University of Richmond Update

February 2019

Dear Members of the University Community,

As a new calendar year and academic semester unfold, I feel compelled to pause and reflect on the promise of this moment. We are in an enviable position — our institution is strong, and our national reputation, attractiveness to an international community of prospective students, and momentum continue to grow. I think a lot about the reasons for our successes and about our capacity to meet new opportunities. At the core of both, I see the commitment, excellence, and support of everyone who is part of our Spider community.

Let me offer one brief opening example: “Spiders Helping Spiders.” This modest, weeklong campaign to shore up support for unanticipated needs of our students — such as travel support for a student with a family emergency — was a great success. More than 600 donors, 200 of whom were first-time donors to the University, offered support of more than $70,000. Of the alumni donors, 40 percent were young alumni who graduated within the past decade.

The success of this effort goes far beyond these numbers. The students who will benefit chose Richmond because of their deep faith in our commitment to support their aspirations. The Richmond staff who developed this mini-campaign recognized an unmet need and developed a strategy for meeting it. The donors who responded reaffirmed the confidence of both. In April, we will launch UR Here, a 36-hour giving event aimed at engaging all Spiders in the future vitality of our beloved University. On this important day, I hope that you will continue to be inspired by all we are achieving together and join with others to offer your support for Spiders today and tomorrow. You will receive more information on this important effort soon.

Academic excellence

Earlier this month, the University of Richmond was one of just 11 institutions in the nation — and the only one in Virginia — named to both of the 2018–19 Top Producer lists released by the Fulbright Program. Two Richmond faculty were named Fulbright U.S. Scholars, and eight students and recent alumni were named Fulbright U.S. Students for 2018–19. During the current cycle, 15 students and recent alumni have been named semi-finalists and have advanced to the final round of selection for the 2019–20 academic year. We have also had the University’s first Schwarzman Scholar and continued success with Gilman awards. In part, these awards reflect our strategy to increase student access to national scholarships and fellowships in ways that will showcase the quality of a Richmond education and position our students for future success.

Likewise, our faculty continue to distinguish themselves as leaders in their fields. In recent months, we received word that the Association for Psychological Science named the Jepson School of Leadership Studies’ Crystal Hoyt, professor of psychology and leadership studies, to the 2018 Class of APS Fellows. Marshall Geiger, accounting professor and CSX Chair of Management and Accounting in the Robins School of Business, received a grant from the Foundation for Audit Research to produce a comprehensive review of the factors that influence how auditors make decisions about whether to signal that a company is distressed. In the School of Arts and Sciences, Mariela Mendez, associate professor of Latin American, Latino, and Iberian studies, and women, gender, and sexuality studies, was awarded a grant from the Chilean National Commission on Scientific and Technological Investigation to research feminist contributions in Latin American and American magazines. These honors and awards signify the national prominence of our distinguished faculty and the leading roles they are playing in higher education.

The continual flow of news we receive about honors and accomplishments for our students and faculty signals the strength of our academic enterprise and offers new evidence every day of why we should all be proud of the academic community that defines a University of Richmond education.

Thriving and inclusivity

Because we believe in the importance and significance of a diverse educational experience for all Richmond students, our efforts continue across campus to make the University an exemplary intercultural community. The Inclusive Pedagogy Cohort is exploring innovative practices in excellent teaching to help ensure an educationally inclusive experience for students of all backgrounds. This summer, the cohort will offer a training program to share best practices with the broader campus community.

Simultaneously, three strategically connected campus committees are working to better understand Richmond’s past, coordinate our current diversity and inclusion initiatives, and plan for our future. The Presidential Commission for University History and Identity is examining how our institutional history is recorded, preserved, and made accessible to a diversity of audiences. The Interim Coordinating Council has inventoried the scope of current diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in order to ensure this work across campus is well coordinated. By June 30, the President’s Advisory Committee on Making Excellence Inclusive will issue a report to the University community — with input from all three groups — summarizing its assessment of our campus climate and recommending steps we can take to advance thriving and inclusion for all community members at Richmond.

These and other efforts across campus seek to ensure Richmond is a place where students, faculty, staff, and alumni from diverse backgrounds participate fully in the life of the institution, reach their full potential, and thrive together. I am grateful to everyone engaged in this critical work, and I know it will strengthen us as a University.

Once a Spider, always a Spider

In my visits to alumni groups across the country, I continue to be energized by the enthusiasm of Spiders everywhere. In my updates about Richmond during these visits, I tell alumni that the most talented prospective students across the nation are considering us and that our peers in higher education are watching not just because of what we do, but because of who we are — a University every bit as unique as our beloved Spider symbol.

Next week, we will continue what is quickly becoming a popular tradition: our fourth annual National Spider Day. This year, the celebrations will launch on Founders Day, March 4, and continue with 10 days of celebrating our Spider community, culminating on National Spider Day, March 14. From Chicago to Greensboro to Boston, alumni regional groups will host National Spider Day celebrations. We encourage everyone, off campus or on, to display their Spider gear with Spider Pride more than ever during this period. Please join the fun as we share how great and singular it is to be a Spider.

Strategic plan

As the examples above indicate, we continue to make substantial progress with the goals of Forging Our Future, Building From Strength, the University’s strategic plan. The three topics I’ve just covered — academic excellence, thriving and inclusivity, and alumni engagement — are among the pillars of our vision to be, in the words of the plan, “a leader in higher education, preparing students to contribute to, and succeed in, a complex world; producing knowledge to address the world’s problems; and modeling the way that colleges and universities can effectively meet the challenges of our time.”

I recently wrote to faculty, staff, and students with a comprehensive update on the many fronts on which we are making progress with the entire plan. I invite everyone to review the full document and consider opportunities to become involved as we harness our considerable strengths to forge a bold future.

Final thoughts

Living up to the promise of our mission and our values can be both joyful and challenging, whether we are talking about how we implement a new curricular program or how we address newly identified student needs. Some topics are particularly difficult. Two weeks ago, I issued a statement in response to a repulsively racist image from one of our yearbooks that surfaced on social media. As I wrote then, such images reflect a past that must be reconciled and understood. As an institution of higher education, our students — past, present, and future — deserve no less.

An incident such as this underscores the importance of the pillars of our strategic plan because it touches on every aspect of them. We strive for academic excellence so that we develop graduates who can address all kinds of difficult issues with important knowledge, critical skills, and deep compassion. We hone in on access and affordability because we know that reducing economic barriers increases our capacity to harness promise. We focus on creating a thriving and inclusive campus community because we know that the full participation of everyone is vital to not only their success, but ours. We re-envision how we engage with alumni because it strengthens our common purpose, and the passion we share for our University. We commit to stewardship to shore up the advances we make in our time and ensure they can endure. Each of these pillars, in its own way, is helping us to realize the bright future we all envision for our University.

Indeed, these are very high aspirations. I am very proud to be part of a community that shares the conviction that they are worth striving for, and that, with the right effort, they are within our reach.

Best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher