Liberal Arts University

Be a leader among liberal arts universities.

The strategic plan identifies one overarching grand challenge for the future of the university. That is to be a leader among liberal arts universities. As noted earlier, the centerpiece of our strategy is to change lives for the better by being a university of compelling academic distinction, one of the world's great liberal arts universities, offering the best undergraduate education and distinguished graduate and professional programs in selected fields. All of our other aspirations flow from this commitment. 

Major actions and decisions moving forward will build on our ability to combine the best elements of a liberal arts college and a research university. W&M's success in blending those two aspects is our great competitive advantage. We effectively integrate teaching and scholarship and provide powerful faculty-student interaction. We will build on that foundation. We will increase our emphasis on interdisciplinary and international programs. Our special strength is engaged learning.

Intense learning experiences at William & Mary engage students in competing ideas through inquiry, research, experimentation and application. Engaged learning requires students to challenge and debate ideas, take seriously views different from their own, and explore boundaries. Students actively embrace and wrestle with concepts and ideas.

We have a 12 to 1 student/faculty ratio in our undergraduate program; 92% of our undergraduate classes have 50 students or fewer; over 80% of our undergraduate credit hours are taught by full-time professors; and over 91% of our students graduate within six years, most of them in four years. Our small classes, close interaction between professors and students, and the intense experience of discovery through research and service produce what we call "engaged learning." Engaged learning occurs in many forms from intimate freshmen seminars to participation in faculty-led programs, or service trips abroad, living in academically-themed residential communities, work in professors' labs or research programs, co-authoring papers with faculty mentors, and independent research projects.

These opportunities are not extras at William & Mary. They define education here. William & Mary prepares students to lead in whatever fields they enter, to thrive in a complex, changing world, and to make a difference in their communities, states and nations.

William & Mary's strategic plans hinge on the College's continuing to offer one of the very best undergraduate educations in the world while remaining a university internationally recognized for academic excellence. This requires salaries sufficient to retain and attract marvelous faculty and staff and financial aid sufficient to meet the needs of our students. We have fallen behind in both regards. Faculty salaries in FY13 were at the 14th percentile of W&M's peer institutions as identified by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). Without the steps taken in the Promise, they were projected to be in the 9th percentile by the 2015/16 academic year. Similarly, staff salaries at W&M seriously lag behind those paid by our SCHEV peers. This is flatly unacceptable. We must reverse the trend, while also increasing the amount of need-based aid we provide, focusing initially on in-state students. Those salary increases will, to the extent permitted by the state, be placed in a pool and distributed based on performance.

Funds are needed on many other scores as well. As outlined elsewhere in this plan, we will become more multi-disciplinary in our academic programs, because the issues our society faces are multi-disciplinary, and students need to learn to think in those terms and solve problems in those terms. We also need funds so the university can become more internationally engaged, because the world in all its dimensions is increasingly interconnected, our students seek international engagement, and we are well positioned to take advantage of our strengths in this arena.

Goal 1

Provide more robust support for teaching, research, scholarship and creative activities.

  1. Competitive faculty and staff salaries to attract and retain great people at the heart of the university
  2. Expanded financial aid to attract the most exceptional graduate and undergraduate students
Goal 2

Embed the core values of liberal arts education in all parts of the university - undergraduate, graduate and professional.

  1. Innovation. Foster innovative teaching approaches that use technology enhanced modes as appropriate.
    • Free resources to provide appropriate support for salaries and research by continuous creative adaptation and realignment of roles within the academic enterprise.  Develop policies that recognize the important roles of non-tenure-eligible faculty, and integrate those faculty more fully in the campus community.
    • Implement a major new venture applying teaching approaches that use technology-enhanced modes, including potential continuing education opportunities in business, education and law, by FY15.
  2. Interdisciplinary connections. Encourage interdisciplinary connections across academic areas.
  3. Complete the review of the general education requirements in the core undergraduate curriculum, phase-in changes and provide funds to support, evaluate, and refine the curricular changes (includes the Center for Liberal Arts in Swem Library and development of new courses).
  4. Establish University Professorships by FY18.  Select recipients based on internal competition and permit individuals holding those positions to move across schools and departments, as appropriate, to enhance interdisciplinary approaches and connections.
  5. Strengthen research and teaching connections between VIMS and main campus. Establish incentives for collaborative course offerings and research efforts, including support for the marine science minor and innovative ventures such as the Coastal Policy Clinic with the School of Law. Expand collaborative, multidisciplinary externally funded research.
  6. Explore joint projects and academic programs with Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS).
  7. Review the management of academic "centers," including creation, funding, assessment and sunset processes and implement appropriate policies.
  8. Assess the impacts on the educational program of implementation of the "William & Mary Promise."