Class of 1989
UVA Associate Professor of Spanish
The Echols Advisory Committee met through the course of the 2017-18 academic year, bringing together the insists of students, faculty, and alumni. This was the first time in the history of the Echols Scholar Program (ESP) that anyone had attempted such a comprehensive review, drawing on so many perspectives. The group carried out fruitful discussions of the overall mission of the program, the nature of its academic requirements (or lack thereof), the diversity of its members, and the program’s residential component.
As a faculty member and an Echols alumnus, I was delighted to be part of a group of people who shared my values regarding the college experience. These were people who valued curiosity and intellectual risk-taking, who knew college was primarily a place to learn and grow, and that much of that growth was intellectual in nature. Everyone, I thought, was committed to developing an already strong program into a really distinctive one, deliberately designed to help its participants mature into creative, critical, and compassionate young adults.
We did not always agree on everything, and we were stumped by some of the program’s most urgent problems, particularly its lack of diversity relative to the overall student population, but we learned a lot about the difference between what needed to be done, and what could be done with the resources available to the program, in the short term and in the long. I was most pleased with the group’s decision to endorse the program’s residential component, while simultaneously examining options for enhancing the dorm experience, and its contribution to the overall development of the scholars.