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University of Richmond Update

September 2018

Dear Members of the University Community,

At this time last month, I was one of many people from the University community carrying boxes, suitcases, and lamps into our residence halls as we helped members of the Class of 2022 move in and get settled. I do this every year because I want to take part in ensuring a warm welcome and because it gives me the opportunity to chat with our newest Spiders and the family members entrusting us with their care.

The families and students I met that day navigated a long, careful pathway as they conducted their college searches. As a recent op-ed observed, we should inspire them to navigate their four years on campus just as intentionally. Our current strategic plan recognizes how critically important it is that we provide an education that both expects and models academic excellence in an environment in which all can thrive, and for which we can sustain (and enhance) our resources so we may respond effectively to future opportunities, including the financial needs of deserving students.

The energy of these new students heartens me and gives me confidence that all of us who are part of this community have within us the ambition that drives us to dream big, the curiosity that inspires us to seek more, and the determination that fuels us to accomplish our goals.

I would also like to acknowledge the excellent work of our staff in preparing the University for the possibility of severe weather related to Hurricane Florence. Fortunately for campus, the storm turned south, sparing us its worst effects. Our thoughts are with our Spider family, friends, and colleagues who are most directly impacted by the storm.

Academic excellence

The incoming class we welcomed last month set new marks for academic quality and continued our momentum ensuring that the geographic, demographic, and socio-economic makeup of our campus prepares our students for the complex and multifaceted world they will enter after graduation. This fall, we launched the Richmond Endeavor, an innovative living-learning program for first-year students, and advanced the work of the President’s Advisory Committee for Making Excellence Inclusive (PAC) to support the Thriving and Inclusivity pillar of the strategic plan. These examples and so many others across campus are evidence of our deep commitment to removing barriers and providing opportunities for Spiders both as we recruit them and once they arrive on campus. This commitment goes hand in hand with our commitment to academic excellence, for it is through such efforts that students are able to take full advantage of the unparalleled educational opportunities Richmond offers.

Our continual push to ask what we can be doing better and the academic nimbleness with which we implement creative new programs are two reasons that outside groups reinforce what our own data and experience tell us, that Richmond is an exceptional university. While rankings are, at best, only partial indicators of our success, we should take pride that U.S. News & World Reportjust ranked Richmond 25th among liberal arts institutions nationally, The Wall Street Journal ranked us 53rd among all universities internationally, and the Princeton Review placed the University among the nation’s best on 10 of its desirable lists, including best career services (No. 4), best classroom experience (No. 5), and best quality of life (No. 10).

Spider Talks

At the heart of our commitment to academic excellence is a faculty that continually impresses and inspires me. With the start of the new semester, we have resumed the Spider Talks video series, which has been well received, with nearly 14,300 views since we launched it last year. The conversations give me the opportunity to sit one-on-one with faculty to discuss briefly their passion for innovative teaching and creating new knowledge through impactful research. The series resumed earlier this semester with my conversation with Scott Allison, professor of psychology and an expert on heroes — how we construct them, why we need them, and why we are sometimes happy when they fall. New conversations with faculty from across the University will be posted monthly throughout the semester. I hope you will take the opportunity to follow the series.

Engaging perspectives

On September 27, the 2018–19 Sharp Viewpoint Speakers Series will begin with a talk by Jonathan Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind. He will be followed on November 1 by Beverly Daniel Tatum, president emerita of Spelman College and the author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Just as last year, we identified speakers for the Sharp Series based on our desire to engage with thought leaders who offer differing viewpoints about critical issues in higher education. As I wrote in a recent op-ed, “This is the purpose of higher education: to interrogate truths, support arguments with fact and reason, discover new knowledge, and create greater understanding.” We know that students, like all of us, learn best when challenged to consider perspectives that differ from one’s own. This is the reason that we are such unapologetic champions for the free and open exchange of ideas.

Telling our story

This fall, we began implementing a new creative branding initiative designed to build awareness, engage key audiences, and enhance the reputation of the University. Its central message — “It's within us” — captures themes that emerged during a highly participatory effort that engaged representatives from across the University community. This carefully framed and creatively stylized expression of our identity will help us more effectively and persuasively tell the University of Richmond’s distinctive and compelling story to a national audience. The recently launched brand microsite offers a first look at this initiative and features a compelling video that brings our institutional story to life. Our new branding captures the distinctiveness of the University and the reasons we are so proud to call ourselves Spiders. 

Milestones

This year, two very significant anniversaries remind us of who we are as Spiders. The first does so in a very literal way. At a baseball game in 1894, we began to take on an institutional identity that remains unique in higher education: Spiders. It’s a fitting choice for a university that is unlike any other. One hundred twenty-five years later, Richmond Spiders now number in the tens of thousands. They can be found around the world, making a difference. I encourage you to join with us as we mark this anniversary year by celebrating Spiders everywhere. 

The second milestone marks a moment that expanded the University’s vision of what it means to be a Spider. Fifty years ago this fall, Barry Greene, R’72, moved into Freeman Hall to begin his freshman year. In doing so, he became the first black residential student at the University of Richmond. With determination, he bore the burden of becoming a pathfinder for every Spider committed to expanding the promise of a Richmond education beyond unjust barriers. This summer, I invited him to my home to learn more about his undergraduate experience. You can read a transcript of our conversation in the upcoming issue of University of Richmond Magazine. Additionally, at Homecoming in November, we will host him on campus and honor him during halftime of the football game.

Spider success

As we enter a new season of athletic competition this fall, we are building on remarkable performances by our student-athletes. As the most recent annual report from the Division of Athletics shows, the 2017–18 year was the strongest academic performance on record for Spider student-athletes. The average team GPA was a 3.19, the highest ever. The average GPA for our 346 student-athletes was a 3.12, best in program history. Nearly 50 student-athletes studied abroad across six continents. They also excelled in competition: Three teams won conference championships, 50 student-athletes won all-conference honors, and five received conference player of the year awards.

This summer we further elevated Spider athletics facilities with the creation of the new student-athlete performance center on the first floor of the Robins Center and the completion of significant improvements to the tennis complex, including a new scoreboard, resurfaced courts, and a redesigned exterior. We installed new turf on the field hockey field and broke ground for a new golf practice facility. I particularly look forward to the forthcoming renovation of Millhiser Gymnasium as we convert the facility into an Academic Support Center that will be used by all Richmond student-athletes. These investments are part of our broader commitment to ensure that our student-athletes have one of the best academic and athletic experiences in higher education.

Engagement

As the preceeding examples show, the University of Richmond has much to celebrate and ambitious goals that we are pursuing with dedication and determination. As I did last year, I expect to spend a good deal of time in the coming year on the road meeting with Spiders everywhere. I am eager to share our successes with alumni and to discuss with you ways that we can strengthen the University and the vital partnership between students today and the Spiders that came before them. Through your unwavering enthusiasm for your alma mater, your guidance to prospective students, your willingness to mentor and hire current students for internships or their first job after graduation, and your financial and other support for our bold aspirations, we sustain and strengthen the University together.

As I told the faculty during my address to open the fall semester, our current Spiders are remarkable students who are full of promise. I begin this academic year confident that this promise will find its full expression at Richmond and make its own mark on the web of Spider pride that unites us all.

Best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher
President