Celebrating abundance

During my first semester at Wheaton, I met with almost all faculty and staff—from hosting dozens of small group gatherings in the Presidents’ House and attending classes to participating in many, many Zoom meetings. My goal was to see the college through the eyes of faculty, staff and trustees. This year, I’ll be focused on meeting with students and alums to hear their perspectives in more depth.

With every group I asked the same open-ended questions: What do you love about Wheaton? What would you like to change? What are Wheaton’s opportunities for growth and innovation?

The Wheaton community identified two traits consistently as characteristics of the college that they appreciated:  “Wheaton traditions” and the “willingness to recreate, reinvent, change.” There were, of course, many ideas about what should change and how the college can grow to more fully realize its mission in the years ahead. But an appreciation for enduring values informing traditions and a spirit of experimentation were very widely shared.

Underlying those themes—and the many good suggestions for new initiatives—is confidence in Wheaton’s ability to grow while retaining its focus on an education that enriches students’ intellectual and personal lives, prepares them for professional success through multiple careers, and equips them for civic leadership—in short, to lead a life of abundance.

Wheaton’s long-standing commitment to providing a rigorous and practical education—an emphasis that is rooted in its founding—has inspired the faculty to innovate, again and again, both in pedagogy and curriculum.

Wheaton’s faculty has an impressive history of developing new approaches to teaching and learning inside and outside the classroom, and of creating overarching curricula like Compass and majors in new and emerging fields. The early response to Wheaton’s newest programs testify to this ability. In just a few months, the college’s new majors—criminal justice, restorative justice, and criminology; design; and nursing—ranked among the top programs most often mentioned by high school juniors and seniors considering applying for admission.

While Wheaton implements these initiatives, the college needs to continue to look forward and identify other areas in which we can build on our strengths, enhance what we offer to students today, and introduce opportunities to expand our reach.

Along with communication and marketing that have already been identified by faculty as potential majors, many good ideas emerged from my conversations with faculty in areas such as biotechnology, augmented and virtual reality, machine learning, and ecopreneurship, to name but a few. With such talented faculty, I have no doubt Wheaton will continue to develop new majors and branch into master’s degrees beginning with the four-plus-one model (five years to achieve both an undergraduate and graduate degree).

Amid this innovation and in lieu of the traditional pomp and circumstance of a presidential inauguration, the college is planning a series of events on campus and in cities and regions across the country to celebrate Wheaton today and imagine the Wheaton of tomorrow. Our goal is to connect with as many students, faculty and staff on campus; and alumni and friends across the country as possible.

The college’s future strength, like its past and present, will be shaped by the keen intellectual inquiry, talent and generous support of the many people who are a part of this global community. As we embark on the college’s next chapter, I want to continue to engage in a broad-based discussion about our mission, vision and values; emerging strategic priorities; and our hopes for Wheaton’s future. I’m looking forward to meeting more members of the community while celebrating the college’s long record of success and envisioning our future trajectory.