University of Richmond Spring Update

May 2016

University faculty and staff, alumni, students, parents, and friends:

A few days before our recent Commencement, our honorary degree recipient, author and award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, reached out to me with a question. She wondered if I could send her a few examples of Richmond seniors contributing to the common good, or making a difference in their communities. As you would know, I had little difficulty responding to her request. In fact, the challenge was not finding worthy examples, but choosing from among the many examples available. What a remarkable problem to have!

Charlayne ultimately cited Christian Voto’s participation in the first government-sponsored healthcare drone delivery, and Luka Klimaviciute’s program to aid asylum seekers in her native Lithuania. But the examples we provided with merely a quick scan of the graduates’ accomplishments — from research into new ways of diagnosing concussions to reforming youth incarceration policies to exploring the ethical and moral behaviors that influence environmentalism — reflect the depth of our scholarly commitments at Richmond, and our ability to provide a transformational educational experience in service to our institutional mission to “prepare students to lead lives of purpose,” wherever they find that purpose in the world.

Our faculty and staff play essential roles preparing students for the meaningful lives they will lead after graduation, and for providing the foundational support upon which they will build their professional careers. Examples here, too, are numerous and include Professor of Chemistry Carol Parish’s recent selection as the recipient of the Goldwater Scholars Faculty Mentor Award. In fact, I have found a sincere focus on student intellectual and personal development to be woven into our institutional values. One need only consider the conversations we have been having during our strategic planning process this year to recognize the importance we attach to this as a defining characteristic of a Richmond education.

Since July, I have met with nearly 70 academic and staff departments, dozens of student groups, and alumni in nearly 20 cities across the country to hear from you about your aspirations for Richmond’s future, your sense of our challenges and our opportunities. Those conversations have been helpful in identifying the organizing elements for our next strategic plan. I appreciate the high level of participation we have had in our strategic planning process and the enthusiasm with which you have approached this important task.

Our strategic planning work will continue throughout the summer. Working groups associated with each of the strategic planning themes have recently been named, and we had our first meeting last Friday afternoon. We are grateful to the more than 80 faculty, staff, and students who have agreed to serve on the working groups. Over the next several months, they will develop and recommend draft goals and initiatives that should be considered to advance the University’s work in the assigned thematic area. We welcome your suggestions for goals and initiatives, which may be submitted through the strategic planning website. In the fall, when working groups have developed their drafts, proposed goals and initiatives will be shared with the University community and your input will, once again, be sought. The carefully considered guidance of all the members of our community is so important to the success of this effort and to the future of our University. We encourage everyone to stay involved in the process as we review and refine our draft goals and plans in the months to come.

As we prepare campus for the new students who will join us in a few short months — including a variety of important construction projects and exciting renovations occurring this summer — we are thrilled about the entering Class of 2020. As you may know, the University received over 10,400 applications for 800 spaces. The admitted students represent the most academically accomplished and diverse pool in University history. To date, 10 percent of the incoming class are international students, and an additional 28 percent are U.S. students of color, the eighth consecutive year in which more than 20 percent of Richmond’s student population will be students of color.

In fact, Essence and Money magazines recently included Richmond on their list of the 50 Best Colleges for African-Americans. The University was also among 13 schools cited by the U.S. Department of Education for increasing the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants while also ensuring the academic success of these students. Richmond’s enrollment of Pell-eligible students more than doubled between 2008 and 2013, and, of those students, 82 percent graduated within six years. These accolades, and the enrollment data above, demonstrate the remarkable momentum of the University and the accomplishments we are achieving as we pursue goals that emanated out of our last strategic plan.

Educating students to be ethical and culturally informed difference makers is also among our top priorities. And so we take great pride as a community that the Peace Corps recently ranked Richmond No. 14 among small schools on their 2016 list of Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities. The Institute of International Education ranked Richmond No. 3 among leading baccalaureate institutions for total number of students who study abroad and No. 7 among the top 40 baccalaureate institutions for the total number of international students in 2014–15, its most recent year.

To expand upon our strong tradition of international education and global engagement, I will be traveling to Cuba with Provost Jacque Fetrow and Dean of International Education Martha Merritt in June to explore educational partnerships. Betty and I are also looking forward to greeting international alumni and friends of the University at our Presidential Welcome Reception in London in July.

Closer to home, we will host Reunion Weekend June 3–5 with classes ending in 1s and 6s. Among the highlights of the weekend are strategic planning sessions with alumni, and the induction of the inaugural class of the Robins School of Business Hall of Fame.

Our Spider sports teams won four conference championships in 2015–16 — in football, women’s cross country, women’s swimming and diving, and women’s golf. The golf team won its first conference title in school history and advanced to the NCAA Championships. Men’s lacrosse, in just its third season, earned the school’s highest national ranking and advanced to the conference finals for the third time in three seasons. Our student athletes continue to give reason for celebration as they reflect the ideals of scholarship, sportsmanship, and athletic success.

Across the campus and across the generations of Spiders, there is a strong, shared love of the University. As we prepare for the exciting work that awaits us, I hope the summer months will bring some time for renewal and personal fulfillment, even for those whose research and professional endeavors will keep them busy on our campus and in the field. I also want to let you know how deeply grateful Betty and I are to have been welcomed to our new home with such enthusiasm and generosity. I look forward to seeing many of you in the months ahead and in August, when we greet the start of a new school year and, once again, renew our shared commitment to all that it means to be part of the University of Richmond community.

With gratitude,

Ronald A. Crutcher