Fall Semester Update

After the Thanksgiving break it will seem like a mad dash until the end of the semester. Suddenly those term papers loom large for students, while for faculty the grading that has piled up has to be completed before the final rush of exams and essays. It’s not the best time to think about long-term planning, but I thought I might provide an update on some of the activities over the last few months that have given feedback on Wesleyan 2020.

Throughout the semester I have been talking with alumni across the country to discuss our thinking about the next ten years at Wesleyan. Many of these meetings have led to interesting discussions that will have an important impact on how we develop our plan. The most substantial, sustained conversation about strategy took place at the Board retreat in October (see the previous post and the draft Strategy Map).

During Homecoming-Family Weekend I had the opportunity to meet with the Alumni Association Executive Committee, the Athletic Advisory Council and the Admissions Volunteer Council. All groups had read Wesleyan 2020 and had some good questions about subjects such as co-curricular learning and about selectivity (to take just two prominent examples). I also met with a group of parents and alumni to hear whether their concerns and ambitions were reflected in our strategies for the future. Our discussion emphasized the happy balance at Wesleyan between intellectual rigorousness and community engagement. We talked about the highly individualized nature of a student’s education at Wes, and how that made it even more important to give students a context of intellectual and personal support in which they can thrive.

At all our panels we spent a considerable amount of time discussing communications. There was widespread agreement that our student and faculty achievements should be more widely disseminated, and that expanding recognition of Wesleyan as an extraordinary institution would bring many benefits. We must seize the opportunities to get our message out, as many of our individual students and alumni have already done so successfully.

I will continue to meet with student leadership groups around the plan, and in January I will begin a series of discussions with faculty about the three overarching goals. Meanwhile, the Board has created Working Groups that will be developing metrics so that we can assess our performance in each of the three key areas. This should be a fruitful process that in the end will help Wesleyan realize its potential more consistently and in the most compelling ways.