Welcome back, Marlins! Today is the start of a new semester, one that will be rewarding and challenging as we continue to live out our new normal. Whether this is your first semester at VWU or your last, I hope you will make the most of what campus has to offer and do your very best in your academic and co-curricular pursuits.
Remember, it’s on all of us to keep our campus community healthy and safe. I trust that we will each make the right decisions every day to ensure that we can continue with the spring semester as planned.
I am delighted to share that G. Robert Aston, of Suffolk (pictured top), and Michael Rawls ’91, of Dallas (pictured bottom), have been elected to the Board of Trustees of Virginia Wesleyan University. Aston serves as Executive Chairman of the Board at TowneBank and Rawls is Chief Executive Officer of Xome.
While we are always excited to welcome new members to the Board of Trustees, in this case, we are welcoming both Mike and Bob back to VWU since Mike is an alumnus and Bob previously served as a Trustee. We are honored that they have chosen to remain connected to the University in this very special and impactful way.
VWU Global Campus will offer an online Master of Education (M.Ed.) with a concentration in Teacher Leadership starting this August. The new online M.Ed. is specially designed for those who are interested in furthering their knowledge and skills and becoming leaders in the field of education. The program should be attractive to students across the country from a variety of disciplines. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
Thanks to donors and friends who supported the #HelpUsPlay campaign to fund the NCAA mandated testing for the return of intercollegiate athletics this spring. 243 donors contributed over $32,000 to our campaign. An additional in-kind contribution of 2,000 tests (valued at $24,000) were provided by the Virginia Department of Health, bringing the combined total of donations closer to the anticipated $60,000 in COVID testing expenses to meet the NCAA requirement. If you would like to support Marlin Athletics this spring, please consider making a donation to the program of your choice here.
If you didn’t have the opportunity to watch our campus commemoration of the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. last week, you missed a special and informative program. The event began with an acknowledgement of the recent naming of the Mavis McKenley ’11 Award, a recognition given annually to a student who practices the ideals set forth by Dr. King. I presented a commemorative plaque to Mavis (pictured), who then shared her hopes for the award winner. The Mavis McKenley ‘11 Award was presented to senior India Khanna who is known for her civic activism and inclusion efforts on campus. Guest speaker Dr. La Francis Rodgers-Rose presented "Then and Now: The Redemptive Morality and Radical Practices of Martin Luther King, Jr.," and guest speaker Rev. Dr. Melvin T. Blackwell discussed how Coastal Virginians can live and promote the ideals of Dr. King in the region. The program is available to watch online.
In early December, we announced our membership in the Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance (LACRELA), coordinated by the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center. I have asked Craig Wansink, Joan P. and Macon F. Brock, Jr. Director of the Robert Nusbaum Center, to lead our participation in LACRELA.
Virginia Wesleyan is one of 60 National Liberal Arts Colleges partnering in this alliance. Although LACRELA sponsors campus climate surveys, a virtual equity resource portal, and quarterly meetings with the presidents of the 60 schools—and although all of those will shape us—we anticipate that VWU will grow most through the strategies and practical approaches of what LACRELA calls the “Racial Equity eConvening Series.” These are 12, three-hour, interactive sessions led by highly respected leaders. These monthly meetings start in January and involve theory, case studies, best practices, and clear strategies, and focus on topics that include "Leading Productive Conversations about Racism," "Meaningfully Integrating Race Across the Curriculum," "Disaggregating Data to Identify Racial Inequities," "Recruiting and Strategically Diversifying Staff at All Levels," and "Engaging Students of Color in High-Impact Educational Practices and Experiences."
Eight members of the VWU community will be part of these 12 sessions. Additional faculty, staff, and administrators will be involved in areas of interest to them. The final third of each of these three-hour sessions focuses on specific tools, resources, and action steps that lead to meaningful change. As the members of this task force participate in this process, they will keep the community regularly informed.
It is fitting and proper that Virginia Wesleyan take a leadership role in this important topic. This year, Virginia Wesleyan was ranked 24th in "Ethnic Diversity" among National Liberal Arts Colleges and named a Top Performer on Social Mobility by U.S. News & World Report. The University also distinguished itself as a community dedicated to equal opportunity for students, faculty, and staff and was recognized in 2020 as an Equity & Inclusion College of Distinction. We are proud to hold these designations, but they mean little unless we—as a campus—are thinking through challenging racial issues and acknowledging systemic concerns. To do so effectively, we need to be part of a larger dialogue beyond campus.
If you have any additional questions, please contact Kelly Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Robert Nusbaum Center.
AROUND TOWN AND ACROSS CAMPUS
Sustained Distinguished Performance River Star Business Award Presentation
I reported earlier this academic year that VWU has been honored once again by the Elizabeth River Project as a Sustained Distinguished Performance River Star Business. We were recently visited by the Elizabeth River Project for our award presentation and photo shoot. Pictured: (top row) "Princess Elizabeth'' from the Elizabeth River Project and me; (middle row) Dr. Larry Hultgren and Dr. Maynard Schaus; (bottom row) Dr. Bill Gibson, Ashley Roehrman '21, and Dr. Elizabeth Malcolm.
Join Us for Another Virtual Wesleyan Wednesday This Week
This Wednesday at 12:00 p.m., be sure to join the Office of Alumni Relations in welcoming guest speakerMatt Ryan '09,a Los Angeles-based cinematographer specializing in narrative and commercial work. As Director of Photography, Ryan has shot for Disney, Warner Brothers, Netflix, MTV, and PBS, to name a few. He'll be talking about directing during a pandemic and sharing what it is like to work with some of Hollywood's finest. Alumni and friends can register for this fun and free event here.
President to President: Experimenting With New Approaches
This year's President to Presidentseries, titled "Fostering a Culture of Innovation," features insights from esteemed higher education leaders, which I serve as an executive editor along with my longtime colleague Dr. Marylouise Fennell. In the sixth chapter of this year’s series, James Madison University President Jonathan R. Alger, JD, illustrates how his university pursued innovative new approaches to student and institutional success while facing the many challenges of the past year.
Upgrades Continue at Susan T. Beverly Hall
Upgrades continue at Susan T. Beverly Hall (formerly Fine Arts Building). Signage has been added to recognize project donors and decorative hallway pictures have been added to the lobby and visual arts studios. The shell of the new kiln shop was completed this week.
In the coming weeks, the portraits of Edward D. Hofheimer and Susan T. Beverly will be added to the Parsons Fine Arts Entrance & Lobby and finishing fixtures will be added to Hofheimer Theatre. While rooms will be available for use in the spring semester, some finishing touches may be added in the coming months.
Solar Lighting Installed on the Path Between Susan S. Goode Center and Birdsong Field
New solar lights were installed on the recently completed pathway between the Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center parking lot and Birdsong Field. The lighted pathway will allow safe, easy access to the Goode Center parking lot for larger crowds attending games and events at the field and is a part of 13 miles of pedestrian and bike paths on our beautiful park-like campus.
Final Preparations for Construction of DeFord Manor
The final pre-construction meeting for DeFord Manor was held last week. With final paperwork to be completed in the next two weeks, site work will begin soon. Construction is expected to take 11 months.
In March we shared that private funds have been raised for the construction of DeFord Manor. In December final revised plans were submitted to the City of Virginia Beach for approval. The paperwork on the final approval is expected any day.
Named in honor of longtime Trustees and benefactors Bob and Nancy DeFord, the house is designed with extensive indoor and outdoor entertainment areas on the ground level and the president's private residence on the second floor. It will be located on the west side of Smith Drive across from the Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center and will face north toward Wesleyan Drive.
VWU is the only four-year institution in Hampton Roads—and one of the only private colleges in Virginia—not to have an on-campus president's residence.
Michael Schnekser of Tymoff + Moss Architects of Norfolk serves as the principal architect. Mike Gaddy of Gaddy Engineering Services, LLC., is the site planner. Hoy Construction of Norfolk will serve as the general contractor. Chesapeake Bay Contractors, owned and operated by Bill Shelhorse ‘70, will complete the site work.
Welcome home, Marlins! To our new and returning students, I wish you the best of luck as you start spring classes tomorrow. Stay vigilant to our interim practices related to COVID-19 and do your very best in all of your endeavors this semester.