Since UVA’s beginnings in 1819, it has been rich in traditions that students still participate in today.
Many traditions have a historical basis on Grounds. These have been around for ages and are a staple of UVA culture.
As part of his vision for UVA, Thomas Jefferson wanted students and professors to live as neighbors, to bridge the gap between academic life and student life. Professors would live in the pavilions located around the Lawn, and students would live in the rooms surrounding the Lawn. Also home to the Rotunda, the Lawn is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site located at a college in the United States. The University Guide Service offers historical tours to illuminate the University’s long history and tell the stories of those who built the foundations of UVA. To this day, students and professors still live on the Lawn, showing that this tradition has embedded itself into student life at UVA. You can find the Lawn at the center of student life on Grounds and a few of your classmates in the M.S. in Commerce Program living on the Range. Conveniently, Rouss & Robertson Halls, where classes are held, is located at the south end of the Lawn, making it an excellent location for students to take a quick study break outside when the weather is nice.
Secret societies have a long history at UVA. These societies engage in traditions and activities unique to each of their organizations and often donate money to support different clubs and institutions at the University. They also often honor students who aren’t in those societies by inviting them to dinners or recognizing them with letters. You can find many of their logos painted around prominent walking spaces on Grounds. The McIntire School of Commerce even has one of its own that offers awards to students at the end of each year!
A staple at UVA, the Honor Code states that students will never lie, cheat, or steal. This code is in place to this day, and many students leave their belongings around Grounds or are given take-home exams since the community of trust is so strong here. The Honor Code was previously a single-sanction system, which meant expulsion for those found guilty of a violation. Students have recently voted to remove the single sanction, demonstrating the power of student self-governance. You can learn more about the Honor Code here or during a tour.
Convocation and Final Exercises
Finally, Convocation and Final Exercises are two traditions you’ll experience with your classmates. At the beginning of their time at UVA, all new students are invited to Convocation, during which they sign the Honor Code and are inducted into the University community. Convocation takes place facing the Rotunda. At the end of their time at UVA, students graduate and face Old Cabell Hall, away from the Rotunda, after walking the Lawn. The tradition symbolizes taking the knowledge they’ve learned at UVA (represented by the Rotunda, which used to be a library) and using it to make a difference in the world (symbolized by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are located behind Old Cabell Hall). This tradition is a great way to finish your time at UVA with friends you’ve made at the School.
While UVA has a rich history, in recent years, it has added many traditions that have quickly become popular among the University community.
Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn (TOTOTL)
On the Thursday of Halloween Weekend, families in Charlottesville bring their kids and dress up in costumes to go trick-or-treating on the Lawn. This is my absolute favorite event of the year, and it is a nice way to bridge the UVA and Charlottesville communities.
Lighting of the Lawn (LOTL)
Perhaps the most significant event that takes place every year, Lighting of the Lawn (LOTL) started after 9/11 to bring the community together. The event has since transformed into the huge light show that it is today. LOTL features events at the South Lawn and a capella performances until the light show at night’s end. This is another favorite event of mine (even though I’m biased, since I was on the committee to plan this). If a friend of yours in the program lives in a Lawn Range room, this is a night when they very well may throw a get-together with the program before attending the show.
Rotunda Sing is the first event that happens on Grounds, taking place during Welcome Week and featuring performances from every a capella group. UVA is well regarded for its a capella groups, and it’s a great way to spend time with new friends in the M.S. in Commerce Program.
SpringFest is the major event that takes place in the spring semester. Hosted by UPC, the event offers free food to students and features musical performances in the University amphitheater. It’s an excellent way to celebrate the nice weather after the cold winter months.
4th Year 5k
The Peer Health Educators host the hugely popular 4th Year 5k, which takes place across Grounds on the morning of the last home football game of the year and concludes at the Lawn, where snacks are available for racers. The event’s male and female winners are honored at the football game, later that day. The 4th year 5k is a great way to end a fun football season (the shirts are also famously nice)!
Pancakes for Parkinson’s
During Pancakes for Parkinson’s, student volunteers cook pancakes to raise funds for the the Michael J. Fox Foundation. This event, which takes place on the Lawn, often features UVA President Ryan cooking pancakes alongside students and is a great way to be charitable and spend time with friends.
These are just a few of the long list of traditions you can expect to participate in at UVA. A more exhaustive list is linked here if you care to explore the different traditions UVA offers.