Greetings from Wheaton College

Happy New Year! I’m thrilled to be writing from Park Hall at the start of my journey with the Wheaton community. 

The warmth of the welcome that I’ve experienced since my appointment has been energizing and humbling. I want to extend my thanks to everyone who has helped to ease my transition to the college. I am especially grateful to Board Chair Janet Lindholm Lebovitz ’72, Vice Chair Kirk Kolenbrander, and President Hanno for their generous and supportive assistance. 

What drew me to Wheaton is probably what attracted many within our community, too: the college’s long and proud tradition as an exceptional, student-centered liberal arts institution. Wheaton’s mission—and mine—is to foster a collaborative and vibrant learning community in which students are empowered to pursue their academic interests and develop the skills for personal and professional success.  

The to-do list for a new president is lengthy, but naturally certain items rise to the top. For example, I have already spent a good deal of time in conversation with the college’s COVID Task Force, reviewing the measures that will be in place to protect the health and safety of the campus community when classes resume at the end of the month. It’s clear that the pandemic will continue to present challenges, but we’re committed to sustaining a high-quality, on-campus educational experience for students while implementing measures to mitigate the spread of COVID. 

This spring semester promises to be an exciting time for Wheaton. The opening of the Diana Davis Spencer Discovery Center Dedicated to Free Speech and Innovation will take place before classes resume, and it will certainly be a highlight. This fully renovated building will provide much-needed classroom space for the college’s growing student enrollment and an array of academic and co-curricular programs. It will improve access to many campus resources, such as the Social Entrepreneurship Studio, Academic Advising, and Career Services. With all that it will contain, the discovery center will be a destination for all students, regardless of major. It already looks amazing, but once students and faculty inhabit its classrooms, gathering spaces, maker spaces, labs, and offices, it will come to life.

It’s clear that Wheaton knows how to innovate! I’ve been impressed by the college’s creative and collaborative spirit, exemplified by the new Compass curriculum. Thoughtfully-crafted elements, such as the Mentored Academic Pathway (MAP) and Liberal Education and Professional Success (LEAPS) programs, build upon the college’s distinctive blend of liberal arts and experiential education. Our students benefit from such well-crafted flexibility that empowers them to pursue their intellectual interests while connecting their studies to their personal and professional plans.  

Right now, my highest priority is to get to know Wheaton, and its entire community, much better. In the coming months, I intend to listen, learn, and synthesize. I’m starting my presidency at a time when the Wheaton community has made a decision to grow by being bold and creative in introducing academic programs that enhance the value of the college’s liberal arts offerings. This is an ongoing endeavor that will require the support, ideas, and advocacy of everyone—students, faculty, staff, alums, parents and families, and friends of the college.

With the spring semester just a couple of weeks away, I’m eager to look out the windows from Park Hall and see a busy campus with students, faculty, and staff engaged in teaching and learning.

With all best wishes for this new year,

Michaele Whelan