About a dozen faculty participate in the Mead Endowment Program each year, hand-picked by their deans for their potential to become friends and mentor to students.  Each proposes a creative “Dream Idea” project that allows them to bond with a small group of students in meaningful and memorable ways. The Mead Endowment funds these projects. Click on the links below to view the complete proposals.

The faculty honorees begin their experience at celebratory dinner in their honor, where they hear the previous year’s honorees report on their projects.

The program began with faculty from the College. Thanks to awards created in honor of other legendary faculty such as John Colley of Darden, Henry Kinnier of Engineering, and Jack Lindgren of McIntire, faculty from those schools now participate as well.


Dream Idea Proposals

Click on the professor's name to view their original proposal. (Only the underlined names received funding, due to lack of resources in the early years.)

Click here for tips on how to craft a successful proposal.

Click here to get reimbursed for expenses related to your project.



Brian Balogh / History

Mary Katherine Burke / Drama

Claire Cronmiller / Biology

Cassandra Fraser / Chemistry

Ellen Fuller / Women’s Studies

Jeff Holt / Math

Adria LaViolette / Anthropology

Steve Majewski / Astronomy

Steve held a competition among his students to design an astronomical experiment, then took the winner to perform the experiment at a world-class observatory in Chile.

Mauri McInnis / Art




To recreate Plato’s “Symposium,” Tal invited a group of philosophically serious undergraduates and professors from various disciplines to read influential works on the nature of friendship, then gather for dinner and discussion to, “remind ourselves that philosophy concerns some of the most important aspects of our lives and that it does not leave our lives unchanged but ripples outward and alters the aspect of everything it touches.”

Milton Brown / Chemistry

Lisa Goehler / Psychology

Carla Gren / Biology

Jeffrey Grossman / Germanic Languages & Literature

Cynthis Hoeler-Fatton / Religious Studies

Edward Murphy / Astronomy

amy ogden / french

Amy and her students explored the Culture of Love, as seen through the literature, music, poetry, art, and romances of Medieval France.  Their studies were enhanced by visits to a monastery, the rare books library and art museum, a bookbinding class and a concert of early music, as well as very French lunches in town.


Richard started weekly bluegrass jam sessions with students, then took them to an Appalachian festival, where they played the main stage. The program continues to this day.

william wylie / art

Bill travelled and camped with students for three weeks across the American southwest photographing art installations and participating in performance art.



James Cargille / Philosophy

Howard Epstein / Environmental Science

Paul Freedman / Politics

Marianne Kubik / Drama

Wende Marshall / Anthropology

Oliver Pfister / Physics

Bruce Reynolds / Economics

cass sackett / physics

Cass paired students from the art and physics departments to propose artworks that would use principles of light and optics.  He then worked with the winning team to create an installation that was displayed in the hallways of the physics building.

Bethany Teachman / Psychology

William Thomas / History

Will used Mead Endowment funds to help two groups of students create a broadcast quality documentary on the civil right era archival footage rescued from local Virginia television stations.  The title is “Rising Up”, and at its premiere, that’s just what the audience did, with a standing ovation.  It later aired on PBS.

Lisa Woolfork / English



Lawrie Balfour / Politics

Beth Bjorkland / German

Ed Burton / Economics

sylvia chong / english & american studies

Slyvia enhanced her Asian American Cultural History class with an exciting field trip to a Smithsonian film festival.

julian connolly / slavic languages & literatures

Jullian took a few lucky students to see the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa, after first bringing the students together to study the epic poem by Pushkin and the Russian historical events on which the opera is based.

John dobbins / art

John Dobbins used Mead funds to continue his weekly afternoon seminars on Pompeii with discussions over dinner, as one of the seminar topics was the role of dining in Pompeii society.

robert hirosky / physics

Bob Hirosky put together a team of art and physics students who created an amphibious vehicle to compete in the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race.

Vikram Jaswal / Psychology

Marianne / Kubik

Claire Lyu / French

Deborah Roach / Biology

Ronald Wilcox / Darden


Barry Condron / Biology

Christina Della Coletta / Italian

sherwood frey / darden

Sherwood worked with students in to study the viability of creating a Campus Kitchen that would collect unused food from University Food Service and distribute it to local charities that feed the homeless and hungry.

Gregory Hays / Classics

Maurie McInnis / Art History

christian mcmillen / history & american studies

Christian took a group of students on an extraordinary adventure to the Hualapai Indian Reservation on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

irena mitrea / mathematics

Irena held a seminar and many social gatherings for female math students at which they explored a wide range of mathematical principle used by Jefferson. 

John Nemec / Religious Studies

Stacey Sinclair

Michael Slon / Music

cynthia wall / english

Cynthia held a 400-level English seminar on drama in the Restoration and 18th century.



majida bargach / french

Majida called her program “Around the world in Charlottesville” and took her students to visit with local families who hail from distant parts of the globe, to learn the cultures, experience their way of living and try their cooking.

Melvin Butler / Music

Dean Dass / Art

Dean Harman / Chemistry

michelle kisliuk / music

Michelle created a multicultural African drumming and dance troop that combined scholarship with practices and performances.

Nilange Liyanage / physics

Nilange accompanied physics students to the Jefferson National Particle Accelerator in Newport News to participate in research.

Chuck MatthewEs / religious studies

Chuck set out to help students understand how they might combine their training in religious studies with opportunities in public service by taking them on a field trip to Washington for visits with various experts and agencies.

Michael Skrutskie / Astronomy

Michael Smith / Politics

Lisa Spaar / Creative Writing / English

Barbara Jill Venton / Chemistry

peter rodriguez / darden

Peter helped Darden students lend their business skills to entrepreneurs in Nicaragua. 

michael j. smith / politics

Tired of the fact that his students weren’t getting his constant references to classic movies made before they were even born, Michael conducted a film series for students, featuring movies with political themes.

heather warren / religious studies

Heather hiked 56 miles on the Appalachian trail, with students, a literal pilgrimage that was also a seminar on the literary history of pilgrimage.  Their destination was Mt. Katadin in Maine, but somehow they ended up in the Daily Progress, UVa Today, and on public radio.



Linda Columbus / Chemistry

Linda created opportunities for her undergraduate research students to take turns presenting and discussing their work, helping develop the confidence, critical thinking and communication skills for a future in science

alev erisir / psychology

Alev escorted Virginia students to the Annual Meeting of the Society of Neurosciences in Washington to attend symposia, lectures workshops and research presentations. 

Mary Margaret Frank / Darden

Mary Margaret engaged students across various graduate programs in an exploration of HIV/AIDS within the United States and abroad, focusing on the disproportionate effect epidemic has had on minority communities.

Mitch Green / philosophy

Mitch teaches a popular course called “Know Thyself” that synthesizes teachings from philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, even Buddhism.  He invited students to “Know Thyself on Two wheels” helping them prepare physically, mentally and spiritually for participation in the MS 150 bike ride. They called their team the Meadiorites

Deborah Lawrence / Environmental Science

Deborah is an expert on rainforest ecosytems.  For some reasons students assume this also makes an expert on sustainable living and have asked her to teach a course on it.  So she turned the tables and had students help her design just such a course. 

Deborah McGrady / French

Deborah, who teaches a course on Joan of Arc, decided to light a fire under her students with field trips to experience arts inspired by Ms. Arc and artifacts from her era.


Margarita had her students make a video travelogue about Charlottesville; the twist was that they had to do it in Polish.

Ignacio Provencio / Biology

Ignacio escorted Virginia students to the Annual Meeting of the Society of Neurosciences in Washington to attend symposia, lectures workshops and research presentations.

Michael Rasbury / Drama

Michael assembled an interdisciplinary group of students to see if it’s actually possible to express the things you see as things you hear, exploring the creative process in the process.

chad wellmon/ german

Chad's J-Term study-abroad seminar used Berlin as his classroom; Mead Endowment funds helped him take students to stroll and learn on those historic boulevards.



stephanie berard / french

Stephanie took a group of students in her French Literature course to study French art from the corresponding time period at the National Gallery in DC.  They topped off their artistic explorations with a gastronomic one at a French Restaurant.

kevin jerome everson / art

Kevin took three seniors to the 2010 Experimental Film Congress at the Ontario College of Art and Design, in Toronto to hear artists and scholars discuss the state of international experimental filmmaking and scholarship.

casey lichtendahl / darden

Casey selected students to accompany him on a pilgrimage to visit “The Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett, at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting.

amori yee mikami / psychology

Amori has done extensive research on why some children have difficulty making friends.  She worked a group of students to create a one day carnival with activities designed to help young children improve their relationship skills, giving students hands-on opportunities to both learn and serve.

Michael Puri / Music

Michael took students from one of his music theory classes to a recital of classical music, preparing them for the experience by having them study in advance the repertoire to be performed and discussing their discoveries over dinner prior to the recital.

keith williams / physics

Keith organized a “Survival Seminar” in which participants competed to grow subsistence crops at the Hereford College mini-farm, computing the survival value of their yields and conducting experiments in ethanol production and sustainability, with field trips to historic farms and frequent gatherings for dinner.



katia dianina / slavic languages & literature

Katia took 15 students to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which has one of the best collections of Faberge art in the United States, The pilgrimage was followed by a fabulous dinner in the Russian tradition.

erika james / darden

For over a decade Erika has experienced both the joy and heartache of managing a long-distance marriage while pursuing a career in academia. She worked with students to research the topic and create a book and film about these issues as a resource for others.

paul dafydd jones / religious studies

Paul held a small seminar that considered classical and contemporary treatments of sex and gender in the Christian tradition, Christian thought and feminism, and contemporary debates about same-sex relationships. It culminated in a field trip to Washington, D.C, where students met representatives of the Family Research Council and the Human Rights Campaign.

keith kozminski / biology

Keith mentored the Virginia Genetically Engineered Machine team, a group of students who developed their own research experiment, with the goal of creating a biosensor for the presence of toxic metals.  He then accompanied them to MIT to present their research.

cameron mura / chemistry

Cameron put together a group of students, half from chemistry and biology, the other half from computational science, for a series of biweekly 90-minute lunchtime lectures on the exciting new field of computational biology.  The series culminated with an end-of-semester field trip to the National Institute of Health. 

chris neu / physics

Chris conducted a seminar on the physics of sports: why a curve ball curves, how Beckham bends it, the spiral pass in football and so on.  Readings and lessons were followed by field research – playing field research, that is– plus gatherings at Chris’ house to watch the principles in action during sporting events on TV.

john parker / english

John took his Shakespeare seminar on three field trips: the first two were to the Blackfriars Theater in Staunton for performances of The Comedy of Errors and Measure for Measure, each followed by a discussion with the cast; the third was to the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC, to examine the world's leading collection of early modern play texts.

josipa roksa / sociology

Josipa  has made national headlines with her research on why college students are failing to develop the basic skills of critical thinking. Josipa guided a group of students to research the issue from the student perspective, with the goal of writing a paper for presentation at the Southern Sociological conference.

tyler jo smith / art

Tyler Jo often wished her students could learn about ancient Greek vases not just from pictures, but by holding them in their hands.  So , working their way up from the UVa Art Museum to Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the students went behind the scenes with curators to interact with priceless treasures and create priceless memories.

brian wiltgen / psychology

Brian added depth to his course on memory by taking students to visit laboratories that are conducting contemporary research, both at UVa and at the National Institute of Mental Health, an experience they will long remember.



Gregory Fairchild / Darden

Gregory worked with students to explore whether providing prison inmates with entrepreneurship training can give the inmates skills for successful re-entry to society and lower their rates of recidivism.

Gabriel Finder / German

Gabriel enriched his students’ understanding of the Holocaust by bringing survivors to Charlottesville, not just to speak, but to spend time with students in meaningful conversation, even sharing a meal. 

Coulter George / Classics

Taking inspiration from Plato and his legendary symposium, Coulter hosted dinners at which students gathered for themed discussions. As a springboard, each student had to make a short speech on an element of speech, whether it be the derivations of the word “kin” or the ancient names of God.

Bonnie Gordon / Music

Bonnie mentored UVa students as they in turn mentored underserved third and fourth graders. Together both groups of students experienced a variety of new arts events.  

Christian Gromoll / Mathematics

Christian invited a small group of student to attend "Bee-School."  Christian keeps several colonies of bees and studies their decision-making logic, not unlike that required to run any successful manufacturing business.  He and his students met for meals, scholarly research, hands-on bee-keeping work, field trips and more as they unraveled the mathematics of the hive.

martien Halvorsen-Taylor / religious studies

Martien says one of the best words of advice she ever got was to “make a standing date with a piece of art.” Martien invited her students to make a standing date with stories from the Hebrew bible, gathering at her home for meals to reflect on what those ancient stories have to tell us today.

sarah kucenas / biology

Sarah brought young female scientists together every month or to talk about what it takes to be a woman in science and address any difficulties they have had or were afraid of encountering.

Maurie McInnis / ART HISTORY

Maurie enhanced her course called Art and Abolitionism by having students research object and book in the Special Collections library for inclusion in an exhibit; they gathered regularly for dinner and a movie to discuss popular films about the era, such as Amistad and Glory; and several students accompanied Maurie on a research trip to Massachusetts.

jamie morris / biology

Jamie worked with a small group of students to create learning and teaching tools that demonstrated the latest in research about the human brain. 

matthew reidenbach / environmental sciences

Matthew invited a few very lucky students to accompany him on his research project in Bocas del Toro in the Panamanian Sea, where they spent 3 weeks at the Smithsonian Tropical research Institute studying the health of marine environments. 

diana vaman / physics

Diana was asked by a group of students to teach string theory, her area of research.  She did that and more, enriching the course by asking the students to make their own presentations and gathering for celebratory meals. Two of her students then accepted her invitation to join her in research into the classical evolution of strings in curved backgrounds.



Matthew Affron / ART

Matthew enriched his seminar on abstract art with behind-the-scenes visits to exhibits in Charlottesville and Philadelphia.

ted coffey / music

Ted made a Children's Record with a small group of students, incorporating performances by Charlottesville children.  They recorded locally in a professional studio, giving students the experience of shepherding a musical work from beginning to professionally-realized end, with the project released digitally on iTunes. The project culminated in a release party with a live performance.

dana elzey / engineering

Dana held a series of evening seminars for engineering undergraduates interested in graduate study and, potentially, in an academic career.  The seminars had two main goals: to introduce participants to the life and work of faculty in engineering, and to guide them in the preparation of an 'intro to engineering' seminar they then delivered to a high school audience.

craig group / physics

Craig enjoys incorporating physics demos into his lectures. He shared this passion by organizing a series of meetings with physics majors where they not only investigated the demonstrations, and analyzed how they work, but also discussed new ways to use and to improve the demos and create new ones, to be presented at the annual “Physics Day Show” with an audience of 200+ elementary-school aged children.

yael grushka-cockayne / darden

In 2011 there were only 18 women CEO’s among the Fortune 500 companies.  To promote the success of the women MBAs, and more broadly, female students in all STEM areas, Yael believes they need good role models. So she took students to attend the TEDxWomen 2012 events, with the goal of advancing the involvement, the confidence and ultimately the success of her female students.

tomoko marshall / east asian language, literatures & cultures

 Tomoko engaged a small group of Japanese language majors to explore Japanese culture in ordinary life, through hands on activities and rich dialogues, with food, music and arts.

caitlin mcleod / drama

Caitlin worked with undergraduate students to write and produce an undergraduate work of theater, then transported the show to New York, and produced it for two nights in an Off-Off Broadway Venue in the East Village.

hanadial samman / arabic

Hanadial's seminar “Contemporary Culture and Society of the Contemporary Arab Middle East” explores the history of democratic change and its manifestations in contemporary film and literature.  She enriched the class with eight cultural nights, each focused on a separate Arab country, which has either completed or is still undergoing revolution, hosting guests from the Charlottesville’s Arab-American community, as well as introducing the students to grass-roots organizations based in Washington D.C., that were supporting the democratic ideals of the Arab Spring.

adrienne ward / drama

Adrienne helped students “Discover Italy in Charlottesville" with a series of gatherings and adventures entitled "Italianissimo!" Italian Studies majors as well as students in beginning and intermediate language classes joined Adrienne and other Italian Studies faculty in a variety of events.



Stefan BaEssler / physics

Stefan held a seminar series for groups of first and second-year students to help them learn how to get started in undergraduate research.


Brad led a team of students on a consulting project to develop and implement an international marketing and distribution strategy for Guatemalan coffee.  Proceeds benefited a non-profit organization in Guatemala City founded by McIntire alums.

griff chaussee / middle eastern & south asian languages & cultures

Griff explored the intersection of culturesby hosting screenings of Hindi-Urdu films, followed by catered Indian dinner and discussion, as well as a field trip to “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” at the Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Galleries in Washington.

christopher deppmann / biology

Christopher stimulated interaction between students doing research, flattened the academic hierarchy and improved group dynamics by developing a long-term, hyper-collaborative, hyper-interactive weekly “tea time” for the undergraduates, professors, graduate researchers and post-doctoral fellows.

lise dobrin / anthropolgy

Lise organized a staging and audience discussion of the short, powerful play Mountain Language by Harold Pinter, bringing together undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty to wrestle with the societal issues surrounding discrimination on the basis of language.

jim fitz-gerald / engineering

Jim exposed students to the field of manufacturing through experiential learning, working with colleagues at State Farm and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, where students participated in actual safety testing events.

claudrena harold / history & african american & african studies

Claudrena created a yearlong series of bi-weekly workshops for undergraduates with interests in creative writing, journalism, the visual arts, and music, helping them produce individual and collective projects that highlight the diversity and dynamism of the “black experience” at UVA.

tai melcher / mathematics

Tai worked with a group of undergraduates to create installation-style mathematical art exhibits, which are themselves beautiful while simultaneously demonstrating beautiful mathematics.

joel rubin / music

Joel worked with his UVA Klezmer Ensemble to make a studio quality recording of their work, bringing their interactions to a new level, from choosing material, to arranging and rehearsing, to recording, and post-production work.

jennifer rubenstein / politics

Jennifer enhanced her Global Ethics course with activities that ranged from meeting for dinner and discussion with local refugees… to talks with experienced humanitarian aid workers… to attending the Annual Refugee Film Festival… and more.

paul simko / darden

Paul coordinated a set of experiential learning activities related to Rio’s hosting of the Olympic Games, helping students see firsthand the positive and negative societal and economic impacts.

steven warner / drama

Steven took five students studying technical direction to see Cirque du Soleil’s most successful shows in Vegas and explore behind the scenes on exclusive tours given by top experts in the various fields of technical entertainment.



stephan de wekker / environmenal science

Stephan worked with students to explore the uses of UAS – that’s unmanned aerial systems -- for environmental research, teaching them to fly micro quad copters and capturing video images of atmospheric phenomena over complex terrain, augmented by a trip to Virginia Tech to tour a test site for UAS.

i-jen fang / music

I-Jen took a few lucky students to the Percussive Arts Society International Convention in Indianapolis where they observed the world’s finest percussion artists, heard composition techniques, experienced different sound and instrument choices, learned about the latest innovations in percussion instruments and dined with fellow percussion musicians.

gavin garner / engineering

Gavin realized student travel to Mars to might be outside our funding and liability limits.  But robots are the next best thing, so with funding from the Henry Kinnier Award, Gavin led the HoosMining team to design and build a robot capable of collecting Martian soil, competing in a practice exhibition match at Virginia Tech, and traveling as a team to the NASA competition in Florida.

carrie heilman / MCINTIRE

Carrie prepares students to participate in the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition. A component of the program is a trip to New York to tour advertising and media agencies. The Jack Lindgren Award enabled the students to lodge together for the first time, and for Carrie to meet with them daily to debrief their visits, an invaluable bonding experience.

elena loutskina / darden

Elena teaches Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity. The John Colley Award allowed her to bring to life her Special Topics Seminar on Impact Investing. Students sources and conducted due diligence on companies that seek to generate both profits and meaningful social change.  The award funded dinners over which they shared ideas as well travel expenses for students to participate in the annual Impact Investing Competition at Wharton.

Kim Brooks Mata / Dance

Kim sought to expand her students’ grasp of contemporary dance by taking them to see two world-renown professional dance companies perform live on stage instead of on a screen. At the Kennedy Center, students were taken backstage to meet with four Alvin Ailey performers to hear about life as a professional dancer in a leading contemporary company.

emily ogden / english

Emily teaches a course in 19th century literature, “Sex and Sentiment.” which discusses the expected social behavior of young women in 19th century America.  She expanded the discussion to explore the expectations of young women in this century with a book club that met over dinner to discuss contemporary books on the themes of advice literature and women’s lives.

simone polillo / sociology

Simone believes knowledge involves disagreement and debate as well as consensus and rational assessment. Simone had students apply programming skills to capture, visualize and analyze bibliographic citation data, thus exploring how knowledge evolves and research changes over time. They met over meals to brainstorm, debate, and produce awesome graphs.

eric ramirez-weaver / art

Eric brought to life the goals, desires, passions and fears of medieval artists with field trips. One, to the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, showed the medieval transition to a print culture. Others, to a cheese-making Trappist Monastery in Crozet and a meeting with a local nun allowed students to view medieval culture through a different lens.

sybil scholz / german

Sybil helped her students understand Germany today, devoid of clichés and stereotypes, by interviewing young German nationals, embassy personnel and media correspondents about music, sports, politics, traditions and future visions for their country. The project culminated with the creation of a website conveying perspectives of a Young Germany.

todd sechser / politics

Todd established a Foreign Policy Dinner Series to bridge the gap between theoretical frameworks, historical study and ever-changing world events. Each week students read assigned articles and chose the discussion topic. Other faculty and guest speakers brought their expertise.

joshua white / history

Josh organized a series of “Dinner and a Movie” evenings. Each combined Mediterranean cuisine with films that brought to life his first-year seminar, “Pirates of the Mediterranean,” which uses the study of piracy as a vehicle for introducing the philosophy and methods of academic history.



andre cavalcante / media studies

Andre invited students and faculty to a series of dinners to discuss contemporary issues of LGBTQ culture and politics, providing relevant books for reference in their discussions.

robert cox / biology

Robert inspired students to consider careers in secondary science education and improve the way in which science is taught. He paired Undergraduate Fellows with high school Teacher Fellows for mentorship and an exchange of expertise in research and education, culminating in a field reseach experience in coastal Florida and a workshop on teaching evolution at UVA's Mountain Lake Biological Station.

nomi dave / music

Nomi organized vocal workshops for students interested in practicing and performing Indian vocal music, with classes led by a classically trained musician, practice sessions, and a gathering at which students and Indian music performers in the community shared tea, Indian snacks, and ideas.  To cap it off, the group travelled to attend a performance of Indian music

zvi gilboa / middle eastern & southern asian languages & culture

Zvi encouraged students to use newly acquired language skills by conducting interviews in Modern Hebrew with native speakers, asking them to share memories, and experiences related to their language. The students also travelled to communities with concentrations of native Hebrew speakers and created a short documentary tracing their activities throughout the year.

lisa goff / american studies

Lisa took two undergraduate interns to the National Women's Studies Association conference, where she delivered a paper about Take Back the Archive, a digital archive that documents and contextualizes the history of sexual violence at UVA. The students participated in the Q&A. Back on grounds, they recommended ways to encourage collaboration between faculty who study sexual violence; administrators whose policies address it; and the leaders of student groups organized to prevent it. The students also helped begin a dialog between faculty, administrators and the creators of the Archive.

fotina kondyli / art

In addition to visiting important collections of Byzantine art at Dumbarton Oaks and the Chrysler Museum, Fotini had five students choose a Byzantine object or artwork, then put it in dialog with a modern object – like favorite jeans or a Facebook post. The semester culminated with an open event where the students shared their learnings and related Byzantine art images to famous contemporary art.

gregory lewin / engineering

Gregory held a series of lab tours at UVa and beyond to let students to see research lab work first-hand, connect them to research opportunities, help them see what graduate school might be like, increase collaboration and build interdisciplinary connections.

saras sarasvathy / darden

Saras invited Darden students to create short webisodes based on actual business situations – from famous start-ups to ventures begun by Saras’s students. Under the direction of a theater mentor, the students wrote scripts and performed scenarios which were recorded and posted to a website, inviting comments from entrepreneurs as well as Darden and UVA alumni.

laura serbuela / chemistry

Knowing that undergraduate organic chemistry courses are stumbling blocks for many students, Laura engaged students to compare and assess the effectiveness of various online learning tools. The students then shared their findings and presented recommendations to faculty and students with the objective to help more students succeed.

jason williamson / McIntire

Jason helped faculty mentors lead student teams to create scalable, self-sustaining social enterprise projects that generate profits for charities in the Charlottesville area, with the goals of building goodwill, providing resources and engaging more members of the University with the community.

xiaochao zheng / physics

Xiaochao bought a 3D printer and invited members of the Society of Physics Students to small group sessions in which they learned how to develop increasingly innovative, sophisticated and complex models. The semester culminated in an award ceremony recognizing her students’ most outstanding work.




Ira teaches that making meaningful change in the world requires an understanding of the affected people, studied in the regular activities and settings of their lives, a practice known as field ethnography. Ira worked closely with small groups of students as they explored the design process for renovating Alderman Library, culminating in a presentation at a symposium including Alderman representatives.

jeff boichuk / mcintire

knows that everyone knows, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” So Jeff organized an “Impact Gala,” which fostered mentorships between students and “superbosses;” he hosted a dinner that brought students together with alumni in NYC; and he worked with the UVA Solar Car Team to connect this student organization with local professionals in the renewable energy sector. 

shane davis / astronomy

To make the film “Interstellar,” writers collaborated with scientists to craft a sophisticated visualization of how black holes might actually appear and behave. Shane gathered 15 undergraduate students to view the film, read the book authored by the movie’s science expert, and debate the artistic and scientific strengths and weaknesses of the film over a series of dinners.

kateri dubay / chemistry

Presenting complex science to the public often results in misconceptions and controversy – think Zika virus or global warming. So over a series of dinners, Kateri brought together science majors and communications-focused majors to discuss scientific representations in the media. Each dinner encouraged broader understanding of the complexities and consequences of scientific communications.

edith clowes / slavic languages & literature

Edith helped students explore the contributions Russian culture has made to Virginia’s state culture. Small group meetings were accompanied by Russian-catered meals, a presentation over Russian Tea at the Shea House, a field trip to a Russian decorative art exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and culminated with presentations by four of her students at the Southern Conference on Slavic Studies.

david edmunds / global development studies

What types of settings and questions generate good conversations? What verbal and visual communications work best? David facilitated a partnership between undergraduate students in Global Development Studies and the Global Civil Society Lab to help them learn from community leaders how to institute effective social change, while preparing to implement a real activity in the mentor’s home locale.

njelle hamilton / english

Njelle invited students of color to explore black sci-fi Afrofuturism, at the intersection of race, technology and the arts by posing the question “Who more sci-fi that us?” They investigated seminal and contemporary Afrofuturist music, art, films and literature and explored the challenges and rewards encountered when students create or curate such works.

erin lambert / history

Erin teaches a seminar, “Food in the Early Modern World,” which uses the history of food as an avenue into subjects such as class divisions, religious customs and global development. Erin’s students experimented with the foods about which they’ve read, researched ingredients and recipes and prepared dinners, each on a specific theme, then documented their research, culminating in a presentation and celebratory dinner.

lydia moyer / art

Lydia worked closely with a small group of students to create a small-edition photo book inspired by the photos of artist Valerie Export, whose photos relate the human body to architecture of Vienna by positioning her body along lines of columns, curbs and fences. Lydia's students recreated that work on Grounds, exploring Jeffersonian architecture and to create images reflecting each student’s story of their time at UVA.

tolu odumosu / engineering

Inspired by Robert Frost’s poem, “Possible Roads Ahead,” Tolu engaged with students over nine dinners to consider their futures and the professions they might pursue.  The first discussion was about the poem, the responsibility of adulthood and alternative paths. Subsequent conversations included guests who took different roads after graduating with engineering degrees and exploring their life choices.

bidhan (bobby) parmar / darden

Bobby took 130 Darden students to an Escape Room in Charlottesville. Once locked inside, escape is won by racing the clock to find clues and solve puzzles by generating hypotheses, building on each other’s ideas, examining disconfirming data, supporting risk-taking and making mistakes. Afterward, Bobby hosted a potluck, then worked with a few students to analyze the group’s problem-solving data for patterns and themes, culminating in a presentation to the participants.

chi yan (jeffrey) teo / physics

Jeffrey organized a theory research club that introduced students to recent development of condensed matter physics and their applications to electronic systems. Jeffrey had club members review journal articles and present their what they learned during weekly meetings. Jeffrey also took students to the American Physics Society Meeting to present their work in the form of contributed talks or poster presentations.




Media policy is all too often the forgotten cousin of public policy. But without the media no other policy decision can be communicated. “Pizza and Policy” will introduce Washington policymakers, activists, stakeholders and media policy thinkers to UVA students over a monthly repast to explore real-world media policy issues. What could be more topical than this exploration of net neutrality, privacy, surveillance, copyright and fake news in a creative extension of classroom learning?


Brendan has a military background, teaches in McIntire and loves history. With that, he will create a memorable experience for three fourth year students by inviting them to examine leadership skills – judgment and decision making, persuasion and influence – that transcend time and place on a day trip to the battlefield at Gettysburg. Students will read Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels in advance, and following the excursion, write an article for publication on McIntire’s website.


UVA was honored as one of seven U.S. universities chosen by the Goethe-Institut Washington to produce 5-minute plays authored by playwrights across the U.S. and Europe exploring “What does privacy mean to you in the digital age?” Drama students will produce 8 plays commissioned by the Goethe-Institut and 4-6 plays written by UVA students. The plays will be fully staged in the Helms Theater October 27-28, and students will produce films of the plays.


Media often portrays scientific breakthroughs at lightning fast pace, distorting the value of painstaking, methodical research. Fourteen STEM and non-STEM students will discuss over dinners the science behind recently published science fiction books and movies, exploring whether science fiction is supported by underlying science or scientific knowledge lags imagination. The goal is to generate informed lawyers, engineers and politicians better equipped to make educated judgments about issues affected by science.


Culture is so often captured in everyday household objects. To bring to life daily life in East Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, students in The Fall of Communism and Life in Dictatorships classes will assemble and display a collection of East German artifacts, many of which can be purchased cheaply on eBay. Over dinners, students and guest speaker experts on East Germany with curatorial experience will assess which objects to purchase and how to create a compelling narrative.


Marc will apply his passion for the art world in a collaborative exploration with Darden students and UVA art faculty the intersection of non-performing fine arts and economic innovation. The common ground is that both are creative innovation processes, and at their best, innovators seek feedback – artists to refine their expression, and in business to accelerate successful startups. The group will meet over a series of seminars, culminating in a trip to visit an art exhibition in Washington, DC.


Fifteen fortunate students and invited filmmakers and artists will benefit from Noel’s substantial experience as a DJ and music and sound curator. Collectively they will curate a series of film screenings and listening sessions, exploring the visceral and emotional thrill of listening to music and sound. They will create public communities of sharing through music, film, food and conversation, hosting events in venues on and off Grounds, culminating in a public venue open to the general public.


Relics of technology past are of historical interest, and they inspire current day technologists to create new milestones in human exploration. Kathy will lend her NASA experience and contacts to tour 4-10 UVA students behind the scenes at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), ideally to coincide with a launch event at either KSC or Cape Canaveral. How better to inspire current technologists to imagine the next frontier of interplanetary exploration?


Student sentiment toward UVA’s Honor System has shifted over time to include less harsh alternatives to the single sanction. Amrisha and five students will explore the psychology of moral standards and enforcement, considering behaviors and beliefs that influence views toward the Honor System, then identify research questions and conduct research with 200 participants. The research team will think deeply about the Honor System, practice research methodology and hopefully renew their commitment to UVA’s Honor System.


Jennifer Bair /sociology

Jennifer Bair has designed an intriguing exercise for students to understand how commodities we consume daily came to be and what this tells us about our relationships with each other and with the environment. Three themes will be analyzed in relation to the commodities studied: labor and livelihoods; trade and transport; and consumption and waste. As an outcome, students will produce a website, podcast or other media to raise awareness among the university community, including with UVA’s Procurement Services office.


Peter Belmi’s course, Paths to Power, helps Darden students understand how to exercise power effectively. Select students will travel to DC to see the musical Hamilton, which follows Alexander Hamilton’s remarkable life and the dilemmas and choices he faced on his rise to power. Hopefully students will be inspired to consider how their career ambitions fit with their values and aspirations and to think creatively about how they can influence inequality and social mobility that result in power begetting power.


Douglas Fordham’s class, Art of Revolutionary Europe, examines how European artists responded to the French Revolution and its aftermath. The art of the Napoleonic period is central to the narrative, exploring how Napoleon influenced the end of the French Revolution. Students will launch the fall semester with a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, to view the very relevant and timely exhibition, “Napoleon: Power and Splendor”. Students will get to know each other while viewing high-quality works from the period that will be studied throughout the course.


“Music at the Movies” will give students an experience impossible to appreciate while watching films solo on their personal mobile devices. Six curated films about music will be shown throughout the year in the Newcomb Hall Movie Theatre, replete with movie theater concessions, following which, Jack Hamilton will host a “talkback” following each film. The screenings will bring together music and film fans across Grounds in a marriage of education and entertainment to share what has been a highlight of Jack’s very popular “Sound and Cinema” course.


“The Billion Dollar Molecule: One Company’s Quest for the Perfect Drug”, will prompt discussion among STEM majors with drug industry scientists about the pharmaceutical industry’s impact on health. Currently, opportunities abound for undergrads to learn about becoming a physician or academic researcher; however, opportunities to learn about industrial drug discovery are limited. Having been a scientist at many pharmaceutical companies, Michael Hilinski is ideally suited to explore with students how they might impact human health by a less well-known route.


Climate fiction is a genre inviting readers to contemplate a rapidly changing climate – from realist portrayals of weird weather phenomena to post-apocalyptic scenarios. Henry David Thoreau logged meticulous weather records, providing a time capsule of the climate nearly 200 years ago. Mary Kuhn proposes to build a current day climate capsule with students by walking the Grounds and in Shenandoah, capturing observations of people, the natural environment and air quality. Notebooks will be preserved in a vault opened in 2044, providing future researchers a window into how students in 2019 thought about the environment.


The largely unknown history of eugenics is intimately tied to the history of the State of Virginia and UVA. State history books seldom mention the extent to which Virginia was an international leader in categorizing human difference and sterilizing those deemed “unfit”. Sarah Milov and participating students will haunt places where eugenics was practiced and document that haunting in a website combining student photography and narration that will serve as a public monument to the more than 7500 Virginians sterilized between 1924 and 1976.


Teams of two to four students will work with Nicole Montgomery and a leading digital consulting firm to research and develop an original idea that will be of interest to the business community and advance students’ collective understanding of the rapidly evolving digital marketing ecosystem. Students will collect data for their project via surveys, purchasing data sets and/or testing paid content on digital channels. They will meet weekly to present project updates and seek/provide feedback, culminating in a student-led presentation to the marketing company and other student groups.


UVA Alumna Margot Shetterly created a media sensation when her book, “Hidden Figures”, which recounts the little-known story of the African American women who were essential contributors to the first manned mission to the moon, hit bookshelves and the big screen to much acclaim. Diana Morris has coordinated with Virginia resident Ms. Shetterly to meet with engineering students for a movie viewing and discussion about her insights, her role in bringing to light an amazing story, and reactions the world over.


Students in the Music Department and Dance Program in the Drama Department will collaborate to compose new works. Dancers, composers, choreographers and musicians will create works exploring sound and movement. Professional musicians, ideally part of UVA’s performance faculty, will realize the composers’ and choreographers’ musical visions, bringing to life their works, enhancing students’ portfolios and enriching their academic experience, as well as strengthen the partnership between Drama and Music Departments.


Kevin Welch has a personal goal to help chemistry students understand how chemical principles impact their daily lives. He will work with 8-10 students to better understand where energy used in Virginia comes from and how the technology relates directly to concepts taught in introductory chemistry. They will visit Virginia sources of electric power, meet with scientists and engineers that operate the facilities, and consider the waste generated by each technology, including implications for our community and the world.


Three undergraduate Physics majors will be selected by way of a Gravity Research Competition to study frontier research in gravitational physics, which is particularly timely on the heels of related research that earned the Nobel Prize in Physics last year. In close collaboration with Kent Yagi, the select students will brainstorm research topics over dinners, conduct research, publish findings in a journal, and present outcomes to their classmates. Peer votes will determine which student will have the opportunity to attend an American Physics Society meeting.


Gia-Wei Chern / Physics

Dramatic advances in computer technology enable students to accelerate and deepen exploration of complex physics concepts. To broaden all students’ knowledge of advanced computational programs, Gia-Wei Chern will invite ten select students to create interactive learning modules to demonstrate the power of numerical techniques and computer algorithms. The students will present their results, which will become part of the physics curriculum, and the students will have an opportunity to dine with visiting numerical experts from Los Alamos and Oak Ridge Laboratories.

Federico Cuatlacuatl / Art

Professor Cuatlacuatl will invite students as part of his research to fly kites in Washington DC during day and night over a couple of days, digitally tracking the motion of the kites as well as making digital night light drawings of the kites in motion. Students will think critically about culture and tradition as political and artistic weapons. Essentially, the kite flying sessions will be peaceful forms of protest on current immigration issues, culminating in an exhibition at 2nd Street Gallery in downtown Charlottesville in April 2020.

Rich Evans / Darden

This Fall, Professor Evans will invite ten Darden faculty to meet over dinner with 60 remote Darden Executive MBA students in groups of six students and one faculty during twice yearly EMBA residencies in Charlottesville. These exchanges provide an opportunity for faculty to share in depth their research and teaching expertise, broadening students’ perspectives about areas of concentration and potential career opportunities. Each student will attend the dinner of their choice based on fit between the student’s interests and the professor’s expertise.

Cody Fleming / Engineering

Simply, Professor Fleming and several students will ride around in autonomous vehicles. They will venture first to Crozet to tour and test ride autonomous cars built by Perrone Robotics, a company founded by a UVA SEAS alum. A trip trip will be to Torq Robotics in Blacksburg, a company founded from the same national competition that launched Perrone Robotics.

Pete Furia / Politics

A select few Politics and Global Studies undergrads will replicate a research project Professor Furia led as a graduate student in 1999, exploring topics of patriotism and globalism, to understand variations across political, economic, military and cultural spectrums. Students will conduct focus groups at VFW clubs and a national survey of registered voters, present findings at a conference, and ideally publish their research. The experience will afford students highly sought-after research experience and provide an opportunity for faculty to write meaningful letters of recommendations.

Hiromi Kaneda / Italian

Professor Kaneda’s Dream Idea for the Intermediate Italian class is to take the entire class for a long weekend in Washington, DC and spend a day at the National Gallery of Art. Each of the students will be the tour guide for a specific artwork they select. The experience presenting a work of art to their classmates in Italian, outside the usual classroom setting, will benefit students by getting closer to the Italian language, culture and art in a real environment outside the University.

Mona Kasra / Drama

Mona will bring together a small group of undergraduate students interested in storytelling, new media, performance, music, and visual art to create individual and collective virtual reality/360 degree films highlighting their diverse stories, activities, and experiences at UVA. These place-focused immersive films will then be embedded and shared on an interactive map of the University.

Lisa Morkowchuck / Chemistry

Students in introductory science courses will collaborate to find and engage in applications of the scientific mindset in everyday life, dispelling the notion that science consists of highly controlled research with multimillion-dollar equipment, summarized in technical jargon incomprehensible to the novice scientist. Multiple student meetings will culminate with a challenge to develop a project wherein students tackle a personal issue scientifically, develop a hypothesis, experiment, and collect data.  Participants will communicate their findings in poster sessions open to the UVA community.

 Amanda Phillips / Art

Students ill embark on an odyssey through the art and architecture of one of the world’s most historic, fascinating and multicultural cities, Istanbul. They will adopt the role of an historical figure, exploring how their experience was influenced by art and architecture. To aid envisioning daily life of the times, students will re-create dishes based on 16th century recipes to make a meal fit for a Sultan. Second semester will entail a trip to the Freer-=Sackler museum in DC, featuring Ottoman silks.

Suad Mohamed / Middle Eastern & South Asian Language and Cultures

Professor Mohamed aspires to make students more familiar with and appreciative of the linguistic richness and cultural diversity of the Middle East and North Africa (“MENA”) region, contrary to the popular notion that it is a monolithic culture. Over the course of several dinners in Charlottesville and Richmond restaurants and local MENA residents’ homes, native speakers from one of the MENA regions will speak their dialect, sharing colloquial vocabulary and expressions while dining on local dishes. The group also hopes to visit a MENA cultural exhibition or Arab film festival in Washington, DC.

Kelly Sulick / Music

UVA flutists come from varied backgrounds. This Dream Idea introduces flute players to a more holistic approach to their instruments by visiting flute workshops in and around Boston, home of the American flute school, and tour the world’s best flute makers’ workshops. Skilled craftsmen will demonstrate designing, building and finishing instruments. Students will also attend a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance and interview musicians. The culmination of their exploration will have students presenting their research and experience the UVA Flute Forum hosted at UVA.