University of Richmond Spring Update

May 2017

Dear Members of the University Community:

During her inspiring Commencement speech, honorary degree recipient Sheila Johnson lauded our graduates for their “growth mindset.” Ms. Johnson described this characteristic as the capacity to “view your abilities as fluid instead of fixed.” She continued, “You know that if you reach and stretch and practice, you can improve. You can acquire new skills. You can build new muscles. You can develop new insights and talent. A growth mindset creates a passion for learning.”

Throughout this academic year, we’ve embraced a passion for learning as we continue to move the University forward. We’ve asked some difficult questions: Can we improve student safety? How do we embrace diversity, honor differing viewpoints, and ensure the respectful exchange of ideas? What does it mean to truly thrive? Our growth mindset underpins our desire to stretch and grow, and our willingness to risk failure, knowing that our University community will be stronger as a result of this new learning.

Academic Leadership
The University is excited to welcome Jeffrey W. Legro as its next provost and vice president for academic affairs, effective July 1. Dr. Legro is currently the vice provost for global affairs and Taylor Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. He possesses a deep understanding of the challenges confronting higher education, an appreciation for the vital role of the liberal arts, and high regard for the specific work we are undertaking at Richmond. I would also like to acknowledge the excellent leadership provided by Sandra Peart, who has been interim provost since January 2017. Dean Peart served the University admirably during this important period of transition and will now return full-time to her role as dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

Forging our Future, Building on Strength
The University has officially launched a new strategic plan. Our plan is built on five pillars that will strengthen the University and continue to distinguish Richmond among institutions of higher education. Vigorous commitment to academic excellence will continue to be the defining characteristic of a University of Richmond education. With careful and strategic stewardship of our resources, we will ensure access to all students who possess the desire and talent to be successful here. Once on our campus, a focus on their progress, welfare, and full participation in the life of the University will help students thrive in our community and position them, with all alumni, for active, lifelong engagement with their alma mater.

In the coming months, several concrete initiatives will take shape to advance these goals. We will launch the Office of Scholars and Fellowships to prepare even more of our students for prestigious scholarships; continue development of our QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan), focused on the first-year experience and the way we welcome students into our intellectual community; begin work on a comprehensive well-being initiative and the elements that might best support student thriving; implement new outreach strategies to ensure that the most academically talented students understand the value and affordability of a Richmond education; and continue our efforts to engage our alumni more fully in the life of the University — through communications initiatives like Spider Pride and preparations for a fundraising campaign to support our strategic initiatives. I am grateful that you engaged so actively in our planning process and encourage your ongoing participation as we implement and advance our strategic plan. I invite you to view the brief thank you video that accompanies this message about our strategic plan.

Student Scholars
Reflecting the University’s academic excellence and commitment to student success, several students garnered impressive awards this spring. Boatwright Scholar Ryan McEvoy, ’17, earned a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award. He will spend his Fulbright year in Germany and then enroll at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Taylor Johnson, ’17, a history and Russian studies double major who graduated earlier this month, also received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award. She will be teaching English in a school in Ukraine from September 2017 through June 2018. Grace Conway, ’18, Arjun Jaini, ’18, and Andrew Levorse, ’18, have been selected as prestigious Goldwater Scholars, awarded to outstanding students who wish to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Since 1990, UR students have received 24 Goldwater scholarships and six honorable mentions. Megan Higgins, ’19, earned a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study Chinese in Taiwan during the summer of 2017. The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages, and help them gain skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

Faculty Fulbrights
David Brandenberger, professor of history and international studies, received a Fulbright grant for his research on Russia’s political landscape during the 1940s and 50s. Brandenberger will spend most of his time in Moscow and St. Petersburg (the former Leningrad) between December 2017 and July 2018. He will also conduct research in Nizhny Novgorod, Pskov, and other regional cities, and the project will result in publications in both English and Russian. Jim Davis, professor of mathematics, received a Fulbright Global Scholar Program Award. Davis will travel to Germany and France during the last half of 2017, and to Canada during the first half of 2018, to engage members of the math community in solving problems related to coding theory and combinatorics, specifically Boolean function theory and difference sets.

On student wellness and safety
The University has made significant progress on several initiatives with respect to sexual misconduct response and prevention. Tracy Cassalia, former manager of health education and wellness, has been named deputy Title IX coordinator. The President’s Advisory Committee for Sexual Violence Prevention and Response (PAC) met monthly throughout the semester. We invited a wide range of student groups to attend meetings and provide feedback. We also reviewed survey data on student behaviors, including alcohol use. The external assessment of our policies and procedures was completed, and the Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Sexual Assault and Prevention (SARP) Committee presented its findings. The PAC will release its interim report to the University community at the end of June, and will continue to meet throughout the 2017–18 academic year before issuing a final report in June 2018.

Future Spiders: Class of 2021
The University received 10,010 applications for 800 spaces in the class of 2021, the second year in a row in which we surpassed 10,000 applicants. The quality and diversity of this year’s class is on par with last year’s very strong class. We look forward to welcoming these new Spiders to campus in August.

Spider Athletics
Our spring sports teams enjoyed very successful seasons, winning conference titles in men’s and women’s golf and advancing to conference finals in women’s lacrosse, men’s lacrosse, and men’s tennis. Ali Wright (women’s golf), Adam Decker (men’s golf), and Ben Johnson (men’s tennis) won Coach of the Year accolades, while Wright and Decker led their squads to appearances in the NCAA Championships.

Five of our athletics teams — football, men’s cross country, women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and women’s swimming and diving — were recognized for having Academic Progress Rates in the top 10 percent of all teams nationally in their sport.

We also announced that Director of Athletics Keith Gill will be stepping down from his role at the end of June for personal reasons. Keith has led our athletics department with distinction and positioned us well for future success. Under his leadership, Richmond won 14 conference championships, including the first ever for men’s lacrosse and women’s golf. Football participated in three consecutive NCAA playoffs, men’s basketball advanced to two NIT quarterfinals, and the University celebrated 19 All-Americans and 23 Academic All-Americans. Teams also excelled academically during his tenure. Eleven of fifteen teams set GPA records, and the average cumulative GPA for individual student-athletes climbed from 2.95 to 3.04. In addition, Richmond Athletics has made numerous improvements to its athletics facilities, including a complete renovation of the Robins Center. Deputy Athletic Director David Walsh has agreed to serve as interim AD. We are presently preparing to launch a national search for our new athletic director in the fall.

Welcome Back
The Rev. Dr. Craig Kocher is returning to Richmond as university chaplain. Craig previously served as UR’s chaplain from 2009–16. During his years at Richmond, he worked to ensure the Chaplaincy was a vital part of student life and that programming supported the institution’s efforts to enhance understanding and inclusivity. Craig holds an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School, and his Doctor of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary. He is an ordained elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Alumni Engagement
Registration is now open for Reunion Weekend 2017. We look forward to welcoming back to campus our undergraduate alums in class years ending in 2 or 7. We are grateful for those Spiders who have already made gifts to the Annual Fund in celebration of their Reunion year, or in support of the University, as so many of you do each year. That support is critical to our future goals and aspirations as a community. We are grateful for the generosity of our many donors, and invite those who have not yet made a gift to consider the University in your philanthropy.

As I shared with our graduating seniors — our newest alumni — at Commencement, our hope is that their time at Richmond challenged them intellectually, animated a lifelong curiosity, introduced them to new perspectives and experiences, encouraged them to take risks, opened their hearts and minds to others, and sparked lasting friendships with people who share their passion for knowledge and discovery. As they embark upon the world, I hope they have the chance to build the kind of communities they created here.

Whether alumni, faculty, students, staff, parents, or friends, I am grateful to have you as partners as we continue to strengthen our Richmond community and advance the University’s mission.

With best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher