For more than four decades, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation has served a mission to identify, attract, and nurture individuals of extraordinary intellectual range and depth who aim to enhance the University community.

In 2012, the Foundation underscored this mission by launching the Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professorship Program. Designed to help UVA attract the world’s most outstanding professors, the Distinguished Professorship Program supports nationally and internationally recognized scholars and leaders in their fields, known for their superior abilities as both classroom teachers and innovative researchers. With nearly $170 million in endowed funds supporting this effort, the Foundation has been able to attract outstanding talent to the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Education and Human Development, the Darden School of Business, the Law School, the McIntire School of Commerce, and the School of Medicine.

Meet the professors

Jianhua “JC” Cang

Paul T. Jones II Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor

Department of Biology, Department of Psychology

Professor Cang joined the faculty in fall 2017. He helps lead UVA’s brain-science research with joint appointments in the Departments of Biology and Psychology. His research focuses on two brain structures in the visual system—the cortex and the superior colliculus—as he works to identify treatments for visual impairments.

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Danielle Citron

Jefferson Scholars Foundation Schenck Distinguished Professor in Law

School of Law

Professor Citron joined the faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law in 2021. An award-winning author, a pioneering professor, and a privacy expert, Citron will continue her work at UVA on information privacy, free expression, and civil rights.

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Christa Dierksheide

Brockman Foundation Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor

Corcoran Department of History

Professor Dierksheide joined the faculty in spring 2019. Her research focuses on the political thought of Thomas Jefferson, race and slavery, and the legacy of the founding generation.

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Dorothy Leidner

Leslie H. Goldberg Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor in Business Ethics

McIntire School of Commerce

Professor Leidner joined the faculty at McIntire in January 2023. Her work focuses on the multifaceted impact of information systems and technologies on individuals, organizations, and society.

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Kevin Pelphrey

Harrison-Wood Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor

School of Medicine and School of Education and Human Development

Professor Pelphrey joined the faculty in fall 2018. His research uses brain science to develop biologically based tools for detection and stratification and individually tailored treatments for individuals with autism.

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Vivian Riefberg

David Walentas Jefferson Scholars Foundation Distinguished Professor

Darden School of Business

Professor Riefberg joined the faculty at Darden in fall 2020. She is a global thought leader in health care and women’s leadership and has spent over three decades at McKinsey & Co., where she was most recently a senior partner in the Washington, D.C. office.

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“Our hope is that these professorships will allow the university to attract a community of leading scholars and teachers—people who are not only superior classroom teachers but also outstanding researchers. The impact they will have on our students and on the university as a whole is going to be significant.” Jimmy Wright, President, Jefferson Scholars Foundation

The University and the Foundation expect the holders of the Professorships to be:

  • Nationally and internationally recognized scholars and leaders
  • Superior classroom teachers who are eager to engage with students
  • Dynamic lecturers
  • Leading-edge researchers in their fields
  • Willing to participate actively in the Foundation community by serving on selection committees, attending Foundation events, and helping the Foundation recruit Scholars and Fellows
  • Individuals whose presence on the faculty will help attract other outstanding colleagues to UVA
  • Individuals who embrace interdisciplinary collaboration and recognize its value to the creation of new knowledge
  • Active in, and involved citizens of, the University community



The Foundation supports world-class graduate students through Jefferson Fellowships and National Fellowships.

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Distinguished Professorships

Learn more about the Foundation’s Professorship Program.

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The Jefferson Scholarship and the Walentas Scholarship are the premier undergraduate scholarships at the University of Virginia.

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