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University of Richmond Update

November 2017

Dear Members of the University Community,

I write to you in the spirit of the season now upon us. As members of the University of Richmond community, we have much about which to be thankful — and also proud — as we look back at the past year and ahead to our future together.

As an institution, we have momentum that is being driven by our strategic plan, by our rising reputation, and by our commitment to our values. In fact, we may never have been stronger as a University than we are right now, and from this position of strength, we are forging our future. This is an exciting season in which to be a Spider.

Academic Excellence

Our vision is that the University of Richmond will be a leader in higher education, preparing students for a complex world, producing knowledge, and modeling the way for other colleges and universities to meet the challenges of our time. As we begin the implementation phase of our strategic plan, schools, departments, and individuals are already hard at work on multiple initiatives that will help us realize our ambitions.

We are laying the groundwork for building out the first-year experience to augment the way in which we welcome new students into our academic community, emphasizing student engagement and retention and more intentionally orienting students to Richmond’s exceptional academic opportunities. Our new faculty development plan will allow us to nimbly pursue exceptionally talented teacher-scholars who are attracted to our mission and can nurture leadership and excellence within our community. We are also reviewing our general education curriculum to ensure it reflects our distinctive strengths and are further developing areas of excellence — such as science, ethics, and creativity/innovation/entrepreneurship — that nurture our capacity to address the world’s challenges from multiple perspectives.

Earlier initiatives we’ve launched continue to grow. Over the summer, a record number of students, nearly 700, took advantage of the Richmond Guarantee to pursue internships and research opportunities, receiving more than $2 million in support from the University. This fall, we opened the Office of Scholars and Fellowships to support students applying for prestigious fellowships and recently nominated two students for Marshall and Rhodes scholarships.

Strong Student Recruitment

No measure of success better reflects the strength of the institution than the quality of students we attract. As you may have heard, the incoming class we enrolled this fall, selected from more than 10,000 applicants, is outstanding.

Our recruitment efforts for fall 2018 look equally promising. Over the last year, we launched a new Early Action application and an extensive admission outreach program into new areas of the country. This initiative has already added significantly more talented students to our applicant pool, including a ten percent increase in overall applications and increases in average GPA, ACT, and SAT. It’s early, of course, but the numbers are very encouraging.

Recent Accolades and Honors

This fall, we received our best ranking ever by U.S. News & World Report, 23rd among liberal arts institutions. The same publication also highlighted our students’ substantial study abroad opportunities. This recognition was seconded last week by the Institute of International Education, which ranked Richmond No. 2 nationally for study abroad programs for the second consecutive year. In October, the University of Richmond jumped 13 spots to No. 61 in The Wall Street Journal’s annual list of the country’s top 1,000 colleges and universities, placing us squarely among the nation’s top 10 percent. In September, The Princeton Review recognized Richmond as a leader in sustainability with our inclusion in its annual Guide to Green Colleges. 

External validation such as this is important to prospective students and confirms what we already know: Richmond provides an environment where exceptional students are surrounded by peers who inspire and motivate.

Leadership

Earlier this month, I was pleased to announce the addition of the newest member of our senior leadership team, John Hardt, who will serve as vice president and director of athletics. John comes to us from Bucknell University, where he guided the university’s student-athletes to impressive athletic and academic success. He shares our commitment to supporting our student-athletes, our coaches, and athletics administrative staff, and fielding teams that are able to compete yearly for championships. I look forward to his official arrival on campus at the beginning of the new year.

Access and Affordability

We continue to increase the percentage of Pell Grant recipients at the University, an important measure of access for students from low- and middle-income families. A recent Washington Post analysis placed the University of Richmond on par with Harvard and ahead of half of the Ivy League by this measure. Our performance in this analysis shows that we are developing our policies and programs wisely and effectively, and outperforming institutions with far greater resources than ours.

To explain why diversity is important, many in higher education offer social justice and equity reasons. While these are certainly important, we at Richmond recognize another critical reason that diversity matters: excellence. Research consistently shows that diversity makes groups more creative and better at solving problems. It helps all of us become better students, scholars, colleagues, leaders, and members of our communities. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is inseparable from our commitment to excellence.

Engaging Alumni

This fall, I have been privileged to spend time off campus telling the University’s story and strengthening the institution’s bonds with alumni. My recent travels have included visits with academic colleagues and university leaders, and to Cuba with two of my music department colleagues for a series of concerts that showcased the excellence of the performing arts at Richmond. 

In the last two months, I have met with alumni in New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New Jersey, and all around Virginia. I am continually struck and inspired by their enthusiasm for the institution’s direction and their willingness to ask that very important question, “How can I help?”

Alumni across generations are recommitting themselves to strengthening the institution and the bonds of Spiders everywhere. We continue to see strong attendance at events across the country, and I was particularly gratified by the overwhelming alumni response to our September fundraising letter, which drew twice as many donors and raised four times as much money to support our students as similar appeals in previous years. Creating a stronger culture of philanthropy is an area of real and meaningful opportunity for us as we continue to make the case for the importance of annual alumni giving to our mission.

Advocacy for Our Institution

I recently sent a letter to several of our elected officials serving in the U.S. Congress expressing my concern about how proposed changes to the tax code will adversely affect the University’s ability to serve students of all economic backgrounds. Of particular concern to me is a proposal to tax the investment earnings of a small number of University endowments, including Richmond’s. Our endowment is critical to our institutional identity, as it is essential to our ability to admit domestic undergraduate students without considering financial need and then meeting the demonstrated need of every admitted student. It supports Richmond’s Promise to Virginia, which waives tuition for Virginia students whose families make less than $60,000 a year, boosts our faculty recruitment efforts, and supports the annual operating fund for the entire University. If enacted, this excise tax would redirect three to four million dollars per year away from the support and service of Richmond students and raise even higher the barriers to a college education for students from middle-income and low-income families across the country.

A Time of Thanksgiving

Partly because of my own educational experience, I am an unrelenting optimist about the power of our mission and values. This same optimism is the reason I believe it is fitting that we close out every year with words of thanksgiving. We are all part of a community of committed alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and other supporters who dedicate their time, talents, and resources to advancing the dreams and plans of our students. This is joyful work in which I am grateful to take part, but I am perhaps most thankful for the inspirational example of our students. Every day on campus, they harness their energy and talent in pursuit of brighter futures for themselves and a better world for all of us. Their youthful dreams fuel our hopes and plans for the future, and continually energize us for the good work that is ahead. They make me both proud and thankful to be a Spider! 

Best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher
President