From IWU Magazine, Winter 2015-16 issue

From the President's Desk


(A letter from IWU President Eric Jensen to our readers)

jensen letterAs I write this, after finals have ended but before the holidays begin, it’s surprising to realize that Elizabeth and I are about to finish our second month in Bloomington. I grew up in Homewood, and am relishing being back in Illinois. Midwesterners, particularly those in central Illinois, are friendly and direct, and our welcome around town and especially on campus has been warm and genuine. Fall has been a bit of a whirlwind, but we (and more than a few remaining cardboard boxes) are in the President’s House. The dog is trying to lay down the law with the campus squirrels, to little avail, and we have books on our shelves and some musical instruments on the walls. Nothing else is on the walls just yet, which may say something about our priorities, but we are settling in.

I’ve been asked, “Why Illinois Wesleyan?” since my arrival. I tell people that it’s an institution with a great history and a beautiful campus standing in testament to the hard work of generations of faculty, staff and students and the generous support of our alumni and friends. They, as a community, built not just the campus, but the underlying intellectual tradition of this place. We owe them a great debt. I talk about the committed faculty and staff who today continue the mission of educating students so very successfully. And I always talk about the great future that IWU can ensure.

Regarding that future, the world of higher education is changing. Public perception of it, and especially of liberal arts institutions like ours, often is skewed. We hear, for example, questions about the value of a college degree. In fact, the economic returns to higher education in general and an Illinois Wesleyan degree in particular are very high, and we are carefully managing costs and devoting significant resources to making a Wesleyan education affordable to a greater number of students. We also hear questions about the relevance of the liberal arts, when in fact leaders in business and government are predominately liberal arts graduates. 

We (perhaps) can’t change the world, but it’s our collective responsibility to change those misperceptions when it comes to Titans. In doing so we will be increasing the value of an IWU degree, making us a more attractive option for prospective students. We will accomplish this, over the next few years, in part by including every Illinois Wesleyan student, in partnership with faculty and staff members, in “signature work” — projects that students can use as proof of their accomplishments and capabilities. It’s a commitment that will require the support of the extended Illinois Wesleyan community.

Engaging faculty, staff and alumni in discussions of how we will accomplish this goal is a main priority for the months ahead. 

As Elizabeth and I travel around the country, or, even better, as you return to Bloomington, we look forward to meeting and speaking with you.