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The University of Virginia’s Democracy Initiative aspires to excellence in integrated research, teaching, and public engagement on democracy at a global scale—bringing together a diverse range of scholars, government leaders, and practitioners to study and advance the prospects of democracy around the world.

Led by UVA’s College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, in partnership with the nonpartisan Miller Center of Public Affairs and in collaboration with colleagues from across the University, the Democracy Initiative was established in 2018 with leadership support from generous donors to the College Foundation and the Jefferson Scholars Foundation. It is designed to engage a wide audience—from undergraduates to world leaders—in examining the challenges confronting democracies today.

Democracy can endure only with a broadly educated electorate and leaders prepared to serve the common good. UVA’s establishment in 1817 is inseparably linked to the nation’s bold experiment with democracy—as well as its unfulfilled promises. In this sense, the University’s history, current efforts, and commitment to the future—like that of the American republic more generally—is both inspiring and challenged, promising and in need of completion. Our history uniquely positions us to be the global center for the study of democracy’s successes and failures, opportunities and threats, and to influence policies that strengthen democracy at home and worldwide.

Most of the 2017-18 academic year was intended for planning. However, in light of the horrific events of August 11 and 12 that took place on our Grounds and in Charlottesville, the College has jump-started this effort with the launch of the Inaugural Democracy Lab on Race, Religion, and Global Democracies.

A call to the faculty for proposals for additional Democracy Labs was issued on October 2, 2017 to stand up labs broader in nature than the Inaugural Democracy Lab. As a result of that process, the lab focused on corruption (formally, The Governance Initiative: Corruption in Institutions, History, and Markets) was announced in April of 2018.

On December 11, 2018, the most recent call for new Democracy Labs (to be launched in 2019) was issued with a due date of March 4, 2019. In addition, on January 8, 2019, the position of Co-Director for Academic Affairs for the Democracy Initiative was posted.  

For additional context about the Democracy Initiative, read the stories in A&S magazine.