Christian steps into new role in administration

Shawn Christian by Ian Opaluch3

When asked about the downsides of his new position, Associate Provost Shawn Christian quipped, “I like to wear jeans. Not wearing jeans is difficult.”

Christian, a member of the Wheaton faculty for 11 years as an associate professor of English, African-American and American studies, has recently taken up a three-year term as the Associate Provost. 

Christian felt that this provided an opportunity for the faculty to support the academic affairs division. In that respect, he said that one of the goals for the office was to ensure that the division worked optimally and provided a space for innovation and creativity.

For Christian, the position was a chance to learn more about the college, and using this newfound knowledge to support different projects and help individuals to better do their jobs. 

He is involved in a variety of these projects, such as the first-year seminar program, departmental staffing plans and overall curriculum plans. One example was his oversight of the the Sherman Fairchild Grant that Wheaton was awarded for the IMAGINE project. 

Although he is new to being a full-time administrator, the duties are not unfamiliar to Christian, who has previously coordinated triple ADS, directed a summer program and served on the presidential search committee that eventually selected Wheaton’s new President, Dennis Hanno. 

Christian described the search process as “instructive.” The experience may prove helpful, as he has recently been charged with the search for the new Dean of Advising and Academic Success.

Christian said that the transition into new role was easy, as the faculty at Wheaton have always been very involved with the administration. Professor Christian gave credit to his new team, as well, saying that Provost Linda Eisenmann and Associate Provosts Gail Sahar and James Mancall were big factors in his ultimate decision. 

“My colleague Gail Sahar is a mentor of mine and I thought it would be nice to work with her,” Christian said.

Administrative work is not the only thing on Christian’s agenda. He says that he is expected to continue, and is supported in, his research efforts. He notes that it is a “culture” in the office, as his colleagues are actively involved in their own research and publishing. 

“I have to take a reality check and not have such unrealistic expectations and ambitions about what I will be able to produce,” he said, regarding the many things on his plate.  He said that he will be practical and make time for activities such as an upcoming conference at the University of Wisconsin and Madison focusing on African American print culture, where he will be presenting.

Though he misses not being able to meet with students, Christian noted that one of the best perks of the new position is the opportunity to connect with new people and deepen relationships with those who he already knew. Cultivating such relationships, he said, is a value that we celebrate and live out everyday at Wheaton. 

“It’s what made me choose Wheaton 11 years ago and it’s what has kept me here,” he said.