When I arrived on campus in the fall of 1975, Wesleyan was well-known for its pioneering ways, its great research output from the sciences to the arts, its demanding and productive teachers, its creative, rambunctious students. But the giddy spending of the late ’60s and early ’70s, the inattention to fundraising, and a loss of focus on the academic mission, were already eroding the university’s foundation.
By 2008, when the financial crisis hit, spending habits had changed and fundraising had certainly picked up, but the university’s aspirations were still seriously out of sync with its economic capacity. Over the last eight years we have addressed three core components of this dilemma: spending, investment, and revenue. Our goal was to increase our economic capacity so as to be able to pursue our institutional mission with renewed vigor and purpose, and in this we have made real progress. We are now in a position to discuss some of the new investments we can make to ensure that Wesleyan remains at the forefront of innovative, pragmatic, and progressive liberal education, and in the coming year faculty, students, sta , and alumni will be discussing Wesleyan 2020 and a new supplement to it.
We have been following three main overarching themes as we plan for the future of the university. Over the next 5–10 years, we should be building on the work we have already done to energize our distinctive curriculum while exploiting academic strengths (the first overarching goal of our Strategic Plan). In a world of increasingly narrow specialization (and badge/certificate earning), Wesleyan has made a deep commitment to interdisciplinary undergraduate education by creating four new colleges and developing intellectual centers that cut across departmental borders. These colleges and centers will require additional support and attention in the coming years, since they should be important nodes in a network of campus learning that extends from o cial classes to the broad range of student life. We want our academic strengths to generate projects that our faculty and students launch into the world beyond the university.
Over the coming years we will build faculty strength, adding an additional 12 positions, to ensure that all students can work closely on projects that take them beyond the classroom. And we will make new e orts in certain areas, consistent with the four key competencies developed by Academic Affairs:
- Interacting with objects and information: We will develop a minor and explore creating a major program in Design and Engineering.
- Expressing and describing: We will develop a program in writing and oral expression that builds on the work of the first year seminars and moves across the entire curriculum.
- Analyzing quantitative and digital data: We will accelerate current e orts to ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn data analysis and computer coding.
- Engaging with di erence and building community: We will accelerate progress in diversifying the curriculum, the faculty, and staff and in ensuring that all students increase their ability to understand cultural and intellectual di erence.
We will also be adding resources to support services that directly enable students to thrive
while on campus, and, most importantly, to increase their capacity to translate what they are learning into what they will do after graduation. Indeed, the pragmatic liberal education we offer at Wesleyan may be described as translational liberal learning—broad, contextual education
aimed at giving our students tenacious yet flex- ible ways of thinking appropriate for a rapidly changing world.
We continue our work at building recognition of Wesleyan as an extraordinary institution making a distinctive, wide-ranging impact. This has been the second major theme of our strategic decision-making, and it continues this year with a core messaging project. In the most general terms: We add value to everyone’s diploma and increase the prestige of the univer- sity by supporting the ongoing projects of our faculty, advanced students, and young alumni. We embrace our academic core by showing its relevance beyond academia. Again, translation.
Our third overarching theme in strategic planning has been to ensure that we work within a sustainable economic model, and that we do so while adhering to core values. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to add millions of dollars to the financial aid budget in the coming years. This will go to supporting low-income students and to ensuring that Wesleyan is a ordable to middle-income stu- dents as well.
Part of a sustainable economic model is main- taining our beautiful campus and our facilities to support curricular and cocurricular learning at the highest level. Again, thanks to donations and to our refinancing of Wesleyan’s debt through a century bond, we will be able to make significant facilities investments in the coming decade. The Board of Trustees will be prioritizing these invest- ments in the coming year.
It has become ever clearer to me that our university can continue to represent something relevant and admirable in American higher edu- cation—not just for our own alumni and friends but for a much broader constituency. At a time of intense pressure for vocational training, Wesleyan is poised to be a champion of “translational liberal education”—a broad education that explores contexts, concepts, and their relation- ship to problems and opportunities that matter to people inside and outside of academia. Our “bold and rigorous” work will add substantial value to our diplomas and has the potential to make a lasting contribution to our country and beyond. We are in a much better position now than we were a decade ago to make the investments required to make this happen.
I look forward to working together to turn our aspirations into reality.