Fall 2019 Update

To: W&L Faculty and Staff
From: President Will Dudley
Date: Aug. 28, 2019

As August draws to a close and students return to campus, I am struck by how each school year commences with comforting traditions and routines while also offering fresh opportunities. Among the many joys of this time of year are welcoming new students and colleagues, and embarking on new initiatives-including many that are elements of our Strategic Plan.

The entering undergraduate and law school classes build on recent momentum in measures of both academic strength and diversity. Our 469 incoming undergraduates and 124 first-year law students are joined by 41 new faculty members who share our devotion to the university's core mission of exceptional teaching.

The annual Fall Academy, to which so many faculty and staff members contributed, has been a great opportunity to reflect upon how we teach and to prepare for the start of the term. I am excited to be heading back into the classroom myself, offering a philosophy seminar on virtue ethics and liberal arts education.

Initiatives for 2019-20

The coming year brings some exciting academic initiatives, including the introduction of minors in entrepreneurship, and in law, justice and society, as well as ongoing faculty review of our general education curriculum. We are also pleased to welcome new colleagues who will support our collective efforts to advance key initiatives within our strategic plan:

  • Paul Hanstedt, director of the Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence (CARPE), will collaborate with faculty and staff to develop programming to support teaching and learning;
  • Matthew Loar '07, director of fellowships, will work with students and faculty advisors to help identify and secure fellowship opportunities;
  • Lynn Rainville, director of institutional history, will work with faculty, staff and students to support the teaching and telling of W&L's many stories in a variety of ways.

This year we will also complete our Campus Master Plan, which lays out a thoughtful and sustainable vision for improvements to the facilities that support our work. The first project to be undertaken will be the construction of CARPE, which we anticipate will begin in the summer of 2020.

Sustainability is a priority within both our Strategic Plan and the Campus Master Plan. We are committed to executing major building and renovation projects, including the Richard L. Duchossois Athletic and Recreation Center, to LEED green building standards. But our institutional commitment goes beyond the construction of physical spaces to encompass actions we can take individually and as a community to reduce the university's environmental impact.

With this commitment in mind, I am pleased to announce the approval of an update to W&L's Climate Action Plan, which was developed and recommended by the University Sustainability Committee. The updated plan outlines the steps we will take in the coming decade toward meeting our climate commitment, adopted in 2007, of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Thanks to the good work of the committee and our staff in the offices of university facilities, sustainability and energy education, we have already surpassed our original target of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, achieving a reduction of 34.5% in 2018.

A key to achieving further reductions will be investing in a large-scale renewable energy initiative that will generate energy equal to W&L's total electricity load, which currently accounts for 47% of our total emissions. We are actively pursuing options that would enable us to attain this goal. While such an investment will significantly advance our efforts to attain carbon neutrality, the Climate Action Plan also calls for heightened commitments from departments and individuals across the university, including thoughtful review of purchasing, transportation and sustainable office practices. Last spring we appointed a Waste Minimization Task Force, composed of faculty and staff, to research and examine best practices in this area, develop campus standards and target reductions, and propose a plan to achieve them. We look forward to hearing their recommendations later this year.

Community Events

The Sustainability Committee will provide opportunities to discuss the next steps outlined in the Climate Action Plan in the coming months, and I encourage you to attend those sessions. I also want to draw your attention to two important annual events in the life of the University taking place in the coming week. The Community Breakfast will take place from 8 - 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, Aug. 29, in Evans Hall. And our Fall Convocation will formally kick off the academic year on Wed., Sept. 4, with a featured address by Bob Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor in Political Economy. I hope to see you there.

Summer 2019 Accomplishments

Even as we anticipate the year ahead, I want to recognize and celebrate some of the accomplishments of our community during the past few months.

Anyone who has spent a summer in Lexington knows that it's a season with a rhythm all its own. Students and faculty enjoy opportunities for research, travel, and experiential learning that are difficult to pursue during the academic year. This summer, 162 faculty members received Lenfest grants to further their scholarly work, while 91 students assisted faculty through the Summer Research Scholars program. Johnson Opportunity Grants or Johnson Enhancement Funds were awarded to 125 students to facilitate their independent travel or study, and seven received Student Summer Independent Research grants to explore their own interests with the assistance of a faculty mentor.

Our faculty also participated in several university-sponsored international programs, teaching 20 students in the London Internship Program, five students in the German American Exchange Internship Program, and 17 students in the Cape Town Summer Internship program. Five of the students in the Cape Town Program completed Shepherd internships while in South Africa, and another 41 Shepherd Interns worked in other agencies benefitting under-resourced members of society both domestically and internationally.

One notable group on campus this summer was the cohort of 19 incoming first-year students participating in the Advanced Immersion and Mentoring initiative, which is modeled after the former Advanced Research Cohort (ARC) Program for STEM fields. This summer the program expanded beyond STEM to provide additional academic opportunities in Archaeology; Journalism and Mass Communications; and Theater, Dance and Film. Students also took part in programming on community engagement, experiential learning, leadership, career and professional development, and college success. We anticipate that this inaugural cohort of AIM students will start their college careers well-prepared to be leaders in their class and our community.

The abundant opportunities and support for scholarship, academic travel, and service are just one of the many ways that we distinguish ourselves from our peers. Our University Facilities staff work diligently throughout the summer to make progress on major capital projects around campus, with impressive results. The Duchossois Center is on track for completion a year from now. The Fitness Center has reopened and will remain operational until the end of Winter Term, before closing again in April for final interior work. Woods Creek has now been fully renovated, and these apartments were claimed quickly in the student housing lottery. The new outdoor classroom behind Leyburn Library is available for use beginning this term.

We are fortunate to have extraordinary support from our alumni, nearly half of whom contributed to this year's Annual Fund. In 2018-19, the Annual Fund raised over $10.7 million, the second-highest total ever-funds that directly support nearly everything we do.

It is thanks to the hard work and dedication of all of you, as well as the support of alumni, parents and friends, that we can offer such exceptional teaching, outstanding programs, and modern, sustainable facilities to our students. I am proud of what we are accomplishing together, and I look forward to a productive and successful year ahead.