Private university opening to public: The tradeoffs to MOCA installation

The debate around student needs versus community collaboration rises following announcement of MOCA construction.

Featured Image: Rowan smiles for a portrait for the IEN Student Corporate Engagement Competition.

The upcoming arrival of the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) facility is a step in the wrong direction for VWU.

Foremost, it is important for the student body to understand that this building is not an inherently bad action but a good one. It will provide more facilities for students to use, offer an opportunity for a more well-rounded education and provide an opportunity for VWU to further its engagement with the local community and its partners.

However, the duty of a private university is to best serve the interests of its students, not its partners. When the goals of administration and the sentiments of the student body are not aligned, it is incumbent upon administration to change their actions to reflect students wishes.

While that statement makes the assumption that the student body does not want this program, it is an easy one to make. Out of the 30 majors offered by VWU, only four of them are tied to the visual and performing arts, with about 4% of our student body choosing to major in one of these fields, according to U.S. News.

Our most popular majors and fields of study are business, biology, psychology and social science degrees, which, when combined, represent nearly half of our student body. None of these individuals gain from the new program, apart from a slightly greater variety of course options to satisfy general education requirements.

When looking back at the benefits this provides outside an educational setting, the benefits to students are merely limited to school image in the local community and not abroad. This is a local partnership which will take local effect. Other than being a local bragging right, most will not understand what makes a partnership like this special or unique. Those that do are likely not the ones getting degrees from Virginia Wesleyan, but those who come and utilize our facilities. This in its own right will frustrate the student body by packing already scarce parking around campus, and generating an influx of events which students will need to learn to coordinate around.

So what should we want instead of this building? For that, we can turn to what our school lacks compared to others. Virginia Wesleyan is robust in the quality of grad school partnerships it has and the variety of partners for a small liberal arts school is certainly impressive when compared to its peers and public institutions. However, some of these partnerships could use some work. We can boast about schools like Duke, Emory and UVA. However, these are niche programs and feature low quantities of students which can take advantage of them.

Within our other categories, those that detail admissions requirements are out of date or poorly negotiated with test scores placing VWU students into the upper percentiles, giving them the edge a relationship would. By offering a greater variety of program partnerships aligned with our popular majors, VWU would provide opportunities much more applicable to its students. Unfortunately, where we really falter compared to others, comes from our internship and professional opportunities.

Out of the 24 Fortune 500 companies based in Virginia, only one will be represented at this fall’s career fair. The career fairs represent major employers in both the region and within other members of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges.

Perhaps more concerning is the lack of representation from our board of trustees. Out of our board, only a couple of our members will be attending the career fair. Our board of trustees represents large local employers and nationally recognized employers and Fortune 500 companies not based in Virginia.

Those who have gotten internships from these companies have done so by their own curiosity and merit, not from gaining interest through a career fair. This is not to say that Virginia Wesleyan does a poor job with its career fairs. We do offer a robust variety of government partnerships. However, much like any university with an employer in the area, these come as very little surprise.

Further, when compared to other schools in the region, this merely brings us up to scratch with other colleges rather than making us unique. In fact, state universities offer the same variety we do and even surpass us in the tracks they can offer for their students.

As a private university, we are expected to pay a large sum for a superior education and resources.

While I am a firm believer in the quality of a Virginia Wesleyan education, if we are to pay increased sums, our resources need to increase across the board. While this partnership with the Virginia MOCA presents a great opportunity for Virginia Wesleyan, it is misguided in that it is niche, benefits the community over the students and presents a time cost which could have been used to elevate our resources to a more satisfactory level.


Rowan Stuart is a senior business major. He is involved with Ethics Bowl and the IEN Student Corporate Engagement Competition and enjoys rock climbing in his freetime. He can be contacted at


By: Rowan Stuart