Tuesday night at the President’s Forum, University of Richmond President Ed Ayers spoke to students about the university’s history and its plans for the future, particularly the completion of the Richmond Promise, the university’s goals to be accomplished between 2009 and 2014.
The university’s chapter of Mortar Board, a national honor society for senior students, hosted the forum. Sixteen students attended the event, including representatives from Mortar Board and leaders from various campus organizations.
Ayers said that one of the final goals of the Richmond Promise was to be able to guarantee a Richmond Summer Fellowship to every student attending the university.
As part of the current Richmond Summer Fellowship program, students can apply for up to $4,000 in summer funding, which gives them the freedom to accept unpaid internships or conduct summer research with a faculty member.
Ayers said he wanted students to be able to start seeking summer opportunities earlier in their education to jump-start their process of discovery. Students can gain a better idea of what careers they want to pursue and then use the next few years of their education preparing for that career, Ayers said.
“My dream is that at the early parties everybody won’t just be thinking about where they’re going to pledge or what they’re going to major in,” Ayers said, “but rather what they’re going to do with their summer.”
Patrick Love, president of the Richmond College Student Government Association, who attended the President’s Forum, said Ayers did a great job of communicating his vision for the university and getting students to believe in his vision.
Ayers said it was important for the university to hold on to its tradition as a student-centered school.
Ayers said the idea of small classes with one professor grading all the papers could be inefficient, but it is a better system for the students.
After Ayers spoke, he gave students an opportunity to share concerns and suggestions to improve the university.
Meredith Combs, a member of Mortar Board, said she would like to see students have the opportunity to take a seminar-based course on a broad topic during their senior year, similar to a first year seminar.
“That’s the year when I think that you can do the most reflection and think more broadly about your education and the educational experience that you’ve gotten here at Richmond.”
Combs said she envisioned students focusing on a specific topic and taking part in a collaborative learning effort, rather than simply taking a capstone class senior year where students talk about their major in a seminar setting.
Kate Workman, president of University of Richmond’s Mortar Board chapter, said she appreciated how casual the conversation was between Ayers and the students.
“Student leaders and all students at this university have instrumental roles in guiding the strategic direction of the university,” Workman said.
She said discussions between administrators and students, such as the President’s Forum, are characteristic to this university because of its student-centered nature.
Mortar Board first held the President’s Forum in 1988 during Richard L. Morrill’s first year as president of the university, said Elizabeth Wray, faculty adviser to Mortar Board. It began as an opportunity for the president to meet student leaders and share his ideas for the future of the university and a place where students could share their concerns.
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