President's Blog

What’s in a website?

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to visit our new home website. I hope you like it as much as I do. It took a lot of people to gather input from multiple constituencies, test alternative concepts, and produce a final design. I want to thank each one of them and congratulate them on the final product.

Designing a university’s top-level website is a bigger deal than it may appear. Our website ( is the gateway through which people learn about us. It is by far the most important tool we have to express who we are and to invite different constituencies to engage with us. Among them, none are more important than future students.

During our work, we learned that prospective students (and their parents) want informative, easy-to-navigate sites to research colleges and programs and to help them make the best family decision for their investment. Our new site was designed with that objective in mind.

According to a 2015 study by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, 80 percent of high school seniors and 77.3 percent of high school juniors say that college websites are the most influential reason they are interested in a college. And more than 77 percent of each group said that a school’s website has an effect on their perception of the school (an 11 percent increase from a 2014 study). In a similar 2014 study, 69 percent of parents rated college websites as the most influential resource for their college search. When looking at a university’s website, high school seniors are most interested in a list of academic programs. That category is second, behind cost, for parents.

We know that we have a lot to offer and we want to make sure that prospective students from across Virginia, the U.S. and, increasingly, the rest of the world, know it too. We want to showcase our outstanding academic programs, faculty, diversity, location, and so on. Our new site better enables us to do that.

How we project ourselves matters. To quote that 2014 study: “The combination of importance placed on college websites and frequency of students visiting them emphasizes the significance of having strong, helpful, and fresh content available for visitors. Campuses do not want to risk having outdated, erroneous, or unclear information on their sites.”

After you visit the new website, I hope you will agree that the new design showcases what sets us apart, and conveys why we’re a smart choice for students and families.