Thomas Jefferson set to work on building plans for the University of Virginia that would mirror his philosophical vision. For Jefferson, the college experience should take place within an “academical village,” a place where shared learning infused daily life. Plans were developed for ten Pavilions, stately faculty homes with living quarters upstairs and classrooms downstairs, attached to two rows of student rooms and connected by an inward-facing colonnade. Each Pavilion was identified with a subject to be studied and inhabited by the professor who taught that subject.
At the head of the shared lawn would stand the library (not, as in most other colleges and universities of the time, a chapel), with its dome inspired by Rome’s Pantheon and symbolic of the enlightened human mind. The plans grew to include two more colonnades of student rooms facing outwards and attached to a set of “hotels” where food was served for the students.
Jefferson corresponded with scholars in America and Europe, seeking the best faculty to teach in the areas of philosophy, arts, foreign languages, science, law, and medicine. Construction and transatlantic travel delayed the date of opening, but in March 1825, the University of Virginia opened to serve its first 123 students.
For the first few years of operation of The University, Thomas Jefferson was a living legacy among University students and faculty. Each Sunday, he hosted students for dinner at Monticello. Among those students was Edgar Allan Poe, a University student in 1826. Poe was among the students who journeyed up the mountain to pay their respects at the funeral of their University’s founder, who died on July 4, 1826.
Currently at the University of Virginia there are approximately 13,700 undergraduates, 4900 graduate students, and 1,700 students in either medical or law school. Admission is highly selective with approximately 40% of entering students coming from out-of-state or from outside the country. In one recent year, students came from 48 states and 116 different countries.
In addition, The University of Virginia School of Medicine has received the 2017 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award for the 6th consecutive year. As a recipient of the Health Professions HEED Award — a national honor recognizing U.S. schools that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion — the University of Virginia School of Medicine will be featured in the December 2017 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.
In the annual U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of best colleges, the University of Virginia continues to hold its own and consistently ranks as one of the five best public universities in the country. UVA continues to rank in the Top 25 among the best of all national universities, public or private. In the history of the rankings, UVA has never dropped out of the Top 25 listing, and in the ten years since U.S. News began ranking public universities as a separate category, UVA has ranked in the top five.