Just before the holidays, I met in New York with a small group of recent Wheaton graduates, all of them dynamic, intelligent and impressive. Among them was Ryan Letada ’08, who exemplifies the incredible leadership ability of these young graduates. Ryan came to college with the intention of building his skills to be successful as a business leader. He did just that but discovered something more: a passion for social entrepreneurship.
As a senior, Ryan won a Fulbright Award to study the mass eviction and resettlement of poor urban communities in his family’s home country, the Philippines. Since then, he has founded several nonprofit organizations aimed at helping people in poverty build a better life, including his most recent venture, Next Day Better, which leverages the creative intellectual power of diaspora communities. Wheaton, he says, changed his life. And through Ryan, we will improve the lives of many thousands more.
Ryan is not the first person to share with me such a story about the influence of a Wheaton education. During my first 100 days in office, I have been able to meet and get to know many alumnae/i. One theme has emerged consistently: a Wheaton education broadens perspectives on people and cultures and encourages new ways of thinking. Those with whom I have spoken say that their connection with Wheaton has been transformative, and that the relationships they developed with faculty and their peers are ties that will last a lifetime.
The sense of connection among members of our community shows in the support that alumnae/i provide to Wheaton and to current students. Early this fall, for example, the Filene Center put out a call for volunteers to serve as career partners for our students by offering an informational interview, some mentoring, perhaps an internship or job opportunity. The response was great. More than 400 alumnae/i answered the call, which more than doubles the size of Wheaton’s career network. We also had a strong response to a request for alumnae/i and parent help in our admission efforts.
The start of the new year will bring an opportunity for you to engage with me and the college in one of our most important initiatives in recent years. We will launch a strategic planning process that will involve the entire Wheaton community in envisioning how we can build on the college’s strengths over the next five years as we build the Wheaton College of tomorrow.
A good deal of work will take place on campus. Professor of Mathematics Tommy Ratliff will serve with me as co-chair of a task force that will be in charge of managing the process. That group will include faculty, staff, students and alumnae/i, and our goal will be to ensure that we engage every part of the college community.
Our intention is to work intensively throughout the spring semester, gathering input through meetings on campus and feedback sessions for alumnae/i and parents in as many cities as we are able to visit in the first half of 2015. We also will use technology, such as webcasts and online surveys, to make it easier for everyone to contribute to the conversation. Toward that end, I have also set up a special email address to reach the entire task force: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have suggestions or questions, please send them to that address.
Wheaton College is a true treasure among liberal arts institutions. We know that our innovative programs and our student-centered experience change lives. I know that working together we can build an even stronger and more influential Wheaton College. The active involvement and contributions of alumnae/i, parents and friends are essential to making that happen.