Introducing Wheaton’s ninth president

To the Wheaton community,

I am pleased to announce that the search for Wheaton College’s ninth president has reached a successful and outstanding conclusion with the appointment of Michaele Whelan, an experienced and innovative leader. She will take office on January 1, 2022.

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the recommendation of the Presidential Search Committee and appoint Michaele to lead Wheaton in building on the college’s considerable strengths and developing new initiatives that will sustain the institution for years to come.

Michaele will come to Wheaton from Emerson College, where she currently serves as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Previously, she served as Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Brandeis University, Associate Dean of Academic Planning and Innovation in the Schools of Arts, Sciences and Engineering at Tufts University, and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of English and American Literature at Harvard University.

Beyond her administrative roles, she has taught at Brandeis, Tufts, Harvard and The Pennsylvania State University, winning awards for her teaching. Michaele’s area of expertise is modern and postmodern American literature with a focus on gendered narratology. She is the author of Travel Implies Destination (Aracne Publishers, 2010) and Navigating the Minefield: Hawkes’s Narratives of Perversion (Peter Lang Publishers, 1998).

Michaele’s appointment concludes an intensive international search that began in January. As the chair of the Presidential Search Committee, I had the privilege of working with vice chair Andrew Lounder ’05 and an outstanding group of alumni, faculty, staff, students and trustees who served as members. On behalf of the entire college community, I want to thank them for the care, dedication and thoughtfulness that they showed throughout this process.

The search began with a series of “listening sessions” with alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents, and friends, as well as an online survey. All told, we heard from 1,400 members of our community. The good advice and insights we received during that process are reflected in the presidential prospectus that was shared with potential candidates. With help from Russell Reynolds Associates, a leading search firm in higher education, the committee developed a strong pool of candidates and highly qualified finalists from across the country.

The Presidential Search Committee members and the Trustees agreed that Michaele stood out not only for her thorough understanding of Wheaton’s strengths and our opportunities for growth and improvement, but also for her demonstrated ability to unite people around meaningful change. At every institution at which she has served, Michaele has collaborated—with task forces, committees, students and the faculty as a whole—to design and launch innovative new programs, from Emerson’s Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies to its portfolio of global pathways and programs offered in partnership with institutions in Australia, China, France, Spain and Switzerland.

A common thread among many of the global education programs that Michaele has helped to launch has been the integration of experiential learning as part of the offering. The Emerson programs feature such opportunities, as did a Tufts leadership institute for undergraduate and graduate students that she designed and managed in China. Her interest and experience in these areas is particularly welcome, and will support Wheaton’s long-standing focus on enriching the liberal arts through experiential learning in the U.S. and abroad. 

An abiding commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion is also evident throughout Michaele’s administrative career. At Emerson, she has consistently connected the goal of academic excellence to inclusive excellence, highlighting the fundamental importance of diversity to a learning community. During her tenure at Tufts, she provided vision and leadership for the establishment of the Office on Diversity Education Planning and Development in Arts, Sciences and Engineering. She also launched faculty-focused diversity efforts during her service at Brandeis.

Above all, Michaele’s commitment to a high-quality, student-centered education—central to Wheaton’s mission—has been evident throughout her career. I am confident that as you have the opportunity to meet and know her, you will come to share our conviction that Michaele is the right person at the right time for Wheaton.

Throughout the fall semester, we will host a series of virtual welcome sessions to introduce Michaele, enable the community to hear from our incoming president, and allow her to hear from you about your connection to the college and your hopes for its future. More information on those events will be forthcoming in the near future.

To close, I wanted to share an introductory video message from Michaele to the Wheaton Community. Please join me in welcoming her to Wheaton College.


Janet Lindholm Lebovitz ’72
Chair, Wheaton College Board of Trustees

View the college’s news announcement on the appointment of Michaele Whelan as Wheaton’s ninth president.