Arts and Sciences Newsletter
October 5, 2016
Dear Arts & Sciences Alumni:
During the first weeks of the fall semester, I wrote to faculty and staff in my capacity of Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences to welcome them home after a summer spent doing research on and off campus, working with students, and supporting our academic programs. As the weeks progressed, the importance of home became more salient. Staff members in academic support and I spent the waning weeks of the summer, one in which we witnessed violence on city streets and incivility in our political sphere, discussing how the University of Richmond might truly be a thriving and inclusive community.
The need to be a place that all of our students, faculty, and staff might call home became even clearer with the news of Cecelia Carreras’ articles in the Huffington Post and the whirlwind of events thereafter. Our conversations of late have focused on these events. As I told first year students when they arrived at the University of Richmond, UR will be their alma mater, their “nourishing mother.” Mothers care for their children, help them to grow, and guide them to their independent course of life and thought. The School of Arts and Sciences strives to be such a place of nurture and care. I write to ask you to join me in spirit, thought, and in truth, as we work to make our school a model of learning and nurture.
My hopes for the School of Arts and Sciences as a caring and nurturing home for our students, faculty, staff, and alumni are grounded in the buoyant energy I felt during my first months here. From the time that I was named Dean in March of this year, I had the privilege of hearing from a good portion of our faculty and staff. By the fall semester, I had met with over 65 staff members and 80 faculty members (about a third of our faculty). Now well into the fall semester, we recently hosted a faculty meeting of nearly 100 faculty members in the school, where I announced that on the heels of the university’s strategic plan, we would be launching our own planning process. The faculty in the School of Arts and Sciences will be at the center of our strategic plan. As alumni, you might remember your favorite professors, so you know that students major in professors as much as in particular fields. If you graduated before 1991, you might remember your professors more than you do the school, which came into existence that year. We do well by our students when we support our faculty. I will call on you to be part of our planning for the future.
The work of faculty in A&S extends across the natural sciences, social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. The STEM disciplines are alive and well in the Gottwald Science Center, where this past week we hosted the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Symposium of student work. In the coming months, we hope to transform eight years of HHMI grant support into the Integrated Inclusive Science Program, which includes URISE, a pre-first year experience; a program for first-year students, called Science, Math, and Research Training (SMART); and the Integrated Quantitative Science program (IQS), a place where students across the sciences learn the importance of cross-training in all of the STEM fields. Our social scientists are in the news, ready to address current political and social events in a fraught election year. In the arts, the Auguste Rodin exhibit has brought many guests to campus, as has the programming in the Modlin Center for the Performing Arts. A pioneering Humanities Initiative is entering its second pilot year. Through this cutting-edge program, our colleagues in the humanistic disciplines (and the arts) are cultivating creative young minds, inside and outside of the classroom. In the coming years, the Arts Initiative will bring much-needed renovations to Modlin and its surrounding buildings. I look forward to sharing more about these programs with you when you visit campus and when I travel to see you.
I am eager to meet alumni and to hear from you regarding many of our initiatives in A&S. Some of the items I look forward to discussing with you include:
- Your participation in the university’s strategic plan, which working groups met to further hone this summer;
- Your assistance in preparing the Arts and Sciences to respond robustly to the university’s strategic plan with our own long-term vision;
- Your help solidifying what we have started in Arts and Sciences, with IIS (IQS/SMART/URISE), the Humanities Initiative, and the Arts Initiative;
- Our work together to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty, staff, and students, and making them feel at home at UR, in an environment that fosters innovation, inclusiveness, and human and intellectual diversity.
I also want to tell you about our staff in the School of Arts and Sciences. We are a caring and committed group of colleagues who value respect, kindness, and the meaningful work we do for the school. If you need to reach any of us, our contact information is here. Our associate deans are Libby Gruner (English), who heads up a number of faculty development initiatives; Ben Broening (music), who is overseeing renovations and strategic initiatives in the Gottwald Science and Modlin Centers; and Della Dumbaugh (math), who works on issues pertaining to teaching and learning. Any of our staff would be happy to talk to you about the school.
When you visit campus, you will find our faculty renewed and growing. We are entering our largest recruiting year in recent memory. Please keep these searches in mind when commending UR to your friends and colleagues. More broadly we are always open to your feedback. We have created an online form and welcome your thoughts.
Whether you come back to your alma mater for Homecoming, Reunion Weekend, or other events, I hope we will meet. I am also excited to connect with you in whatever city you currently call home.
I look forward to seeing you and to hearing from you!
Dean, School of Arts and Sciences