February 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 2

download pdfDownload full issue pdf

Sociologist Sullivan Chosen as
First Female UVA President

by Johanna Olexy, ASA Public Information Office


Teresa Sullivan

In January, the University of Virginia (UVA) announced that sociologist Teresa A. Sullivan will become the university’s eighth president—its first female president—as of August 1, 2010. Sullivan was unanimously elected by the 19-member UVA Board of Visitors and will succeed John T. Casteen III, who steps down as president at the end of his 20th year. Sullivan is currently the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan.

Sullivan, a past ASA Secretary and current Executive Office and Budget Member, has more than 15 years of experience as a higher education administrator at large universities. She joined the University of Michigan in 2006, where she also serves as its chief budget officer (see the January 2006 issue of Footnotes). Before her Michigan positions, she spent 27 years at the University of Texas-Austin, and she was named Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Texas University system in 2002. In that role, she was the chief academic officer for the system’s nine academic campuses, with the president of each campus reporting to her. In addition to her faculty position in the department of sociology and later the law school, she held several other administrative positions at Texas including: Vice President and Graduate Dean (1995-2002), Vice Provost (1994-95), Chair of the Department of Sociology (1990-92), and Director of Women’s Studies (1985-87). She received her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1975.

In response to the UVA news, Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan President, said that working with Sullivan has been one of the highlights of her career: "Terry Sullivan is both a distinguished academic and a stellar administrator, known for her sparkling intellect as well as her superb people skills."

Sullivan, who specializes in labor-force demography, oversees $1.5 billion of Michigan’s $5.4-billion annual budget. She has been responsible for sustaining and enhancing the university’s academic teaching, research, and creative excellence. She has 44 direct reports, including deans of 19 schools and colleges as well as the directors of many interdisciplinary institutes and centers. She serves on the board of the health system.

A Jeffersonian School

John O. Wynne, the University of Virginia rector, 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.

Focusing on a financial model that will ensure the long-term health of UVA is among the top priorities identified by the Board of Visitors. Other challenges that Sullivan will tackle in her new role include:

Sullivan said that the University of Virginia appealed to her because of its Jeffersonian values and traditions, its academic reputation, its powerful undergraduate student experience, and its firm commitment to a public mission. "I am honored by the opportunity to lead this University and to follow John Casteen in this role."

The University of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, VA, is ranked 24th overall by the U.S. News & World Report and is Virginia’s higher education flagship institution.

Sociologists as University or
College Presidents

Stepen Ainlay, Union College

Daniel Curran, University of Dayton

Lois B. DeFleur, SUNY-Binghamton

Norman Fainstein, Connecticut College
(President Emeritus, 2001-06)

David Levinson,
Norwalk Community College

Theodore Long, Elizabethtown College

Fred Pestello, Le Moyne College

Graham Spanier,
Pennsylvania State University

Daniel F. Sullivan, St. Lawrence University
(President Emeritus, 1996-2009)

Sullivan and ASA

Besides her academic positions, Sullivan has served
in many important roles in the ASA, including three
years of service as an ASA Secretary (1996-98) and
as a past editor of the Rose Series. At the 2009 ASA
Annual Meeting, she presented a stellar keynote
speech, "Effective Department Leadership During
Uncertain Times: Tools from the Community of
Chairs," at the 16th annual chairs conference
(see www.asanet.org/teaching/apap/

"Terry Sullivan remains a long-standing member of a growing cadre of rising-star sociologists who are changing public discussions on important national policies and who are revamping academic leadership and science leadership in the United States. She and her fellow stars have an important impact at a pivotal time when our discipline is seen as instrumental in strengthening and demographically diversifying the higher education system to meet 21st-century challenges," said ASA Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman in response to the news that one of ASA’s and sociology’s leaders has joined the UVA "presidents club." [See sidebar list of sociologists who are current or former university/college presidents.]

Sullivan’s academic career was influenced by the era in which she grew up. She was raised in the South during the time of desegregation—first in Little Rock, AR, until she was 13, and then in Jackson, MS, until she went to college. "We were all touched by those times. They were what led me to become a sociologist," said Sullivan.

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. 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.

Sullivan is married to Douglas Laycock, who will join the faculty of the University of Virginia School of Law. They have two sons, Joseph and John. small green

Back to Top of Page

Print this article share this article discuss this article

Back to Front Page of Footnotes