This summer, I have enjoyed meeting newly admitted students and their families at the Boston, Mass., and Bethesda, Md., University of Richmond Welcome to the Web events—two of many such events held across the country.

At these events, I typically ask future Spiders about their academic interests, why they chose UR, and whether they have registered (or plan to register) for a leadership studies class. Many tell me they looked at UR because of the Jepson School and want to major or minor in leadership studies. Some plan to sample a leadership class, while others speak of their interest in STEM fields or business.

Sometimes, recent graduates and current students who are siblings of future Spiders attend Welcome to the Web events. I always learn from them, too.

At a recent event, I was very pleased to have a conversation with a 2018 graduate who double majored in business and rhetoric and communication studies. While she was unable to fit in many leadership studies classes along with her majors, she nevertheless had wonderful things to say about our faculty.

She spoke enthusiastically about her introductory leadership class, Leadership and the Humanities, with the legendary Dr. Peter Kaufman. This is one of two classes where we introduce students to the leadership curriculum—asking them to explore and challenge their preconceived notions of leadership by closely examining how leadership has played out in the past.

At the Jepson School, we study leadership as it was, as it is, and as it should be.

I also enjoyed hearing her remarks about a non-Jepson class, her first-year seminar at the University. Five years after taking The Philosophy of Freedom with the Jepson School’s Dr. Javier Hidalgo, she brimmed with excitement as she told her mother that this was her “best class” in her years at UR.

When I asked what made it so good, she spoke about how Dr. Hidalgo organized the class around a series of topics, including immigration, prescription drug laws, incarceration, and opioids. Students examined what they believed in light of evidence on the subject and debated each other, respectfully and thoughtfully, as a way of learning more about the so-called “other side.”

I was particularly pleased to hear an alumna speak so highly of a class that is part of the required, introductory curriculum at UR. Those who have studied with Dr. Hidalgo will not be surprised to learn that he will shortly be one of a small group of faculty members who will soon be honored with UR’s Distinguished Educator Award!

What I learned at this year’s Welcome to the Web!

Sandra J. Peart

Dr. Peart is Dean of the School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. She is an economist with special interests in leadership and economics and leadership ethics. More about her: Go to and see faculty information.

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