June 26 Community Update from President Hanno

Dear Wheaton Community,

I hope that you continue to be safe and healthy and that the past week has provided you some opportunity to enjoy the warm weather. Even as spring turns to summer, our community continues to stay engaged and connected in advocacy, learning and support.

Even in these challenging times, we are able to connect with our alumni, no matter where they are, in creative ways. Last night we held a great virtual event for some of our alumni from the D.C. area and members of the Class of 1960. The event featured Professor Imran Chowdhury, Wheaton’s inaugural Diana Davis Spencer ‘60 Chair of Social Entrepreneurship. It was a fitting tribute to Diana for her visionary support of our growing programs in social entrepreneurship, a true point of pride and differentiation for Wheaton.

Support from our alumni, parents and friends has also led to our fundraising efforts being on pace to meet our stated Wheaton Fund goal of $5 million, something that seemed almost impossible a few short weeks ago. Since the Trustee Challenge was announced during our virtual reunion four weeks ago, over 900 alumni, family, and friends have made gifts to help release the $500,000 in matching funds pledged by members of our Board of Trustees. If you are among the nearly 4,000 Wheaton Fund donors who gave this year, thank you! If you haven’t made a gift yet and are in a position to do so, please make your gift by June 30 to ensure that the Trustee Challenge is fully achieved. This type of community support will be critical as we welcome our students back for the fall.

Our work together on anti-racism continued this week. At a meeting today with the college’s Board of Trustees, a major topic of discussion was diversity, equity and inclusion. The board engaged in deep discussions about its own work in this area and endorsed the college’s new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Vision and Mission Statement. The statement was developed throughout the 2019-2020 academic year and our entire community of students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni contributed to its development. This work was led by our DEAL (Diversity, Equity & Access Leadership) co-chairs, to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude for their extraordinary work in leading the development of this statement and our important work in this area. Thank you to Dean Shaya Gregory Poku, Dean Raquel Ramos and Associate Provost Peony Fhagen.

The mission and vision statement will provide a framework and an anchor for our campus to guide our work as we continually outline new action steps and refresh our Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan going forward. It will provide a compass for college leadership, academic departments, students, and offices across campus for our institutional priorities and values. The creation of this vision and mission statement was a true community effort and is a significant milestone for Wheaton. Please look for forthcoming emails about immediate action steps to help Wheaton uphold the commitments outlined in the statement. 

I’d also like to share that the Wheaton Inclusive STEM Excellence (WISE) leadership team, a group of faculty and staff helping to implement programs through a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) grant, is planning a summer seminar and lecture series focused on Public Health and Social Justice. Held virtually on Thursdays, the five weeks of hour-long lectures set to begin July 23 will be open to the entire Wheaton community, including alumni and parents. Current and incoming Wheaton students will also be able to participate in a reading discussion program related to the lecture series and participating students will receive a Wheaton Public Health and Social Justice certificate. More information on this will be publicized in the next few weeks.

I heard from several parents and alumni after my email last week expressing interest in taking the course I described, entitled Race and Racism: Building an Antiracist Society. We intend to make this course available to any member of the Wheaton community, including parents and alumni. We will use remote learning tools to make it available wherever you are. Please watch for more information soon about how you will be able to participate in the course. 

Lastly, we will be sharing detailed information with you next week about our current expectations and planning for the fall semester. Campus spaces are being transformed to create social distancing across campus and other protocols such as wearing masks and restrictions on gatherings will also be in place. A critically important part of our return will be a renewed emphasis on personal responsibility and shared commitment for keeping oneself and others as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Student Affairs and student leaders will work together to create a community compact built on shared values and expectations in this new environment. There is much, much more to the plan and we’ll share more aspects of it next week and continue to keep the community updated as guidance and protocols evolve.

Thank you to each and every one of you who has been involved in our ongoing conversations, planning and action on so many aspects of moving the institution forward. There is so much energy, thought and action being put into the many efforts underway to advance the college. Thank you for being a part of it! We have much work ahead of us, but for now I hope you enjoy a safe and relaxing weekend.

Dennis Hanno
President
Wheaton College