After her appointment in December, Nicole Stanton was slated to begin her official duties as Wesleyan’s 12th Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs on May 15, 2020. In honoring interim Provost and SVPAA Rob Rosenthal’s service to the University ahead of Commencement, President Roth joked of the smooth transition he’d promised them both through the spring semester.
As it turned out, the transition was smooth. But the spring was not. A global pandemic forced the University to move to a remote learning model in March. The killing of George Floyd during his forcible detainment by police in May ignited nationwide protests against systemic racism. A looming presidential election further stoked the raging partisanship in United States politics.
Yet, what President Roth in December termed “Nicole’s inclusive leadership style and focus on shared governance” has already brought energy and equanimity to the University in unpredictable times. Here, Stanton reflects on her eventful first few months.
With so much demanding our collective attention, where is Wesleyan focused at present?
Nicole Stanton: Our main priority is our safe, successful return to campus this fall. The unpredictability of the pandemic makes it difficult to manage. Still, it’s been inspiring to see our faculty, staff, students, and alumni rally together and come up with so many innovative ways to support each other and build for the future. I think we’re always quietly aware of our community’s courage and creativity, but it’s been on full display these last few months.
How do you focus on other pressing issues—like systemic racism—in the midst of a massive global health threat?
NS: Thanks to outstanding work from around Wesleyan—from Alison Williams and the Office for Equity and Inclusion, to Mary Alice Haddad and the Office of Faculty Career Development, faculty, multiple student groups, so many more—President Roth and I were excited to announce a number of concrete actions Wesleyan is taking as we rededicate ourselves to building an anti-racist community. Half of all hires in the next three years, for example, will contribute to the diversity of the faculty. We will require implicit bias and anti-racist training. We are redoubling our efforts to retain our outstanding staff and faculty and expanding support for programs that help ensure students of color succeed in all areas of our curriculum. And these are just the first steps. We look forward to collaborating with our dedicated faculty, staff, and students in moving these essential initiatives forward.
How are you taking care of and finding time for yourself amid all these efforts?
NS: Not easily! But self-care builds capacity for community care. While this semester will be different than any of us have experienced in the past, it will still be vital. We are dedicated to making Wesleyan a place for every community member to thrive. We have risen to the challenges we faced in spring, and I know we will rise to the occasion this fall. We will keep each other safe and build on the solid foundation of social justice and mutual respect that is so central to Wesleyan.