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Chancellor Henry delivers State of the College address at Convocation 2013

 

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is on a clear path toward greater vitality and distinction, and is fortunate that the region it serves is eager to keep the College moving forward in the spirit of mutual respect, integrity, stewardship and excellence, Chancellor Donna P. Henry said in her first State of the College address.

Henry, the College’s eighth chancellor, delivered the address to a large audience of students, faculty, staff and guests during Fall Convocation 2013, the official beginning of a new academic year. In the address, Henry spoke of her first seven months at UVa-Wise and how her family has enjoyed becoming a part of Southwest Virginia and its culture. She also outlined many ongoing projects the College is undertaking to keep true to its educational mission.

“Convocation is also a good time to assess where we are as an institution as well as to look ahead to the coming year and beyond,” she said.

A new strategic plan, known as Envisioning 2020, was crafted by a committee of faculty and staff to evaluate the College’s strengths and challenges with the goal of visioning what the campus needs to be in the future. The plan, once approved by the UVa-Wise Board and the University of Virginia Board of Visitors, will guide the College in its decision-making, Henry said.

Henry informed the audience that the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia has received the College’s six-year plan that addresses Virginia’s priorities and complements the Envisioning 2020 plan. The Chancellor will travel to Richmond this month to officially present the six-year plan to SCHEV and answer any questions the council has about UVa-Wise. The College is also up for reaffirmation of its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a review that happens every 10 years. The SACS reaffirmation process is arduous, but essential and beneficial, Henry explained.

“By looking closely at our educational and operational processes and services, we have new opportunities to improve and excel, which is the UVa-Wise way,” Henry said. “Our Envisioning 2020, our six-year-plan and the SACS reaffirmation process are gateways to being a better UVa-Wise, and all reinforce our commitment to learning.”

A large portion of Henry’s address was devoted to students and what they can expect during the new academic year. She welcomed the freshmen and transfer students to the UVa-Wise family, and outlined some changes to the upperclassmen.

“Opportunities in experiential learning are expanding at UVa-Wise,” she said. “Undergraduate research opportunities are available in every discipline, and are an outstanding way to extend what you learn in the classroom in the discovery of new knowledge or creative works guided by a faculty mentor.”

UVa-Wise has answered Virginia’s call for colleges to increase the number of students who earn degrees in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health, she said. The College continues to work hard to pursue national accreditation by the American Chemical Society for the chemistry program to add to the accredited STEM-H programs in software engineering, computer science and nursing.

“And special kudos to our nursing department,” Henry said. “Our 2013 nursing graduates achieved a 100 percent pass rate on the national boards, which very few institutions in the country can boast.”

Henry outlined upgrades to online education, academic enhancement funds for student experiences, lectures, positive changes in residence life, campus safety, food services, athletics, and the College’s move toward NCAA Division II during her address.

The success of the Fulfilling the Dream campaign raised $67.7 million and helped put the College’s endowment ahead of all 26 institutions in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges and better than some older and larger institutions in Virginia benefits the College in many ways, she said. Construction of a new six-story $37 million library and the Ely Health and Wellness Center are also ongoing and will change the campus in many ways, she said.

“This is an exciting time,” she said. “We do recognize that getting around campus will be more difficult, but we will do everything possible to help get you to where you need to be.”

She encouraged the students, faculty and staff to be good neighbors to the town of Wise and city of Norton by shopping at the many stores and patronizing area restaurants.

“One of the primary goals in the Envisioning 2020 plan is to build closer ties with our region, especially through an increase in our personal and collective public service and civic engagement,” Henry said. “I challenge all of us, students, staff and faculty, to seek new avenues for public service and civic engagement, whether it is through club or organizational initiatives, a graded classroom project or a personal commitment to participate in our spring Day of Service or other ongoing research services.”

Henry concluded her address by saying UVa-Wise is on a compelling path.

“I am honored to be part of such a passionate community that believes in our mission as a public liberal arts institution,” she said.

 Photos by Tim Cox