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Citizen Leadership

UVA students have countless opportunities to learn and practice citizen leadership. The below are highlighted groups or programs. Your student will discover many other opportunities through their courses and co-curricular activities.

Student Council

Student Council is the governing organization for the student body at the University of Virginia. This organization provides a means for students to participate in issues and policies that affect the student body, while offering several services to the University at large.

The president and the executive board oversee the Council. The representative body, a legislative body representing every University school, handles legislative matters. The president, vice presidents for administration and organizations, and the representatives are elected by the student body each February. Student Council hosts 12 standing cabinet committees appointed by the president that develop initiatives and advocate on behalf of both graduate and undergraduate students. Historically, Student Council has been involved with the creation of Clemons Library and demanding that women be admitted into the College of Arts & Sciences. Student Council has recently taken on issues related to tuition increases and the provision of free menstrual hygiene in all bathrooms at the University.

Student Council maintains agency organization status through its annual allocation of around $900,000 to a diverse array of student groups under the supervision of the vice president for organizations. The appropriations committee reviews all funding requests, and the representative body hears any appeals after funds have been allocated. The representative body also approves the formation of new CIOs after the organization recognition committee finishes its review process.

When classes are in session, Student Council meets every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the South Meeting Room of Newcomb Hall. Meetings are open to the public and are covered by the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily.

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Student Member of the Board of Visitors

Each year, a student is selected through an application process to serve a one-year term on the Board of Visitors, the University’s governing body. The student member actively engages with the student body, serving in a feedback role for assessing and predicting students’ general reactions to the board’s decisions. Although the student member does not have voting privileges, full board members consider the voice of the student member equally with the opinions of voting board members. A student has served on UVA’s board since 1983.

Class Councils and Trustees

The class councils and Fourth-Year Trustees foster unity within their respective undergraduate classes. An election for First-Year Council takes place in September. In the spring, students may apply to serve on Second- or Third-Year Council or to become a fourth-year trustee.

All four groups plan, implement, and promote educational, social, and philanthropic activities with special relevance for their classmates. Activities include study abroad workshops, study breaks, class dinners, Lighting of the Lawn in December, the Ring Ceremony for third-years, and workshops on topics such as resume preparation and personal finance.

The Fourth-Year Trustees develop and raise funds for the class giving program, plan Finals Weekend (graduation) activities, focus on bringing the graduating class together, and plan reunions. Trustees serve during their fourth year and for five years after graduating.

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Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership

The Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership was launched in fall 2014 by the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer. Named for the famous pathfinder who set out to explore the western territory with the backing of Thomas Jefferson, the Lewis Institute is envisioned as a means to equip students to break new ground through citizen leadership.

Each year, 25 students are selected to become Fellows in the fall of their second year. Incorporating academic, experiential, and applied learning elements, the program includes a School of Architecture course on “Introduction to Design and Thinking” for Fellows in the second-year spring semester. Subsequent components include a six-week summer leadership institute, a Batten School “Leadership in Practice” seminar in the third-year spring semester, and ongoing work to improve the University in their fourth years.

Over the span of six weeks during the summer program, Lewis Fellows live on Grounds, immersed in discussions with University officials and engaged in skill-building and group projects. With opportunities for collaboration and teamwork, they examine how they and other student leaders can address challenges within the University. This opportunity prepares them to contribute meaningfully to the University in their third and fourth years, choosing to deepen their involvement with a particular student organization, focus their engagement on a particular topic, or examine and contribute to broader issues on Grounds.

UVA parents Bill and Rebecca Sanders provided seed funding to launch the program in partnership with the University. The program continues to depend on the generosity of private donors to flourish and grow.

Resident Staff

Student members of the Resident Staff, more than 250 in total, facilitate the first-year experience and provide leadership in all of the University’s residence halls. Resident Staff are key to building a sense of community within living areas and within the larger University. 

As partners with the Housing & Residence Life professional team, Resident Staff members incorporate the core values of multiculturalism, collaboration, personal accountability, empowerment, critical thinking, and customer service into their daily work. Resident Advisors look to Senior Residents for supervision, advice, and overall coordination along with the Student Co-Chairs, who are responsible for leading the entire Resident Staff team. More information about the Resident Staff Program.