Proposal pitched to fund top level Brain Institute at U.Va.

Original: The Cavalier Daily December 09, 2016

The University Board of Visitors Advancement Committee met Thursday to hear updates from those involved with the Council of Foundations, the Compassionate Schools project and funding for the University’s Third Century Capital Campaign.

Neuroscience Prof. Jaideep Kapur, M.D., Ph.D., also pitched a proposal to fund a top-level Brain Institute at the University, although the committee did not vote on the proposal.

Kapur’s proposal calls for an estimated $100 million to build Brain Institute at the University, which would address issues such as autism, Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury. The Brain Institute would also allow for multiple neuroscience research projects to be conducted and involve undergraduate students in the research.

When asked about the ability of undergraduate students to be able to conduct the high level of neuroscience research required for these projects, Kapur said the undergraduates at the University are some of the very best.

“We get fantastic undergraduates here, and my lab is full of them — and so are neuroscience labs … we compete to get the best ones,” Kapur said. “Neuroscience labs know how to work with them.”

The committee requested more information about the proposal before taking any action on it.

Following Kapur’s presentation, Bill Fryer, a consulting member of the committee, gave an update regarding the University Council of Foundations’ recent November meeting and said the council had a candid conversation which could change how it does business with the board.

The council represents several of the University’s alumni-supported foundations.

“I think it’ll lead to changes in the council and how we operate, including what we do, how we spend our time,” Fryer said. “Don’t be surprised if we ask one or more of you to join the council to try to further integrate the Board of Visitors.”

Fryer said the council is especially looking to enlist those board members with a “regrettable short tenure” to come work with the council.

“We [can] enlist those members over a longer period of time to provide more continuity to the University … and greater linkage between the University and these foundations as the corpus of these foundations continue to grow,” Fryer said.

The committee then heard from Director of Foundation Relations Kathleen Shevlin and director of Youth-Nex Patrick Tolan, who talked about the Compassionate Schools project, which recently received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The presentation came in light of the committee’s request last meeting for a case study on what it’s like to apply for grant funding.

The project is designed to teach children in elementary school skill sets that will help them develop strong health and wellness.

“The goal of what we call this audacious project is to think about transforming health education in elementary schools and to really bring forward 21st century health and wellness skills,” Tolan said. “These are skills that we know will help children in their development, will help society health and workforce needs and will help schools to be places that are more organized … It has potential to have a profound impact.”

Specific skill sets being taught through the project include the ability to understand emotions, focus attention, exercise self-control, understand perspectives from different people and resolve conflict. The project is first being conducted in elementary schools in Louisville, Ky.

Lastly, Mark Luellen, executive vice president of advancement, updated the committee on the philanthropic efforts of the University’s Third Century Capital Campaign. The campaign will start next summer and continue until 2026.

“Last year, our philanthropic cash flow and our commitments were the best year we’d had in a decade. This year is off to a really good start,” Luellen said. “As of the end of October, we are up 70 percent in new commitments and 34 percent in cash.”

Luellen has also created a student advisory committee, which meets once a semester to talk about the campaign and get student feedback. He is also coordinating a session for giving practice pitches to volunteers and potential donors.

The Advancement Committee will meet again in March.