Today will be a historic day at Virginia Wesleyan University as we break ground for the magnificent new Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center. It seems a fitting theme for this letter
--- breaking ground
--- as I reflect on the past year of transition and growth on our campus.
We began 2017 with a comprehensive new Campus Master Plan, the result of a 10-month participative process that included completion of a space-utilization study, parking study, and facilities-condition assessment plan. The 10-year plan addresses how best to meet the University's academic mission, future campus needs, and commitment to sustainability through the ongoing evolution of its physical space. As we look ahead to expanding enrollment and programs, and strengthening our national leadership, the Campus Master Plan will serve as a blueprint for growth and development in the next decade at Virginia Wesleyan University.
And we've already begun to see its significant impact. We have structured our academic program into three schools named for prominent friends of Virginia Wesleyan, initiated the Batten Honors College, transitioned to Virginia Wesleyan University, and launched graduate programs and a new online learning division through our newly formed University College. We celebrated with Marlins Softball as they won the NCAA Division III National Championship, and we watched as our men's and women's swim teams held their inaugural meets on campus. We opened the Greer Environmental Sciences Center and the Frank Blocker Youth Center, and we dedicated the Betty S. Rogers Track & Field Center. We have expanded our community outreach and partnerships, and we have strengthened our leadership position here in Coastal Virginia and throughout the nation.
We thank all who contributed their ideas and perspective to these planning efforts and growth initiatives. The University is at a wonderfully successful point in its history, and I could not be more proud of our students, faculty and staff, alumni and friends.
And so today, we will break ground for the latest addition to our beautiful campus
--- the 23,200-square-foot Susan S. Goode Fine and Performing Arts Center. Scheduled for completion in early 2019, the center will feature an impressive glass-enclosed grand lobby, and a theater that seats an audience of over 300. Theater support spaces will ring the stage, including a scene shop, dressing rooms, green room, costume, prop, and equipment storage. And the center will serve as a unique venue for visiting speakers, honorary inductions, and awards ceremonies.
This is only the first phase of a new arts complex at Virginia Wesleyan. We expect in the near future to renovate the existing Fine Arts Building, as well. The renovation of current fine arts studios and classrooms, with the new and additional planned expansion, will enhance VWU's fine and performing arts facilities and showcase the prominence of our arts program to our community.
The fine and performing arts are central to the tradition of liberal arts education, which is the cornerstone of our Virginia Wesleyan mission. The arts nurture our spirits, inspire awe and amazement, and inform our collective humanity with beauty and truth. They reflect the possibilities of human creativity, challenging us to explore fully what it means to be enlightened and invigorated. May this new center accomplish all of that and more.
# # #
The holidays offer a meaningful time for us to reflect on the past and to express our heartfelt gratitude for all we have accomplished together at Virginia Wesleyan University. Here are some additional highlights from the last month:
Chesapeake Bay Foundation to Honor Virginia Wesleyan University
: It gives me great pride to share
that Virginia Wesleyan University will be honored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) with the organization's top award at the "
D.C. on the Half Shell
" event on Monday, February 26, in Washington, D.C. Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker and Board Chair Harry Lester visited campus recently to invite the University's participation in this esteemed occasion, which will jointly recognize VWU and our friends at Washington College for our vision and dedication to educating the next generation of Bay leaders.
CBF will honor Virginia Wesleyan for our
Greer Environmental Sciences Center
. This magnificent 44,000-square-foot facility is second to none of any institution in the study of marine sciences, ecology, and preservation and sustainability of the natural world. We are honored to be recognized by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and I look forward to sharing additional information as we draw closer to this distinguished event.
Fall Marlins Day Open House
: We were happy to host a record number of prospective students on campus in November for our first Marlins Day Open House of the academic year. In my welcoming remarks to the students and their families, I restated our commitment to accessibility and affordability. I shared our efforts to keep a Virginia Wesleyan education affordable, including the capping of our tuition and fees at their current level, our establishment of the Opus student-work program, endowed scholarships through the new Batten Honors College, and our expanded early- and dual-enrollment options. In addition, I mentioned our very competitive financial aid packages, including scholarships, and underscored that 98 percent of our students receive financial aid. It was an enjoyable day filled with many activities, including campus tours, freshman and transfer sessions, a parent panel, and the Academic Department Fair. We look forward to welcoming many new members of the Virginia Wesleyan family next fall. Our next
is scheduled for Saturday, February 17.
George Birdsong and Dollar Tree Honored for Civic Leadership at Darden Awards
: It was a pleasure to attend the CIVIC Leadership Institute's
2017 Darden Awards
, where Virginia Wesleyan University Trustee Emeritus George Birdsong was honored with the Individual Leadership Award and Dollar Tree, co-founded by long-time Virginia Wesleyan supporter Macon Brock, received the Corporate Award. We are proud to celebrate the significant impact Mr. Birdsong and Dollar Tree have had on our community through various philanthropic contributions and service endeavors. I extend my sincerest congratulations to the Birdsong and Brock families. They are most deserving of these prestigious awards.
Winter Session Set for January
: Virginia Wesleyan's
2018 Winter Session
begins January 3 and continues through January 25. During this three-week credit-bearing term, students have opportunities to focus on a single academic subject, get ahead or catch up in their coursework, earn additional credits toward graduation, study away, and enjoy a series of special events and performances. Last January, 609 students
about half of our traditional full-time student population
enrolled in Winter Session. This outstanding offering both complements and strengthens Virginia Wesleyan's academic program. Registration will remain open through the first day of classes on January 3 (with the exception of travel courses carrying earlier deadlines). I encourage interested students to speak to their academic advisors or log on to Web Advisor to register.
Dr. Brian Kurisky to Lead Wesleyan Engaged:
At the opening of this academic year, I shared plans for the creation of a new center that will build on Virginia Wesleyan University's strong foundation of student volunteerism and will shape, expand, and direct service learning opportunities, neighborhood partnerships, and interfaith dialogue. I am pleased to announce that Dr. Brian Kurisky joins the VWU community today as the Director of Wesleyan Engaged: Center for Civic Leadership and Service Learning. Dr. Kurisky will build upon our existing community relationships, further identifying and coordinating mutually-beneficial service learning and volunteer opportunities for VWU faculty, staff, and students. He will also pursue grant support for Wesleyan Engaged and seek national recognition through initiatives such as the President's Higher Education Honor Roll, the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification, and the Campus Compact Civic Action Plan. Dr. Kurisky comes to Virginia Wesleyan with an impressive background in higher education and has served in various leadership capacities at Old Dominion University, most recently as Director for Academic Initiatives in the Center for High Impact Practices.
# # #
Approaching the holiday season, we pause for two final reflections: first, to thank our faculty and staff for a year filled with growth and accomplishments, and second, to thank our alumni and friends who steadfastly support the University. We are blessed to have a distinguished and engaged Board of Trustees, led by Chair David Kaufman, and an active, talented Alumni Council chaired by Mavis McKenley '11, who also serves as a Trustee. Our University benefits as well from the participation and perspectives of the President's Parents Roundtable and the Corporate Leaders Council.
Much of our success can be attributed to the generosity and commitment of countless individuals who care about Virginia Wesleyan's mission, all through the year. Your support sustains us in all that we do at the University. If you've already made a financial gift this year, we thank you. If not, I invite you to participate by making a tax-deductible gift at
Annie and I are grateful to be members of the Virginia Wesleyan community. As we look to 2018, we are thankful to those who have come before us, and for the groundbreaking work that has laid our foundation, and the wonderful results that are yet to come.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season with your loved ones as well as happiness and good health in the new year to come.