Hello all ---

With the spring semester busily in gear, ushering us into the 2020s, there are several updates and insights I wanted to share.

The General Assembly session is in full swing, and I was pleased at last week’s UPC meeting to give a brief overview of trends and policy considerations in Richmond.  As usual at this time of year, Emily O’Brion and I have been working closely with policymakers on matters that bear on Longwood and higher education. With last November’s election, there are naturally new priorities in Richmond and new areas of focus. But as you’ve often heard me remark, higher education enjoys strong bipartisan support in the Commonwealth. Similarly, and thanks in such great measure to Emily’s work, Longwood is in strong standing on both sides of the aisle. It is still early, and I’ll have more to report later this spring, but I am hopeful and cautiously optimistic this will be a positive year.

I would say the same about another key engine for the University: enrollment. As was discussed in a detailed presentation at UPC, the admissions landscape in higher ed and Virginia is in a state of genuinely challenging flux --- with rapidly changing demographics, regulations, and political pressures that impact the strategies of all institutions. These challenges are real. What I can report is that hard work across campus has produced a strong applicant pool for the incoming class. The work now this spring --- for everyone on campus --- is to help show promising admitted students who are making their decisions what a distinctive and special place Longwood is. We had 175 prospective students, as well as family members, on campus last weekend for an admitted students day, and there will be more such events over the spring. We know that students who visit our beautiful campus and meet our great people are eager to come here.

On a different front, another true strength of Longwood is our commitment to reckoning honestly with the consequential history of our community. I am especially proud how we have engaged students --- through research and coursework and often in partnership with the Moton Museum. This work is a strength of our faculty across several disciplines, and is naturally complementary with Civitae. This is an area where we can both do great good and genuinely be a leader in higher education.

In that spirit, this semester we will begin a multi-year endeavor to expand this work through a campus project called the Bicentennial Initiative, as we look ahead to Longwood’s 200th anniversary in 2039. This project will explore and interpret Longwood’s institutional history. Considering our community’s civil rights history, a natural area of focus will be on better understanding the roles of African-Americans here through time. The goal will be to conduct research, provide interpretation and context to campus physical spaces, disseminate findings and engage students through projects such as digital mapping, oral history and archival studies.

A number of universities have undertaken projects to study their own history. Not all do so productively. I believe firmly we at Longwood have a unique opportunity to do this the right way. We have here a mix of expertise and experience working openly and honestly through difficult issues. We know this kind of work leaves a lasting impact on our students. I am convinced we can benefit them, and our home community, and set an example for others to follow.

I have asked Dr. John Miller, associate professor of English, and Cainan Townsend ’15, director of education and public programs at the Moton Museum, to take the lead in this work, reporting to me, and you can read a news release about this initiative. They will also work with senior advisors including L. Francis “Skip” Griffin, Jr., son of the late civil rights leader; Dr. Theresa Clark, associate professor emerita of social work; and Dr. David Coles, professor of history.

Lastly, it’s a joy to note that even in midwinter campus itself is looking particularly beautiful these days -- with the energetic hum of activity early in a new semester, with construction progressing smoothly, and with new trees recently planted that will flourish over the decades to come. This weekend, amidst a stretch of four men’s and women’s basketball home games, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Longwood athletics, with many alumni returning to campus and to a vibrant Farmville.  There is much to be proud of, looking back and going forward.

As always, many thanks to each of you for all you do for Longwood,