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2013 another eventful, successful year for W&M

Editor’s note: These are just a few of the many newsworthy things that happened at William & Mary this year. For more stories, see W&M News’ 2013 story archive.

It’s been another eventful and successful year for the Alma Mater of the Nation.

Rankings and records

The university once again landed at the top of several national rankings, including the annual report of top colleges compiled by U.S. News and World Report. In that listing, William & Mary was ranked as the top public college for its commitment to undergraduate teaching. The university also remained number six among public colleges overall and moved up one spot to 32nd among all national institutions.

Two other reports praised William & Mary for being a top value. The Princeton Review listed William & Mary as the fourth-best value in the nation among public colleges, and Kiplinger’s also just ranked the university the fourth-best value in the nation.

The university’s graduate programs were also acknowledged in national rankings, with the William & Mary School of Education catapulting 11 spots to 32nd in U.S. News & World Report's graduate school rankings. Also in that report, W&M’s U.S. colonial history program was ranked third nationwide, and the William & Mary Law School was ranked 33rd among law schools in the country. Bloomberg Businessweek lauded William & Mary’s Mason School of Business for its part-time MBA program, ranking it 40th in the nation.

Another report revealed W&M to have the highest percentage of undergraduates participating in study-abroad programs of all public colleges in the United States, and yet another showed that the university had more graduates enter service careers over the first decade of the new millennium than any other national college.

Two other reports this year reaffirmed W&M’s commitment to diversity and progress in that area. The university was once again named to Victory Media’s "Military Friendly Schools" list for its support to military members, veterans and their spouses on campus. Additionally, a report by The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education showed W&M to have the smallest gap between white and black students’ graduation rates among selective, public colleges and universities.

The university also set some records this year, including a few in fundraising. With $104.3 million in gifts or commitments during fiscal year 2013, W&M had its most successful year for private giving ever. In addition, the university set a record for cash gifts in fiscal year 2013 after receiving $70.04 million, including realized bequests.

Finally, W&M set a  record for Fulbrights this year when 14 recent alumni received the prestigious U.S. student grants – more than any other college or university in Virginia.

Academics, scholarship and research

In the spring, William & Mary’s Board of Visitors approved “The William & Mary Promise,” a new operating model that provides vitally needed resources to secure the future of Virginia’s distinctive “public ivy” while markedly enhancing affordability and access for Virginia students.  Highlights of the new model include: a four-year tuition guarantee, relief for “middle-income” families, less debt for W&M graduates, tuition capped at Consumer Price Index for returning Virginia students, additional Virginia students, ensuring academic excellence and securing a “public ivy” future.

In December, the Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted in favor of new general education requirements for the undergraduate program, capping a year-long process. The new general education curriculum, called College Curriculum, will systematically link all four undergraduate years at William & Mary from start to finish.

Much of the research activity at W&M this year centered around Big Data. The Department of Mathematics was awarded an $880,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for a new program called EXTREEMS-QED, which will support undergraduate research in computational and statistical theory and techniques in the study of large data sets. Over in physics, Professor John Delos has been analyzing data collected from monitors in neonatal intensive care units in order to improve that monitoring. His work, which is being conducted with researchers from the University of Virginia and UVA Health System, is being funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. And, in October, AidData, a research and innovation lab based at William & Mary, released the third version of its data portal, expanding the capacities of the site.

William & Mary and the Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) continued exploring their relationship this year by entering into a pilot partnership. As a result of that partnership, EVMS and W&M faculty participated in a joint retreat and two rounds of Collaboration Grants were awarded. One of those grants resulted in a headline-grabbing project in which W&M’s Jon Allen and EMVS’ Aurora Esquela-Kerscher studied a nematode that was found in Allen’s own mouth.

In the classroom, technology continued to make an impact. Gene Roche was appointed as the first director of university e-learning initiatives in September, charged with overseeing the dozens of e-learning initiatives taking place across the university. In the Mason School of Business, students got a chance to take a new “Solving Creative Problems” course in the Miller Design and Innovation Studio, which was specifically designed to help students develop creative, divergent thinking skills. Meanwhile, Arts & Sciences students had a chance to learn business principles through a new “boot camp” program.

This year’s two Tack Faculty Lectures gave the campus community – as well as the public – a chance to hear from W&M’s expert faculty members about the geology of Virginia and the mysteries of zooplankton. Students and alumni also organized the university’s first TEDx event this year, hosting speakers from the campus community on a variety of topics around the theme of “historically innovative.”

Campus life

The campus of William & Mary experienced some changes in 2013 as several building projects were completed.

In the spring, the university announced the purchase of the Hospitality House, which was converted into student housing and renamed One Tribe Place. By the start of the fall semester, One Tribe Place was ready to take in its first students, and several other projects came to completion, too, including the new fraternity housing area, the expansion of the Sadler Center’s dining area and the renovation of Tucker Hall. A planned expansion of the Alumni House was also unveiled this year, along with plans for new arts facilities.

But waiting for those new facilities hasn’t slowed the arts down at W&M. Students participated in multiple theatre, music and performances throughout the year, including “Sitayana” and a reconstructed Paul Taylor piece. Students and professors alike also exhibited their art, and the Muscarelle Museum of Art hosted an exhibition of rare Michelangelo sketches, drawing visitors from around the world.

The campus community continued to impact the community, both locally and globally, this year. For instance, over at the Law School, the Puller Clinic became the first law school clinic in the country to be asked to join the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Fully Developed Claims Community of Practice. William & Mary was also one of just two universities asked to pilot the Diplomacy Lab program for the U.S. State Department to help policy makers address pressing world issues. The campus community also continued to engage in service throughout the year, doing things like providing Thanksgiving meals to families in need and collecting shoes to be used in micro-enterprises in developing countries. Faculty, staff, students and alumni also responded when disaster struck in the Philippines, raising funds and awareness for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Tribe athletes continued to make the university proud, earning multiple awards and setting records. The baseball team won a school-record 39 games last spring, the final two during the NCAA regional tournament against Mississippi. Jump ahead to the fall soccer season, where a spectacular 10-day stretch in which the Tribe defeated No. 1 Creighton and No. 1 North Carolina, sandwiched around a victory over nationally ranked Elon, provided the impetus for an invitation to the NCAA tournament.

Other highlights from Tribe Athletics this year include: The football team finished the fall with a 7-5 record, with 10 players earning 12 All-Colonial Athletic Association postseason awards. The women’s tennis team claimed its 22nd CAA title. Under first-year coach Tyler Thomson, the Tribe was ranked as high as No. 25 nationally.  Men’s gymnasts Landon Funiciello and Neal Courter earned All-American honors on rings and vault, respectively, at the NCAA Championships at Penn State in April. The winter cross-country and track seasons were highlighted by sensational freshman Emily Stites, who won the USAT&F Junior National Championship and captained Team USA at the World Cross-Country Championships in Poland. Classmate Meghan McGovern was eighth at the U.S. Championships, and also ran on Team USA at the NACAC Championships. Additionally, Elaina Balouris qualified for the NCAA 10,000 meters and in the semifinals in Greensboro, ran school-record 33:43 to advance to the national finals. In that race in Oregon, Balouris finished 10th to repeat as an All-American in the event after improving nine spots from her first appearance in 2012. She also won CAA women’s cross-country athlete of the year for the second consecutive time in December. Indoors on the men's side, Bob Smutsky broke the freshman record at 200 meters and qualified for the IC4A Championships. Both men’s and women’s teams swept CAA titles for the first time since 2004. In the fall, Trevor Sleight won CAA cross-country rookie of the year, and coach Steve Walsh captured coach of the year honors for the fourth consecutive time. Three senior athletes – field hockey’s Taylor Hodge, men’s tennis player John Banks and volleyball/women’s basketball star Jaclyn McKenna were elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Notable names

Several William & Mary alumni made headlines this year by taking on some of the top jobs in the nation. James B. Comey ‘82 became the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Ellen Stofan ‘83 was named the chief scientist of NASA; and Mary Jo White ’70 became chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Multiple others came back to their alma mater throughout the year to serve as speakers.

Award-winning actress Glenn Close ‘74 visited W&M in October with her husband, David Shaw, to receive the Cheek Medal Award for their contributions to the arts. The two also saw the opening of an exhibit of Close’s costumes in the Muscarelle Museum of Art – an exhibition in which Close’s own student costumes were included.

Emmy-winning producer Nancy Gunn ’88 spoke at Opening Convocation, and W&M Chancellor and former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates '65, L.H.D. '98 spoke at the Charter Day ceremony. Gates returned to W&M over Homecoming weekend, meeting with faculty, students, staff and alumni and participating in the parade and other events. The university also announced that Gates, who was the first Secretary of Defense to serve under presidents of both political parties, was donating his personal papers to William & Mary.

William & Mary also saw other big names on campus this year, including actor Michael Cera at the launch event for the Global Film Festival’s 2014 theme; neurodiversity speaker and advocate John Elder Robison who is now a scholar-in-residence; former FBI director Robert Mueller at Commencement and Julianne Malveaux at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day commemoration. Nationally-known recording artists Gavin DeGraw, Good Old War, Kendrick Lamar and Big Boi also performed at W&M in 2013.