Photograph by Stephen Voss

There were multiple calls for input during the plan’s development stage. Why did you design the process that way?
A university is a hub for intelligence and creativity. That makes it an extraordinarily rich resource for collaboration and deliberation. When you’re developing a plan for an academic institution, you want to get input from as many constituents as you possibly can: faculty, staff, alumni, students, and others. You want to provide many opportunities for people to talk face to face, and you want to be as inclusive as possible.

How will the plan help extend the university’s reach and reputation?
Let me offer a few examples. Just this afternoon, I went to visit our new office of scholars and fellowships. Once that office is up and running, we’re going to see more Fulbrights, Trumans, and other national scholarships and fellowships being awarded to our students. That will further raise our national profile as a home to academic excellence.

Three other emerging areas are entrepreneurship, wellness, and ethical leadership. There is a lot of room for us to be innovative in these areas.

And my plan for the coming year to visit with many of our alumni nationally will advance our objective to better engage our graduates in the life of the University.

The plan has five pillars (see sidebar). How do they tie together?
It all starts with academic excellence. That will continue to be the defining characteristic of a University of Richmond education. From there, we get into questions of how we best deliver it and for whom.

We must have policies in place that ensure we are accessible and affordable to talented students of all backgrounds. We know that once they are here, they will succeed best if campus is a thriving and inclusive community for everyone. That experience, in turn, will position them, with all alumni, for active, lifelong engagement with their alma mater. Careful and strategic stewardship of our resources is the foundation that makes all of that possible.

It all ties together very intentionally.

The plan sends a strong signal about the importance of engaging alumni. What shape do you see that taking?
It’s important for us, for me and other people in the university, to talk with alumni to find out how they want to be engaged. It’s not my telling the alumni how I want them to be engaged. It’s our working with the alumni, hearing from them, and enlisting their support. I hear again and again how proud our Spiders are of their alma mater. I have no doubts that they will step up to the plate.

What are you hearing from alumni when you travel?
Last March, I went to Raleigh, North Carolina. We had a huge crowd. Some people traveled two or three hours to come to the event. What I heard consistently was, “Please don’t let this be the last time you come.” They were hungry for a connection to their university.

Through an internal reorganization, I have been able to free up more of my time for travel. My calendar for this year includes a number of alumni events. Actively engaging our alumni is going to be critically important for the University’s future progress and success.

How will you measure the plan’s effectiveness?
You have to measure the outcomes of the new policies and initiatives that you put in place.

For instance, take the pillar called thriving and inclusive community. We will determine the best approaches to ascertain how people perceive the campus climate at the University of Richmond. What is the lived experience of students, faculty, and staff on our campus? After we have implemented programs and initiatives based on that feedback, we’ll circle back with quantitative and qualitative measures to determine if we’re making progress.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the strategic planning process so far?
We are fortunate to be building on a remarkable trajectory and considerable strengths. Our main task has been to identify ways to raise our aspirations for the university even higher. People are excited about where we’re headed and proud to be part of this community. There is joy in this work.