First female provost sees appointment as evolutionary, not revolutionary

While Wheaton students enjoyed a break from classes, President Philip Ryken announced the appointment of Margaret Diddams ‘83 as the first female provost of Wheaton College.

The provost is also known as the chief academic officer at Wheaton and is responsible for the academics of the school. The faculty answer to the provost, and the provost answers to the president.

Diddams is currently the assistant provost at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle. Despite her time away from her alma mater, she said that Wheaton has always been a home to her. She still considers herself a Wheatie because Diddams, like many alumni, claims that Wheaton has always been a part of her identity.

When asked about being Wheaton’s first female provost, she said she was honored but that it is not a “big leap” for Wheaton. “For me, this is evolutionary, not revolutionary. There is already a serious number of women in leadership positions at Wheaton College,” Diddams replied.

There are female deans, department heads and faculty that have a strong presence at the college — Diddams perceives herself as a part of this progress rather than a pioneer.

Progress is, in a large part, her hope for Wheaton. In light of recent events on campus, she said she understands that this is a time of lament as Wheaton moves forward. Faculty and administration clashed in the past few months as dozens of faculty signed a letter asking the current provost, Stanton Jones, to withdraw his charge to terminate former assistant professor of political science Larycia Hawkins.

Diddams said that she agrees with Ryken in his efforts to promote a “community of grace” at Wheaton when she joins him on campus this summer.

Jones is stepping down as provost of Wheaton at the end of this academic year, although he plans to stay at Wheaton as a psychology professor. In August, he cited health problems as his reason for leaving the role.

During her time as a Wheaton student, Diddams was involved in many co-curriculars. She was a member of the symphonic wind ensemble and student government. She was also the news director of WETN and was an athlete — she swam under current coach Jon Lederhouse and played field hockey.

Diddams still maintains an active lifestyle, participating in marathons and nationally competitive swim meets. She is also an apt photographer, capturing both nature and still life. When they have time, Diddams and her husband enjoy sailing and hiking — two hobbies that they will miss when they move to the Midwest.

Although Diddams enjoyed her time in Seattle, she is looking forward to coming back to Wheaton College. “To be engaged in that level of intellectual rigor and transformation — I am really excited,” Diddams said.

As provost, Diddams will be working closely with Ryken to achieve the strategic priorities that students regularly receive email updates about. She sees wonderful advancements occurring at Wheaton and she aspires to be a part of them. Diddams values working not only with administration, but also with faculty and she hopes to fulfill the college’s mission with them.

One aspect of the college’s mission that Diddams plans to focus on is the cultivation of diversity in class and on campus. Working towards diversity is not new to Diddams — she grew up in Rogers Park, a diverse community of north Chicago, and was a board member of Urban Impact Seattle for five years. During those years, Urban Impact Seattle constructed a 61-unit affordable housing apartment and a fitness center.

Regarding diversity at Wheaton, Diddams says that she hopes to see Wheaton “increase diversity and globalize the curriculum … I would like to see Wheaton College reflect the kingdom of God.”

Another upcoming opportunity to fulfill Wheaton’s mission arrives in the form of the new general education program, Christ at the Core. Wheaton will launch Christ at the Core this fall, implementing the program for the class of 2020.

Diddams expressed enthusiasm about the new curriculum, saying that it will provide “a larger narrative about what it means to engage in Christian liberal arts.”

As opposed to following a list of required classes, Christ at the Core will allow students to have greater flexibility with selecting coursework. Diddams believes the program will be equipped to give students a genuine Christian liberal arts experience.

Diddams will officially take office on June 1. If students would like an opportunity to get to know her, she said that she would welcome a dine-with-a-mind this fall.

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