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About the School

The School of Arts & Sciences offers students the opportunity to study the arts, sciences, humanities and social sciences from both historical and contemporary perspectives. The school is led by Dean Patrice Rankine and is home to almost 3,000 students, including the entire first-year class. 

All undergraduate students begin their studies in the School of Arts & Sciences. They become immersed in two thematic First-Year Seminars, and in courses that introduce them to problem-based inquiry in a variety of ways. These seminars prepare students for their further general education requirements, six field of study courses as well as demonstrated competency in a second language. After the first year, three out of five of students choose to stay in A&S and declare a major in one of the school's 22 departments and 10 interdisciplinary programs.

In the School of Arts & Sciences, it's typical for faculty members to team up with undergraduate students to conduct research; the partnerships help advance the professors' research agenda and prepare students for graduate work and careers. Students can get involved in undergraduate research, whether it's in the lab, the art studio, or the archives, as early as their first year on campus. The Richmond Guarantee will ensure that these opportunities continue to grow.

The school also emphasizes internships and study abroad experiences, as well as service to the community (both locally and globally). Our goal is always to encourage students to go out into the world and test what they’re learning in the classroom.

A liberal arts education develops individuals who have the capabilities that employers tell us they want. Each year, the Office of Career Services surveys employers and asks them what they look for when hiring recent college graduates. The survey results reveal that a student’s major is not as high a priority as that student’s ability to solve problems, communicate clearly and persuasively, research and present information, or work professionally as part of a team. Richmond students can acquire these capabilities in multiple academic and extracurricular settings. Graduates become knowledgeable in specific fields of study, while also accessing a variety of approaches to a problem. This combination of focus and flexibility serves them well no matter where their career paths take them. 

Strategic Priorities

Undergraduate Student Research

The foundation of The Richmond Guarantee is faculty-mentored summer research projects in a community setting on campus. In the past decade, the A&S program has grown from less than 20 to more than 200 student projects for each of the last five summers. In summer 2016, 274 students participated in a summer research experience with 167 of them receiving funding from A&S. To showcase these achievements, A&S hosts the Student Symposium, an afternoon where student researchers can share their work in poster sessions, oral presentations, performances, and art exhibits. In addition, the School offers travel grants to allow students to travel to present their work at professional conferences. A number of students have coauthored articles in professional journals by the time they graduate.

Arts Initiative

The arts play a vital role on our campus. In addition to the Departments of Theatre and Dance, Music, and Art and Art History, the University is home to the Modlin Center for the Arts and the University of Richmond Museums. Students have access to a rich array of arts experiences, as well as opportunities to create and perform. Participation in the arts is available to all students on campus; in the past five years, the three arts departments have graduated, on average, 30 majors each year. Meanwhile, during the same period, the departments have recorded more than 16,600 undergraduate enrollments in their courses. In fall 2011, the School began the Arts Initiative, a strategy to gather the visual and performing arts community; identify needs for space, staff, and equipment; benchmark facilities against other top liberal arts colleges; inventory, plan, and acquire equipment; address safety and environmental issues; revise curricula and performance presentation schedules; and develop a proposal for renovating the buildings and facilities to bring to the Board of Trustees. In every task, the group considers how to work together differently to optimize opportunities for our students, faculty, and community.

Humanities Initiative

The humanities are well represented at Richmond, with eleven departments and nearly 100 faculty members. The Humanities Initiative began in 2014, with the appointment of an Ad Hoc Committee of 11 individuals to investigate strengths and aspirations among students and faculty. The first outcome from the committee’s work is the Undergraduate Humanities Fellows Program, a research seminar that debuted in fall 2015. Students spend the summer engaged in undergraduate research with the support of an Arts and Sciences Summer Research Fellowship and their faculty mentor, and then participate in a seminar where they read classic and cutting-edge work in the humanities, improve their research and writing, and reflect on the role humanities play on our campus and in our culture. In addition, they travel to Washington, D.C. and New York City to engage with humanities in practice. In fall 2016, a Faculty Humanities Seminar began, with support from the Mellon Foundation. 17 faculty members from more than 10 disciplines, including business and law, gather weekly to discuss how humanistic knowledge and values inform our campus, and the broader world, with specific focus on community engagement.

Integrated Inclusive Science Program

With support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the School of Arts and Sciences has developed unique pedagogy (IQS and SMART) that integrates the scientific disciplines (biology, chemistry, physics, math, and computer science) at the introductory level. This pedagogy enables us to mentor high achievement and encourage retention in the sciences among under-represented and under-prepared students. Courses are team-taught by faculty from the departments, including mentoring undergraduate research in the summer after the first year. In the coming months, we hope to transform eight years of HHMI grant support into the Integrated Inclusive Science Program, a place where students across the sciences learn the importance of cross-training in all of the STEM fields.

Strategic Planning

The University of Richmond is wrapping up its strategic planning process. Within the School of Arts and Sciences, we have a unique opportunity to respond robustly to the broader plan with our own. This year, the Faculty Learning Communities are engaged in some of the central conversations that drive higher education today: open access and publishing, digital liberal arts, and inclusive pedagogy in STEM and beyond, to name only a few.

Throughout the academic year, faculty and staff in the School of Arts and Sciences will begin a conversation about how we as a school will strategically move the liberal arts forward at Richmond to help our students meet the challenges of our 21st-century world.