From IWU Magazine, Winter 2015-16 issue
From the President's Desk
(A letter from IWU President Eric Jensen to our readers)
As 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
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
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.