Usually at this time of year, I pen an upbeat message congratulating our seniors on their accomplishments. The end of their senior year is one of many times when the Jepson School of Leadership Studies celebrates their achievements. In just over two weeks, we would normally host our seniors and their families at Finale, a wonderful senior recognition event typically held the day before graduation.
But nothing about this semester is normal. Our extraordinarily accomplished seniors have borne an especially large burden during the last five weeks. Not only were their classes abruptly changed from in-person to remote delivery, but all the traditional year-end events for seniors, so dear to our hearts at Jepson, have been postponed or canceled.
Notwithstanding this—and the very uncertain future they face as they enter their professional lives in difficult economic times—our seniors have demonstrated a remarkable resilience and courage. They transitioned in haste from the cozy, on-campus residency or the independent living that comes with off-campus housing, to other venues, all the while keeping up with their studies.
I have observed them in my Economic Policy and Leadership class, where they show up online, well prepared, serious but with a sense of humor, and ready to move on in life. More than this, our seniors have completed honors and independent research projects on topics as varied as “Mindsets and Addiction”; “Follow the Leader or Follow the Strategy: The Role of Perceived Legitimacy in Leader Effectiveness”; and “Netflix and Kill: A Look at the Cultural Fascination of Infamous Killers.” Their research is available through our virtual Jepson Research Symposium.
They have also participated in events to recruit new students to the University of Richmond, rallied our campus to oppose racism and xenophobia, participated in elections of new Jepson Student Government Association officers, written op-eds, and earned awards at the University level. In short, this is an extraordinary group. It gives me great confidence to know that our seniors will soon engage in leadership in their companies, nonprofit organizations, and communities.
While we are unable to host our seniors and their families on campus in spring 2020, we hope to see them at an event held during a future, happier time. Then we will celebrate all their accomplishments, not the least of which is their ability to persevere and complete their graduation requirements under these very difficult circumstances. Most importantly, we will celebrate their friendships and relationships. It will be wonderful to be with them again!