Greetings from Jonathan Levin — UMW’s Next Provost

Colleagues –

As the spring semester winds to a close, I’m happy to have the opportunity to use the Provost’s newsletter to offer a few thoughts regarding some of the ongoing debates about the state of higher education.  These are truly extraordinary times in higher ed.  Hardly a day goes by without a piece in the media about some new practice that promises to transform how we deliver a college education.

Much of the race to innovate is driven by concerns that the prevailing business model for colleges and universities is not sustainable, especially given the new austerity.   Most private colleges are concerned about whether students and their families will continue to pay exorbitant rates they charge, while public colleges struggle to balance access, affordability, and quality in the face of diminishing state support.  While these challenges are not unprecedented, their convergence with new technologies probably makes the present crisis more profound than any that has come before.

All of that said, I remain convinced that colleges and universities that most successfully capitalize on the interpersonal dimension of their students’ learning experience, as well as on the unique resources of their campuses and local and regional settings, will continue to thrive, even in these challenging times.  What has always set a university like Mary Washington apart, and what will continue to set Mary Washington apart in the years ahead, is the way in which what is learned in the classroom is complemented and enhanced by the relationships students develop with their peers, their faculty, professional staff, and all those who support the enterprise of educating each and every individual student who enrolls at UMW.

In addition, the extraordinary setting at UMW that I have only just begun to get to know—the  beautiful and inviting campus, the historic but also dynamic town of Fredericksburg, and the larger region of North-Central Virginia—all serve as much more than just a setting for educating students.   Because of the dynamic economy of the region, the history so deeply embedded in the town and region, the unique access to the nation’s capital, the state’s capital, and Virginia’s mountains, rivers, and shore, UMW is positioned to connect classroom learning to all sorts of real-world opportunities that serve to extend, amplify, and otherwise enrich their learning.

Mary Wash has a wonderful history, and I am very excited at the prospect of helping focus the academic vision in ways that will ensure that UMW is regarded as the best public liberal arts college in the United States, all the richer for its resources and opportunities in education and business.

I look forward to working with all of you in building on past achievements and working to achieve that focus and recognition.  And I look forward especially to meeting all of you in the weeks and months ahead.



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