Early September, President Roth sent an email to the campus community calling for proposals that, in his words, “have the potential to significantly improve the distinctive educational experience by leveraging its residential dimensions.” After the deadline for proposals of November 1st had passed, students received an email from VP for Academic Affairs & Provost Ruth Striegel Weissman, VP for Finance John Meerts, and VP for Student Affairs Michael Whaley that these proposals have begun to be reviewed by an advisory group made up of faculty, students, and staff headed by Provost Weissman.
These proposals are for and follow the Wesleyan 2020 vision set by the Board of Trustees in May of 2010, which serves as a “fundamental tool for strategic decision making at Wesleyan… [to] assist us in making decisions about the allocation of resources in the next 5–10 years.”
In his email to the campus and his blog post, President Roth has made it clear to focus on proposals that would improve or stress the “residential aspects of the Wesleyan experience.” In a blog post from November 5th, Roth wrote, “After getting input from students, faculty and staff, I expect to be announcing some pilot projects early in 2014. Wesleyan’s residential dimensions foster a learning, research and creative culture that is one of our greatest assets. We will use those strengths in even more intentional ways in the future.”
This new call for proposals this fall is Roth’s second round at getting community input for big projects that will affect our Wesleyan experiences—whether you are faculty, student, or staff. Per his words mid-September, “When I asked for input for big projects six years ago, we received ideas that enabled us to create new writing programs (eventually the Shapiro Writing Center), research stipends, and the College of the Environment.” This was certainly an opportunity for the Wesleyan community to have a strong multilateral impact on Wesleyan’s future.
There are fifty-nine released “white papers” in our e-Portfolios, covering a wide range of topics and subjects from various members of the Wesleyan community—from faculty, students, staff, and even alumni. Here I’ve taken the liberty to dig through the sixty or so proposals publicly available and picked out ten proposals that could have a substantial impact on the community and to give you an idea of what the possibilities are.
190 High/UOC Renovation
Andrew Trexler ’14 submitted a proposal calling for the much needed renovation of the University Organizing Center, located at 190 High. If you’ve never been there before, it’s the building on High Street between Eclectic and Beta. Previously home to the Wesleyan Student Assembly, it was subsequently renamed the University Organizing Center after the WSA moved to its current location in Usdan. The UOC, however, is poorly maintained and costs to repair the structurally unsound 3rd floor, with about 1,000 square feet of open space, is estimated to cost $400,000. Activists and others on campus agree that the UOC is a critical space that needs to be open and accessible to all students—the space as it stands is not at all accessible to all members of the community. Trexler writes, “Our community is in great need of a truly student space, space where students feel full ownership of their words, their actions, and their environment.”
Student-Run Art Center
From Cynthia Tong ’14, this proposal calls for the “creation of a student-run arts space to allow students to integrate and actualize the things they learn in the academic setting into their artistic endeavors outside the classroom.” She notes the limited number of spaces for the dozens of arts-based student groups on campus, and the challenge various groups, such as dance groups, have to find spaces for their activities. Her proposal calls for potentially renovating a Wes-owned building on Hamlin St, and constructing a “two-storied building with rehearsal spaces upstairs and open gallery space and communal space downstairs.” She also proposes to have the space be fully run by students, and notes that there is no other fully student run space on campus other than the UOC.
Center for African American Studies Expansion
A group of faculty submitted this white paper calling for one or two “pipeline-building positions… that would be affiliated with CAAS.” This group includes Professors Lois Brown, Demetrius Eudell, Patricia Hill, Joyce Jacobsen, Ashraf Rushdy, and Leah Wright. They point to two departments, the Center for the Americas and Economics, and proposes to model a CAAS pipeline program along those lines. This program could potentially have “a fellow, either pre- or post-doctoral, teach two courses and do some less ambitious programming… An ideal paradigm might be to have one pre-doctoral and one post-doctoral fellow in residence at each point in time.”
Integrated First-Year Program
Another group of faculty (and a student!), including Professors Kate Birney, Ann Burke, Vijay Pinch, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Courtney Smith, as well as Dean Andy Curran and Arthur Halliday ’16, write a proposal to really refine the first-year experience at Wesleyan to be better integrated and more inclusive. They start with orientation, calling for a new theme (on a biannual basis) that would have ties to events throughout the following academic year. They also propose an increase in the number of FYSs (First Year Seminars) and have more of these courses during the fall semester. Furthermore, they hope to “institute a number of interdisciplinary class ‘clusters.'” With this, groups of two or three faculty could teach related classes at the same time and has the potential to give professors the chance to “move from classroom to classroom, correct each others’ papers, team-teach in a larger format on an occasional basis, etc.” Another possibility would be to tie these clusters to various departments on campus. Finally, they hope to have “Big Questions Classes” in the spring that are interdisciplinary introductory courses.
Emergency Fund for Low-Income Students
Dean Jennifer Wood for the Class of 2015 points out the need to create a academic expenses fund for low-income students in need that cover far more than what financial aid does. Dean Wood quickly points out how financial aid may cover tuition as well as room and board, it does not cover various other expenses, including books.
Wesleyan Outdoor Orientation Trips
Kate Cullen ’16 proposes “the recognition, expansion, and funding of Wesleyan Outdoor Orientation Trips (WOOT) by the Wesleyan Administration and Orientation Office.” She argues that pre-orientation trips are a place for first-year students to begin their transition to college life at Wesleyan and serve as a great community-building opportunity. Currently, WOOT is run by Outing Club and funded by the participants and exist independently from orientation. The program is currently limited and does not have enough spots to meet demand, and as its funded by the participating students, it discourages some students from participating. She calls for this program to be run in collaboration with New Student Orientation, and to give financial support to students who may need assistance to participate.
Summer Bridge Program
Deans Louise Brown, Marina Melendez, Laura Patey, David Phillips, and Jennifer Wood wrote a white paper proposing a summer bridge program that would address various difficulties students may have transitioning to Wesleyan. They note the concern regarding this transition voiced by students from various backgrounds, including students “of color, first-generation, low-income, with disabilities, from underrepresented geographic regions, and with low admissions academic ratings.” This proposed program would run alongside the second summer session, and give some students the change to strengthen their skills and to get accustomed to the rigor of Wesleyan.
Placemaking in the Butterfields
Students Manon Lefevre ‘14, Rosy Capron ‘14, and Tyler Rioff ‘14 “propose a project to beautify and rejuvenate the Butterfields with beautiful, low-impact landscaping, recreational infrastructure, and innovative uses of empty space.” This white paper underlines the various drawbacks of the Butts, and what could be improved, including the Summerfields patio area and the courtyard. They also call for heavy student involvement and student voice in the development of such a project, which could help foster a sense of community in the Butts.
Bridge to STEM
Dean Ishita Mukerji (Dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics) writes a proposal calling to address two goals: to increase student interest and number of majors in NSM, especially chemistry and physics, as well as to better student success and “combat attrition” in STEM. This could be achieved by “establishing a two-year program that begins in the summer before the first year and continues through the sophomore year” that would include “a summer bridge program, intensive one-on-one mentoring, enhanced academic support, cohort building and undergraduate summer research experiences.” This would better prepare students coming to Wesleyan, as Dean Mukerji notes such bridge programs in STEM are known strategies to improve retention of underrepresented minorities in those fields.
To check out these proposals in full and the other few dozen yourself, make sure you’re logged in to your Wes e-Portfolio and head over to WesFiles. The link is also found under the section “Campus Reports” in your e-Portfolio.