May 30, 2023

Letter from President Hurley

Dear Colleagues:

I recently prepared for the Board of Visitors a progress report on my annual goals.  As the report took shape, I was reminded of the significant progress we are making across the university to move the institution forward.  The work accomplished to date by our faculty and staff in virtually all areas of the university is substantial.  I want to recognize that work and express my sincere appreciation for the superlative effort.  I especially want to highlight the accomplishment of our faculty to establish an entirely new university faculty governance structure.  It appears that, in one short year, we indeed will accomplish a complete transformation from an institution with two separate and distinct colleges, each with its own faculty governance system, to a three-college university with a uniform faculty governance system.  This work is historic and commendable.  Of course, much is being accomplished in other areas and I want everyone to know those efforts also are recognized.  The work is deeply appreciated and extremely important to our success as a university.

As president, I see clearly how the various initiatives underway contribute to the larger vision of becoming the best public liberal arts university in the country.  I would like to share with you how I see all of your efforts moving us towards this goal of becoming the very best among this select group of public liberal arts institutions, most of which you may recognize as members of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC).  

Many of the goals we are pursuing are intended to raise the visibility and stature of the University, to make it the institution of choice for the very best students, and to ensure that those students who enroll at UMW have the highest quality experience here, persist to graduation, and embark on meaningful and productive lives.  If we are successful, the results will include 1) increased admissions applications and improved selectivity, and 2) increased retention and graduation rates.  Success here will be the first step in moving us closer to achieving the vision.

One tactic to achieve this goal is more effective marketing of the strengths of UMW.  As you often have heard me say, we need to do more to “get our name out there”.    Various strategies, including billboards, NPR sponsorships, license plate holders, sponsorship of the Richmond Forum, paid print ads, and regional engagement efforts , are examples of deliberate actions we have taken in this regard.   Additionally, we should all take pride when announcements come out about UMW’s national ratings, faculty and staff accomplishments, or when we receive extensive media coverage for events like our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides.   Stating the obvious, the more people learn about us, the greater the chance that a prospective student will look seriously into our offerings and consider enrollment.  This effort to promote and enhance our image is also why we have hired a professional firm to study our position in the marketplace and help focus the messaging we are using in student recruitment and to promote the University.

Other ongoing actions you have observed also relate directly to the goals mentioned above.  For example, a committee has been working since last fall on a comprehensive alumni survey to gather systematic data on the career paths and accomplishments of our graduates.  The survey results will yield data that can be used to demonstrate effectively the benefits of a Mary Washington education.  I look forward to citing this information in speeches to prospective students and their parents, when talking to alumni to build pride in and support of their institution, and with legislators and other state officials.
The development of a distinctive Honors Program is likewise important and well underway.  Such a program is needed in order for us to compete for top caliber students and to provide the best possible undergraduate experience to our students.  Nearly all public and private institutions in Virginia have such programs.  To be the best, we need to be attractive to the best and brightest students and an outstanding honors program will give us a competitive edge that we now lack.

Hiring additional staff in the International Programs office helps to ensure that our students have global opportunities and experiences that are equal to their counterparts at other high quality liberal arts institutions.  It is strategically important to provide UMW students with the life-changing global experiences that studying abroad provides and to enrich our campus by increasing our international student diversity.

Our work in the areas of assessment and accreditation is essential from a practical perspective to meet all of the SACS requirements.  More importantly, however, continuous and systemic assessment should become a way of life for all of us at Mary Washington as a component of institutional improvement.  In order to realize the vision, we must constantly document and evaluate what we are doing, and make changes and enhancements based on what we learned through the assessment process.

A new university master plan is needed so that we can plan logically for the future facility needs of the institution.  The overarching goal driving our decisions and priorities must be “what is in the best interests of students?”  As a result, you have heard about our need for a new dining hall and student center and the importance of continuing to renovate residence halls and academic buildings.  All of these facilities need to be high priority in order to attract the best and brightest students and to provide them with the highest quality experience.

Other examples of our strategic efforts are in areas related to diversity and inclusion.  These efforts are designed to ensure that we are an institution that reflects society today and prepares our students for success in an increasingly diverse world.  Our belief is that there is great educational value in being a diverse campus community.  Moreover, our community’s respect and appreciation for diversity should serve us well as prospective students consider enrolling at UMW.

I could cite many other tasks that have been completed or are underway, but I believe that these highlights convey the point.  The work being undertaken this year is designed to provide a strong foundational base from which to move to the next level of excellence and prominence for UMW. 

In the end, the vision of becoming the best, public liberal arts university in the country will be achieved through the collective efforts of faculty and staff.  And it begins with the attraction and retention of some of the nation’s best and brightest students.  All of our efforts this year are meant to help us achieve this result and propel us toward the larger goal, sooner rather than later.

Richard V. Hurley
University of Mary Washington
1301 College Avenue
Fredericksburg, VA  22401
(540) 654-1301, fax (540) 654-1076

About Brynn Boyer

Brynn Boyer is assistant director of media and public relations and a 2010 graduate of UMW.