Fall 2018 Update

To: The W&L Community
From: President Will Dudley
Date: Oct. 31, 2018

I wrote to you earlier this week about the importance of community in a world full of anger and violence. It is easy, when the news brings bad tidings with alarming regularity, to become reactive and to lose sight of the value of our own work. What we do at Washington and Lee matters, and we have much about which to be excited. Today I offer an update on important university initiatives and recent accomplishments that are justifiable sources of pride for our students, faculty and staff.

Strategic Plan

We have begun to implement our new Strategic Plan, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees in May. The plan expresses our institutional priorities and will guide our work over the coming decade, touching almost every area of the university. Together, we will accomplish a great deal in the service of our mission. Among the projects already underway:

  • The newly expanded Office of Inclusion and Engagement is off to a terrific start with a full slate of events across campus, including a community dinner in Sankofa House co-sponsored by the Campus Unity Initiative; a capacity crowd for the annual Parents and Family Weekend reception and dinner, with an international fashion show sponsored by SAIL; and a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration featuring poet, artist and organizer Michael Reyes.
  • Our efforts to recruit a more diverse class continue to yield positive results, with a 28 percent increase in registrations for the Diversity and Inclusion Visit Experience (DIVE) hosted by the admissions office, and a 25 percent increase in Questbridge College Match applicants for the Class of 2023.
  • The Offices of Sustainability and Energy Education hosted an open house to celebrate their new shared space at 21 University Place, while the student residential Sustainability House opened a new community bike shop, offering free and low-cost rentals, lessons on bike maintenance and opportunities for solo and group rides.
  • The Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence (CARPE), which was identified as an important initiative by the task forces on the College, Admissions and Student Life, will provide services to support student success and faculty development. The CARPE Task Force continues to gather input during meetings with stakeholders on campus, including the University Library Committee, the department and program chairs, and various faculty groups. The project will also provide temporary classrooms to facilitate the renovation of both Huntley Hall and the Science Center in coming years. More information will be forthcoming in the near future.
  • Our new undergraduate Legal Studies program takes advantage of our distinctive curricular structure by involving faculty from all three academic units within the university. The program will begin offering courses for students in Fall Term next year.

I invite you to learn more about the initiatives endorsed in the plan and their implementation during our Strategic Plan Town Hall Meeting tomorrow, Nov. 1, from 9:45-11:15 in Stackhouse Theater. There will be plenty of opportunity for Q&A.

A comprehensive master plan for our physical campus is one critical component of the Strategic Plan. We have engaged the architectural planning firm Sasaki to lead our community in this work. As a follow-up to the Strategic Plan Town Hall, there will be a Community Forum on the Campus Master Plan on Dec. 5, from 7-8 p.m. in the Hillel Multipurpose Room. Representatives from Sasaki and the Campus Master Planning Task Force will engage attendees in a discussion about the future of our campus. I hope you will make time to attend both meetings.

Quality Enhancement Plan:

The QEP Team has launched a website to collect your ideas for the Advanced Immersion and Mentoring (AIM) program, a five-week summer initiative which will support students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. Modeled after the Advanced Research Cohort (ARC) Program for STEM fields, AIM will be expanded to include all disciplines and engage faculty and students in advising and mentoring beyond the initial summer experience in their second, third and fourth years at W&L. Team co-chairs Helen I'Anson and Megan Hobbs are soliciting ideas for additional academic cohorts to begin this summer (apply by Nov. 12), or in future summers (apply by Dec. 7).

The Commission on Institutional History and Community:

We have had several candid community conversations since my response to the Commission Report in late August, and I encourage you to join me for the next scheduled conversation on Mon., Nov. 5, at 9:45 a.m. in the Hillel Multipurpose Room. In the meantime, I offer the following updates:

  • The Board of Trustees made several decisions related to the report during its October meeting, which were shared with you in a communication from me and Rector Don Childress. We have since been working to enact these changes. An 1866 portrait of Robert E. Lee as president of Washington College by J. Reid is now in place in Lee Chapel. The Charles Willson Peale portrait of Washington will continue to hang in the chapel until a portrait of Washington as President of the United States of suitable size and quality can be located. The Pine and Peale portraits will be displayed in the new university museum when it is completed. Doors to the statue chamber are now closed during university events, and the names of Chavis Hall and Simpson House will be reflected in signage and campus publications by the end of November. Dedication ceremonies for both buildings will be held this spring.
  • The search for the Director of Institutional History is underway, led by a committee composed of faculty and senior administrators, chaired by Law Dean Brant Hellwig, with the assistance of the national search firm Storbeck Pimentel & Associates. The committee will provide more information about this important search, as well as opportunities for feedback with regard to the qualities we seek in a successful candidate, in the coming weeks.
  • The Working Group on the History of African Americans at W&L is now co-chaired by Michael Hill, professor of Africana Studies, and Barton Myers, associate professor of history. The working group conducted the initial research on the enslaved men and women who were owned and then sold by Washington College in the mid-19th century, which led to the memorial to those individuals. The working group is continuing that research, exploring options to expand the memorial, and developing projects related to the history of African Americans at W&L in the 20th century.

Recent Highlights:

  • Nadia Ayoub, associate professor of biology, has received a National Science Foundation grant of $302.674 to support her research into how variations in adhesive-protein components of spider silk relate to differences in the glue's material properties. The grant will facilitate her ongoing work with Kyle Friend in the Chemistry Department, who co-authored part of the grant proposal, as well as colleagues from Virginia Tech and the American Museum of Natural History, and support additional undergraduate research opportunities here on campus.
  • W&L accounting graduates secured the highest pass rate of any U.S. institution in the Certified Public Accountant examination in 2017, with 89.5 percent passing one or more sections on their first attempt.
  • W&L Law graduates' first-time passage rate for the Virginia Bar was 96.55 percent, the highest percentage of all law schools in Virginia. The passage rate for the New York Bar, the second most popular exam for our law graduates, was 100 percent.
  • Both the men's and women's cross country teams claimed their fourth consecutive ODAC titles this weekend. Men's and women's soccer, field hockey and volleyball will compete in ODAC tournaments next weekend.

Congratulations to the students and faculty whose hard work produced such outstanding results.

For my part, fall term has kept me busy, both in the classroom and on the road, visiting alumni chapters in Pittsburgh, Boston, Raleigh and Winston-Salem/Greensboro. By winter break I will have added Denver, Seattle, Cincinnati and Louisville, completing a nationwide tour of our largest 40 chapters, which are collectively home to over 75 percent of our alumni.

One of the pleasures of this work is witnessing the enduring enthusiasm of our graduates across the country for W&L. That enthusiasm plays out in their engagement with our students and faculty here on campus, through events like the reading and classroom visits by 2018 National Book Award Finalist Rebecca Makkai '99; the Earle Bates Lecture in Environmental Studies by Matt Strickler '03, Virginia's secretary of natural resources; the Watson Pavilion's exhibit on "Ancient Inspirations: The Pueblo Pottery of Lorraine Gala Lewis and LaDonna Victoriano," featuring talks by the artists and alumnus Joel Bernstein '57, whose collection made the exhibit possible, and who has established a generous scholarship endowment at W&L with a preference to support underrepresented populations on campus; the Journalism Department's Women Watching Wall Street panel and lunch with seven alumnae who cover Wall Street; the University Singers' Fall Choral Concert, directed by Morgan Luttig '14; the 14th National Symposium of Theater and Performance Arts in Academe, featuring the work of several of our faculty, as well as a documentary on life in rural Nepal by Sarah Helms ‘15; the seventh annual Entrepreneurship Summit, which brought over 100 alumni to campus in September; and this weekend's third annual Social Impact Summit, featuring keynotes and panel discussions with alumni pursuing careers in social innovation and responsible leadership.

We often talk about our distinctive curriculum in terms of liberal arts and pre-professional programs, but the wide variety of expertise and experience on display here on campus in the past month are an important reminder that every academic discipline is actively engaged in educating the leaders of tomorrow. It is gratifying to see our alumni return to campus to inspire our current students. Our mission statement calls us to prepare students for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society. The steps we take in the coming months and years will strengthen the university in the service of that mission, which is work about which we can be proud and excited. I look forward to undertaking it together with you.