Strategic Plan

University Strategic Plan

Table of Contents


Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility. Graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.

Distinctive Strengths

Washington and Lee is one of the oldest and most distinguished liberal arts institutions in the country. Liberal arts education expands our horizons, develops our capacities, and deepens our humanity. The alumni of W&L are living proof that the pursuit of one's intellectual interests for their own sake is an exceptional foundation for accomplishment in any arena and for making significant contributions to society.

Our most valuable asset is the quality of our community. Great liberal arts education depends upon the talent, dedication, and diversity that characterize our students, faculty, and staff. The Honor System asks and expects each student to take personal responsibility for being worthy of the community's trust. Such universal trustworthiness fosters mutual respect and civility, and forges powerful bonds between the members of the extended Washington and Lee family. Our faculty are devoted teachers and scholars who uphold the highest academic standards and take a personal interest in the lives of their students. Our staff take pride in knowing that each individual makes important contributions to the success of the university. Our alumni are extraordinarily loyal and generous to their alma mater.

W&L's curriculum reflects an abiding spirit of innovation and public service, and the courage to be different within higher education. We are distinguished from other top liberal arts colleges in virtue of having an accredited undergraduate school of commerce and a venerable law school. Each of our three academic units is strengthened by its meaningful collaborations with the others, all in the service of our joint university mission.

Washington and Lee is committed to institutional citizenship. We regard liberal arts education as an important public good, of value not only to our students and alumni, but also to the larger communities in which we live. W&L strives to make a positive difference in Lexington, Rockbridge County, and beyond.

Washington and Lee is a modern university located on a campus of great natural beauty and national significance. The Shenandoah Valley is a glorious setting in which to live, work, and play. Our built environment — from the ruins of Liberty Hall to the Colonnade, University Chapel, Doremus Gymnasium, and the Ruscio Center for Global Learning — reminds us that the history of W&L spans the four centuries of our country. We take inspiration from the fact that so many generations have come before us, walking these same hills and bricks, sharing our devotion to liberal arts education.

We are justifiably proud of our distinctions, but never complacent. One of our most enduring strengths is the spirit encapsulated in our motto: non incautus futuri — not unmindful of the future — which reflects our commitment to self-examination, to asking how we can be true to ourselves while also getting better, to asking how we can contribute even more to the world that awaits our students. It is in keeping with this spirit that we have developed this strategic plan.


Washington and Lee aspires to be a national model for liberal arts education in the 21st century. Our community of trust and civility, our distinctive curriculum, our commitment to institutional citizenship for the benefit of society, and our beautiful and historic campus, are a potent educational combination.

I. Community

We Are

Washington and Lee is a welcoming, friendly, and mutually supportive community. Our students, faculty, and staff prize the trusting, respectful, and civil environment on our campus. We are united by our mission, diverse in our thinking, perspectives, and interests, and devoted to each other and to W&L.

We Will

  1. Sustain our distinguishing values, academic and professional excellence, and intellectual diversity
  2. Increase the racial, socioeconomic, and international diversity of our students, faculty, and staff
  3. Include, engage, and connect all members of our community to W&L and each other


The quality of our education is determined by the qualities of our people. We seek to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff who are intelligent, honorable, curious, compassionate, and collaborative. Active participation in the deep exploration, thoughtful consideration, and respectful debate of a wide range of ideas is at the heart of what we do.

The quality of our education is also determined by the diversity of perspectives in our classrooms, living spaces, performance halls, and athletic arenas. Attracting talented people from all demographic groups is critical to our ability to provide the finest possible education. Competing successfully for the most talented students, faculty, and staff will strengthen our national reputation, which will assist our efforts to build the highest quality educational community.

Creating a more diverse community at W&L is also essential to fulfilling our stated mission of preparing students for personal achievement, responsible leadership, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society. The 21st century calls upon all of us to appreciate the value of diverse experiences, and to discover and create ways to draw upon our differences for the common good. Employers recognize the value of these skills and increasingly prioritize recruiting on campuses that offer diverse pools of prospective job candidates.

Cultivating the potential of students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds is a powerful form of institutional citizenship, through which W&L can make a significant contribution to the future of our increasingly diverse country. Quality liberal education overcomes mutual misunderstanding, unites people across their differences, and provides all with the opportunity for success.

Each member of our community must be able to thrive at Washington and Lee. As we become increasingly diverse, we must work to ensure that all students, faculty, and staff are fully included and engaged in university life. This is critical not only to the success of each individual, but also to sustaining the quality of our community, which depends upon a shared feeling of attachment to W&L.


1. Need-Blind Undergraduate Admissions

  • Admit the strongest applicants, regardless of family financial circumstances

2. "Full W&L Experience" for every W&L student

  • Eliminate financial barriers to curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular participation
  • Offer high-quality residential, dining, and social options for all students

3. National Talent Outreach

  • Communicate W&L's values and opportunities to prospective students, faculty, and staff
  • Recruit deep and diverse applicant pools for undergraduate and law school admission
  • Recruit deep and diverse applicant pools for faculty and staff positions
  • Involve athletics and the arts in recruiting excellent students from all backgrounds to W&L

4. Law School Scholarships

  • Develop a signature program to attract the best law students to W&L

5. Community Building and Support

  • Deepen student connections to W&L through the Office of Inclusion and Engagement
  • Expand athletic and recreational opportunities: varsity softball, outing club, club sports
  • Foster student well-being with Health and Counseling resources
  • Enhance student outcomes with Career and Professional Development resources
  • Retain faculty and staff with opportunities for personal and professional development

II. Curriculum

We Are

Washington and Lee has been a leader for 150 years in combining the liberal arts, pre-professional education, and public service. This combination advances our mission, which commits us to developing the intellect and character of our students with the aim of preparing them to succeed in the personal, professional, and civic arenas. It is also reflected in our curricular structure: the College; the Williams School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics; and the School of Law.

W&L is dedicated to the highest-quality teaching across the university. We offer small classes taught by skilled faculty who are devoted to helping students cultivate their considerable potential. Classroom teaching is supplemented by high-impact opportunities for participation in research, experiential learning, study abroad, internships, and legal clinics.

We Will

  1. Invest in 21st-century liberal arts education
  2. Build upon our distinctive curricular structure
  3. Support innovative teaching and student success


Providing an outstanding liberal arts education is the core of our mission. The liberal arts have timeless value, developing the intellectual abilities and personal traits that will serve students well for the rest of their lives. We must continue to invest in traditional disciplines, while also embracing the 21st-century evolution of liberal education, which involves interdisciplinary inquiry, new modes of teaching, and rapidly changing technology. Doing so is critical to maintaining our position as one of the preeminent institutions of higher education in the country. It is also beneficial to the prospects of our students, since savvy employers value people with the skills and habits of mind cultivated by deep engagement with the liberal arts.

W&L has been distinguished since the 19th century by its integration of explicitly pre-professional subjects with the liberal arts. This is a competitive advantage today, when prospective students and parents are often focused on the relationship between college education and career opportunities. Our curricular structure, and the resources of our law school, allow us to offer courses and majors that are unavailable at other top liberal arts colleges. This distinction can help us attract talented students to W&L, where we should ensure that every student, no matter his or her major, receives an excellent liberal education.

Faculty members often spend decades teaching at W&L. Making available professional development opportunities so that our teachers can continue to hone their craft over the course of their careers is a critical investment in our mission. We must also ensure that our students have ready access to the academic resources they need to benefit fully from all that a W&L education has to offer.


1. Liberal Arts Education

  • Advocate robustly and publicly for the value of the liberal arts
  • Ensure our curriculum provides all students a liberal education in the service of our mission

2. STEM Programs

  • Support 21st-century science teaching and research needs

3. Interdisciplinary Programs

  • Strengthen interdisciplinary education

4. Williams School Opportunities

  • Expand offerings for non-majors in the Williams School

5. Legal Studies Program

  • Develop an undergraduate legal studies program involving all three academic units

6. Educational Excellence

  • Provide comprehensive academic support services for students
  • Offer opportunities for ongoing pedagogical development for faculty

III. Citizenship

We Are

Washington and Lee is civic-minded and forward-looking. Guided by its motto — non incautus futuri — the institution has always asked, at each moment in its long history, how it can best contribute not only to the success of its own students, but also to the nation and the world in which they will live. Liberty Hall Academy provided education on the frontier as the newly created United States began its westward expansion. Washington College contributed to the reconciliation and rebuilding of the country as it sought to recover from the devastation wrought by the Civil War.

Washington and Lee University continues to embrace institutional citizenship in many forms. The Shepherd Program prepares students to work with disadvantaged communities to address the problems associated with poverty. The Environmental Studies Program provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the causes, consequences, and solutions to environmental problems, and offers associated service-learning opportunities. The Center for International Education guides students as they chart their paths toward becoming engaged citizens in a global and diverse society. The Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship annually hosts a vibrant social impact summit. The Mudd Center for Ethics involves students and faculty from all three schools at W&L in addressing significant issues of public and professional ethics. The Law School's legal clinics and externships help meet the need for legal assistance in the region and enable students to develop client contact and advocacy skills. The Office of Community-Based Learning coordinates efforts across the university to integrate academic study and civic engagement with community partners.

We Will

  1. Offer programs designed to foster responsible leadership, service to others, and civic engagement
  2. Teach and present our institutional history as comprehensively and accurately as possible
  3. Steward our resources responsibly


The cultivation of engaged citizenship is essential to our mission. We aim to help students become not only personally successful, but also thoughtful difference-makers in their communities. Washington and Lee asks no less of itself institutionally.

We achieve our largest social impact through the education of our students. By teaching thousands of young people to engage, to serve, and to lead, we indirectly benefit communities all over the world. Such teaching also benefits local partners directly, as our students work with them in the course of their studies at W&L.

Washington and Lee also makes a difference by virtue of our own institutional contributions to the world beyond our campus. At this particular moment, we have an opportunity to set a national example for how an educational institution examines, teaches, and presents its history. We will do so honestly and thoughtfully, for the benefit of the present and future members of our community, as well as the citizens of our country.

Stewarding our resources responsibly enables us to carry out our mission more efficiently and reduce our environmental impacts. Doing so also provides opportunities to help others learn how to evaluate the environmental implications of projects in their own communities.


1. Leadership, Service, and Civic Engagement

  • Invest in curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular programs that foster these traits

2. Institutional History

  • Present our history to internal and external constituencies, comprehensively and accurately
  • Explore partnerships with related historical museums and sites

3. Environmental Stewardship

  • Develop and implement an action plan to meet our climate commitments
  • Continue building to LEED-certified standards
  • Identify and prioritize opportunities to reduce resource consumption and waste

IV. Campus

We Are

Washington and Lee is fortunate to be located in the city of Lexington, surrounded by Rockbridge County, at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The communities of which we are a part, and the natural setting that sustains us all, provide abundant and appealing opportunities for living, learning, and working.

Washington and Lee has taken care to preserve the historic character of our campus, which serves as a daily reminder that our fundamental work — providing an education that prepares young people for personal achievement and public service — has been conducted here since the 18th century. We carry on this work today, in buildings that are national historic landmarks, and in modern facilities that serve the distinctive needs of teaching and learning in the 21st century. Our campus physically reflects the enduring value of liberal arts education and serves as a rich site for teaching students about American history and the natural world.

We Will

  1. Provide first-rate facilities that support our mission
  2. Take full educational advantage of our natural setting and historic campus


Our campus should attract people to W&L, support their work, and enrich their lives. Prospective students, faculty, and staff should be able to perceive the distinctive opportunities afforded by studying, teaching, and working at Washington and Lee. Our residence halls, dining facilities, classrooms, labs, libraries, and performance spaces constitute an environment in which we strive to offer education of the highest caliber. Our natural and historic setting, which distinguishes W&L from other colleges and universities, should be presented in ways that make its appeal evident to prospective members of the community.


1. Admissions and Financial Aid Center

  • Introduce prospective students to the quality, affordability, and distinctions of W&L

2. Science Center

  • Expand and upgrade to support 21st-century teaching and research

3. Williams School

  • Expand and upgrade facilities to support teaching, learning, and conferencing needs

4. Rehearsal Spaces for Music and the Arts

  • Expand to support performance needs

5. Center for Academic Resources and Pedagogical Excellence (CARPE)

  • Repurpose space in Leyburn library

6. Center for Inclusion and Engagement

  • Repurpose space in Elrod Commons

7. Softball Field

  • Support the addition of a varsity softball team

8. Institutional History

  • Create a modern campus museum to present W&L history comprehensively and accurately
  • Take full advantage of the educational potential of our campus to teach W&L history