Illustration of a laptop and the UR campus

Welcome to UR Now

August 19, 2020

First Look

Like a lot of new hires, my start at the University of Richmond was accompanied by a series of firsts, but not the usual ones. The University pivoted to remote instruction, and University Communications, like millions of Americans around the country suddenly became a virtual office the day I was supposed to head in. I’m told I have a desk — I haven’t seen it.

After stints at NPR, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel, I was hired as the managing editor of UR Now. The project is the result of more than a year of editorial strategy, design prototypes, whiteboarding, and software engineering, much of which happened before I arrived.

The original plan was to take several months to develop content for a new digital publication — a weekly, emailed news digest and website — set to launch at the beginning of the fall semester. We’d tell the stories of UR research and innovation, the student experience, campus news, as well as student and faculty creative work and scholarship, in a timely way. This is the first issue.

But with the Coronavirus prompting fast-moving changes at the University, it became clear we needed a way to quickly and regularly communicate how the UR community was responding and contributing. We did our own pivot, converting our existing Spider Pride email into a testing ground for the sort of journalistic approach we wanted to adopt in UR Now.

The Spider Pride email and site launched in 2017 under the direction of editor and producer Pryor Green, who created a space to show what makes our community so special. She’ll continue to lead that effort: Spider Pride is an integral part of UR Now.

As we headed into what would typically be a summer slowdown, Pryor and I wondered if we’d have enough stories to tell. We didn’t have to look far for the answer. We used Spider Pride to show how faculty were quickly adapting to remote teaching, and while many told us how they missed being with their students, they found new ways to connect. A professor mailed science kits to her incoming students to get them rolling with their studies. Alumni and students joined the COVID fight, some far away and some close to campus.  

Now, as Spiders both arrive for the first time — and return — to a socially distanced campus, we’ll examine how the experience has changed and what remains the same. And we’ll relay how the University is working to keep our community safe.

In some ways, there couldn’t be a better time to help tell the story of the University. We’re looking forward to covering UR’s progress in challenging times. Amid the uncertainty, we know that Spiders will display resiliency.

See you on Zoom.

Paul Heltzel
Managing Editor, UR Now