President Dennis Hanno said that the effects of the travel ban were felt by the school almost overnight. A summer project held on campus for students from the United Arab Emirates was canceled by the project organizers. International applicants who had initially committed to Wheaton, such as a dual citizen from Switzerland and the U.S., rescinded their commitment.
“It was clear to us that this executive order already had and would continue to have a very strong impact on who comes to this campus and the kinds of things that we could do outside with the global world.”
While some schools such as MIT and Harvard had denounced the travel ban, Wheaton decided to take it a step further by offering a full scholarship to a student from one of the seven countries named in the executive order. What was expected to potentially catch the interest of local news organizations garnered attention from CNN, the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Breitbart.
While there was some backlash from alt-right commenters, the vast majority of the response has been positive, particularly from donors in the Wheaton community. And with the scholarship nearly paid in full through contributions, Hanno continues to set his sights on an inclusive and larger Wheaton community.
“We are not closing the door on U.S. students, we are not bringing dangerous individuals into our community, and we are really just focused on what higher education in the U.S. has always been about: an inclusive and global environment,” President Hanno said.
Working his way towards his third year at Wheaton, President Hanno has led initiatives with the intention to increase the student body’s size to roughly 1800. While Hanno says Wheaton’s endowment is large enough to keep the school afloat, he believes this influx of more students will leave Wheaton in a sustainable spot.
With an expanding school could come new initiatives, such as a new dorm planned for 2019 and an increase in the number of students who study abroad. In particular, Hanno hopes to create a program that would allow students to spend a semester at another school in the U.S.
“Our goal is to create Wheaton options where students could spend a semester studying and living in Boston or pick a place like New York or LA,” he said. “If you get 15 or 20 students who are doing that in addition to study abroad, then the housing crunch on campus is eased by students doing things they really want to do and looking at those options.”
Beyond his initiative to expand Wheaton, President Hanno has also led several professional development measures, such as the Wheaton Innovates Team (WIN), InterMedia Arts Group Innovation Network (IMAGINE) and Wheaton Edge. With initiatives such as these, Hanno expresses how he personally leads the college.
“I try to be engaged with things on campus, so I can hear and I can see and I can talk to students about what they need. And that’s what leadership really is, is not so much coming in and saying ‘this is what I’m going to do;’ it’s really about understanding what we can do and how we can do it together.”