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Transformed Thornton Stacks Renamed in Honor of Outgoing Engineering Dean

Tue, 2015-01-27 16:49

The transformation of the University of Virginia’s historic Thornton Stacks into the modern collaborative workspace unveiled in late November was itself a collaborative project.

Victoria Guarino, a 2013 alumna and a member of the Engineering Student Council, was the first to have a vision of the stacks as a place for collaborative learning. She was instrumental in the council securing a $50,000 grant from the U.Va. Alumni Association’s Jefferson Trust to move the project forward. This year, a $300,000 gift from Steven and Karen Raber enabled the School of Engineering and Applied Science to proceed with the renovation.

At the recent dedication ceremony, the space was named in honor of James H. Aylor, dean of the Engineering School. He announced last spring that he will return to the school’s faculty when his second term ends later this year.

The James H. Aylor Student Collaboration Center – an elegant space with a 16-foot ceiling and nine windows overlooking Darden Court – has already been through a number of transformations, each one reflecting changes at the Engineering School as well as in the profession itself.

When Thornton Hall was built in 1934, the room housed the Engineering Library. As the collection grew, the library moved to Clark Hall, though the name “Thornton Stacks” was left behind. The room was subsequently outfitted as a computer lab, but as more and more students began carrying laptops, the workstations were removed, and it became a large study hall.

While preserving the neoclassical character of the space, the renovated room takes its cue from the study areas in Rice Hall. It now features four meeting rooms set off by glass and aluminum partitions along the inside wall. Equipped with monitors and white boards, these meeting rooms are now a hub for group projects. The rest of the room is equipped with small desks and tables, providing additional space for students to study or work quietly together. The room will be open 24/7. Other changes – new window treatments and carpeting for instance – were cosmetic, but the school chose to replace the existing lights with LED fixtures to reduce energy consumption.

Thornton Stacks’ reincarnation as a collaborative space meshes exactly with Steven Raber’s vision of the kind of skills engineering schools should be providing. Raber has had a long and successful career, both at companies like IBM and Compaq and as an entrepreneur, and said that knowing how to collaborate effectively is in many respects as important as subject matter knowledge.

“Large, complex systems don’t get built by individuals,” he said. “They are built by teams.”

The Rabers chose to invest in the Engineering School because they value the experience their daughter Katherine, a 2012 alumna, had as a student.

“America needs more engineers,” Raber said. “The program here does a very good job of preparing students to be a success in engineering or in any field they choose.”

They welcomed the opportunity to honor Dean Aylor as well. “Without overstatement, we can honestly say that Jim has made a significant difference in our children’s and consequently, our family’s lives. Honoring him in this small way is our way of saying thanks,” he said.

The renovation is also an effort to bring students back to the historic heart of the school.

“As we’ve grown, departments have moved into more specialized facilities on the Engineering School grounds,” Aylor said. “The new study areas have allowed us to move Thornton Hall back to the center of the engineering curriculum, helping us prepare students for the kind of collaborative engineering that’s practiced today.”

Virginia’s Population Growth Slows to Decades’ Low; Cities Rebound

Tue, 2015-01-27 16:35
Meredith Gunter

Virginia’s population has increased by less than 1 percent each year since 2010 – the commonwealth’s lowest growth rate in decades. This trend, among others, was revealed in the official state annual population estimates developed, analyzed and released today by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. (Find the report here.)

With more than 8.3 million residents as of July 1, 2014, Virginia remains the nation’s 12th-largest state and ranks 10th in numerical gain between 2013 and 2014.

“While the economy is recovering, population growth lags at the state and national levels,” said Qian Cai, director of the Cooper Center’s Demographics Research Group. “People are cautious about having babies, buying houses or making big moves.”

The rate of growth between counties and cities in Virginia reached relative parity since 2010. In contrast to the last decade, in which growth was most prominent in counties, cities make up more than half of Virginia’s 25 fastest-growing localities in this decade.

“Recent trends bode well for most cities,” said Hamilton Lombard, the center’s research specialist, who prepared the estimates. “While the growth rate in counties has slowed, the rate in cities has caught up, mirroring a trend of urban growth both in Virginia and nationwide.”

Despite the economic effects of the federal budget sequestration, Northern Virginia continues to account for nearly three-fifths of the commonwealth’s population gain, with eight of the 10 fastest-growing localities located there. The city of Charlottesville and New Kent County are the only exceptions.

The slowing pace of population growth is most evident among counties adjacent to or beyond the state’s metropolitan areas. Due to lower birth rates and older populations, localities outside metro areas had at least 8,200 more deaths than births since 2010. While migration into the state helped to mitigate population loss, Virginia’s non-metro population is stagnant, adding only 2,230 people between 2010 and 2014.

The Cooper Center’s population estimates, prepared annually, are the official figures for the commonwealth of Virginia. The estimates are based on changes since 2010 in housing stock, school enrollment, births, deaths and driver’s license issuances. They are used by state and local government agencies in revenue sharing, funding allocations, planning and budgeting.

Media Advisory: Panel to Discuss Slavery Past at the University of Virginia

Tue, 2015-01-27 12:32
Anne E. Bromley

Media Advisory: Panel to Discuss Slavery Past at the University of Virginia

The University’s 2015 community celebration in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will present a panel discussion tonight at 6 at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center on “Slavery at the University of Virginia.”

Following the screening of Eduardo Montes-Bradley’s documentary, “Unearthed & Understood: Slavery and the University of Virginia,” members of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University will give an overview of the panel’s mission, vision and update on current research.

The panel will include Dr. Marcus Martin, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity; Kirt von Daacke, associate professor of history and assistant dean of academic advising; Kelley Deetz, research associate for the commission; Petrina Jackson, who heads instruction and outreach for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library; and Maurie McInnis, professor of art history and vice provost for academic affairs.

Enslaved laborers played vital roles in the University’s early decades, but little is recorded about them. They laid handmade bricks and helped build the University. They chopped wood and washed laundry, cared for white children and cooked meals for faculty and students.

In recent years, U.Va. has begun to address its historical relationship with slavery. President Teresa A. Sullivan appointed the commission last year. Its charge includes exploring U.Va.’s historical relationship with slavery and highlighting opportunities for recognition and commemoration.

U.Va.’s Office for Diversity and Equity collaborated with a local committee to plan activities to mark the King celebration through Jan. 30 that include panel discussions, plays, films and speakers, with the help of dozens of U.Va. student groups, departments and offices; nonprofit organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and area schools. For a complete schedule, click here.

SCPS Celebrates 100 Years of Service to Virginia With New Exhibit

Mon, 2015-01-26 17:02
H. Brevy Cannon

On Tuesday, the University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies will kick off its Centennial Commemoration with a new exhibit at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library that catalogs the school’s work with underserved communities throughout its history.

Part of U.Va.’s wider 2015 Community Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, the 3:30 p.m. kickoff event at the Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library Auditorium will feature brief introductory remarks from U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan and School of Continuing and Professional Studies Dean Billy Cannaday, followed by light refreshments and an opportunity to explore the new exhibit. The event is free and open to the public.

The popularity and rising demand for public lectures given by U.Va. professors throughout the commonwealth motivated U.Va.’s first president, Edwin A. Alderman, to establish the Bureau of Extension in 1915. He stressed that the bureau would serve the “great democratic purpose of bringing the University to every fireside and home in the Commonwealth.”

The bureau’s endeavors multiplied rapidly. It was soon administering the Virginia High School Literary and Athletic League, created by the Washington and Jefferson Literary Societies at U.Va. to facilitate debate and athletics among high school students across Virginia. The bureau worked with the League of Women Voters to educate and prepare women for voting after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

As detailed in the new exhibit, “Continuing Education at U.Va.: Early Service to Women and Minorities,” the bureau went on to serve underserved communities across Virginia in myriad ways over the decades, from shipping entire libraries by rail to communities without local libraries to creating radio and TV broadcasts as those mediums were widely adopted, followed by a succession of distance-learning technologies in more recent decades.

The bureau was renamed several times over the decades, and became the School of Continuing and Professional Studies in 2000.

“The history of the school is the history of generations of people deeply committed to the idea of information and education as a way to create opportunity, better lives and strengthen communities,” Cannaday said.

Future ’Hoos Celebrate Early Action Admissions Offers on Social Media

Mon, 2015-01-26 16:36

The Internet equivalent of shouts of joy went up Friday as some 4,856 applicants to the University of Virginia’s Class of 2019 logged into their computers and found that they had received offers of admission after applying through the early action program.

Under U.Va.’s non-binding early action program, high school seniors who apply by Nov. 1 can learn their fate by Jan. 31. Unlike an early decision program, they are free to seek admission to other schools as well, and have until May 1 to make their final choice. This year, 16,092 applicants took advantage of the early action option.

(Many other applicants had their decisions deferred to the regular admissions cycle. They will hear back from the University by April 1.)

Below is a sampling of the social media reaction from happy future ’Hoos (we hope).


[View the story "Future ’Hoos Celebrate Early Action Admissions Offers" on Storify]

U.Va. Community Offers Personal Testimonials on ‘Why Black Lives Matter’

Mon, 2015-01-26 16:26
Anne E. Bromley

Because she has three black sons. Because her black mentor never put her in a different category as a white person. Because all human life matters.

These were some of the reasons given for why “black lives matter,” the focus of Friday’s event sponsored by the University Library as part of the University of Virginia’s 2015 community celebration in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

More than 20 people went up to the microphone in the auditorium of the Harrison Institute /Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, one by one, to add their voices in speaking about why “Black Lives Matter” to an audience of about 50 employees, students, faculty and local residents.

“The theme of this year’s Martin Luther King community celebration is ‘Giving Voice,’ and our event gives people an opportunity to demonstrate who we are and why we’re valuable,” said co-organizer Tobiyah Andrews of the University Library’s Human Resources department.

In speaking to the audience, she held up a photo of her family, whose love reminds her of why her life matters, she said.

Andrews and colleague Jennifer Harmon wanted to come up with a way to bring people together and emphasize their human connections. They were inspired by the national group, “Black Lives Matter,” Andrews said. It was formed after George Zimmerman was acquitted for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, in 2012.

Speakers at Friday’s meeting shared their thoughts, fears, worries and ideals. Some of them talked about what they learned of their family history, especially related to the Civil Rights Movement.

A mother of three sons, Harmon said she has to remind them to be careful, because someone could consider them dangerous. “I worry about them every time they leave the house,” she said.

Ray Johnson, a library worker, said he learned a police officer could consider him threatening if he folded his arms. One time when Johnson was driving his mother and several aunts to another relative’s house, he was stopped without knowing why. He didn’t have his license with him because they had switched cars at the last minute and he had left it behind. After Johnson explained that to the officer and asked for leniency, he folded his arms in frustration. The police officer put his hand on his holstered gun, telling Johnson the pose was threatening.

That’s the kind of situation you have to weigh, said William Woodson, an older man who grew up in Buckingham. He talked about an incident in which he felt a police officer was harassing him, and he had to decide whether it would be worth the hassle to report the officer.

Nevertheless, Woodson said he wanted to stress, “black lives matter – not just because of being black, but because of being human.”

Petrina Jackson, who heads instruction and outreach for the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, said it was also important to fill in the gaps about black life in U.Va.’s history, including materials about African-Americans on Grounds, especially students. The same goes for African-American history; she brought a copy of “David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World,” published by a black man in 1829 and calling for the abolition of slavery – a dangerous act at the time.

In considering his family history, Lee Williams, a former U.Va. Advancement employee who’s now pursuing a doctorate in the Curry School of Education, said he didn’t appreciate, as a light-skinned biracial child, what his black father endured through his life, and wished he had told his father, now deceased, how much his life mattered.

Music librarian Winston Barham said he has made a point of studying the Civil Rights era, because his white father was a youth minister in Mississippi when his church and a black church merged in 1964, and he wanted to learn more about it.

“I see the fear in the world – we fear what we don’t understand,” Barham said. “If we take the time to understand, then we can overcome the fear.”

Makeda Petiri, a first-year student who said she likes spoken-word poetry, mentioned that the theme of “Black Lives Matter” made her think of poet Suheir Hammad, who ended her work, “First Writing Since” after Sept. 11 with these words:

 “affirm life.
affirm life.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
affirm life.”

U.Va.’s Office for Diversity and Equity collaborated with a local committee to plan activities through Jan. 30 that include panel discussions, plays, films and speakers, with the help of dozens of U.Va. student groups, departments and offices, nonprofit organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and area schools. For a complete schedule, click here.