As we launch the 2021 spring semester this month amid continuing challenges from the COVID-19 threat, the contours of the post-pandemic world are emerging. Steadily accelerated vaccinations, improved compliance with public health measures, strides in treating the disease, and the resilience of our students and faculty in mastering new ways to learn and research are creating conditions to spring back even stronger after the pandemic. In Global Affairs, after a year of suspended education abroad, international research, and on-Grounds programming, we are accelerating plans for the return of UVA students and faculty to the world, and the world to Grounds, as soon as it is safe to do so.
UVA’s 2030 strategic plan aims to “cultivate the most vibrant community in higher education in order to prepare our students to be servant-leaders in a diverse and globally connected world,” in part by ensuring every UVA undergraduate has the opportunity for at least one international experience before graduation. For most undergraduate students, we hope this will include an experience in one of the dozens of study abroad programs that will soon be available again for almost every interest and duration around the world. For others, it may include a personal interaction with one of the Global Mentors who will be participating virtually from abroad in the classes of sponsoring faculty this spring.
Many students will participate in virtual and eventually in-person programs featuring U.S. and international Ambassadors, even as likely hundreds of new students apply to major in the rapidly growing Global Studies program. For still others, it may take the form of volunteer work with the Center for American English Language and Culture’s (CAELC) innovative program linking students with UVA employees from around the world eager to develop the fluency in English. Or it could be enrollment in a research project paired with an overseas counterpart, either virtually or in person, investigating a critical public health issue under the supervision of the Center for Global Health Equity.
To examine all available options and to develop new opportunities, we have a new Global Experience Working Group commissioned by Provost Liz Mcgill starting this month. This Group with representatives of UVA’s seven undergraduate schools, Student Affairs, and other University offices with global responsibilities will meet regularly to develop and implement an action plan. I look forward to charting its success in these pages going forward.