William and Mary
Michael Halleran
Michael Halleran

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The draft “white paper”

April 4, 2010 by

The final campus conversation will be a discussion of a “white paper” about W&M as a liberal arts university in the 21st century. Download the draft “white paper” (pdf) for review prior to the April 8, 2010 discussion at 4:00PM in Millington 150.

Your comments here on the blog are welcome. Or, you may prefer to submit your comments via a web form.

Strategic Planning

March 1, 2010 by

We are moving forward on several fronts. We have an active discussion about W&M as a leading liberal arts university in the 21st century that is well underway. We will soon begin enrollment in a new minor in marine science. We have established a cross-disciplinary center for Science, Technology, and Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education for K-12 teachers. Our students have led the way in finding new opportunities to build and celebrate W&M as a lifetime experience, including changes to Welcome Week, Convocation and Charter Day Weekend. We plan to break ground this summer on the new student residence next to the WaWa on Richmond Road. We completed a comprehensive review of communications at W&M and implemented a number of changes, including the merger of two units into a new Office of Creative Services.

Those are just a few of the 102 implementation steps we identified for this year. And that is just the beginning. Each year the six subcommittees formed around the “grand challenges,” will continue their work in developing implementation steps for the coming academic year. For next year the subcommittees and the Planning Steering Committee (PSC) are developing fewer but more focused implementation steps. And in order to measure our progress, a subcommittee on assessment, in conjunction with the individual subcommittees and the entire PSC, has been developing and refining measures that would constitute a “dashboard” of the major areas covered in the strategic plan.

We are very pleased with the active engagement by the whole community in the process—not only in the individual subcommittees, but also in a Faculty Assembly retreat on the priorities in the leading liberal arts university grand challenge, comments and suggestions from alumni, and, especially, the participation of students. Both a graduate and an undergraduate course in the Mason School of Business used analysis of the strategic plan as part of their work last fall; the next event for the liberal arts university (on March 23rd) will be led by student panelists, and the Student Assembly is planning a discussion of the evolving strategic plan next month.

As you know, the strategic planning process seeks to be broadly inclusive, with its various committees comprising faculty, students, staff, administrators, members of the Board of Visitors and the W&M Foundation Board, and other alumni. And we continue to welcome your participation in the College’s strategic planning process. There are many ways to contribute to the ongoing discussion. For those of you on campus it may be easiest to:

All of you can also:

  • Provide an open comment on the PSC website.
  • Channel ideas through one of our formal organizations, including the Faculty Assembly, HACE, the Professional and Professional Faculty Assembly, the Student Assembly, the Graduate Student Council, the W&M Foundation and the Alumni Association – all of which are represented on the PSC.
  • E-mail Jim Golden at jrgold@wm.edu and he will forward your ideas to the appropriate subcommittee.

The PSC has identified liaisons to each of our constituencies – faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, leadership boards and other supporters. The liaisons look for opportunities to gather feedback and routinely report to the full PSC. We will continue those formal efforts to reach out, but we hope you will use any of the ways outlined above to let us know your ideas. We will be sending out a further update later this year.

Michael R. Halleran and Jim Golden
PSC Co-chairs

Liberal Arts Reflections

November 16, 2009 by

TO:  Provost Michael Halleran

FROM:  Herrington J. Bryce, Mason School of Business

Allow me to share some questions subsequent to our community conversations on October 29 on Liberal Arts and William and Mary.

    1. Could we use one of these conversations to address what is it about being labeled a “liberal arts college” that (a) accurately identifies or misidentifies us, and (b) gives us a (dis)-advantage? Why does the label agitate some and not others? What is it that we could do that we cannot now if the label were detached?
    2. Is it true that we are different because we emphasize a combination of teaching, research, and service? Are there schools of rank that do not require or honor the first two? Is it a matter of weight? Is service a matter of definition? Is there a faculty at any university that does not recognize service to the profession (e.g., editor of journal, officer or committee assignment) or to the public (service in an administration or humanitarian)? Is our “service” distinction our willingness to recognize service to a civil community? Don’t faculty at other universities serve on academic committees? What is distinct? Is it that research is often over weighted elsewhere?  Would we not give a professor tenure if he or she were stellar in research and teaching but not in service?
    3. Is it that the way a school is labeled is determined partly by others; e.g., rating firms? Is it also part of “marketing” a school? Is it that William and Mary would enjoy prominent ranking without being in that or a similar class? Is it that the adjectives before or after “William and Mary” usefully identify near uniqueness, differentiation, and a niche in a universe called “universitities and colleges”? Aren’t these descriptors useful signals in recruiting students and convincing parents? Would doing without them be helpful? Are there descriptors we should consider?
    4. It is a very good thing to choose the best schools as our targets and to think that we are or can compete and are comparable. Is it not another to simultaneously argue that they have resources (endowments, competitive grants, and annual giving) we do not have and that these allow them to perform at that level? Would it not be instructive to have a conversation to set out the specific bases upon which we have achieved comparability without the resources we admit are required to do so but that we also say we do not have? Would this not define a path we should follow?
    5. Would it be useful to have conversations on fundraising at William and Mary and comparable schools and whether from that perspective liberal arts is a viable investment option and also marketable in the 21st century; e.g., sustain our world relevance and competitiveness?
    6. Would it be revealing and community-spirit-building to include a discussion of bringing the Mason School (and Miller Hall) and the School of Education, etc. on line? Are these models that others on campus can replicate? The remarkable thing about Miller Hall is the imagination, the years of dedicated leadership, and the community of staff, faculty, friends, and alumni that invested much of themselves in making it happen (when disappointment and obstacles could have prevailed) and the atmosphere that was created for these to be productive.  Thus, Miller Hall has a unique human touch that is more than its architecture and the difficulty of raising money. Are there lessons to be learned? Is there a community pride to be shared?
    7. Would it be beneficial to have a set of conversations on what we are as a community (not only personal relationships but cross departments and external networks)? Do such networks broaden our viability as a prominent liberal arts institution? Is it possible to partner with other institutions to broaden our access to resources we do not have? To what extent does the viability of a liberal arts education in the 21st Century rest on innovation and partnerships?
    8. Would it be beneficial to have a set of conversations on how we may infuse liberal arts as a narrative in and across the various curricula or as a capstone nonelective but nongraded lecture or public symposium–aside from the standard curricula as they now stand?  Is this infusion not a worthwhile distinction?  I was fascinated after our discussions by the professor who teaches a course combining the teaching of language with global ecology. In the Mason School, Professor William Geary once taught great literature as it relates to business. Is it possible that our brand might be the infusing of the liberal arts narrative across curricula as we have infused technology? Should we find a way? I mentioned my colleague, Professor Marian Jelinek –astute, well-trained but the Mason School has others and one of its distinctions is the breadth of backgrounds of its faculty–beyond “business” as a profession. The concept of professional schools (including business and public policy) hides the intellectual richness (and liberal arts training) of those who occupy them and therefore how these influence what they do and how they interact with students–the college community.
    9. Given our commitment to community service, would it be beneficial to have a conversation among students across curricula on “service”? Would this not be part of a liberal education, community-building and sharing? Would this not strengthen our identity by the way we do things and by what we expect from ourselves and students in addition to grades? Would this not be a doable extension or packaging of how we are involved?

Diverging and complementary views.

October 30, 2009 by

It was great to see so many at yesterday’s event (I didn’t expect an SRO crowd). And the mix of participants was exciting—faculty, emeritus faculty, students (grads and undergrads), alumni, staff, administrators. The panelists effectively put forth both diverging and complementary views (thank you, again, panelists!), and the many contributions of the audience made for a wide-ranging discussion.

A summary of the discussion will be posted on the website early next week, but I’ll just mention two thoughts I took away from it. First, there is strong and engaged interest in this topic across a broad swath of our community and, second, while we don’t agree on whether “liberal arts university” is the best _name_ for what who we and what we do, there seems to be an underlying consensus that we combine broad learning and research distinctively. Now we need to parse this combination with greater specificity. And we’ll have the chance to do that during our year-long  conversation—both in the “formal” events and in the many smaller conversations that I believe will ramify across the campus.

Michael R. Halleran

Join the conversation.

October 23, 2009 by

A few weeks ago I sent out a message to the campus community about this year’s conversation, stemming from the strategic plan, on W&M being a liberal arts university in the 21st century. The first event is now slated for this coming Thursday (October 29th), 3:30-5:00 in Tidewater A of the Sadler Center.

To provoke discussion, we have set as the topic, “Is a Liberal Arts University Possible?: William and Mary in the 21st Century.” Four faculty will provide different—at times very different—perspectives on this question: Herrington Bryce, Business; Keith Griffoen, Physics; Lisa Meyer, History; and Joel Schwartz, Government/Charles Center.

This topic raises many questions, including fundamental ones such as “What do we mean by a liberal arts university? What are the implications of having this as our identity? What possibilities follow from this? What pressures—internal and external—will make it challenging? Rewarding?

The format is that the four faculty will post a brief statement of their position on the Web, accessible in advance. They will present a short oral version of their ideas and then Q&A from the audience and from the panelists will lead to broad and, I trust, lively discussion.

I have the pleasure of serving as the moderator. Unlike in the case of the “Raft Debate,” no one is left behind on the “island;” all good ideas can advance. Which means we need you there.

Join the conversation: see you this Thursday and on this blog.

Michael R. Halleran

Drinking Nectar from a Fire Hose

September 10, 2009 by

I’m new to blogging. But I’m also new to W&M, so perhaps joining these two novelties is appropriate. I joined the College as its fifth provost on July 1st, eager to be part of this extraordinary institution, one that blends the core values of a liberal arts education with the strengths of selected graduate and professional programs, prizes academic excellence and opportunity and is poised to take advantage of this moment ripe with opportunities.

What I’ve learned in my first two months on the job has only deepened my appreciation of how remarkable W&M is. Since July, I have been busy meeting with faculty, staff, students, alumni, deans, vice presidents, members of the Board of Visitors, and many other groups and individuals, while reading numerous reports, policies and the like. In short, I’ve been learning as much as I can about this wonderful College-its history, great strengths and challenges. There’s an old phrase comparing such intense information absorption to drinking from a fire hose. I understand that phrase better now but I must add, with reference to my classics background, that there’s much nectar in what I’ve been drinking. I also have been grateful for the inviting welcome my family and I have received from so many in the community. This warm welcome, along with the many dedicated faculty, students and staff I’ve met, tells me a lot about the College that isn’t found in reports, memos, budgets or proposals.

The year is off to a great start. 1 ,400 frosh, nearly 200 transfer students, several hundred new graduate and professional students, and 50+ faculty throughout our five schools have arrived this fall, bringing their talents, creativity and energy to the W&M community. At Opening Convocation, for which the rain-but not the humidity-stopped just before its start, alum Jim Comey (’82) gave an inspiring talk on being a member of the Tribe and the importance of service. And our football team opened its season with a sweet victory over UVA, which I interpret as a harbinger of good things throughout the year.

Last year, the W&M  community developed and the Board of Visitors approved a framework for our strategic planning. It comprises six “grand challenges” with the first one on the “liberal arts university” being the most fundamental. The strategic plan teems with ideas and ambitions, and this year the Planning Steering Committee and the Sub-committees will be working on implementation plans and priorities for the inevitable trade-off among competing good ideas. This is indeed an exciting time to be part of W&M. As one feature of this year’s activities, I am leading a campus-wide conversation on what it means to be a liberal arts university. I will be communicating with the campus community more fully about this conversation shortly; for now, I want only to alert you to its importance and invite your participation.

As I write this, the Commonwealth continues to deal with budget woes and the Governor has just announced further reductions for higher education, and many other agencies. While the economy has become less turbulent in recent months, we are clearly not out of the woods yet. We will deal with the budget cuts, and I can assure you that we will proceed with our ambitions, our commitments to academic excellence, diversity and community and our efforts to having the finest liberal arts university in the country. One great advantage of a strategic plan is that it focuses attention on your core values.

Many of my former colleagues, when they heard that I had accepted this position at W&M, said to me, “That’s the perfect fit for you.” After two months, I couldn’t agree more.