Robert Pianta, who has led the School of Education and Human Development since 2007, will step down as dean at the end of the coming academic year, he announced in an email this week.
“After almost 14 years it is time for me to focus on other things for a bit,” he wrote.
Pianta has spent his entire academic career at UVA, joining the faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor. His research focuses on the intersection of education and human development. He founded the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at UVA in 2005 and has led research and development of widely used measurement tools and interventions that help teachers interact with students more effectively.
In his announcement, Pianta wrote that he will take a sabbatical, during which he hopes to get back to thinking and writing about connections between education and human development. He wrote that he’s proud of what the school has accomplished, largely through the “creativity and collaboration” of faculty, students, staff and alumni.
He pointed to expanded academic programs, scholarships, and partnerships and “commitments to action that have included a wider and more diverse set of people and communities” as particular achievements.
Under his leadership, the school, which had been largely focused on graduate education, expanded its undergraduate portfolio. It also soared in the U.S. News and World Report national rankings, from 35 to 15.
“Bob has been an exceptional dean—he and the faculty and staff have nurtured collaborations, expanded access and deepened excellence,” Provost Elizabeth Magill (Law ’95) said. “National recognition is just one measure of the impact of these efforts.”
Pianta also initiated the process that led the school to drop the name of J.L.M. Curry, who was an advocate of free public education for all children, but also opposed integrated schools and contributed to the institution of enslavement by serving the Confederacy during the Civil War.
“At this school of education and human development, part of our educational process involves recognizing our history and using that recognition to shape a better future,” he said when the Board of Visitors voted to rename the school in September 2020.
As for the school’s future, Pianta wrote:
“From my perspective, this transition is an opportunity for the school to deepen its commitment to excellence, impact, equity and innovation.”