To the campus community:
Thank you for working and facing forward with positivity, while uncertainty swirls around us. There are more questions than clear-cut answers for most of us. When will social distancing restrictions lift? Will there be another wave of COVID-19? Will classes start on time this fall?
As one who takes a measured approach to issues and strives to listen to all points of view, I have realized that no one operates with absolute clarity about the future at this moment. As President of UMW, I have endeavored to guide the best decisions in the face of this ambiguity, weighing the short- and long-term possibilities we can know and estimating those we cannot. Grappling with so many considerations and disparate forecasts has made it clear that the most important goal is for us to work together – in unity – towards any decision about next steps for the University.
Given what we know at this moment, it is our hope and intention to resume our scheduled academic operations on campus with the start of fall classes on August 24, and we remain committed to our residential college experience. That being said, we will be stringent about following federal and state guidelines to promote individual and public health.
While we look to the fall with optimism, we should also be prepared for the unknown. Faculty, staff, and administrators are currently working hard to plan for a variety of contingencies and possibilities for how to best serve students. Although the work is just starting, I’ve been impressed by the range and depth of their thinking. I ask you to support this effort, whether by helping UMW be flexible and agile in its response to COVID-19 or by helping identify and develop alternative ideas and solutions to fulfill our mission.
Students, faculty, and staff alike have a role to play. If your ideas pertain to academics, I ask that you forward them to Provost Nina Mikhalevsky. If your ideas pertain to student life on campus, please forward them to Vice President of Student Affairs Juliette Landphair. And if your ideas pertain to any matters related to the workplace amid the pandemic, please forward them to Executive Director of Human Resources Beth Williams.
This spring, we pivoted extremely well with no forewarning. Imagine what we can do with the advantage of an understanding of this landscape and the needs of our community. Although these are challenging times, we have grown as a University because of the pandemic.
This experience also revealed, once again, that Mary Washington is more about the people than the place. The spirit of camaraderie and community, which connects us wherever we are, continues to shine even in an era of social distancing. I thought you would enjoy seeing this new video, I Chose UMW, that shows prospective students just how special this place is.
As we move toward an August reopening, I also wanted to share that the Board of Visitors (BOV) Executive Committee voted to freeze tuition for all students for the fall semester. This decision was reached in early March, before the full measure of COVID-19 was evident, and it points to the consistent sensitivity of the BOV regarding students’ financial needs.
Yes – UMW has financial and other obstacles to overcome. But I believe in the resilience of this 112-year-old institution. More important, I am confident in the strength of the people who make up UMW – the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others so invested in us. This community has demonstrated that challenges only build our fortitude and position us for a brighter future.
Know that my spirit is focused on each of you and that my foremost concern is for UMW and our community to emerge stronger – together.