Call for Echols Advisory Committee

Dear Echols Alumni,

As I know you will appreciate, this message comes during a challenging time, when we are facing the evil of racism head on in our community. Many of you have asked how you can help – please stay tuned. We are vetting ideas, and working to determine what can be implemented. However, even as we lay claim to our values, we must also move forward with fresh awareness and work toward our common mission at UVA – education. Now, more than ever, we seek to build a community of Echols Scholars based on respect, intellectual inquiry, and care for one another. Today is the first day of classes for the new academic year, and it is time to get started. I am asking for your help and input in this process. 

As the new director of the Echols Scholars Program, I am joining you at a pivotal time. With your collective insight, we have the opportunity to make fundamental decisions about this remarkable program’s future, and to reinforce the underlying principles this program holds most dear. Over the coming year, I hope to deeply engage with members of the Echols community who share the common goal of making the Echols program the strongest it can be. 

As those of you plugged into the ongoing conversation already know, there are a broad set of issues to discuss and navigate. Those topics range from the curricular freedom of Echols Scholars, to more granular topics, such as whether first-year Echols Scholars should continue living together in one common residence hall, or what other forms of additional academic nourishment would best support the flourishing of students. In the next few days I will be sending a link to an important survey that will help us chart the future of the Echols Scholars Program, together. Please look out for that email. I would be grateful if you take a few minutes to provide feedback about your experience with the Echols Program via this survey.

In the interest of inviting those with the deepest investments in the program to share the variety of their perspectives, I am putting together an advisory committee. This committee will be most active over the coming academic year, working to address several specific charges, and reviewing a number of documents and the wealth of data available on the Echols Scholars program. I am seeking alumni of the program as volunteer members of the Echols Advisory Committee, and I encourage you to contact us if you would like to be considered.

Committee responsibilities will include two day-long retreats on Grounds (one Saturday in the fall, one Saturday in the spring), as well as monthly, hour-long meetings that can be accessed via teleconference by out-of-town committee members. At the end of the academic year, pending the committee’s recommendation, the Echols Scholars Program may choose to implement a standing advisory committee to annually review progress on recommendations and to help address future issues as they arise. 

The Echols Advisory Committee will play a critical role in the support and enhancement of the Echols Scholars Program, and its success will depend on the committee’s ability to draw from a range of generational perspectives. To submit your name for consideration, please visit and fill in the requested information before Sept. 1. Please note that this committee is not your only avenue to share your ideas and opinions about the program. I welcome the opportunity to hear from all of you who share our passion and interest in continuing to support this remarkable and unique program. 

I am very much looking forward to working with you in the coming years. 


Kelsey Johnson
Director of the Echols Scholars Program
Associate Professor of Astronomy