Last night I hosted a large gathering of faculty and staff in the Pearce Hospitality Suite of the Jane P. Batten Student Center to pause for a moment of community and reflection as we near the conclusion of our spring semester. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with colleagues and to share important updates about the future of Virginia Wesleyan—and today I’d like to share those updates with all of you.
As I wrote in a recent communication to our campus community, our long-range planning process is moving ahead, anticipating our opportunities for growth while honoring our traditions and heritage as a United Methodist institution. Enthusiastic reaffirmation of our church-relatedness by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church, following their site visit last November, has further energized our vision and plans for the future as a campus of intellectual, social, and spiritual energy and purpose.
Following a year-long focus on campus master planning, which included studies on space utilization, parking, and future facilities development, and which was accepted by the Board of Trustees at their winter meeting in February, I have asked Provost and Vice President Dr. Tim O’Rourke to move forward with the next phases of our planning. That will be a comprehensive focus on academic, resource development, and co-curricular opportunities in support of our Vision 2020: Pathway to Prominence plan.
I wish to thank each of you—Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of Virginia Wesleyan—for your perspective, ideas, and comments on the Campus Master Plan, which will serve as a blueprint for the physical preservation and selected future development of our beautiful Virginia Wesleyan landscape. As the long-range planning group convenes, including the senior administrative staff and representatives from throughout the academic community, we also invite your insights.
From the time of my arrival as your president, I have sought to maximize new opportunities for Virginia Wesleyan—to achieve the growth and prominence that we all can, and do, visualize. In addition to the Campus Master Plan, we have added graduate programs and online learning, and initiated collaboration with a variety of partners, both within and outside the higher-education community. I thank the faculty for their active endorsement of, and engagement with, these vital initiatives.
I have met with leaders in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and throughout Hampton Roads representing government and public service, the not-for-profit community, media, business and industry, and, of course, education. I have sought their counsel and shared with them our aspirations. Without exception, these leaders have expressed their approval of our agenda, praise for our progress, and appreciation for our leadership and contributions to Coastal Virginia. Our initiatives are paying strong dividends already as we see increased potential for enrollment, fundraising, marketing and branding, and regional and national visibility for this institution.
We have always intended to be—and are beginning to realize the full possibilities of being—“Coastal Virginia’s Premier Institution of the Liberal Arts and Sciences.” Now it is time to move to the next steps in affirming our success, raising our profile, and maximizing our potential.
Today, therefore, after much careful thought and discussion with stakeholders, I share our bold new vision for the future. During the past two years, we have:
This, and much, much more. And so, I am pleased to share that our Virginia Wesleyan College has been authorized by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to become Virginia Wesleyan University, effective at the close of a reasonable transition period.
Our vision is for the new Virginia Wesleyan University to be “Coastal Virginia’s Premier University of the Liberal Arts and Sciences.”
With the unanimous support of our Board of Trustees in its resolution of February 15, 2017, and following an extensive review and approval process, including final approval by SCHEV, Virginia Wesleyan will begin immediately with the exciting transition.
We are simultaneously transitioning to a primary Virginia Beach mailing and street address of 5817 Wesleyan Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23455. The traditional address will continue to be accessible for business services and will be a secondary address moving forward.
These adjustments in who we are and where we are have been natural outgrowths of the inevitable changes in our stature and standing as a higher-education institution of quality, dignity, and destiny. I spoke in my most recent State of the College address last August of our being at the crossroads of history. I said, “Virginia Wesleyan is indebted to those who have come before us…our founders and funders whose faith in our mission and steadfast support have brought us to this exciting crossroads in our history. Honoring their visionary leadership, we are still writing our story.”
And so we are. Our great friend, benefactor, and Trustee Emeritus George Birdsong spoke with emotion at our first Founders Day of this former cornfield and its greatest “product”—“a very fine college.” That cornfield now has yielded, as well, a thriving new university.
We will keep you informed of our strategy to make these transitions convenient and complete. We’ll ask for your patience, in advance, as we move forward. I am confident that campus leadership will make possible all of the elements of the transition.
While I know that some of you may have questions about these announcements, let me underscore that there is no question that we are institutional leaders of new confidence and new prominence. We all share in our success, and in the exciting work that lies ahead.
Thank you for sharing in this historic news. Let us celebrate how far we have come and, even more important, where we want and need to go.