Class of 1990
Echols Interdisciplinary Major
One year ago, I was honored to be asked by Kelsey Johnson, Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Echols Scholars Program, to serve on an Advisory Committee intended to provide guidance regarding the future of the Echols Scholar Program. As a UVA alumnus who began his undergraduate career in the School of Engineering as a Rodman Scholar who later transferred into the College as an Echols Scholar who opted not to live in Echols/Rodman Scholars housing my first year, I believe that Kelsey hoped that I might bring a unique perspective to the Committee.
In November 2017, the Committee gathered at Alumni Hall to meet in person and formally kick off our deliberations. I joined five other alumni who graduated between 1974 and 2011, three College professors, five current students and a handful of College and University staff members from various departments, including Admission, Housing, the College and the Curry School. The full Committee divided into various subcommittees and met as a full or partial group several times throughout the year, both in person and via teleconference, culminating in the preparation of a report delivered to Dean Baucom and detailed elsewhere in this newsletter.
I am pleased to report to Echols Program alumni and friends that I have been as impressed with the process and the outcome of this Committee as I have been with any initiative in which I have participated or which I have observed in my professional career or in my years of involvement with nonprofit organizations.
The 25-some members of the Committee were united in their commitment to look honestly at what the Program does well and where it falls short, and we did not shy away from asking big questions. We engaged in vigorous debate over foundational issues and did not always come to complete agreement, although in the Virginia tradition, collegiality, mutual respect and compromise always prevailed.
I believe I may speak for my fellow alumni Committee members in lauding the impressiveness of the student members of our Committee. Those of you who have engaged recently with current UVA students in general (and Echols Scholars in particular) know how thoughtful, articulate, committed, open-minded and prepared for a challenging world they are. Having spent many hours with the students on our Committee, I can attest that they more than held their own in debates with strong-willed alumni and decorated faculty. If these fine scholars are representative, I can state with a high degree of confidence that student self-governance at UVA is alive and well.
I would also like to share my admiration and respect for Kelsey. Aside from representing the best of the College’s faculty with her passion for her subject and ability to inspire students, Kelsey has taken on the mantle of Echols Program Director with gusto and courage, seeking to improve the program in all respects while building consensus and inviting all points of view. Echols Scholars and alumni, your program is in good hands.
I am sure I speak for the rest of the Committee look forward to continuing the Committee’s work in the coming year, and I welcome all comment from Echols alumni and other interested parties.