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August 30, 2023: Plans for the Year Ahead

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you have had an excellent summer! My tremendous thanks to all of you who have done so much over the last few months to prepare Whitman well for the year ahead. From facilities projects to research and student mentorship to admissions visit days to new faculty, new staff, and new student orientations and much more, there has been great work taking place.

It has been fantastic to see the 480 new students from across the country and around the world gathering for the first time, and their joy in beginning their studies and engagement with the Whitman College community. As we begin the fall semester, I am very much looking forward to the year ahead, and wanted to share the priorities that the cabinet has developed for the year.

  • Advancing our strategic priorities and creating more detailed plans where they are needed. This work will be undertaken by many existing committees and departments at Whitman, as well as by focused ad-hoc groups where needed. Planning will be informed by broad campus input, as well as by existing data on student, faculty and staff experience, and results coming in this fall from Art & Science on the factors most important to students in choosing Whitman. Our strategic priorities extend over five years. Here is a summary of the areas of focus this year.

    • Academic Excellence and Distinction
      Faculty Chair Rebecca Hanrahan and the Committee of Division chairs will consider new ways to support faculty scholarship, while programs offered by the Center for Teaching and Learning will create opportunities to advance inclusive excellence in teaching, including through this year’s program “ Teaching and Learning Now: A Year of Reflection and Communal Learning”.

    • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Anti-racism and Access
      Working with the Inclusive Excellence Committee, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion John Johnson will develop the next steps for the college community in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment and increasing the diversity of our campus. In the fall semester, the College Accessibility Committee will develop concrete plans for improving the physical accessibility of campus spaces through a series of facilities projects.

    • A Vibrant Campus Community That Supports Learning, Thriving and Lifelong Relationships
      Vice President of Student Life Kazi Joshua is convening a group to discuss wellness and residential life at Whitman, with the goal of deepening student thriving and well-being. We will continue to work on faculty and staff thriving as well, with a focus on connection and welcoming community, professional development and equity. Vice President for Finance and Administration Jeff Hamrick and Provost Alzada Tipton will be continuing efforts to address housing and compensation with the faculty compensation committee and staff benefits committee.

    • A Strong Launch Into Life After Whitman for All Students
      Provost Alzada Tipton and Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Steve Setchell will lead a group thinking about the next steps to support students as they explore possibilities for their lives after graduation, including by strengthening connections with alumni.

    • Connecting Whitman, Walla Walla, and the World
      Vice President for Communications Gina Ohnstad and Provost Tipton will lead a group developing plans to strengthen our connections in the local community, as well as opportunities for community-engaged and off-campus learning.

    • Environmental justice, environmental sustainability, and climate action.
      A reconfigured President’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, with a reinvigorated charge and a new subcommittee structure, will create a new 5-year Campus Sustainability Plan. The plan will address reducing carbon footprint, water use, and waste streams, along with other issues. Vice President for Finance and Administration Jeff Hamrick will support this planning and the work to implement it.

  • Preparing for the re-accreditation visit from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) on April 15th-17th, 2024. Accreditation is required in order for the College to be able to operate. The NWCCU will be undertaking a full review of the College’s activities and the ways we fulfill our mission during their visit. You can see the comments from last year’s visit and the types of information the commission is looking for here. Dean Helen Kim will be communicating regularly with the campus as she leads this crucial work.

  • Publicly launching the College’s fundraising campaign. The fundraising campaign will support our future academic strength as well as student opportunities in and beyond the classroom. The scholarships raised in this campaign will help make Whitman financially accessible for students.

  • Continuing to build our strategies to inform prospective students about Whitman College and inspire them to join us. Our work to inspire students to choose Whitman is particularly crucial at this time, for several reasons. We face a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive higher education landscape, with decreasing numbers of college-going students both regionally and across the US. In addition, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision forbidding colleges to act affirmatively in admissions to advance racial diversity and equity, we will need to take new actions to continue to build the diversity of our student body, which is both a moral imperative and foundational for the excellence of our college.

This promises to be a very busy year, and one that will again draw on the great thinking and creativity across campus to make the best Whitman for current and future generations of students. We expect the coming years to continue to be challenging ones for colleges and universities, as numbers of students decrease and families’ ability to contribute to the cost of education is under strain. However, I am absolutely confident in the power of a Whitman education for our students, and in our ability to navigate these complex times together. And I am deeply grateful for all your hard work, expertise and dedication.

I welcome you to join me at the Campus Update meetings on September 5th at 4pm and September 6th at 8am, in Maxey Auditorium, for more conversation about the state of the College and plans for the year ahead.

Wishing you a wonderful start to the semester!

With warm wishes,


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