One University of Virginia colleague called Rachel Most one of the most powerful women on Grounds.
College of Arts & Sciences Dean Ian Baucom said he could not be more pleased with her leadership as an associate dean serving more than 10,000 undergraduate students.
Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage described her as a “faculty coach,” referring to her dedication to student-athletes.
Most, the College’s associate dean for undergraduate academic programs since 2014 and a professor of archaeology, has devoted 23 years – most of that time as an assistant dean – to enhancing the student experience, from advising students to implementing the Student Information System, known as SIS, to reforming the College’s two-year general education curriculum.
For this crucial work and much more, she has been selected to receive the 2017 Elizabeth Zintl Leadership Award.
The award, administered by the Maxine Platzer Lynn Women’s Center at UVA, recognizes a female employee whose high degree of service surpasses job expectations and whose excellence in her work makes a direct and significant impact on the core academic enterprise of the University.
“The Zintl Award selection committee was deeply impressed by the ways that Rachel has gone well beyond the College to make an impact on the University’s core mission,” Abigail Palko, director of the Women’s Center, said. “In particular, they noted her exceptional commitment to supporting student learning. … For over two decades, she has built relationships across Grounds and collaborated with her colleagues to develop and institute the programs and policies that will ensure the highest-caliber educational experience for UVA students.”
When Most saw Palko coming into her office several months ago after they’d been in a larger meeting together, she wondered if Palko had some problem to discuss. Instead, the director visited to tell Most face-to-face that she had been selected to receive the Zintl Award.
“When she told me, it didn’t compute,” Most said. “I just stared at her. Then I started to cry, I was so honored. I know so many women who’ve gotten the award, and they’re amazing.”
Recent past Zintl Award recipients include Pamela Norris, Frederick Tracey Morse Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (2016); Farzaneh Milani, chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures and a professor in women, gender and sexuality (2015); and Jane Miller, senior associate athletic director for programs (2014.
Most supervises all operations of the University’s largest school, the College of Arts & Sciences, and oversees the academic regulations of the College and the annual academic audit of all College students. She also coordinates the work of the Arts & Sciences Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee, the elected faculty body that evaluates new courses, majors and degree programs.
As a member of the Curriculum Planning Committee, she worked on reforming the General Education Curriculum for undergraduates – the first major overhaul in more than four decades – that is currently in a three-year pilot phase. She is also leading the alternate curriculum of five “Forums,” begun last fall, that offer 200 incoming students in cohorts of 40 the opportunity during their first two years to select from a small array of unifying themes that shape a selected curriculum.
Most manages the 14 association deans (of which she used to be one), who provide academic advising to first-year students, plus the training of more than 200 faculty advisers who teach the first-year College advising, or COLA, courses. She also coordinates the upper-division advising for majors, working with all the departments’ directors of undergraduate programs. In addition, she oversees the Echols Scholars program, the Summer Transition Program and directs the Rainey Academic Program, a summer transitional program for Access UVA students.
“In all of these efforts,” Baucom wrote in his letter of nomination, “Rachel has distinguished herself through her attention to every possible detail, her ability to forge productive relationships, and her facility as a thought leader among her accomplished peers.”
But that’s not all.
Recently, Most collaborated with the International Studies Office to create UVA London First, a new study-abroad program for incoming first-year students that debuted this fall at Regent’s University London.
She also continues to work with several teams of student-athletes, advising about 100 each year. Littlepage wrote that she has traveled to away games with the Cavaliers to administer exams and assist with study sessions. She holds advising hours in the athletes’ dining hall in John Paul Jones Arena and the McCue Center to accommodate the students’ schedules.
“Long after our students leave the University, she is still viewed as a mentor and adviser having a positive impact on them and their career aspirations,” Littlepage said.
Until she was promoted to associate dean in 2014, Most served as an assistant dean for 20 years, advising thousands of students – many more than a typical assistant dean. She also found the time to put her energy and skills to work on some of the College’s major changes.
Steve Plog, a former supervisor of hers during his tenure as associate dean for undergraduate academic programs and also a professor of anthropology, said, “Rachel has been a key leader in a remarkable number of important initiatives: creating and implementing summer orientation, designing and implementing SIS to ensure that it will work well for both the students and the faculty, improving the undergraduate advising system in the College, and revising the core undergraduate curriculum for College students.
“I have never worked with any other individual who has been as hard-working and enthusiastic as well as dedicated and devoted to enhancing the undergrad experience at the University. … Rachel is one of the kindest and most compassionate colleagues one could hope for,” he wrote in supporting her nomination.
Sandy Seidel and Karlin Luedtke, two assistant deans who have worked with Most for 12 and 15 years, respectively, wrote in supporting her nomination: “It is clear from her many supporters both inside and outside of the Undergraduate College Deans’ Office that Associate Dean Rachel Most casts her leadership net far and wide, but does so always with care for students and for maintaining the integrity of the University.”
Most said, “No two days are ever the same. That’s why I love the job. You have to be able to switch plans, to multi-task and to prioritize.
“It’s all about the students,” Most said. “If I can help students navigate and have the best experience, either one-on-one or through this office, that’s what motivates me.”
The Women’s Center has presented the award since 1998 in memory of Elizabeth Zintl, an accomplished writer and journalist who served as chief of staff in the Office of the President at the University. A selection committee chooses a nominee whose high degree of professionalism, creativity and commitment best reflect Zintl’s significant contributions to the University. Each recipient receives a $1,000 prize for her professional or personal development.
An award ceremony and reception is set for Sept. 27.