspectives offer just another example among countless others that illustrate how the pace of change has accelerated. Deciding if, when and how to react or even proactively plan can be a complicated labyrinth to navigate.
Similarly, many on the Board and in higher education circles have expressed a keen awareness of how this Board stays apace in such a dynamic environment. It behooves us to constantly seek and value productive suggestions from those who love U.Va. on Grounds and around the state.
It's an exciting, challenging moment– and, for all of us, one that requires constant learning and vigilance to help us contribute constructively to U.Va.
For example, our new Board committees on Strategic Planning and Governance and Engagement provide the means to consider the University's aspirations, assets and priorities through the lens of collaboration, responsiveness and inspired leadership.
Over the next day and a half, Dr. MacTaggart is going to offer ideas and invite great discussion about how and where we should focus our energies. He will help us begin to renew and refresh our process, leading to a collective, deeper appreciation of the complexities of the issues, one that increases our capacity to thoughtfully respond in an atmosphere of transparency and mutual accountability.
Strategic Planning chairs Frank Atkinson and Linwood Rose will offer for consideration and discussion some excellent ideas on how to approach our very critical strategic planning work. And all of our committees will reflect on how they can contribute to strategic planning and responsible oversight.
Tomorrow we will dive into a series of important reports from the President as well as updates on legislative issues and student admissions. While the Governor was unable to join us, we will hear more about the work of his Higher Education Advisory Committee. His recent letter to the Board of Visitors calls us to continue to "innovate, collaborate, and reduce operating costs."
Another great reminder that this is no ordinary time.
Thank you for your resolute commitment and your willingness to join together, to take that smooth handle. Let's build a solid foundation, one that thoughtfully reflects today's realities while creatively supporting U.Va.'s future dreams.