Five Questions with Sylvia Spears and Michaele Whelan

The President’s Council is a senior leadership advisory group. Learn more about the President’s Council members in this new people@Emerson series. Each month, two members will share what guides their work at Emerson.

Sylvia Spears

Sylvia Spears
VP for Diversity and Inclusion

Q: How long have you worked at Emerson?
A: I joined the Emerson community four and a half years ago after having worked in higher education for more than 25 years. I have been a faculty member, a student affairs professional, and senior administrator at public and private institutions.

Q: What department(s) do you oversee?
A: I oversee the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Office of Violence Prevention and Response; the Office of Title IX Access and Equity; and the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research, which also houses the Office of Academic Engagement and Community Action.

Q: Why did you choose to work at the College?
A: To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t looking for a job when a search consultant contacted me about the position at Emerson. In fact, I tried to brush her off. She insisted that I meet with her when she was visiting Hanover, New Hampshire, where I lived at the time. I met her in a small café. I remember her exclaiming, “You have got to consider this position. It has your name written all over it.” So I submitted my materials and made it through the Skype interview. I was invited to interview on campus. I remember presenting in the Bordy Auditorium in an open community forum. There was something about the warmth of the community and its heartfelt desire to make Emerson a more inclusive place that moved me. It was in that moment that I fell in love with Emerson.

President Pelton also displayed a strong commitment to deepening the College’s diversity and inclusion efforts. During my interview with him, I noticed him gazing out over the city through his office window. I asked him what he saw. He responded, “I see possibilities.” That’s what sealed the deal. I knew I could do real and sustained work toward making Emerson a place where all community members could thrive.

Q: What values guide your work?
A: The values that guide my work are best expressed through the Division of Diversity and Inclusion (DDI) Declaration of Purpose and Intent. This statement was developed through the collective effort of the entire DDI team.

“The Division of Diversity and Inclusion commits to embodying and advancing social justice both at Emerson and with the larger community for the purpose of ensuring equity, the redistribution of power, and inclusion. We work in a manner that fosters authentic engagement and collaboration grounded in compassion and innovation, and in enduring solidarity with others.”

Q: What is one change you would like to see at Emerson that would make it an even better place to work or study?
A: I would wave my magic wand and create more opportunities for all of us to be in community with one another in a manner that transcends institutional structures and roles. It is in the company of others that we find our deepest sense of connectedness and humanity.

 

Michaele Whelan

Michaele Whelan
Provost and VP for Academic Affairs

Q: How long have you worked at Emerson?
A: I came to Emerson in July 2013, so this is my fourth year here. I have been in higher education since my first teaching position at Penn State University.

Q: What department(s) do you oversee?
A: I oversee academic affairs on the three campuses, and this includes all academic disciplines; academic services such as advising, the writing center, the registrar, the library, and global affairs; as well as research, the art galleries, and our literary magazine, Ploughshares.

Q: Why did you choose to work at the College?
A: My colleague at Brandeis University attended our president’s inauguration as an academic delegate and told me his vision was inspirational and would be transformative for Emerson. Once I met Lee and the faculty, I knew Emerson was the right academic home for me.

Q: What values guide your work?
A: Integrity, transparency, and empathy are essential for understanding and addressing the complex issues that arise in and out of the classroom and for connecting with students, faculty, and staff.

Q: What is one change you would like to see at Emerson that would make it an even better place to work or study?
A: Emerson is experiencing a curricular Renaissance. Faculty, staff, and academic leaders are working together to offer students new majors, minors, international and experiential programs, as well as new graduate degrees and professional certificates.

I would like to see all Emerson students intellectually and inclusively engaged and challenged by their education here with 100 percent indicating that they would choose us again.

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