UVa’s Next President: Teresa A. Sullivan

Today, UVa’s Board of Visitors unanimously elected Teresa A. Sullivan as the next president of the University. Sullivan, who is currently the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, will also be UVa’s first female president.

According to UVa’s official announcement:

Sullivan, 60, will succeed John T. Casteen III, who announced last summer that he will step down as president at the end of his 20th year.

“The University of Virginia has enjoyed strong leadership in John Casteen for the past two decades,” Wynne said. “The board is confident that in Terry we have found an excellent successor to lead the University as we work to elevate our teaching and research capabilities and to enhance our student experience. We are pleased to have attracted a person of Terry’s integrity, experience and vision.”

Wynne said that he was drawn to Sullivan’s confidence in the face of the challenges and complexities of leading a public institution of higher education. “She is undaunted by the challenges and has a deep understanding of the complexities. She believes in public higher education and is committed to leading our University and to building on its excellence,” he said.

Read more of the announcement after the jump…

What drew Sullivan to a career in higher education was her own experience as an undergraduate at Michigan State. “I developed a real appreciation for what a good undergraduate experience means to shaping your life,” she said. “I still see today what it does for students. It transforms them the way it did me.”

A turning point in her life came when Michigan State’s then-president, Clifton R. Wharton Jr., asked Sullivan to stay on after graduation to be an intern in his office. He became her mentor.

At the end of the internship, Wharton, the first African-American president of a public research university, told her, “If you want to do anything in higher education, you’ll need a Ph.D.” She ended up going to the University of Chicago, one of his alma maters.

Sullivan was raised in the South during the time of desegregation – first in Little Rock, Ark., until she was 13, and then in Jackson, Miss., until she went to college. “My high school was the first in Mississippi to integrate,” Sullivan said. “We were all touched by those times. They were what led me to become a sociologist.”

After graduate school at Chicago, she joined the University of Texas as a sociology instructor. She worked her way through the ranks of assistant, associate and full professor. In 1990, she became chair of the sociology department. In 1994, she became vice provost and a year later was named vice president and dean of graduate studies. She has continued to teach and publish throughout her career. A prolific writer, she is the author or co-author of six books and more than 80 scholarly articles and chapters.

“I have never stopped teaching or publishing – no matter what job I had,” she said. “But I think something will have to go when I become president.”

During her first 100 days, Sullivan plans to walk, talk and drive her way around the University and the state – to listen and to learn. She is known for making time to explore every corner of a university. “There were some people at Michigan who had never seen a provost before and were quite surprised when they did,” she said.

“You just don’t know where I might turn up when I get to Charlottesville.”


About D. Hudson

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