Vice President of Academic Affairs and Kenneth R. Perry Dean of the College, Dr. Timothy O'Rourke.
When Dr. Timothy O'Rourke stepped onto the Virginia Wesleyan campus as the new Vice President for Academic Affairs and Kenneth R. Perry Dean of the College in July 2007, he hit the ground running.
Since his arrival, Virginia Wesleyan has hired nine new tenure-track faculty members (three of whom are Phi Beta Kappa), created a new instructional laboratory for its teacher education program, launched online registration, started the first living and learning community, enhanced academic advising for students, introduced a new early alert system to assist students experiencing academic difficulty, channeled more funding into undergraduate research, established (in cooperation with Student Affairs) an academically rigorous orientation program for freshmen, and begun comprehensive reform of the curriculum in order to make it more engaging and demanding. The College also has embarked on a campus-wide capital modernization of the Hofheimer Library, to be completed by the start of the spring 2009 semester.
All of these initiatives reinforce Virginia Wesleyan's pursuit of Phi Beta Kappa recognition – Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's most prestigious liberal arts honorary. "That pursuit," says O'Rourke, "advances the College's commitment to train Renaissance citizens, schooled across the various academic disciplines and prepared for leadership."
O'Rourke's academic vision draws on the name "Virginia Wesleyan College," which speaks plainly and directly to our distinctiveness, mission, and vision. Below are reflections from O'Rourke's vision statement:
The Virginia Setting
Located within a few miles of the place where John Smith first landed in America, Virginia Wesleyan values its connection to the commonwealth's rich heritage of political leadership, which gave us the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, and which produced eight presidents.
Virginia Wesleyan is the only private liberal arts college in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News Metropolitan Area, the nation's 34th largest (with 1.7 million people in 2007). The metropolitan area overlays the region known as Hampton Roads and extends from Virginia Beach westward to the historic cities of Yorktown and Williamsburg. Virginia Wesleyan's 300 heavily-forested acres sit on the border of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. The greater metropolitan area features a vibrant and diverse economy (Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Norfolk Southern), myriad cultural institutions (the Virginia Symphony, the Virginia Zoo, the Virginia Air & Space Center, the Chrysler Museum, the Virginia Aquarium), the world's largest naval base (Naval Station Norfolk), and highly innovative local governmental arrangements (as in the consolidated city-counties of Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach).
Virginia Wesleyan connects its students to the history, culture, ecology, and politics of the region through courses, internships, and community service projects that provide practical know-how and skills, which lead in many cases to jobs after graduation. Equally important, these practical experiences are lessons in community involvement.
The Wesleyan Heritage
The Wesleyan component of Virginia Wesleyan College speaks to the fact that we were founded as a Methodist-related institution committed to the example and principles of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Wesley's example promotes charity and civic engagement. His principles celebrate the pursuit of faith through religious freedom and recognize that the quest for truth involves a spiritual dimension.
The Wesleyan tradition encourages students to place their studies and career preparation into the larger context of a well-ordered and good life. Thus, the College asks students to subscribe to the nine elements of the Virginia Wesleyan Creed and to the Honor Code, which builds on Thomas Jefferson's observation that "[a]n honest heart" is "the first blessing," and "a knowing head is the second" (Letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 19, 1785, in Merrill Peterson, ed., The Portable Thomas Jefferson).
The College Community
Virginia Wesleyan is a liberal arts College, which means, in part, that we are small (about 1200 day students and another 200 students in our Adult Studies Program). We encourage students to interact with eminent faculty (nearly 90 percent have terminal degrees) in small classes (most have about a dozen students) and to undertake significant independent research projects and recitals under the supervision of a faculty mentor (more than 100 students did so in 2007-08). A liberal arts curriculum encompasses study across the disciplines, from mathematics to literature, from philosophy to biology, from history to foreign languages. With a broad foundation in the liberal arts, Wesleyan students choose among 38 majors. While many of our students graduate into the workplace, others go on to medical school, law school, and graduate school.
Providing the foundation for a good career is only a part of a Virginia Wesleyan education. First and foremost, Wesleyan seeks to prepare each student to be an honorable, caring, and culturally literate person who will lead a good and reflective life in service to family and community. This is the transformative Wesleyan experience. This describes what we do well and, equally important, what we aspire to do better, as we push to become a Phi Beta Kappa-caliber institution.