Dear members of the Emerson community,
I write to share the news that after more than eight years of exceptional leadership, Michaele Whelan, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, will be leaving Emerson in November to transition to the presidency of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, beginning January 1.
Since taking on the role of Emerson’s Chief Academic Officer in 2013, Dr. Whelan has helped grow and expand Emerson’s academic programs, including the development of our Global Portals program, our unique Comedic Arts major, our Business of Creative Enterprise major, our Sports Communication major, new interdisciplinary minors, an LA-focused experiential curriculum, and the partnership with Marlboro College that created the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies. From her first days at Emerson, Dr. Whelan’s attention to faculty hiring, faculty development, her support for shared governance, insistence on academic and inclusive excellence, her commitment to academic rigor, and her ability to create consensus have been so vital to our remarkable progress as an institution. As the College made its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Whelan worked closely with deans, chairs, and faculty to create an innovative Flex Learning approach along with the Winter Session to ensure academic excellence and access for our student body during a time of great uncertainty.
Dr. Whelan helped shape Emerson’s international presence with partnerships at the Paris College of Art, Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland, and UIC in Zhuhai, and set the stage for new partnerships in Sydney, Australia, and Hong Kong. She also catalyzed the development of new graduate and professional studies offerings, including online Summer School classes, online programs in Speech, and Digital Marketing and Data Analytics, as well as expanding the Business of Creative Enterprise program into graduate study.
Dr. Whelan’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity has been consistent and unwavering. From her work with Dr. Sylvia Spears to revise faculty hiring processes and training, to her work on a Presidential Faculty Inclusive Excellence hiring program, and her efforts to build a robust partnership with Howard University to bring teaching fellows to Emerson, she has supported faculty development in intercultural competency, the Teach-In on Race, and school diversity plans. She also responded to student demands for change by helping to create a College-wide response to concerns about equity on campus, participating in the formation of the Community Equity Action Plan, including initiatives such as expanding the Presidential Curricular Innovation Workshop to include diversity, having an equity component in academic program reviews, and launching a centralized bias reporting site.
During her time at Emerson, she also launched the faculty mentoring program and faculty teaching ambassadors, worked with departments on clarifying tenure and promotion standards, oversaw assessment, accreditation, advancement of scholarship, research and creative work, and promoted excellence in teaching and academic innovation.
Prior to her arrival at Emerson in 2013, she served as Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Brandeis University, Associate Dean of Academic Planning and Innovation in Arts, Sciences and Engineering at Tufts University, and she spent several years at Harvard, where she served as an administrator and faculty member.
I am particularly grateful for Dr. Whelan’s wise counsel and advice, for her steadiness during times of crisis, and for her forward-thinking approach to problem solving. I will fondly remember her kindness (what better evidence of that than laughing at my jokes?), the amazing breadth of her knowledge base, her quick wit, and for conceding the one thing at which I was better than she: choosing the best dessert at functions.
I have been working with Dr. Whelan on a leadership transition plan and will announce soon the appointment of an internal Interim Provost who will continue the important work ahead of us this academic year, as planned for by Dr. Whelan and her talented team.
In the coming weeks, we will share plans to celebrate Dr. Whelan prior to her departure from Emerson. In the meantime, please join me in thanking her for her extraordinary service to Emerson and wishing her much success and happiness in all of her future endeavors.
Bill Gilligan, EdD