Conversations and celebrations

It hardly seems possible that just four weeks remain until the end of classes for the spring semester, but here we are. This month will be exceptionally busy for everyone as we look to finish projects, prepare for final exams, and plan for the celebrations to come in May.

Over the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in on a variety of classes, chatting with students while visiting the residence halls during the evening, and meeting with small groups of staff and faculty to discuss Wheaton’s future possibilities and strategic priorities. One thing that’s clear from the dozens of gatherings I’ve had so far: our community is brimming with good ideas and great energy. 

I’m looking forward to having more conversations about the college’s future, but one theme—making the most of the college’s focus on experiential learning — has emerged so frequently that it merits taking action now.  

As a result, I’ve appointed a task force to identify options for building on our strengths in experiential education and the Compass curriculum. Associate Provost Karen McCormack, Vice President and Dean of Students Darnell Parker and Vice President of Advancement Merritt Crowley will serve as co-chairs of the committee. They will be joined by Board of Trustees chair Janet Lindholm Lebovitz ’72; trustees Indira Henard ’03 and Alumni Board Chair Katie Leiby Schneider ’06; professors Dolita Cathcart, Imran Chowdhury, and C.C. Chapman; and staff members Shaya Gregory Poku, Alisha Flaxman, Seth Hodge, and Matthew Wheeler. In the next few weeks, the committee will brainstorm about a signature plan that focuses on entrepreneurial learning, for-credit internships, field research, service learning, and study away experiences.

In terms of those end-of-the-year celebrations: this year promises to be special. We will be returning to a fully in-person Honors Convocation. And at Wheaton’s 187th Commencement, we will celebrate the Class of 2022 and present honorary degrees to President Emeritus Dennis Hanno; global health care advocate Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza, and the late Momo Nagano, a Class of 1947 graduate who prevailed through adversity to become a textile artist, art administrator, and cultural educator.

In addition to the hundreds of alumni whom we will welcome back for Reunion in May, we’re planning a special Commencement Reunion for the Class of 2020 (June 3 – 5): combining the traditional reunion with senior week activities and a graduation celebration that were canceled due to the pandemic.

Best wishes for healthy, productive, and warmer days ahead.

Michaele Whelan