Winter 2019 Update

To: The W&L Community
From: President Will Dudley
Date: Feb. 25, 2019

As we head into the second half of Winter Term, I write with my quarterly update on issues and events of interest to our campus community.

First, a brief update on early initiatives from our Strategic Plan:

  • CARPE: The Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence has moved into the design phase. Located on floors 1 and 2 of Leyburn Library, CARPE will be a centerpiece of 21st-century teaching and learning at W&L.
  • Legal Studies: The Law, Justice and Society program will offer a new minor, bringing together the Law School, Williams School and College in a curricular concept unlike what any other liberal arts college can offer. The program will focus on the philosophical, historical and cultural elements of law, and on the legal dimensions of civic, commercial and professional life. The first students will enroll this fall.
  • Outdoor Classroom: Next fall, the Dell below Leyburn Library will allow faculty to bring the environment into their teaching and bring students into an energizing learning space. The new outdoor classroom will incorporate wireless technology, writing surfaces and interactive furniture to encourage group work and dynamic teaching methods.
  • Master Planning: Work continues with Sasaki Associates to coordinate the elements of our strategic plan as they affect our campus. This includes sequencing the various capital projects based on physical dependencies and fundraising opportunities. Construction will begin with CARPE, which will provide classrooms that enable the subsequent renovation of Huntley Hall. The Huntley designs are nearly complete and include classrooms, seminar rooms and learning spaces to support the work of our Williams School faculty and students.
  • Institutional History: Four candidates for our new Director of Institutional History position are visiting campus this month. The first two finalists gave public presentations on Feb. 14 and 15. The other two finalists will present in Stackhouse Theater on Feb. 26 and 27 from 12 - 1 p.m.
  • Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): A reaccreditation team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will be on campus March 26-28 to focus on our QEP, "Bridge to the Colonnade: The Advanced Immersion and Mentoring (AIM) program." The AIM initiative will build upon the former STEM-ARC program to provide immersive summer experiences across the liberal arts for incoming students, offer leadership opportunities for first- and second-year students and engage faculty and professional staff in conversations about their roles in intentionally mentoring all our students. QEP co-chairs Helen I'Anson and Megan Hobbs will give you opportunities to learn more about this important program in advance of the SACS visit.

The SACS on-site visit is just one of several important campus events next month:

  • On March 1-2, we will host our annual Institute for Honor Symposium, "Civility and Public Discourse," featuring a keynote address by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will, talks by professors Robin LeBlanc and Michael Hill and a panel discussion.
  • On March 3-4, the Admissions Office will host 130 finalists for the Johnson Scholarship Selection weekend. Our early admissions cycle saw a 7 percent increase in applications over last year. 249 students were admitted through Early Decision and the QuestBridge program. This group draws from 32 states, 10 foreign countries, and includes increases in underrepresented and first-generation students. Just 4.5 percent of applicants for the Johnson Scholarship were selected as finalists and represent a similarly diverse group of talented students. I know you will join me in welcoming them to campus.
  • On March 8-9 we will host Black Alumni Reunion, a two-day event that will include panel discussions, networking and social events. A ceremonial dedication of Chavis Hall will take place on Saturday from 1:30-2 p.m., which the entire university community is invited to attend. A brochure about John Chavis and the history of the building is available online. The dedication of Simpson House is scheduled for May 4 as part of Reunion Weekend.
  • On March 15-16, we will hold the bi-annual Science, Society and the Arts conference, with a keynote address by sculptor and illustrator Gary Staab. In book and film colloquia, poster and paper presentations, and performances, our students will showcase their work in a variety of media and disciplines for the benefit of the campus community. I encourage you to attend as many of the events as you can.

While there is much to look forward to next month, I do not want to lose sight of the exciting events, big and small, that have marked our term thus far:

January kicked off with a series of Enrichment Week events, organized by Human Resources, for faculty and staff. The Office of Inclusion and Engagement hosted a successful series honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including an inspiring keynote address by the Rev. Dr. William Barber. Christy Coleman, CEO of the American Civil War Museum, reflected on responsive and responsible leadership as the featured speaker on Founders Day in Lee Chapel, where we also recognized this year's student and honorary inductees into ODK. The Lenfest Center brought actor Julian Sands to Lexington to deliver a one-man celebration of playwright Harold Pinter, while 16 local restaurants participated in the seventh annual Souper Bowl in Evans Hall, raising over $10,000 from 600 patrons for the Campus Kitchen backpack program, which serves over 750 pre-k, elementary and middle school students in the Rockbridge area. And the Hub drew over 70 students to game night at Lee House.

February has been just as busy, with a vibrant slate of events for Black History Month, including a discussion with Professor Michael Hill on Black Wall Street and the annual student-organized Black Poetry Night; Mudd Center lectures by poet Joy Harjo and Georgetown Law and Philosophy Professor David Luban; and Washington Term Speaker Series talks by Marc Short '92 and Tolu Olubunmi '02. Last week our students participated in February Break trips ranging from Outing Club excursions in Big Bend National Park and the Florida Everglades to Career Exploration trips to New York focused on the fashion, entertainment, sports and investment industries. Mock Convention leaders visited five of our alumni chapters, the Bonner Scholars completed a service trip to Charlotte, North Carolina, the Nabors Service League took a group to Birmingham, Alabama, and 23 first-year and sophomore students traveled to Japan as part of the TOMODACHI Inouye Scholars Program.

Our students continue to excel in and out of the classroom. Early news of fellowship recipients includes a Schwarzman Scholarship (Zainab Abiza '19), two NCAA Postgraduate Fellowships (Samantha Yates '19 and Hank Patrick '19), three Public Policy & International Affairs Junior Summer Institute Fellowships, (Julia Hernandez '20, Gareth Minson '20 and Frances Marie Pugh '20), a Future Year Scholarship (Witt Hawkins '18), and two German American Exchange (GAE) Summer Internships (Molly Sykes '20 and Abby Yu '20). W&L was named a top-producing institution for the Fulbright Program, with four winners for the 2018-19 academic year. Meanwhile, our athletic teams brought home conference championships in men's and women's swimming and men's indoor track and field. Our students' success is thanks not only to their own hard work, but also the outstanding work of the faculty and staff who support them in all their endeavors.

One faculty member whose statewide recognition bears mentioning here is Helen I'Anson, John T. Perry Professor of Biology and Research Science. Helen received a 2019 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). She will receive her award at a ceremony and luncheon on March 7 in Richmond.

These accomplishments and events are enough to brighten even the soggiest of February days. As we look toward spring, I'm reminded to be thankful for the incredible variety and depth of opportunity that we are fortunate to offer here. My thanks to each of you for your role in making this such a rewarding place to be.