LC community welcomes new President Wim Wiewel

Illustration by Raya Deussen

Wim Wiewel will become Lewis & Clark’s 25th president starting Oct. 1. This will be LC’s first president who has had previous experience as a president in another institution.

For the past nine years, Wiewel has led Portland State University (PSU). During Wiewel’s administration at PSU, retention and graduation rates increased every year, funded research rose 50 percent and fundraising tripled. His leadership earned him a 2014 Council for Advancement and Support of Education Chief Executive Leadership Award.

According to Student Representative Chair of the Presidential Search Committee Tiffany Farmer ’18, they needed someone who knew how to be a president, and for them that was Wiewel.  

“The presidential search committee was looking for someone who had that ‘it’ factor: who was familiar with the Portland area, understood the importance of a liberal arts education, could manage three individual campuses, was relatable to students, and had the means to raise money for our school,” Farmer said. “[Wiewel] brings lots of experience to the table and really wants to see students succeed as well as the institution as a whole. I am confident that President [Wiewel] knows and understands who we are.”  

Staff Representative Chair of the Presidential Search Committee and Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Janet Steverson said that Wiewel was a good choice for LC due to his genuineness, experience and determined disposition.

“He has extensive fundraising experience,” Steverson said. “He can hit the ground running when it comes to a capital campaign. When he is not in interview mode, he is very genuine. He listens and he actually hears what you’re saying. And if need be, he changes to take into account the new information that he is receiving. [Also], he doesn’t just talk about enhancing diversity equity and inclusion; he does in fact do it. He puts in place structures to make that happen.”

Director of Public Relations Roy Kaufmann said that Wiewel is a good fit for LC in part due to his great track record as President at PSU.

According to Kaufmann, two of Wiewel’s accomplishments at PSU were increasing the diversity in the student body and increasing fundraising.

“[Wiewel] is able to set a vision and get people excited about [that] vision and go and raise money to help materialize that vision,” Kauffman said. “To me, [that] is everything. And I think he is going to do well in that regard.”  

As Wiewel is an immigrant from the Netherlands, Kaufmann thinks this attribute lends Wiewel a perspective that fits well with many LC students.

“A lot of our students are from overseas and 80 percent of our students are from elsewhere outside of Oregon,” Kaufmann said. “And then 60 percent of our students study overseas. So having a president who is globally-minded is a huge asset for us.”

Vice President and Provost Jane Atkinson said that Wiewel brings many strengths to the presidential position.

“Having nine years experience in the role at PSU, Wim will be able to focus on learning what is distinctive about Lewis & Clark, rather than how to do the basics of his job,” Atkinson said. “This will be a great advantage for him — and for all of us at the college.”

Atkinson also spoke about Wiewel’s familiarity with Portland and the Pacific Northwest.

“He knows the region’s culture as well as its political, business, philanthropic and educational communities,” Atkinson said. “This will save him valuable time as he goes about the task of advancing Lewis & Clark’s interests and reputation in this region and beyond.”

ASLC President Marissa Valdez ’18 agrees that President Wiewel is a good fit for LC.

“He has an international perspective, he is enthusiastic about living sustainably, and he values students and their perspectives,” Valdez said. “At PSU, he was able to triple Latinx enrollment, drastically improve overall enrollment of marginalized peoples, and raise enough money to build ten new buildings. These are outcomes and values I want from a President of the college.”

During this past summer, Wiewel spoke at seven different open forums at LC, in which students, faculty and staff were welcome to attend.

Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez attended an all-staff event and said that she enjoyed Wiewel’s presentation. According to Gonzalez, a key goal that Wiewel highlighted during the forum was for LC to be an excellent institution. Weiwel has a vision for LC to strive and challenge itself as to what excellence should be at a small liberal arts college.

“What I liked about President Wiewel is that he really answered the questions posed to him honestly and I think in a very transparent way,” Gonzalez said. “He also spoke to the residential experience of students. He was very into the campus spirit and [recognized] the values of LC and of a liberal arts college in general.”  

Gonzalez shared her enthusiasm for how Wiewel and his wife personally volunteered during the week of New Student Orientation (NSO) this year.

“He helped students move in, and he spent time with faculty, students and parents,” Gonzalez said. “He spoke with [everyone] and the parents loved him. He was really engaged and he let them get to know him.”

When President Wiewel was first announced as the incoming president, the immediate reaction of ASLC Vice President Zack Johnson ’19 was one of frustration.  

“[I was frustrated] not at the selection of Wiewel specifically, but at the often cyclical system of selecting leaders within academia,” Johnson said. “Colleges seem to simply funnel out presidents and deans and pass them off to new institutions, while the pool from which such candidates are selected remains increasingly small and often inaccessible. Having met with President Wiewel personally, however, I believe he will be a wonderful addition to our community and a promising leader for the college.”

ASLC Diversity Committee Chair Nicolette Sauramba ’19 said that she is optimistic about the future of LC with Wiewel as president.

“I look forward to and I am committed to working with President Wiewel to further the initiatives of the Diversity Committee, to ensure equal opportunity and to amplify the voices of our student body where necessary,” Sauramba said.

Regarding his decision to arm the campus safety officers at PSU, both Kaufmann and Gonzalez validated Wiewel’s action. The arming of officers is consistent with actions of other large, urban, public institutions. Gonzalez emphasized that no such incidence will happen here at a small liberal arts college.  

Johnson spoke directly with President Wiewel on this issue.  

“[Wiewel] assured ASLC that campus safety officers would not be armed at LC, nor would there be any need for increased security whatsoever,” Johnson said. “The locations of LC and PSU are much different and require different security measures accordingly, and President Wiewel was adamant of such a concept.”

The LC community will be celebrating President Wiewel’s official first day on campus on Oct. 2 from 2 to 4 p.m. in Stamm.

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