What follows are my preliminary thoughts on planning, prepared this summer. This draft is my response to the discussions we have already had about possible initiatives at Wesleyan as well as to some of the achievements of my predecessors.
Shortly after I began my presidency at Wesleyan in the summer of 2007, I focused on enhancing our financial aid support. In the fall of that year I proposed to the Board that we reduce required student loans by about 35% and eliminate loans for our most needy students. I also described to the Board in the first months that I did not think that Wesleyan should pursue the creation of a new University Museum, and that we would stop our planning in this regard. We continued to focus fundraising efforts for new facilities in the Life Sciences.
In the fall of 2007 I asked the faculty to make brief proposals as to what we might accomplish should we be able to raise additional resources to support the academic program. We received more than 50 proposals, and senior staff, faculty, and student representatives reviewed them. I decided to focus on five major areas:
- University-wide curricular reform: improve first-year program; capstone experiences; increase research support for students and faculty; develop multi-disciplinary or extra-departmental courses for second- and first-year students.
- Internationalization: increase numbers of international students and broaden the global reach of curriculum.
- Civic engagement: integrate service learning and political education opportunities, as well as curricular and co-curricular offerings.
- Creative campus: enhance creativity and deepen capacity for innovation throughout the curricular and co-curricular offerings.
- College of the Environment: develop a flexible multi-disciplinary environmental studies program in a Wesleyan “college” context.
Together with 6. Enhanced financial aid and 7. Investing in the sciences, these have been the major areas for discussion in the last year or so, despite the challenging economic climate. In regard to investing in the sciences, a major change in our planning has been to shift our objective from the complex in the life sciences (budget of $160 million) to just one phase of the project that would still be a significant improvement in our facilities.
These seven areas of focus have been incorporated into what follows. I have tried to frame them within contexts that should allow various sectors of the Wesleyan community to discuss how we envision the evolution of the distinctive educational experience we offer.
I hope to gather feedback on the ideas proposed in this document, and to develop a framework for the future that will allow us to make significant decisions about the allocation of resources in the next several years. We will organize discussions by faculty, students and staff on campus, as well as sessions with alumni and parents around the country. We will post revisions and substitutions to this document online in an effort to gather our best thinking about how to support what is distinctive and admirable about Wesleyan. In early October the Board of Trustees (along with faculty, student and staff representation) will discuss a broad map of who we are and where we are going that should inform our ongoing discussions. I hope to bring a document reflecting all these conversations to the Board in late May.
Thank you in advance for helping to think about Wesleyan’s future over the next decade. Together, we can make our university an even better exemplar of the educational values and vision that have made us a leader in the liberal arts.
Michael S. Roth