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Abstract Architecture

UVA / A-School Lingo

by Nina Accousti, B.S. Arch '26

At the University of Virginia, we have lots of lingo. This is a (somewhat pretentious) way to connect the student body, but it can be super confusing for new students. Never fear! AIAS has curated a list of the most common general UVA lingo you might need to know, as well as some A-School specific terms.

NOT Campus”

You will get teased by your UVA friends if you say “Campus” around here. Students refer to this space as the “Grounds.”

“First year, second year, third year, fourth year”

Instead of using freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, we use the year numbers. When founding the university, Thomas Jefferson wanted to emphasize that one’s education doesn’t simply end at graduation. Using years was meant to emphasize that one is never truly done learning, it is a journey you embark on for the rest of your life.

“What school are you in?”

In my first few weeks here, I kept getting this question and it completely threw me off. Confused, I nervously answered “Ummm UVA?” As it turns out, UVA has 7 internal schools. They are the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, School of Nursing, School of Education and Human Development, McIntire School of Commerce, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and lastly, the School of Architecture (which I hear just pumps out a lot of really cool people, that’s just the word on the street though).

“I’m in the A-school”
“I’m in the E-school”

These are our nicknames for the School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, respectively. This is just to avoid saying those long names to save time (you know how busy UVA students are, we love efficiency).

“I’m in the College”

The College of Arts and Sciences is often shortened to just “the College.” You will hear this a lot because it houses about half of the undergraduate population with its 53 majors.

“I’m in the A-school”
“I’m in the E-school”

These are our nicknames for the School of Architecture and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, respectively. This is just to avoid saying those long names to save time (you know how busy UVA students are, we love efficiency).


This stands for Contracted Independent Organization, but that isn’t too helpful in explaining what it means. It is UVA fancy pants talk for “club.” UVA has a wide variety of clubs that can fit any of your interests and identity! The title of Contracted Independent Organization connects back to student self-governance, which is a huge part of UVA student culture. Most of the CIOs were created by students and all of them were approved by our student council. The term CIO just highlights student agency in the landscape of clubs and student activities. That is what we are!


This is a comprehensive document created by a professor of a class. It typically will contain a class description, professor contact information, grading guidelines (aka how to get an A+), and a semester-long schedule. The schedule will break down what you will be learning each week in lecture and also tells you when exams, papers, and projects are due. Sometimes Syllabi change over the course of the semester ( if this happens the professors are usually pretty good at sending out updated versions), but this is a good way to get a sense of what the workload will look like. It will also help you prepare for exams in advance. No surprises!

“T.A., SRA, SIA”

This stands for teaching assistant. The TAs will attend the lecture and lead discussion sections (see “Lecture vs. Discussion section”). This is normally a Ph.D. student studying in the field that pertains to the class or an upperclassman who has taken the class before. They are more available than professors and are a great resource if you need advice or have questions in the class. They are also the ones who may grade your exams, papers, and projects for the class, so it is worth it to go to their office hours! (see “Office Hours”)
SRA stands for Student Research Assistant and SIA for Student Instructional Assistant (the same as TA). 

“Office Hours”

These are times when a professor or TA are required to stay in a designated office or meeting area. They sit there and wait for students to come with questions. They are a great way to better connect with them and gain valuable mentorship from them. At the start of the semester, the professors and TAs will tell you when they hold office hours. It is typically at the same times each week so it is easy to remember. If you do forget when office hours are though, they are also typically found on the class syllabus.

Lecture vs. Discussion section

Classes will require you to go to a lecture and discussion section, but what is the difference? At a lecture, everyone in the class will gather to listen to the professor teach class content. You will meet with a smaller group of students at another point in the week to talk about or analyze what was taught during lecture. This small group is called a discussion section. The professor is not present for the induvial discussion sections. Sections are led by teaching assistants (see “TA”).


This is the online site that UVA students use to sign up for classes and build your schedule. Even before you come to UVA you can look through the course options in each department to see what we offer and what field of study you might be interested in. There is an academic progress report you can view to see your progress and what classes you'll need to take.

“The Course Forum”

This is like a UVA-specific version of the website “Rate my professor.” Here you can read what other students have thought about particular classes and professors to get an idea of how you want to build your schedule. Keep in mind, the people whoa re most likely to post reviews on the Course Forum are people who had polarizing or passionate opinions about the class, so I find ratings are often varied. Trust reviews at your own discretion.


This is what we call students who live on the lawn. Currently, the lawn rooms are home to some of UVA’s most involved students. The rooms directly on the lawn are called lawn rooms. These are only available to fourth-year students. The rooms along the outer streets are called range rooms, which are available for graduate-level students. It is considered an honor to be selected to live in the lawn and range rooms, but it is a questionable honor at that. These rooms do not have a connected bathroom, AC, laundry, or kitchen space.

“The Corner”

This is what we call the row of shops and restaurants on Main Street across from the rotunda. This is a great place to get lunch and treat yourself after working hard. The corner is home to the famous Charlottesville Bodos bagels which are so so delicious. Luckily the A-school is nice and close to the corner so you can grab a bagel after working hard in class.



One of my favorite design feature of the A-school is its walls. Almost all of the walls also function as push-pin boards so students can hang up their work. A Pin-up is when a class of students will pin their projects and drawings onto the wall with push-pins so the class can admire and discuss them. Pin-ups usually happen at the end of a project when it is due.

“Desk Crit”

This is short for desk critique. Critiques are a big part of the A-school work process. This is not meant to be a negative time. It is to provide students with positive feedback, advice, and constructive criticism. A desk crit normally comes about halfway through a project as a progress update. Your professor or TA will see you form your ideas and get insight into your process, so they can better understand your final product or guide you in a new direction if needed.

The Naug

Pronounced: Nawg. This is the open space in the middle of Campbell hall that spans the first and second floors. It is usually used during pin-ups (see “pin-ups”) or as a general meeting space. Sometimes after events, there will be leftover free food. If you ever get an email about food in the Naug, run over there quickly. It usually runs out fast! (You know how much college kids love free food)

“North Terrace”

This is the outside space right next to the Naug (see “The Naug”). It is a brick patio. It is also used as a gathering space for events or a display space for studio models. It looks out over the rest of the arts grounds.


Stands for School of Architecture Seminars. This is a one-credit class that first-year A-Schoolers are required to take. The first-year class is grouped into sections that are each led by a different professor at the school. Your SARC Sem is highly dependent on which professor you are paired with, as each will design their own courses. This is meant to be an exploratory class with an emphasis on mentorship with your transition into architecture school.

“The Fab Lab”

This is short for the Fabrication Lab (but I like to think of it as the Fabulous Lab). This is located on the west side of Campbell Hall and was recently renovated and expanded. This is a workshop space do you can make all of your modeling visions come to fruition! There you will have access to every fabrication tool under the sun, including woodshop tools, laser printers, 3D Printers, and a CNC router. In the first semester of your first year, everyone is required to take Fab Lab training so you know how to all the equipment.


A plotter is essentially a large printer. It allows you to create “plots” which are large pieces of paper to display your architectural drawings, diagrams, and descriptions.

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