To: The University Community
From: President Ruscio
Date: Sept. 7, 2011
As in the past, I have taken this time at the start of the academic year to provide an overview of the issues and the challenges we face. Each of us in our respective areas will have specific goals and objectives, but I ask us all to be mindful of the overarching agenda for the University. Washington and Lee remains unusually fortunate. Our students are exceptional in every respect. Our faculty are dedicated to their professions and the welfare of the students they teach. Our staff are skilled and accomplished. Our friends and alumni are devoted and generous. The University has faced and will continue to face difficult choices, but we have opportunities ahead of us. We approach the year with a carefully balanced sense of ambition and discipline.
In academic affairs, the revitalized Spring Term and the revised School of Law curriculum are now well into their implementation stages. The number of innovative Spring Term courses continues to grow - innovative not only for the topics they cover but also for the methods of instruction. The School of Law is advancing a model for legal education that thoughtfully integrates all three years and culminates in a final year that serves as a bridge to a rapidly changing profession. In addition, a committee consisting of faculty from each of the three schools will plan the future of the Roger Mudd Center for the Study of Professional Ethics made possible by a generous gift from our alumnus. And, finally, the planning for the Center for Global Learning will bring sharper definition to the initiative in international education thoughtfully developed by a committee comprising faculty, staff and students over the past two years.
This year we will also carefully blend our several distinct capital projects into a comprehensive vision for future campus development. Besides planning for the Center for Global Learning to be housed in duPont Hall as well as the Lewis Hall addition, we will turn our attention to a new indoor athletic and recreation facility. A task force is working with a design firm to identify the options and fit them within the capital campaign goal of $50 million for the facility. When it is completed, the quality of our indoor facilities will equal that of our outdoor facilities, which are among the best nationally. It will further strengthen an athletic and recreation program that benefits all members of the community, not just our student-athletes.
While each of these capital projects requires its own independent analysis, we also need to identify ways they can reinforce each other and contribute to a comprehensive plan. And this year, the Colonnade restoration moves into Washington Hall.
Student and Residential Life
In student life, we will give even greater emphasis to leadership and individual development in a number of areas and explore ways to enhance our support of the academic mission. Education occurs every day outside the classroom, and we want to impress upon students their responsibilities to each other and to the communities of Lexington and Rockbridge County. One specific priority this year is planning for improvements in campus housing and residential programs as outlined in the University's strategic plan. A task force will analyze the financial resources and the designs, against the backdrop of reinforcing the lessons students learn from living as independent and responsible adults.
The capital campaign Honor Our Past, Build Our Future enters the second year of its public phase. Through the impressive and indispensable generosity of alumni and friends, we have raised nearly $343 million towards the ambitious $500 million goal, a pace that bodes extremely well for our ultimate success when the campaign concludes in 2015. In the midst of the details and specific priorities, we should keep in mind the spirit of the campaign, which is to build upon the University's strengths to create a model for liberal arts education in the 21st century. I will visit several alumni chapters this year to explain the campaign and the University's vision for the future.
Related to the campaign but also for reasons that go well beyond it, we will continue to build our external and internal communications through use of the web and social media.
The University's national profile continues to rise, and while we do not let rankings divert us from purposes meaningful to us, we are gratified that the University is recognized by many publications as one of the nation's leading universities.
Always high on our agenda is building a campus community that supports the personal and professional development of all our employees. The strategic plan identified needed improvements in compensation and benefits, and we continue to keep those objectives prominent in our planning. Creating a campus climate of respect, compassion and mutual support requires policies and practices. It also requires personal commitment from every individual. In addition, our plans for energy conservation - this year we will install the state's largest solar-energy project and our energy education program has already resulted in reduced energy consumption overall - enable us to practice a model of concern for others, today and in the future, that we hope our students will carry with them long after they graduate.
Finally, this will be a year once again of disciplined financial planning. All of us are aware of the volatility and uncertainty we face planning our own futures. We are also mindful of the impacts of recent economic trends on our students and their families. Guiding the allocation of our financial resources is an understanding of what is essential to our mission of educating students for lives of purpose. Increases in tuition and fees will once again be greatly constrained, even as we seek to strengthen financial aid and meet the full need of every admitted undergraduate student without asking them to incur the kind of debt so burdensome to young people beginning their careers. And while our endowment continues to gain strength, relative to other institutions and to where it was before the economic downturn, the economic indicators are still pushing us towards caution. Still, we have definite needs and we will work closely with the Board of Trustees to assess our capacity to advance strongly the goals of our strategic plan.
As always, I am grateful for the commitment of all members of the community. I wish each of you well during the academic year and thank you for your continued support of the University's mission.
My very best wishes for the year to come.