On Friday I will be meeting with the faculty in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics to hear their thoughts on the framework for planning I posted last semester under the title Wesleyan 2020. When I began my presidency I asked faculty for brief proposals for new programs or initiatives. This resulted in the work we’ve done on Creative Writing, Civic Engagement and the College of the Environment, to name just three (the list of areas can be found on an earlier blog entry.) Last spring I met with many professors across the campus to gather their impressions of Wes past and present. Often over breakfasts and lunches, I listened closely to faculty who have been here for a long time and others who joined our ranks more recently. After putting on ten pounds and getting my own booth at O’Rourke’s, I wrote up my thoughts during the summer months. Since then the Board of Trustees has used 2020 as a springboard for the development of a strategy map, and I have been gathering feedback on the document from alumni, students, trustees and parent groups.
The meeting on Friday will be the first of a series of Faculty Fora dedicated to thinking through some of the issues and opportunities facing the university over the next decade. The questions sent out by the Deans are:
- What is characteristic of a Wesleyan education at its very best?
- What will be needed to sustain and enhance these characteristic features?
- What kind of students can best take advantage of a Wesleyan education, and is the admission process succeeding in finding these students?
- If we have additional resources, how should we use them?
I will be meeting with professors from the other divisions over the next week, and later in March there will be an open meeting for all faculty. Last term I met with the WSA, and I look forward to ongoing conversations with students. There will also be opportunities for staff to participate in dialogues this semester, and I will certainly have more opportunities to gather input from alumni as I travel around the country. The entire process should help us align our resources with a shared understanding of the university’s mission and values.
But how much alignment is appropriate for a culture like ours that values freedom and independence? That’s a subject sure to come up in these various meetings. I know already that many members of the Wesleyan family see individual or departmental autonomy as key to the vibrant energy of campus life. I appreciate this, and I am confident that we can find a way to balance the desire for independence with the importance of having a coherent educational agenda and sense of cultural purpose. I know I’ll learn a lot from the meetings this term.