Jefferson Trust Awards Grants to A-School Faculty Fostering Conservation, Stewardship, and Discovery


The Jefferson Trust Board of Trustees has awarded $1.4 million to 17 new projects and programs for their 2023-2024 grant cycle.

“Given the volume of requests we received this year, I couldn’t be more pleased with the scope of projects and programs the Trustees ultimately funded,” says Brent Percival, Executive Director of the Jefferson Trust. “The Trust made fourteen Annual Cycle grants each of the past two years. This year, we have 17, which speaks to the Trustees desire to maximize the limited funding available to impact as many parts of the University community as possible”.

“This Annual Cycle started with 123 letters of inquiry and resulted in 17 grants,” shares Amy Bonner, Director of Grants. “While I wish we could fund them all, this is a great step toward our vision of seeing every great idea at UVA come to fruition”.

This year’s proposals and subsequent grants ranged from community impact measures to unique student projects, to translational research, illustrating the vibrancy that exists across the University. Three projects housed within the School of Architecture were selected for awards by the Jefferson Trust with a focus on conservation and stewardship of our natural resources, and empowering youth to discover ways of seeing through design.

Forest Patches Tim Beatley
UVA students volunteer on Grounds for a planting day, part of a larger student-led management initiative to restore urban forest patches. Photo: Tim Beatley


Center for Forest Urbanism: $86,000

Tim Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities
JD Brown, Biophilic Cities Program Manager

A new pan-university research and policy center focused on the conservation of urban trees and forests, the center will engage a range of disciplines, expertise, and partners across Grounds, and nationally, to gather insights from innovative city best practices, law, policy, economics, and science.

The central focus of the Center for Forest Urbanism will be to understand the drivers of urban tree and forest declines and to build an interdisciplinary, responsive approach to the effective protection and conservation of this valuable nature-based infrastructure. To gain this understanding the initiative will host a series of curated discussions to engage multiple disciplines in critical questions regarding urban forestry. These forums will highlight insights, theories, and literature of multiple disciples related to the causes of and solutions to urban tree loss, including: law, public policy, economics, architecture, environmental science, sociology, and psychology.

Center researchers will visit sites that are leading examples of innovative forest management practice, and engage students as informed advocates for urban forestry through a series of programs from an urban forestry studio to student-led management of forest patches on Grounds.

The Dell Photo by S. Suchak
The Dell on UVA Grounds. Photo: Sanjay Suchak (University Communications).


Gardening Grounds — Envisioning Alternate Paradigms and Practices of Landscape Care at UVA: $30,000

Chloe Hawkins, Lecturer in Landscape Architecture

A collaborative research project, involving Landscape Architecture and Architecture graduate students, explores how the design and care of planted landscapes across Grounds can be adapted to sustain greater biodiversity, spark awareness and foster stewardship of the mutual relationship between landscape health and human well-being.

This initiative develops a new paradigm of landscape care across UVA Grounds through site-specific pilot projects. UVA students will collaborate with staff members from the Grounds department and UVA Facilities and Landscape Architecture leadership to understand the existing values, contexts and resources that guide landscape maintenance while identifying areas for change and innovation in their landscape care practices. Subjects for landscape maintenance innovation will include preserving biodiversity, climate resilience, aesthetics, natural resource protection, horticultural staff and expertise, and cultivating relationships between communities and environments.

Through this project, students will have the rare opportunity to deeply engage with professionals working in landscape care, while grappling with the relationships between design aspirations and maintenance realities.

Key Project Collaborators:

UVA Office of the Architect (Rachel Lloyd, Senior Landscape Architect; Helen Wilson, Senior Landscape Architect)

UVA Grounds Department (Lorenzo Brown, Senior Landscaper + Team Lead; James Covert, Horticultural Specialist; Em Ford, Plant Health Specialist; Richard Hopkins, Associate Director of Grounds; Karl Quimby, Horticultural Specialist)

University of Virginia's College at Wise (Ryan D. Huish, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Biology)

Graduate Students in the Gardening Grounds Research Studio (Maggie Cambell, Angelica Graham, Greta Mattheis, Julia Moore, Celina Qui, Christopher Seacord, Suzy Su, Yichen Wan, Julia West, Xuanqi Yan)

Design Discovery Tom Daly
2023 Summer Design Discovery Youth Program participants collectively share the products of a hands-on design and fabrication spoon-making workshop. Photo: Tom Daly


Design Discovery Youth Summer Program: $86,300

Kyle Sturgeon, Design Discovery Director

Hosted by the UVA School of Architecture, Design Discovery is a six-day summer program bringing high school students to Grounds to explore design and related professions, through academic and real-world settings.

In summer 2024, the Design Discovery Youth Summer Program will embark on its second year hosting high school students at the School of Architecture — introducing them to design as an empowering way of seeing and working in the world. The program's mission is to make design accessible, facilitate remarkable learning experiences, and create positive impact for all who engage the program. 

Youth participants build collaboration skills and learn through making in an immersive, workshop-based studio environment. The program also raises awareness of career pathways within the design professions through real-world engagement.

The proposed program model, through support from the Jefferson Trust grant, will serve 40 youth participants and waive tuition for 20 participants from low-income families. It will create fellowship positions for 6 current UVA students who will participate in the program as teaching fellows.

The Jefferson Trust makes grants to innovative ideas that enrich the University of Virginia and the student experience. Founded by the University of Virginia Alumni Association in 2006, this donor-led organization has invested over $14.3 million in student, faculty, and staff ideas, supporting the people and projects that strengthen the University of Virginia. Through its two grant cycles, The Trust will seek to award at least $1.5 million in 2024. 

For more information on the Jefferson Trust, visit

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