President Troy D. Paino shared his vision for UMW’s future at an all-university event on Thursday, Aug. 17. Faculty and staff gathered in Dodd Auditorium for the annual Opening Assembly, where Paino unveiled his plans for the University.
He called the agenda, which he spent the summer drafting, a task of “enormous responsibility for a university that’s been around for 109 years” and announced its working title – “an investment of hope for the future.”
In outlining his vision’s four main goals, Paino shared the first three – to promote a culture of service and social justice, to reconstitute the liberal arts for the digital age, and to immerse students in applied and impactful learning experiences. But he spent the most time, by far, on the plan’s fourth goal – “creating a diverse and inclusive community as an essential requirement for academic excellence and academic success.”
“We need to connect the values of a liberal arts education to the world we’re going to serve,” Paino said, stressing the concept’s importance to UMW’s incoming class, due to arrive on campus next week.
On the heels of the recent violence in Charlottesville, he said, UMW must strive to create an environment that is safe and inclusive. He read to the crowd from a New York Times article linking abusive words to harmful physical effects, and citing the difference between offensive and abusive language, and between the concepts of debating and provoking.
“We must not fall victim to the idea that all speech is created equal,” Paino said.
He pointed to the importance of mutual respect in regard to our different values, and announced plans to establish a Cabinet-level position charged with enhancing diversity, inclusion, equity and access on campus, saying, “I can assure you that this is top of mind.”
UMW’s Board of Visitors will revisit the vision in November, Paino said, after the greater Mary Washington community has had a chance to submit input.
He recognized faculty who recently received national awards, earned promotions and published works. He touched on impending campus construction, including renovation of residence halls, and listed a string of changes in leadership. He also highlighted some of the accomplishments of the past year, including increased salaries, a greater availability of financial aid for students, and an uptick in selectivity and diversity in the incoming class.
Paino wrapped up his speech by condemning any efforts to make particular segments of the UMW campus community feel unsafe. “I won’t tolerate it,” he said to a standing ovation.