Connecticut College selects Les Wong as interim president
The Connecticut College Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Leslie E. Wong, Ph.D., a nationally respected leader in higher education, to become interim president of Conn, effective July 1, 2023.
Wong will succeed Katherine Bergeron, whose nearly decade-long tenure as Conn’s 11th president concludes June 30. He will serve until the College’s 12th president is selected and assumes office.
Wong, a former president of San Francisco State University and Northern Michigan University and a former interim president of the University of Southern Colorado, has been a member of Conn’s Board of Trustees since 2019. He will resign his role as a recently re-elected trustee and serve on the Board in an ex officio capacity, as is customary, until the 12th president is appointed.
In his announcement to the Conn community, Debo P. Adegbile ’91, chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, said, “Les has deep experience in higher education leadership and a strong understanding of Connecticut College through his Board of Trustees service and committee-related work. As a member of the Board of Trustees since 2019, Les is well known to many in the Conn community. His commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has been evident throughout his academic career. Due to his extensive presidential leadership experience and knowledge of Connecticut College, Les is uniquely positioned to assume this important role.”
In his initial message to the Conn community, Wong said, “It is such an honor to be named interim president of Connecticut College. Since I joined the Board in 2019, the faculty, staff, students, administrators and alumni have shown me the resolve, the persistence and the spirit that are needed for a great college to confront whatever comes before it.”
He added, “As a steward of this institution, I believe we have a tremendous opportunity at hand, particularly in executing our strategic plan, Building on Strength, which will guide me during my role as interim president. This role requires considerable listening and dialogue as well as a willingness to engage ideas and aspirations of everyone at Conn.”
As a member of the Board of Trustees since 2019, Wong has served on the Executive Committee, chaired the Faculty-Trustee Liaison Committee and served as vice chair of the Committee on Academic Affairs. He received his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Washington State University and previously served as president of San Francisco State University and Northern Michigan University for a combined total of 15 years. Before these roles, he served as vice president of Academic Affairs of Valley City State University and as interim president, provost and academic vice president of the University of Southern Colorado. He is married to Phyllis Michael Wong, who is the author of the award-winning non-fiction book We Kept Our Towns Going.
Wong, who identifies as a person of Mexican and Chinese ancestry, has served on the NCAA’s Task Force on Equity and Inclusion. He led a national effort to admit Mexican universities into Division II of the NCAA and since 1985 has worked closely with the State Department to promote U.S.-China relations as well as the well-being of Chinese Americans. He also led California’s statewide effort to expand Project Rebound, a social justice initiative that helps formerly incarcerated students to earn college degrees.
With Conn’s interim president position now filled, the Board of Trustees will turn its full attention to the search for the College’s 12th president. A 15-member search committee of trustees, faculty, staff and students plans by late June to select a national executive search firm that specializes in higher education. The firm’s first steps will include seeking input from a cross-section of senior administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and other friends and supporters of the College.
Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown Selected for One Book One Region 2021
This year’s read for One Book One Region will be Interior Chinatown, written by Charles Yu. The book will be formally introduced at a virtual kickoff event on June 24 at 6:30 p.m., featuring a presentation on the book’s themes by Ayako Takamori, assistant professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Yu will join the southeastern Connecticut community for a planned in-person event this fall.
Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction in 2020, Interior Chinatown borrows from the dystopian worldview of the HBO television series, Westworld, for which he served as a writer. The book is written in the form of a screenplay, telling the story of an aspiring Asian actor who discovers the secret history of Chinatown and the buried legacy of his family.
“Through the story’s many layers, Yu offers us a poignant picture on the role of family in shaping identities; a lacerating satire on American popular culture; and a critique of the external stereotyping and the internalized racism that have defined the experience of Asian Americans for almost 200 years,” said Jefferson Singer, dean of the college and Faulk Foundation Professor of Psychology at Connecticut College. “This book will launch an important conversation with our community at a time when the country is reckoning with the treatment of and discrimination against the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.”
Yu graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998 with a degree in molecular biology and a minor in creative writing. He went on to earn a J.D. from Columbia University and practiced corporate law before eventually returning to his creative work as a fiction writer and story editor for Westworld, where his work was nominated for two Writers Guild of America awards. Yu is the author of four books and has written for shows on FX, AMC, Facebook Watch and Adult Swim. His fiction and non-fiction works have appeared in a number of publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Wired, Time and Ploughshares.
One Book One Region of Eastern Connecticut is now in its 19th year. This is the sixth year that Connecticut College has partnered with this initiative to bring community members and the college community together to discuss ideas, broaden appreciation of reading and break down barriers among people.In addition to this year's selection of Interior Chinatown, previous summer read selections were Crazy Brave by U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo; Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka; Exit West by Mohsin Hamid; and Homegoingby Yaa Gyasi.
One Book One Region is made possible through the Libraries of Eastern CT, the Frank Loomis Palmer Fund, Waterford Walmart and Connecticut College’s Office of the President. Bank Square Books arranged for the purchase of Interior Chinatown for the Class of 2025 and their advisers.
Registration for this event is required. Visit onebookoneregion.org to register and learn more about upcoming programming.