Henry delivers State of College address


By Kathy Still

Photo by Tim Cox


The University of Virginia’s College at Wise held its 60th Fall Convocation Tuesday, and Chancellor Donna Henry used her State of the College Address to discuss new academic enhancements, nurturing a diverse student body, creating a healthy community and took a strong stance against the nationwide issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses. 

Students, faculty and staff walked from campus to the David J. Prior Convocation Center for the traditional start of the academic year, which included Henry’s address. Henry said the liberal arts school is on a compelling and clear path toward an even greater vitality and distinction. 

In her address, Henry said the ceremony that surrounds Convocation reinforces that UVa-Wise is a place to learn, live and work in a community of mutual respect, integrity, stewardship and excellence. Convocation is also a time for a college to look at where it is as an institution and where it is headed. She reminded the crowd of nearly 800 that UVa-Wise continues to work toward the goals of Envisioning 2020, its strategic plan. 

“Our commitment to the citizens of Southwest Virginia is steadfast, but we also have committed ourselves to creating a more geographically diverse student body to enrich our community and our students’ educational experience,” Henry said. “Today, over half of our Virginia students come from east of Roanoke, and UVa-Wise also enrolls students from 14 other states…and we are welcoming students from 11 foreign countries this year.” 

UVa-Wise has spent significant time working to help students more quickly engage and thrive on campus, Henry said. Offering a bridge program to assist students in the transition from high school to college and helping freshmen better navigate the academic experience are two of the new programs. 

“Besides our efforts in creating a more diverse and supportive community, I want to especially emphasize our dedication to creating a healthy UVa-Wise community,” Henry said. 

Opening the Winston Ely Health & Wellness Center and creating a healthy community are two ways UVa-Wise is taking care of the region, Henry added. Creating a healthy community also includes taking care of one another, she said. 

“In the last months, you have probably read news reports about the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses across the country,” Henry said. “Sexual misconduct is gender-based discrimination in that it prevents individuals from fully engaging in our academic program and community,” Henry said. “And whether you are a member of our student body, our faculty or staff, you have the right to be full members of this community.” 

Henry pointed to the successful Red Flag campaign, a statewide effort to encourage others to stand up and report sexual misconduct and dating violence, and one of the many things UVa-Wise is doing to curb sexual misconduct. The college has invested money and time in a variety of training programs designed to raise awareness of the nationwide issue, Henry added. In addition, UVa-Wise will join with Frontier Health and Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control on a campaign to aid mature management of alcohol since drinking has been identified with sexual assault across campuses. 

“Let me be clear. Very clear,” Henry said. “UVa-Wise will aggressively investigate all forms of discrimination, including gender-based discrimination. Each of us…all of us…must do our part in sustaining our community. It is my responsibility. It is your responsibility. It is our responsibility.” 

Henry said teaching and learning are at the core of the campus, and the E2020 strategic plan guides that mission. The college has hired 15 new faculty members, completed the second year of a plan to make faculty salaries more competitive and increased support for faculty to attend and present at national and regional conferences by 70 percent. 

“We improved our library and academic budgets to add books, equipment and other academic resources,” Henry said. “We also identified external resources to support student travel to present research at meetings.” 

UVa-Wise is committed to increasing student interest in science, technology, engineering, math and nursing through enhanced admitted student day, and faculty offered a robotics camp this summer for middle school and high school freshmen and a five week class for incoming freshmen who plan to major in a technology field. 

Henry said UVa-Wise would continue to seek national accreditation for its chemistry program and will look at adding national accreditation to music, art and business programs. In addition, the college will do feasibility studies on the possibility of offering an online registered nursing to bachelors degree in nursing and will examine offering collaborative graduate programs in a yet-to-be named discipline. 

Henry touched on the successful campaign that raised an endowment of almost $71.5 million, which is bigger than the endowment of any of its sister Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges institutions and many endowments of older colleges and universities in Virginia. While state revenues may be down, Henry said senior staff, administrators, faculty and staff would work together to be good stewards of resources. 

“I am honored to lead such a passionate community that embraces our mission as a public liberal arts institution that has the capacity and the wisdom to keep our college moving forward and is eager to do so in a spirit of mutual respect, integrity, stewardship and excellence,” Henry told the crowd. “I wish each of you a wonderful and productive academic year.”