As the students arrive for the beginning of the fall term, the campus is filled with energy and anticipation. I very much enjoyed meeting the newcomers and their families while they found their dorm assignments and quickly began discovering common interests with hall-mates, dinner companions, teammates, and dance partners. Dance partners? In addition to the seminars, meals, meetings, and parties of the first week, Orientation this year culminated in hundreds of our frosh at the base of Foss Hill gleefully participating in a “dance happening” that emerged from their discussions of environmental change! Very Wesleyan and very cool!
Over the past several months I have been discussing with the Cabinet some of the most important objectives that emerged from last year’s meetings with faculty, students, and alumni. We have made significant progress, for example, in enhancing our financial aid program, thanks to generous support from the Wesleyan community. We have also been working with the science departments to increase enrollments and to enhance facilities. Thus far the results have been impressive.
Last year small committees began developing proposals related to five major themes, and new ideas emerged for supporting undergraduate learning. We are creating a pilot for a new multidisciplinary course for first- and second-year students, raising funds for research support for advanced students, exploring ways to link our freshmen seminars, and developing ideas for a capstone experience for all Wes seniors. A group of faculty and staff have proposed some exciting ideas for extending the creative reach of the arts across the entire Wesleyan curriculum, and another group will be working with new VP Sonia Mañjon on deepening the experience of civic engagement for our many students who are pursuing work in public service. We continue to brainstorm with faculty and students about how to turn the dream of a College of the Environment into a reality. Here, too, the curriculum and the campus culture are mutually supportive. In all of these endeavors we combine a dedication to intellectual exploration with a commitment to understanding how our education can have a positive impact on the world.
This year we welcomed to Wesleyan our largest group of international first-year students ever: 9 percent, coming from 50 countries. Increasing the number of international students is a key feature of our efforts to make the Wesleyan culture as vital as possible. We must also do more to make our curriculum as open to the world as our admission office has become. In this regard, we continue our efforts to expand language instruction and to develop a Middle East Studies Program. Even our American Studies Program contributes to internationalism, as it has become a leader in developing a comparative, post-national approach to the field.
One of the most exciting developments this year will be the creation of new concentrations in Creative Writing. We expect to create tracks for students who want to major in writing in the context of an English major, as well as a certificate program for students who want to add a writing focus to their other areas of study. This term we have added more creative writing courses to facilitate access for students interested in this field, and I hope to do something similar in the visual arts. Access to creative work for all our students is an important value at Wesleyan!
I look forward to reporting back to our alumni and parent groups on all these initiatives. Our goal is simple and ambitious: Wesleyan will be recognized as a leader in developing a dynamic, flexible curriculum in the liberal arts for the 21st century.