Prof. Armstrong says College will be promoted to ‘Very high research’ in BOV meeting, board increases Muscarelle funding

College President Katherine Rowe, College Rector Charles E. Poston J.D. '74, P '02, '06 and Secretary of the Board of Visitors Ardine Williams. JULIANA GOMEIN / THE FLAT HAT
College President Katherine Rowe, College Rector Charles E. Poston J.D. '74, P '02, '06 and Secretary of the Board of Visitors Ardine Williams. JULIANA GOMEIN / THE FLAT HAT

Wednesday, Feb. 9 to Friday, Feb. 11, the board of visitors of the College of William and Mary met in the Blow Memorial Hall and the Alan B. Miller Hall to discuss matters pertaining to the administration of the College ahead of Charter Day. While apart from increasing funding for the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, heard reports from board liaisons and discussing other matters of the College, the board did not make many drastic decisions this session, but College Rector Charles E. Poston J.D. ’74, P ’02, ’06 remarked that the board took preparations for a busier April session.

“We haven’t had some great decisions to make, but preparations for the decisions that are coming, have been phenomenal,” Poston said.

February’s session marked the first of former Virginia Senate Republican Leader Thomas Norment J.D. ’73 as an official voting member of the board, following the conclusion of his term in the state legislature. Norment was named to the board last June by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

College President Katherine Rowe, in her report to the board, reported a strong return in admissions for the College. According to W&M News, over the past two years, the College has seen a 45 percent increase in early decision applicants. 

“Since last year, we’ve seen a 20 percent increase of applications from first-gen students,” Rowe said. “Which is really, I think, a testament to how hard we try to get the message out.”

Rowe also highlighted the Commonwealth Impact Partners Program, which the College launched under the direction of College Vice President for Strategy and Innovation Jeremy P. Martin Ph.D. ’12, M.B.A. ’17. The program identifies students who are Pell Grant-eligible or receive lunch benefits for scholarship purposes. Financial aid, according to W&M News, is guaranteed to cover at least the cost of tuition and fees for all eligible undergraduate in-state students.

Committee Summaries

Institutional Advancement

The Institutional Advancement committee met Thursday, Feb. 8, in the Alan B. Miller Hall in a joint board meeting with the Cypher Society, the William and Mary Foundation Board of Trustees, the Alumni Association Board and the Annual Giving Board. Rowe provided updates on the College’s progress toward accomplishing the Vision 2026 development plan, with a particular focus on the Democracy Initiative. She last held a forum discussing Vision 2026’s four main pillars of data, water, democracy and careers Nov. 13, 2023.  

Later in the session, Chief Marketing Officer and Associate Vice President for University Marketing Heather Golden discussed the College’s ongoing efforts to amplify prospective student recruitment, especially those coming from out-of-state. She cited an increase in qualified inquiries for the College on, as well as improved performance on, an online platform dedicated to sharing college-related information with students and helping them narrow down their choices, as markers of recent success.

To continue the upward trend, Golden announced new recruitment initiatives that will be undertaken this spring. Notably, the College will initiate a “Yield Optimization Pilot” in partnership with Encoura, an online marketing firm that collaborates with post-secondary institutions to boost prospective student engagement. 

The marketing campaign, to be launched this March, will target Class of 2028 admitted students in an attempt to retain a higher percentage of them for the Fall 2024 semester. 

“Once we have selected the admitted students for this year, we will launch a targeted digital marketing effort to those students and their families,” Golden said. “The ads will provide an opportunity for us to encourage them to get more information about William and Mary as they’re making their decision, and ultimately to commit.”

In addition to Encoura, the College plans to achieve its long term recruitment goals working with OHO Interactive, a marketing agency that specializes in higher education. Working with OHO, the college is planning a top of the funnel brand awareness play, focused on exposing out-of-state students to the College through targeted social media marketing.

Furthermore, with OHO the College will employ a Search Engine Optimization Plan, an unprecedented process, ensuring the College appears on individuals’ internet searches related to the school and keywords associated with the institution. This strategy is particularly important for the school to break through to the new market provided by the introduction of the College’s new school in computer science, data science, applied science and physics, opening in Fall 2025. 

Academic Affairs

College Vice Rector and Chair of the Academic Affairs committee Barbara L. Johnson J.D. ’84 said the committee met and heard updates from College Provost Peggy Agouris on the new school for computer science, applied science, data science and physics, including the selection of its inaugural dean. The committee also discussed the school’s re-accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which will take place in 2026

According to College Assistant Provost for Institutional Accreditation and Effectiveness Matt Smith, the College wants board members to be present when SACSCOC officers visit the College in March 2026, but not more than two members to avoid the event being open and public, as required by the Virginia Code.  

“We will have to have two board members meet with folks on the onsight committee, at that time, clearly it can’t be three, because it would be one of these things that have to be publicized and whatnot, as far as an official meeting of the board, and that’s not what this can be,” Smith said.

At the full board meeting, the board approved five resolutions from the committee, including a resolution to grant tenure and to abolish the Master of Arts in Physics degree. According to Resolution 5: Closure of MA in Physics Degree Program, the M.A. in Physics degree has not been conferred since 1970, and the Master of Science in Physics will still be maintained by the College and will receive no impact.

Academic Building and Grounds

The committee discussed the William and Mary Capital Outlay and Virginia Institute of Marine Science Capital Outlay reports. According to the College’s report, $139,171,275 was dedicated to the construction of the Fine and Performing Arts complex, consisting of the Music Building and Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. 

“PBK Memorial Hall and the Music Arts Center Building continue to operate with a temporary certificate of use and occupancy while the contractor completes various punch list activities,” the report reads.

The report also gave an update on the construction progress of the fourth phase of the Integrated Science Center, which is slated for completion in August 2025, with a dedicated budget of $94,383,254. The renovations of Monroe Hall, which is scheduled to return as a residence hall in the Fall 2024 semester, has a budget of $23,500,000.

The board also approved Resolution 6: Revise Muscarelle Museum of Art Renovation and Expansion Project Budget, which increased the budget for the Muscarelle Museum of Art by $2,200,000, bringing the total amount of funding to $46 million.

Reports from Representatives

Student Assembly President Sydney Thayer ’24 and President of the Professionals and Professional Faculty Assembly Taylor Brings Ph.D. ’23 shared their reports, both citing a desire for more connections and cooperation between the administration and their respective organizations and constituents.

Chancellor Professor of Physics and Faculty Representative to the board of visitors David Armstrong shared his report, stating that the College is slated to be promoted to “R1: Doctoral Universities — Very High Research Activity” by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in 2025.

“This is a pretty big deal — being recognized for being in the top tier of research universities will help us with national and international recognition for our research and scholarship, with recruiting and retaining the best faculty as well as the best graduate students, and will also convince prospective undergrad students of our strength in research. It is relatively unusual for a university to be ranked as R1 without having a medical school or a school of engineering,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong laid out the requirements for promotion, adding that the College has also spent $59.4 million in research expenditures last year.

“The new R1 classification in 2025 is based on just two requirements: over 70 doctoral degrees awarded per year, and over $50 million of research expenditures,” Armstrong said. “W&M has been awarding an average [of] 78 doctoral degrees per year over the last decade.”

The board also conferred two honorary doctorate degrees to Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie G. Bunch III, L.H.P. ’24 and former College Rector Jeffrey B. Trammell ’73, D.P.S. ’24. Their formal conferral ceremony took place at the Charter Day ceremony Friday, Feb. 9.

The board’s next meeting will take place from Wednesday, April 24 to Friday, April 26.


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