Getting Ready

Perhaps it’s the cool breezes in the morning and evening, or perhaps it’s the student workers who have begun to settle in, but as I walk around campus I’m getting that “back to school” feeling that makes every fall so special. After bookending my summer with vacations in Norway and Maine, I am eager to see our Wes students and teachers trotting to classes, sharing a meal at Usdan, or simply taking in the late summer sunshine on Foss Hill. We are getting ready!

During the summer I’ve been able to work with colleagues on evaluating how we did last year, and to plan the next steps for enhancing the curriculum, supporting the faculty, and making our students’ experience as meaningful as possible. Last year we gathered proposals that have helped us establish working priorities for improving class access, stimulating research, and enhancing the integration of the curriculum in the first two years. This summer we have built on those ideas and also prepared a new initiative to improve co-curricular offerings that link residential life with what students are learning in their classes.

In addition to the regular cycle of planning and goal development, this summer we have also created a task force to examine our policies and procedures in light of the incident with the police that occurred at the end of last semester on Fountain Ave. This committee of students, faculty and staff — led by Mike Whaley (VP for Student Affairs) — will report to me by the end of the summer. I will be meeting with Middletown police and civic leaders after I receive this report. My goal will be to ensure the safety and freedom of our community in a context that promotes a positive relationship with our town and region. Wesleyan has long been known for civic engagement, and that starts right here in Middletown.

Speaking of civic engagement, I hope that many of our students will be returning to campus with thoughts of the upcoming national election. I expect that there will be robust dialogue on the issues raised by various campaigns, and that our students will play a role in stimulating political participation. This is a time to make one’s voice heard, and it is also a time to listen to different voices. Elections matter, and this election offers opportunities for education and action. The stakes are very high.

Since I’ll be teaching a course on photography and philosophy this fall, I’ve also spent some of my summer getting ready for my first Wes seminar in 30 years. Whereas my film course last spring was a large lecture format, this will be a small class focused on contemporary scholarship. I have long been interested in how photography has changed the ways we make sense of the past, and the ways we represent the world. At CCA I taught this class for students in the visual arts, and I am excited to see how Wesleyan students respond to these issues in a liberal arts context. It won’t be long now!

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2 thoughts on “Getting Ready

  1. President Roth – catching parts of last night’s DNC speech by our originally scheduled commencement speaker (soon to be followed by the “history making stand in”!) in Mayor John Hickenlooper’s (’74) town and reflecting on the wonderful success of our theatrical brethren at Tony Time clearly places additional “nice markers” to a summer which closes your first year in office! And while much respect, gratitude and pride come your way from this particular alum for a job well done so far, it is quite clear that much more needs to be accomplished! Currently, we can and should bask in many things Cardinal … but we definitely need to go “into the heights” to raise our now even lower USNWR ranking – 13 (with a 56 ranking on the 20% weighted faculty resources?!). I, like others, recognize that we may never get back into the top five slots with places like Amherst/Williams/Wellesley/Middlebury/Bowdoin having substantially higher endowments/material resources…but factors like selectivity/acceptance rate still count – school/class size needs to be revisited! And it is important to note that current university wide efforts to celebrate (not denigrate!) athletics and evolving initiatives to recognize accomplishments in business/finance/Wall Street are just as (if not more) important to the long term well being of our school at this critical juncture as recognizing artistic achievement and cultural diversity! Fellow alum Mike…you are off to a good start in year one of what many of us expect to be a great 10-15 year run as president of our beloved alma mater…keep up the tremendous work, push the envelop and let us together create a new “Wesleyan Ethos” for the 21st century!

  2. President Roth,

    I am excited for this upcoming year as well. There are two subjects in your post which I would like to wholeheartedly second.

    I want to express my appreciation for your leadership in calling for the formation of the Fountain Avenue Working Group. Although I am the sole student on the Working Group, I can personally attest to the fact that some great conversations are taking place. I hope these conversations translate into action, and I will do my part to ensure that the Working Group issues strong recommendations for policy reevaluation and sets the stage to ensure that a “Fountain Avenue” incident never happens again.

    I also want to thank you for the support that the Presidents’ Office has shown for civic engagement initiatives on campus. Although we were unsuccessful at getting a polling place on campus for this upcoming election, we must do everything possible to promote civic engagement in federal, state, and local issues. Voter Registration is a major component of that goal, as is bringing political speakers to campus, facilitating involvement in the upcoming elections, and the NYTimes Readership Program.

    We have made progress on all of these fronts, though there is still work to be done. I’m looking forward to an exciting year!

    Sincerely,
    Mike Pernick
    President, Wesleyan Student Assembly

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