Photograph by Jamie Betts

A great question

March 7, 2023


By Kevin F. Hallock, president

My parents always encouraged me to ask questions and work hard. I had several jobs growing up — from delivering newspapers to picking cucumbers and tobacco to operating a forklift in a lumberyard. These experiences opened a few doors for me and opened my mind to questions about how people are paid and why they earn what they earn. Before graduating from high school, I knew I wanted to become an economist. Economists think about maximizing all sorts of things. In my role as president at Richmond, I think about how we can help our students make the most of their time here and beyond.

At its best, the college experience can enhance students’ ability to engage in the world by opening their minds to continued learning and preparing them to lead more fulfilling and resilient lives. When our students graduate, I hope they’ve opened doors they couldn’t have imagined were even doors. I hope they’ve developed a strong educational grounding and deep knowledge in a field of interest — and that they’re better prepared to lead lives of purpose.

At Richmond, our academic recipe for engaging students is rooted in teaching and mentoring relationships.

As teachers, we help students establish a foundation in communications, writing, research, and critical thinking skills; refine their knowledge in specific areas; and broaden their perspectives. Last semester, I dipped my toe into the teaching pool at Richmond, offering a First Year Seminar on compensation to 16 new Spiders. Students proposed theories and listened to one another as we discussed important topics, like how the gender pay gap has evolved in the U.S., how things differ internationally, what this means, and what to do about it.

As mentors, we offer individualized support for students to engage in learning and growth beyond the classroom. Take senior Harry Dang, for example, who has conducted research with chemistry professor Dr. Mike Leopold for three consecutive years. With Dr. Leopold’s mentorship and funding from the Richmond Guarantee, Harry’s contributing to the development of cost-effective sensors to screen for explosives, drugs, and disease biochemicals. Harry’s research has earned him two national awards, and he is the first author of two peer-reviewed publications. This is just one example among many. At our annual A&S Student Symposium, undergraduates across nearly 30 disciplines will present faculty-mentored work through poster sessions, performances, and art exhibits. I loved the 2022 Symposium and am counting the days until April 14.

As we seek to make Richmond more remarkable, we must continue to ask how we can help open doors and minds to more expansive futures and how we can equip our students to engage in meaningful learning now and for the rest of their lives. I am excited about our path ahead, and I look forward to our work together.