Reengaging with our Values

Looking back on the many years I experienced last year here at Mary Washington I have a few reflections and ideas for the future.  I think we’ve come a long way.    The divisional theme last year was “Communicating through the Changes” well we’ve made many changes and this year I want the theme to be “Reengaging with our Values”.

I believe we need to be the highly selective public liberal arts institution for which
we were once known; indeed I believe we should be recognized as one of the best public liberal arts universities in the nation.  Significant emotional and intellectual energy was expended this past year contemplating whether we should grow to become a regional comprehensive university.  I believe we can have expanding graduate programs that meet topical trends and regional educational needs while simultaneously reaffirming our core.  As we prepare leaders in the fields of Education, Business and our core Arts and Sciences they will go forth with the confidence of knowing that their liberal education has prepared them not just for the world that exists today but for the world that has yet to come.  Quoting Eric Hoffer: “In times of change the learners will inherit the earth, while the knowers will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

What does it mean to provide a liberal education?  This year we need to reexamine our beliefs to ensure that we are providing the liberal education that we claim.  We need to assess our programs and show evidence of the high quality that I know exists here at Mary Washington.  In an effort to comply with this directive we have succeeded in appointing Taiwo Ande as the Assistant Provost for Institutional Analysis and Effectiveness, Timothy O’Donnell has agreed to coordinate our self study and compliance certification for SACS, and we have a new faculty-led planning committee to educate and plan the process of choosing a QEP topic.

I have recommended and President Hurley has agreed that we should not seek to increase our undergraduate enrollment; in fact we might need to shrink our total undergraduate size slightly.  What I propose is that we reverse the recent trend of decreasing out of state students while adding international students who meet our standards of high quality.   Related to this goal we have a new assistant director of international academic services and visa manager (Cheryl Mason) who will coordinate the experiences of incoming international students.  An international experience should be available for all UMW students; toward that end, a search for a temporary director of Study Abroad is underway.  Eventually, I envision a future center for international affairs that employs the best practices of the field and is a model that other schools will emulate.

For the sixth year in a row, the Peace Corps has named UMW to its annual list of “Top Producing Colleges and Universities.” UMW ranks sixth among small colleges and universities with fewer than 5,000 undergraduates, with 20 alumni currently volunteering for the Peace Corps. Since the Peace Corps’ inception in 1961, 184 Mary Washington alumni have served the 27-month commitment around the world.  These results are most insightful as to the nature of our institution.  We should celebrate the fact that we have produced citizens who care about the world they inhabit and choose to make a difference.  Now we need to ask, can we do even more to integrate service learning into our curriculum?

As we enter the academic year 2010-11, I believe we have the focus, the direction and the academic team to pursue excellence.  I look forward to working with all of you as we reengage with the values that make Mary Washington a distinctive place, and as we develop new avenues for expressing those values through creative, distinctive, and valuable programs for our students.

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