2018 Priorities and Progress Reports
In 2017, the Whitman College community collaborated to identify five top priorities for the college; increasing access and affordability, enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion, innovating the curriculum, connecting to life after Whitman, and celebrating our location. Staff, faculty and students across the college worked hard and made big strides in all of these areas, despite extraordinary challenges such as the COVID pandemic, and Whitman's Board of Trustees and alumni generously supported many new initiatives. Below, you will find brief summaries of our progress and ongoing efforts. Work will continue to advance these priorities, which are so central to our mission.
Increasing Access and Affordability
Recognizing that a college education has become less affordable for many families, Whitman believes that access to its education should not be determined by ability to pay. Rather, students of all socioeconomic backgrounds should be able to decide whether this is the best college for them without cost as a limiting factor. Whitman’s ultimate goal is to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all students while still using financial aid to encourage students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to come to Whitman. In the timeframe of this plan, we must make significant progress toward this goal, increasing the availability and amount of financial aid to enroll a more socioeconomically diverse student population.
Whitman College has made significant progress in meeting 100% of students’ demonstrated need by reducing the maximum amount of unmet need from $6,000 to $4,000 and increasing the number of students with 100% need met by 12%. Starting in fall 2023, all students from Washington state will have 100% need met thanks to a $10 million gift. Whitman has made progress in reducing course fees for need-eligible students by adding $25,000 to the operating budget to fund course fees for those students. The composition of the Whitman student population has grown more diverse, including increases in the number of students of color by 15%, international students by 70%, Pell-eligible students by 36% and first-generation students by 48%. The college has made modest progress reducing other financial barriers, including providing assistance to need-eligible students through endowments, improving access to on campus jobs for work study eligible students and increasing offerings of less expensive textbooks through rentals, digital books and free “open source” books. More progress is needed in all areas.
Enhancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values of Whitman College. Our mission focuses on educating a broad range of talented students in a college community where everyone can participate fully in the life of the college and experience a genuine sense of belonging. For Whitman, diversity includes the composition of the students, faculty and staff, as well as the curriculum, ideas, experiences, relations and cultural traditions across our community. We must become a place where both majority and minority members of our community experience difference every day, where diversity is woven throughout our cultural fabric: our values, our behavior, our culture.
Progress in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion at Whitman is due to the contributions of faculty, staff, students, and alumni that has been provided informally through activism, action, and advocacy, as well as through formal leadership roles, college service on committees, councils or task forces. A list of more than 150 suggestions, recommendations and goals generated by the previous strategic planning implementation group, the Whitman Inclusion Diversity and Equity committee, and the Inclusion Task Force was compiled. Some of these goals have been achieved, while others have been abandoned, stalled or are in need of resources and/or reimagination. Several Whitman community members who contributed to the development of previous goals participated in recent focus groups to share their thoughts about what has been accomplished and offer comments regarding possible changes to our DEIA strategy or target goals. Additional opportunities for community input are forthcoming. In addition, the call for nominations to the Inclusive Excellence Council was distributed on November 15th. Individuals selected to serve on the council will assist the Division of Diversity and Inclusion in transforming community recommendations into feasible and measurable DEIA strategic priorities. An in-depth look at efforts to advance inclusive excellence at Whitman by the Division of Diversity and Inclusion in the past year can be found in the division’s annual report.
Innovating the Curriculum
Now more than ever, the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century underscore the need for a civically engaged and ethically minded public. In the face of environmental upheavals, technological change, and debates over the meaning of community in a globalized world, we reaffirm our commitment to the liberal arts and dedicate ourselves to shaping a dynamic curriculum that can respond to these needs. We aim to educate students to respect the value of knowledge for its own sake as well as its contribution to society, and to inspire students to maintain a life-long responsibility to their education as thinkers, makers, activists, leaders, and collaborators. We prepare students to grapple with complexity, to flourish in environments of experimentation, exploration, and uncertainty, and to engage in rigorous inquiry and the free exchange of ideas amidst ever diverse and conflicting viewpoints. Through close individual mentoring, inclusive pedagogy, and a curriculum that intentionally builds across all years of study, students will grow creatively and analytically, learn to embrace ambiguity, and think deliberately about their place in the world.
The innovations this faculty have undertaken since the launch of the last strategic plan have been primarily directed towards the General Education Program. In Spring 2019, the faculty approved a two course sequence of First Year Seminars and in Spring 2021, we adopted a new set of General Education Requirements. These changes better prepare our students to engage the work of their majors, while giving them the basic skills to address problems in a complex and diverse world. Simultaneously, the faculty have created or reconceived a number of new majors, minors, and concentrations to address the interests of our students and to reflect new theories and practices within various fields of study. We now have new programs (be it a major, minor, or concentration) in Human Centered Design; Brain, Behavior, and Cognition; Indigeneity, Race, and Ethnic Studies; Japanese; Chinese; South East and Middle East Studies; French Plus; Data Science; Creative Writing; Math/Stats; Dance; Art and the Environment; and Computer Science/Pre-Engineering. Programs in Finance, Ethics and Society, and Social Justice are in the final planning stages. These new programs as well as our changes to our general education program have been informed by the need to further diversify and decolonize our curriculum and our pedagogical practices.
Connecting to Life After Whitman
Whitman College believes every student should graduate with the knowledge and skills to translate their liberal arts education into a meaningful and satisfying life path. While at Whitman, every student will have the opportunity to participate in high-impact learning experiences, robust advising, strong co-curricular programs and a rich extracurricular life. Students will be able to draw on the support of Whitman’s robust alumni network through multiple programs and avenues. This work must help them develop the acumen needed to successfully transition from life at Whitman to life after Whitman, and translate their Whitman education into a compelling narrative for their future.
The 2018 implementation recommendations from the Life After Whitman working group contain several items that are almost entirely accomplished. An internship grant has been created for students and 100 students received such internships last year. The addition of career coaches for all incoming students has dramatically improved access to advising and mentoring services. An effective communication stream is now in place including an updated webpage, weekly communications to students, a feature in Whitman Today, the CCEC blog, and communications to students before they arrive at Whitman, and many faculty have chosen to connect the CCEC with activities in their classes. Finally, we have significantly advanced experiential learning supported in part by the Mellon grants, creating the Student Consulting Corps and integrating the CCEC and Fellowships and Grants. New experiential learning opportunities are in the works including a finance accelerator, entrepreneurship club, new marine biology research opportunities at Friday Harbor, and a research opportunity/internship at the Mayo Clinic. Partially accomplished are some goals involving alumni, including the creation of a database to promote alumni engagement and increases in interaction between alumni and students aided by technology. Programs to connect students and alumni by affinity group were halted by covid and are being brought back now. Still left to accomplish are goals surrounding making student employment on campus more translatable to future professional endeavors.
Celebrating Our Location
Whitman’s eastern Washington location—with its dynamic history, diverse population and inspiring physical landscape—is a source of strength and pride for the college. The leaders of the Walla Walla and regional communities are partners who are ready to collaborate on internships, volunteer service, community-based classes and other experiential learning opportunities. In turn, Whitman must further strengthen our commitment to and readiness for this collaboration: building sustainable community relationships, creating a culture that celebrates our location, emphasizing the strengths of our location as we communicate with prospective students and recruit new faculty and staff and protecting our natural environment. This effort strengthens student learning by developing students’ capacities to thrive in diverse communities and foster lifelong commitments to any place they choose to call home.
The signing of the historic Memorandum of Agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and the partnership that followed is one success linked to the location pillar of the strategic plan. In addition, two grants from the Mellon Foundation have helped Whitman build a strong curricular community-engaged learning program resulting in projects and courses with community partners and increased communication around community engagement. There is more to be done to both support growth in this area as well as to support the current co-curricular community engagement programs financially. Several tactics outlined by the working group involved improving the ways we share positive aspects of our region with prospective both students and employees. Strategic pieces have been added to communications streams for prospective students. There are still opportunities to enhance communication with prospective employees and help orient new employees to the community. Some initiatives aimed at enhancing the relationship between Whitman and the Walla Walla community were severely restricted during the COVID pandemic and have not started. Also hampered by the pandemic were recommendations to increase transportation resources for off-campus activities for students.