Winter 2020 Campus Update

To: The W&L Community
From: President Will Dudley
Date: Jan. 9, 2020

Welcome back to campus. I hope each of you enjoyed a restorative break. As Winter Term classes get underway, I write with an update on events and initiatives of interest to the campus community.


We were delighted to receive news of honors for several of our students, faculty and alumni in the final weeks of Fall Term.

  • Rossella Gabriele '19 became W&L's 17th Rhodes Scholar, and will use her award to pursue master's degrees in both social data science and global governance and diplomacy at Oxford;
  • Hannah Denham '20 received first-place for college feature writing in the Randolph Hearst Foundation's prestigious Journalism Awards Program for a piece she wrote during an internship this summer at the Washington Post;
  • Assistant Professor of Arabic Antoine Edwards was selected as the winner of the H. Hiter Harris III Faculty Rising Star Award for 2019 by the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges;
  • Provost Marc Conner was named the next president of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York — a post he will assume this summer.

The success of these members of our community is a testament to the excellent work we do here at W&L every day, and I congratulate each of them on their outstanding achievements.

Upcoming Events

Mock Convention, one of our most cherished and eagerly anticipated campus traditions, returns to W&L next month. I was fortunate to experience my first Mock Con as a spectator in 2016 and look forward to participating on Feb. 14-16 in the Duchossois Tennis Center.

Mock Convention is emblematic of many of the features that set W&L apart in the higher education landscape. Our tradition of student self-governance is on full display, as our students coordinate every aspect of the convention, from research to logistics, publicity to security. They take their responsibility seriously, conducting one of the most ambitious and intricate collegiate research projects in the quest to extend W&L's streak of correct predictions. They manage a substantial budget with professionalism and host an array of well-known political figures with courtesy and respect. They stage an event unlike any other on college campuses, and they have a lot of fun doing so. If you have never experienced Mock Con, I encourage you to tune in this year, when the challenge is greater than ever, with an unusually crowded field of candidates for the Democratic nomination.

We also have much to look forward to in January. Civil rights activist Ruby Bridges will be W&L's Martin Luther King Jr. celebration speaker on Jan. 19. On Founders Day, which is the formal convocation of Winter Term on Jan. 21, Omicron Delta Kappa honor society will induct its newest members, and Director of Institutional History Lynn Rainville will speak on "Untold Stories of Founders, Leaders, and other Visionaries at W&L." Campus Kitchen will dish up delicious soups from local restaurants at their annual Souper Bowl fundraiser on Jan. 26, and the Mudd Center will continue its year-long exploration of the ethics of technology with a talk by journalist Franklin Foer, author of the New York Times Notable Book "World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech" on Jan. 30.

W&L students will defend their title as VFIC Ethics Bowl Champions in February at the University of Lynchburg, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss will be the featured speaker at the annual Institute for Honor symposium, taking up the timely topic of "Presidential Leadership in Time of War," on March 6-7. The Theater Department will join together with the University Singers to stage the Virginia premiere of the critically acclaimed musical "Considering Matthew Shepard," in the Lenfest Center on March 13-15.


While our current students are occupied with this full slate of winter activities, the Admissions office will be busy reading applications for the Class of 2024. We were pleased to admit 220 students in the first round of Early Decision. These talented young people hail from 31 states and nine countries, and the group sustains our momentum from the last three years, pairing excellent academic credentials with increases in both socioeconomic and racial diversity. We look forward to welcoming finalists for the Johnson Scholarship to campus for interviews on March 1-3, and will complete the regular decision admissions process by late March.

Curricular Initiatives

In the meantime, we are advancing several important curricular initiatives, including a new data science minor, which is now available to students, and CARPE, our teaching and learning center. We are grateful to the Class of 1995 for committing $1 million toward CARPE in celebration of its 25th Reunion. The faculty recently approved the creation of a General Education Development Committee, and election and appointment of representatives to that committee will take place this month.

Administrative Changes

As I announced earlier this week, Elizabeth Oliver, associate dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics and Lewis Whitaker Adams Professor of Accounting, has agreed to serve a one-year term as interim provost, beginning July 1. Michael Anderson, Robert E. Sadler, Jr. Professor of Economics, will assume the duties of associate dean of the Williams School for the 2020-21 academic year. Later this year I will appoint a committee to conduct a national search in the fall for our next provost. We are also in the early stages of a national search for a new vice president of University Advancement to succeed Dennis Cross, who will retire at the end of December.


Our student athletes wrapped up outstanding fall seasons, claiming ODAC championships in men's and women's cross country and men's soccer. Women's cross-country had a historic season, winning the Southeast Regional to advance to NCAAs for the first time ever, while men's soccer advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen for the second time in three years. Winter sports—basketball, swimming, indoor track and field, and wrestling—are now well underway. Women's swimming is ranked 13th nationally, and wrestling, having claimed victory against a tough field in its home tournament for the first time since 2013, is now ranked 24th. The new Duchossois Athletic and Recreation Center remains on track for completion at the end of the summer. It will be open for the use and enjoyment of the entire W&L community and our varsity teams in the fall.

Campus Master Plan

Of course, our physical campus is never static, and its long-term evolution is guided by our Campus Master Plan. This plan has been under development for more than a year, with input from the master planning committee, which includes faculty and staff representatives from across campus. It encompasses a variety of capital projects arising from our Strategic Plan, including CARPE, expanded facilities for the Williams School and the sciences, rehearsal spaces for the arts, an Admissions and Financial Aid center, and a museum of institutional history. The Master Plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees for consideration later this academic year.

As we embark on a new term, I extend my thanks to each of you for your contributions to making this an extraordinary place to learn and to work. I look forward to seeing you around campus in the coming weeks and wish you all the best for the new year.