Photograph by Jamie Betts

Maximizing our potential

May 19, 2022

Forum

Together, we can become — unquestionably — the best small university in the world.

By Kevin F. Hallock, president
President Kevin F. Hallock

Inauguration weekend was a memorable one for our community. Our beautiful UR campus was abuzz with activity. We had great panel discussions, one with students and their faculty advisers and one with college presidents. There was music, food, student performances, and fireworks. And I didn’t even stumble (much) during my speech. Out of all this, what was the best part of the weekend?

For me, it was not my investiture as president — although that is certainly the high point in my career, and I’ll always feel profoundly honored and grateful for the opportunity to serve. The best part, though, was feeling the energy of the UR community coming together to celebrate all that’s great about our university and all the ways we know we can be — will be — even greater in the future.

I’m an economist, and that background is directly relevant to university staffing, budgets, and more. But as I’ve met with our staff and faculty in various departments during the past year, I’ve been quick to assure them that economists focus on a lot more than money and maximizing profits. Economists concentrate on maximizing all sorts of things — including good things for our society — with a realistic eye on all the constraints.

I have big aspirations for Richmond.

This can be a useful way to think about university leadership. I have big aspirations for Richmond. I’ve talked about our university, which is already so strong, becoming unquestionably the best small university in the world. That’s not hyperbole but something I believe we can do, and I’m here to work on it as hard as I can. That’s maximizing, or optimizing. But I also know that we must be constantly aware of the constraints we face.

We aren’t going to make all those challenges disappear, no matter how hard we try. But what we can do is make the most of our opportunities. And right now our community is poised to pull together to do just that.

I see five major areas of opportunity for Richmond — “guiding lights,” I call them, because while we must invest in many areas, if we keep these central in our efforts, they will lead us toward that unquestionable best.

Subject to all our constraints, we can optimize access and affordability so more students can benefit from the exceptional education we offer; optimize the ways we foster a sense of belonging for all members of our community; optimize our already strong emphasis on well-being to equip our students to be resilient and well-balanced throughout their lives; optimize academic excellence by incentivizing superb teaching, mentoring, and research; and optimize community engagement to give our students more real-world experience and give back to this dynamic city.

Economists maximize and optimize, and so can we as a talented, caring, cohesive community of students, staff, faculty, alumni, parents, and friends. I am grateful and lucky to be on this journey with all of you.