The University of Virginia (U.Va. or UVA) is a public research university and the flagship for the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was founded in 1819 by Declaration of Independence author and former president Thomas Jefferson, and the original campus was built with slave labor. The university is commonly referred to as a “public Ivy” due to the high academic quality and overall prestige. UVA is known for its historic foundations, student-run honor code, and secret societies.
UNESCO designated UVA as America's first collegiate World Heritage Site in 1987, an honor shared jointly with Jefferson's nearby homestead, Monticello. The university's original governing Board of Visitors included Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Monroe was the sitting President of the United States at the time of its foundation. Earlier Presidents Jefferson and Madison were UVA's first two rectors, and Jefferson conceived and designed the original courses of study and Academical Village.
UVA is the first elected member of the research-driven Association of American Universities within the American South, since 1904, and remains the only AAU member in Virginia. The university is classified as a Research University with Very High Research by the Carnegie Foundation, and is considered Virginia's flagship university by the College Board. Its recent research efforts have been recognized by such scientific media as the journal Science, which named UVA faculty as discovering two of its top ten global scientific breakthroughs for 2015. UVA faculty and alumni have also founded a large number of companies, such as Reddit, that produce more than $1.6 trillion in annual revenue, equivalent to the 10th-largest economy in the world.
UVA's academic strength is broad, with 121 majors across the eight undergraduate and three professional schools. Students come to attend the university in Charlottesville from all 50 states and 148 countries. The historic 1,682-acre (2.6 sq mi; 680.7 ha) campus is internationally protected by UNESCO and has been ranked as one of the most beautiful collegiate grounds in the country. UVA additionally maintains 2,913 acres southeast of the city, at Morven Farm. The university also manages the College at Wise in Southwest Virginia, and until 1972 operated George Mason University and the University of Mary Washington in Northern Virginia.
Virginia student athletes compete in 27 collegiate sports and the Cavaliers lead the Atlantic Coast Conference in men's team NCAA championships with 18, additionally placing second in women's national titles with seven. UVA was awarded the men's Capital One Cup in 2015 after fielding the top overall men's athletics program in the nation.