State of the University

A Mindset of Curiosity & Collaboration

Each December, we report William & Mary’s fiscal performance from the past year and project our short- and long-term financial realities. A shared understanding of our finances and decision-making processes offers a strong grounding for the momentous year ahead. We are pressing forward to conclude our For the Bold campaign in triumph. And we have launched a strategic planning process to identify the most exciting opportunities and substantive challenges facing the university in the coming decade.

Student seated cross-legged in a confident pose on a window seat in front of a window in the Reves Center.

In this year of concluding the campaign and strategic planning — seeking to elevate William & Mary's profile as the premier liberal arts and sciences university of the 21st century — our fiscal realities remain front-of-mind.

We approach these realities inspired by a mindset of curiosity and collaboration, embracing our shared responsibility to preserve and grow the university’s financial health through robust private support.

Three people sitting outside at a table with laptops open, deep in conversation. A large whiteboard with calculations and notes on it stands behind them, and a rocking chair sits in the foreground.

Campaign Highlights

As you will see in this report, William & Mary faithful have much to be proud of. Thanks to the generosity of our campus community, alumni, parents and friends, we made terrific strides last year with our For the Bold campaign:

  • Total gifts and commitments stand over $925 million toward our $1 billion goal;
  • We set a new record for participation on One Tribe One Day, with 13,144 donors;
  • We saw our endowment surpass $1 billion for the first time;
  • We are first among all public universities, and 14th among all national universities, for annual alumni giving;
  • We have one of the highest donor retention rates among all U.S. universities; and
  • We have seen a 250 percent increase in alumni engagement through new and expanded offerings, including career and networking opportunities, since the start of the campaign.

We look to our whole community to help us build on this momentum and reach our extraordinary goals.

Strategic Planning: Scanning, Forecasting and Taking Action in Key Mission Areas

Even as we sprint toward the finish line of the campaign, we are also looking to the horizon in strategic planning. I have outlined two overarching goals to guide our work:

  • Advance W&M’s distinctive excellence in a rapidly changing environment, thereby raising our profile nationally and globally.
  • Position W&M for long-term financial sustainability in a way that aligns our operational and financial models with our distinctive academic mission.

In November, we successfully concluded the first phase of planning: crafting an elegant statement of vision, mission and values to anchor our strategy development. In phase II, we look outward, forecasting the most important global and national trends of the coming decade. The Strategic Planning Steering Committee has outlined three overarching areas of work as we pursue this environmental scan: Teaching & Learning, Research & Innovation and Flourishing & Engagement.

Two students at work in a sunny lab with safety eyewear on.

Teaching & Learning 

Our 1693 Royal Charter defines William & Mary in simple and durable terms: as a place where “true philosophy, and other good and liberal arts and sciences may be promoted.” Today, the creation of new knowledge through discovery and learning remains our core mission. With that mission in mind, here are a few of the questions this subcommittee is exploring:

  • As our distinctive liberal arts and sciences curriculum evolves, how might we improve learning for all students and across each of our professional and graduate programs? In August, W&M launched a new Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation to convene faculty around this question, gather best and emergent practices and cultivate new partnerships and new collaborations.
  • How might we use our campus year-round, to create more flexible paths for students and support faculty seeking to explore new curricula? The idea for a “summer semester,” broached by the Faculty Assembly in August 2018, received a deep dive last spring. The team studying this idea recommended a pilot in summer 2020. This fall we engaged campus in a design challenge to help guide our thinking around crafting an effective pilot.
  • Who is a student? Last year I charged a second team to study how W&M might serve the fastest-growing population of students in the country: working adults. How might we support alumni, for example, as they return to learning throughout their careers? The team has recommended we move forward by taking stock of potential partners who could help us stand up a continuing education venture.
Research & Innovation

Over the past three and a quarter centuries, William & Mary has responded creatively to many emergent challenges, leading the nation in many different domains. As we explore the future of knowledge-making and knowledge sharing in the 21st century, that history of innovation should inspire us. Several new initiatives on campus reinforce that mindset of discovery:

  • We launched a new Entrepreneurship Hub in the heart of campus — Tribe Square — to advance entrepreneurial thinking throughout the university.
  • We are alert to synergies that promote whole-institution thinking in our organization — ways to bring units together to increase their collaboration, efficiency and effectiveness. For example, this summer we brought together several W&M teams devoted to cultural history. Via such strategic reorganizations in key areas, we elevate the university’s unique strengths.

Professor lecturing in a sunny and modern classroom to a small class of students smiling and listening with their laptops open in the Mason School of Business

Flourishing & Engagement

As a public university, we dedicate ourselves to the notion that all students who come here should be supported to flourish in their personal and professional lives. So in our new mission, vision and values statements, we have revived an old idea from a 1940s student handbook, that “those who come here, belong here.”

  • Over the past year, generous philanthropic investments helped create the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center, the Shenkman Jewish Center and the Tribe Field Hockey Center, in addition to expanding the Alumni House. We will continue to look for opportunities to create such welcoming centers of community on campus.
  • Last year, W&M marked the 10th anniversary of the Lemon Project and announced the concept design for a Memorial to African Americans Enslaved by William & Mary.
  • In conjunction with our centennial celebration of coeducation, the newly established Society of 1918 helped raise more than $4 million for programming and networking opportunities to empower generations of W&M alumnae.

Senior Vice President Sam Jones’ summary and the full report provide a detailed account of William & Mary’s financial outlook. As you review this information, I invite you to consider the opportunities and challenges that we are exploring under these three areas of study. Please feel free to send us your insights via our strategic planning website. We welcome your generative ideas! 

Best regards,

Katherine A. Rowe