The ceremony most closely associated with college is graduation, with the caps and gowns and “Pomp and Circumstance.” Graduation, also called “commencement” represents the end of one journey and readiness for what lies ahead. Reflecting its distinctive approach, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond holds an additional ceremony for its students, at the beginning of the journey. Aptly called Prelude, this ceremony serves as an induction into the Jepson fold, and an introduction to the opportunities and experiences ahead.

Prelude is defined as “an introductory performance, event, or action preceding or preparing for the principal or a more important matter.” A secondary definition relates to music, where a prelude is a piece of music introducing the theme. Jepson’s Prelude qualifies on both accounts. It lays the groundwork for the principal work of the leadership studies ahead for its students. And it introduces the theme of an ambitious and close-knit academic community that supports and inspires its members along the way. 

Jepson students apply for admission in the first semester of the second year. Those accepted into the School are formally welcomed at Prelude.

At the 2008 Prelude on Nov. 10, faculty, staff and upperclass students filled the hall, demonstrating their commitment to Jepson and the class of 2011. Dean Dr. Sandra J. Peart cited the auspicious timing of the Class of 2011’s arrival at Jepson. Quoting Adam Smith, she noted they had arrived at a two-fold “defining moment in U.S. history,” the historic election of Barack Obama and the international financial crisis. The leadership challenges of such an economic climate are enormous, asserted Peart, adding that “the effects of this will be real and deep.” Peart was direct: “There could hardly be a better time to enter a school of leadership studies. We need you.”

From there, students shared their experiences. Tyler Morris, a junior, spoke about the impact of certain classes. He noted that his Jepson initiation began with Dr. Ana Mitric’s opening lecture in an introductory course. “From that moment I was hooked,” Morris said. “I felt I needed to continue my journey at Jepson.” Of a group dynamics class taught by Dr. Donelson R. Forsyth, Morris said “it was during this class that I decided I wanted to be a leader.” Of a critical thinking class, Morris said it was “valuable in that it gave me a new perspective on the world.” Concluding his remarks, Morris stated emphatically that “at Jepson I have learned something new and valuable every day. Jepson has changed who I am. Jepson has helped me find the natural leader within myself.”

Senior Chris Genualdi also lauded his education at Jepson, and the important lessons he had learned “from the moral to the practical.” Summarizing his outlook as he heads toward his final semester, Genualdi said “I am confident Jepson has prepared me to tackle whatever challenges I will face head on,” adding that armed with such confidence he will seek out experiences “which inspire and excite me.”

Delivering the faculty address, Dr. Peter I. Kaufman outlined why he had come to teach at the Jepson School. “I can tell you the two reasons why I am here,” Kaufman began. “I have taught at six colleges, in eight departments, and I have never come across a faculty as discerning and dedicated as this one. You are lucky. My second reason is you. I want to be with students for whom bronze and silver won’t do. I want to be with students who want to lead. I want to be with students possessed of agile intellects, vision and compassion.”

Following the remarks, the class was inducted. Associate Dean Teresa J. Williams called each student up to the stage to receive a handshake from Dean Peart and a certificate officially inducting them into the Jepson School. From the stage, the students went to sign “the book,” which every member of every class of the Jepson School signs, affirming their commitment to the Jepson School, its offerings, its students, and its principles.

Senior Lisa Sinkovitz, president of the Jepson Student Government Association, made concluding remarks and encouraged all to attend a reception immediately following. At the reception, professors chatted with students, affection and mutual regard already evident on both sides. Later, Sinkovitz reflected on the meaning of Prelude, and the intimacy of her Jepson experience. “I think Prelude shows students that the Jepson School is a close-knit community,” Sinkovitz said. “It shows students that they are going to graduate in two and a half years with a strong connection to one another and to the faculty. As a senior at the Jepson School, I definitely feel a strong bond with my fellow Jepson peers.”

Prior to Prelude, students took part in a networking event with alumni and university representatives.