June 1, 2023

A Message from the President

A message from the President. 

To faculty and staff:

While the conclusion of our spring semester was one none of us could have imagined in January, through the talent of our faculty and staff, resilience of our students, and hard work of all, we were able to bring our academic year to a successful conclusion. This semester was a testament to the vital role each person plays in providing a university of this quality and a mission of this significance. As we return to work following Employee Appreciation Day, I want to extend my and my cabinet’s deepest gratitude to every one of you. I hope yesterday served as a reminder that you are valued as a person and professional.

The virtual celebration of graduates this past weekend provided a joyful reflection, as well as a vantage point of what it means to be an Eagle over a lifetime. I encourage you to watch it and be reminded of how timeless our work is. To me, the video also points to how nimbly and agilely the whole campus responded when put to the test. I believe we can face the future with a sense of confidence in ourselves and each other, as well as our collective ability to navigate well if pressed into a new path.

As we look to the summer, we realize that this season will be different than any we’ve experienced. With online summer school and virtual orientation, faculty and staff are being asked to again find new ways to do their work. Success will demand our best effort, as it is critical that students’ experiences lead them to a deeper relationship with the University and commitment to return in the fall.

Students will have every right to expect us to prepare for multiple contingencies and to enhance our offerings, whatever form they may take. This spring we had to react, but now we can proactively plan for myriad possibilities. To that end, I have assembled a Task Force charged with the responsibility of considering all the options before us in terms of reopening. The Task Force is comprised of seven subgroups that have begun to examine operational issues in areas that touch every member of the University community: Public Health, Work Life, Academics, Student Life, Residence Life, Dining, and Technology.

As you may imagine, comprehensive planning in the face of so much uncertainty is enormously complex. The subgroups will look at issues both broadly and in specificity. However, each one of you understands your role in a way that no one else can. I ask you to think deeply about the issues that may not be obvious to others. If ever there was a time for anticipatory planning and thinking ahead, this is it.

I ask each supervisor to ensure that every employee not only learn about this communication, but that all be informed about the issues that will be shared in the months to come. For employees without direct access to digital communications, managers should help ensure a means of regular communication to and from them.

It is our hope to have most twelve-month employees return to campus as soon as possible. The task force subgroups will be working on this plan; however, the earliest that I anticipate a gradual, tiered return to be possible will be once the state begins Phase II of the Governor’s plan to reopen Virginia. Until then and perhaps beyond, the University will provide weekly updates about our planning and decision making. Some communications will be related to the task force and the subgroups, while others may be more general updates. In the first weekly update later this week, task force members Jeff McClurken and Tim O’Donnell will share a more detailed overview of the purpose of each subgroup.

The University is also providing weekly livestream opportunities for various groups through the month of May. This week, I will participate in the UFC meeting on May 13. On May 20, enrollment management staff will share a fall recruitment update, and on May 27, you can learn more about virtual orientation. The May 20 and 27 events will be broadcast through Zoom and YouTube, and they are open to all employees. My Cabinet and I are committed to communicating frequently and transparently so that you are aware of and understand the state of the University.

Financial matters are among your most frequently expressed concerns. This past Friday, the Board of Visitors met virtually to address University business. Citing the rising unemployment rate and financial uncertainties for families, the Board unanimously approved a tuition and dining cost freeze.  Housing will increase by 2% and the Auxiliary Comprehensive Fee will be raised by 8%. The total increase of $498 for a full-time, undergraduate student living on-campus and subscribing to a meal plan reflects a 2.1% for in-state students and 1.2% increase for out-of-state students.

These rates were set in March, prior to the impact of COVID-19. The University is working to more closely align room and board charges to the full cost of delivery for these services, while still ensuring its affordability and student success. Although this rate increase will be insufficient to meet the larger costs of operating in a COVID-19 environment and to balance UMW’s 2020-21 budget, the modest financial adjustment may help more students enroll this fall.

As I shared previously, we intend to have students on campus in August, assuming that we can do so in a way that is prudent and meets state guidelines. The Task Force groups are working to identify potential issues and establish protocols to allow us to return to on-campus, in-person classes, as well as the alternatives we must consider, from hybrid models to virtual ones. We know we won’t get every decision right nor be able to address every concern, but we will try to anticipate and plan for the ones that are most crucial. We’ll endeavor to prepare and be ready to pivot as needed.

Finally, I thank you again for all you do to make Mary Washington such an extraordinary University. Like a UMW education, the impact of its employees is greater even than the sum of its parts. It’s a powerful equation, and I am humbled to lead this University and community.


My best to all,