UVA’s Commitment to Excellence

If you had any doubts about the University of Virginia’s commitment to academic excellence, check out this story in yesterday’s Daily Progress. According to Brian McNeill UVA will spend $20 million to bring 6 world class researchers to the university. In 2004 the university’s Board of Visitors launched the “research enhancement initiative” to boost UVa’s standings in science and technology research. UVA set aside $126 million for the research initiative, andthe University has will use the remaining funds to attract mid-level and junior faculty members to fill out the beefed-up research capabilities.

These researchers are being heralded as the “superstar” faculty members, and they are expected to significantly impact UVA’s research rankings. “Though U.S. News & World Report ranks UVa as the nation’s No. 2 public institution of higher education, UVa’s scientific research rankings are a bit less lustrous. UVa’s School of Engineering and Applied Science graduate program, for example, is ranked 38th.” ‘To achieve the reputation that UVa wants to achieve, it’s got to move up in the rankings and everyone – except for No. 1 – is trying to do the exact same thing…If UVa wants to be a top-rated institution, it’s going to be very expensive.’”


Joe C. Campbell
Department of Computer and Electrical Engineering
Innovator in fiber optics, researching night vision technology and bioterrorism detection
Hired January 2006

Stephen S. Rich
Director of UVa’s Center for Public Health Genomics
A genetic epidemiologist, he is leading a worldwide effort to understand the genetics of Type 1 diabetes
Hired January 2007

John T. Yates Jr.
Department of Chemistry
A top investigator in the fields of surface chemistry and physics, he researches photochemistry as well as astrochemistry in the solar system and deep space
Hired January 2007

Dr. Mark Yeager
Chairman of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics
A practicing cardiologist, he also conducts research that may provide new strategies for treating heart failure
Hired July 2007

Christine and Bernard Thisse
Department of Cell Biology
Experts in zebrafish genetics, a field that may unlock the secrets of human birth defects, cancer and more
Hired August 2007

“The superstar faculty members are fetching some of the most lucrative salaries among UVa’s 11,962 employees. Campbell earns $310,600 per year, while Rich earns $300,000. Fewer than 15 faculty members earn $300,000 or more, according to public employment records.”

“The Thisses did not come cheap. To lure them from France, UVa spent $4.5 million…Meanwhile, the university spent another $3.35 million to snag Stephen S. Rich, a genetic epidemiologist leading a worldwide effort to better understand the genetics behind Type 1 diabetes.”

“In addition to UVa’s researcher recruitment effort, additional funds from the initiative will go toward expanding the university’s research space. A $40 million, 85,000-square-foot research facility, under construction at Fontaine Research Park, will house the researchers’ new labs and offices starting in the spring.”

This story is amazing, and it’s a far cry from what happens at other schools. If JMU had this kind of money to spend it would probably use it to build another parking garage. If other schools across the country had this money they might use it to add a high-profile sports coach (e.g. Nick Saban at Alabama).

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