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Moving forward

President Kathleen M. MurrayIt’s a stunning autumn in Walla Walla, and we are approaching the end of my first semester at Whitman. Students are hard at work in classrooms, labs and studios, on athletic fields, in rehearsal spaces, with campus organizations and out in the community. Faculty and staff members are pushing them to do their very best work in all of these settings and providing the support needed to allow them to succeed at these very high levels. Spirits are high, and there is a sense of strong forward momentum.

Whitman has been tremendously strengthened by the gifts of the many loyal donors listed in this edition of Whitman Magazine. Our alumni, parents and other friends of the college have helped position us for even greater success with the support acknowledged in the Annual Report of donors. Your gifts are reinforcing and advancing the strength of the education our students receive at Whitman. Thank you for your support of our mission; we are counting on you renewing it again this year.

It is very important for me to get to know as many of you as possible as quickly as possible, and to that end, I have visited 10 cities (Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle [twice], Portland, Spokane, Honolulu, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and Phoenix) and met hundreds of Whitties since my arrival in July. I have been listening to stories about Whitman and learning about the history, culture and ethos of this special place.

I also learned a great deal about Whitman from the more than 800 alumni and friends who attended Reunion Weekend last month. I met alumni from the classes of 1942 through 2005, all of whom were thoroughly enjoying each others’ company and the opportunity to be back on campus. I loved joining the 50 Plus reunion classes at the head of the Parade of Classes on Saturday morning, and I was moved and humbled by the stories of the alumni who received Alumni Recognition Awards at Reunion Convocation.

Part of my time this fall is occupied by the search for our next Provost and Dean of the Faculty. The provost is the most important partner for any president in working to advance the academic mission of the college and its focus on student learning. We have an excellent group of faculty and staff members serving on the search committee, and we are working with a search consultant who knows us well, since they ran last year’s presidential search. We have a very strong pool of candidates and expect to make an appointment early in 2016 for a July start. Stay tuned for more news on this critical appointment.

And many of us on campus are working on the details of what we are calling the Living at Whitman Initiative, which is focused on building community on campus with a new residence hall for sophomores; an additional, modern dining facility that will have extended hours; and a small neighborhood of townhouse-style housing for juniors and seniors. We know that our first-year students have a great residential experience, bonding with their peers in a handful of spaces on campus, supported by well-trained resident advisers and student advisers. Last year, the students, faculty and staff members, and governing board members serving on the Residence Life Working Group concluded that our sophomores are scattered all over campus in much less supportive and engaged living situations and recommended that we do better in this area. The focus of the project is on building community, not growing our student population; the college has grown by almost 400 students since the last time a residence hall was constructed on campus in 1970. I look forward to sharing more about these important projects as we move forward.

Moving forward is the critical part of the Whitman equation. We are well positioned by the tremendous success of the Now Is the Time Campaign, but we cannot afford to sit back and rest on our laurels. If we are not continuing to move forward, we are losing ground. Together we must continue to build on the 133-year history of this truly remarkable place. I look forward to moving forward with you.

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