Anticipating the Year Ahead

To: The W&L Community
From: President Will Dudley
Date: September 5, 2022

Welcome back! I hope each of you enjoyed a productive and rejuvenating summer. 

While these past few months in Lexington have been notable for their more relaxed pace, our campus remained active with Summer Research Scholars; Advanced Immersion and Mentoring (AIM) students; Governor's Language Academies, Programa SOL, the ESOL summer enrichment program for local bilingual youth; Alumni College programs; and a variety of athletic camps.

The arrival of fall is always invigorating, with students returning to campus and faculty and staff gearing up for the new academic year. Law school classes started a week ago, and three-quarters of our undergraduate students participated in pre-orientation programs last week, hiking the Appalachian Trail, doing community service, and engaging in intellectual exploration. Faculty and staff honed their skills — and learned new ones — together in Fall Academy. Back-to-school picnics, retreats, and open houses are happening across campus, reconnecting friends and colleagues and welcoming the newest members of the W&L community. It's an exciting period of anticipation as we prepare to do what we do best — provide an outstanding education for today's students while continuously improving the university for the future.

The success of our shared enterprise requires a tremendous amount of expertise and collaboration. I recently heard the work of our University Facilities team likened to that of running a small city — an apt comparison, and one that pays tribute to the magnitude of the job done by the dozens of employees who plan, construct, and maintain our buildings and grounds. 

Within our city, we have talented faculty and staff who tirelessly serve our mission in the work they do every day and by advancing the ambitious goals outlined in our 2018 Strategic Plan. Four years of dedicated effort have resulted in significant progress in each of the plan’s primary areas of focus:

Our Community

  • Steadily diversifying our student body and workforce
  • Raising over $55 million to endow additional undergraduate and law scholarships
  • Increasing access to undergraduate pre-orientation, which will be universal next year
  • Expanding student mental health resources
  • Enhancing student support through the Office of Inclusion and Engagement and the alignment of Career and Professional Development with Alumni Engagement

Our Curriculum

  • Creating new minors in Entrepreneurship, Data Science, and Law, Justice, and Society
  • Establishing a new Civil Rights and Racial Justice Clinic in the School of Law
  • Launching the DeLaney Center and hiring the first director and core faculty members
  • Reimagining our undergraduate general education curriculum

Our Campus

  • Building the Duchossois Athletic and Recreation Center
  • Opening the Harte Center for Teaching and Learning in Leyburn Library
  • Renovating the Elrod Commons to create the Center for Inclusion and Engagement

Our Citizenship

  • Executing the Board of Trustees' directive to rename University Chapel and restore it to a simple and unadorned gathering space for our community
  • Advancing our sustainability commitments by purchasing the equivalent of 100% of our electricity from a new solar project and eliminating the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on campus
  • Investing additional resources in Community-Based Learning and returning the headquarters of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty to W&L

We should all be proud of what we have achieved these past four years, especially given the considerable challenges we've faced along the way — including a global pandemic, a national reckoning with racial injustice, continued exploration of our own institutional history, and a volatile labor market. In addition to the notable progress on our strategic initiatives, last year our students won a record-breaking number of fellowships, and we enjoyed exceptional fundraising results, thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends.

But of course, we are never complacent. In the coming year, we will continue raising funds to become need-blind in undergraduate admissions, provide transformative experiences for students, and create additional scholarships in the School of Law. Becoming need-blind will place us among only a dozen institutions in the country that admit the most talented students without regard to their family finances, while also meeting 100% of their demonstrated financial need without loans.

We will continue to focus on ensuring that all our students have access to high-quality residential and social experiences on campus. 

We welcome Melanie Wilson, Dean of the Law School, who will lead our efforts to build on the considerable strengths of the distinctive legal education we provide at W&L. 

And we will continue to enhance our campus facilities, creating space to break ground on two important projects: a new Williams School building on Washington Street and a new Student Health and Counseling Center on East Denny Circle. To make way for these facilities, Baker and Davis will be demolished. During the construction work, which is planned to commence in the summer of 2023 and be completed before the fall of 2025, the Student Health Center will be located in what is currently the Development building, behind the Science Center and Leyburn Library. Development, ITS and Mail Services Offices will be relocated to university-owned or leased spaces in town. We will also renovate and expand the Marketplace and Café 77 later this year, which will expand seating capacity and improve flow in our primary dining venues.

Accomplishing all of this while also delivering a top-notch education for every W&L student is truly a team effort. I feel fortunate to be a part of this exceptional community, and I thank each of you for your personal contributions to our collective success.

I invite you to join us for Fall Convocation this Wednesday, Sept. 7, at 5:30 p.m. This annual ceremony marks the official opening of the academic year and is an opportunity to welcome our newest students and celebrate our graduating undergraduate and law classes. Provost Lena Hill will provide the Convocation Address, and a community dinner will follow on Cannan Green. I hope to see you there.

In the meantime, my thanks and best wishes for an outstanding year ahead.