Mission & History
The School of Arts & Sciences' mission is to explore the liberal arts through intellectual inquiry, shared investigation, and creativity, thereby fostering a community whose members pursue knowledge for its intrinsic value and its contributions to professions, society, and the world.
Although the university dates back to 1830, the School of Arts & Sciences as it is known today is much younger.
Until the 1970s, Richmond College and Westhampton College had separate faculty, deans and facilities. When the faculties of the two colleges merged to create the faculty of arts and sciences, the university decided to appoint a dean of faculty and to transition the roles of the coordinate college deans from managing academic affairs to supporting residential and student life—with a special emphasis on leadership development.
In 1989, Dr. David Leary was appointed the third dean of arts and sciences faculty and began a conversation with President Richard Morrill about creating a School of Arts & Sciences, a move designed to clarify the university’s academic structure. The Board of Trustees formally established the School of Arts & Sciences in January of 1991; liberal arts majors in the Class of 1992 became the first cohort of students to graduate with bachelor's degrees issued by the School of Arts & Sciences. Leary served as the school’s first dean until he returned to teaching in 2001.
Since 1992 the School of Arts & Sciences has reimagined general education and fields of study to raise academic standards, increased student research, decreased faculty course loads to increase the time faculty could spend on their own research and mentoring students, shifted the university’s pedagogy from largely lecture-based teaching to a more interactive approach, and completed both the arts initiative that led to the opening of the Modlin Center for the Arts in 1996 and the science initiative that led to the dedication of the Gottwald Center for the Sciences in 2006.
The School of Arts & Sciences maintains a close partnership with the deans of Richmond College and Westhampton College, working alongside both coordinate college deans to holistically guide students through their experience at Richmond. To that end, both coordinate college deans are also associate deans in the School.