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.
Learning a second language provides a ‘bilingual bonus’
The value of mastering a second language will be underscored in “A Second Language: More Than You Bargained For,” a talk by Richard D. Brecht, internationally recognized expert on language policy and research in academe and the government, which will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 11, from 4:30-6 p.m. in New London Hall 101.
Brecht advises students with valuable language skills to “double down” on their investment with advanced level coursework, increased usage and immersion in the foreign culture, and stresses that a second language provides a person with a “bilingual bonus.”
More than 55 percent of Connecticut College students study abroad—one of the highest percentages of any liberal arts college in America—and the College offers 11 different languages. Distinctive and academically challenging, the Toor Cummings Center allows students to internationalize their majors through intensive language study and a funded international internship, a research project, and bestows a certificate upon completion.
Currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, Richard D. Brecht is Co-Director of the American Councils Research Center, a think tank devoted to providing evidence for language policy and management decisions in education and the workplace. Brecht is also Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer of Global Professional Search Inc., a business connecting employers to job seekers with bilingual proficiency, international experience, and intercultural understanding.
Brecht was the founding executive director of the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) and, prior to founding CASL, was the Director of the National Foreign Language Center and, earlier, the National Council of Organizations of Less Commonly Taught Languages. He is a recognized authority on learning in overseas immersion and is acknowledged internationally for developing and overseeing a wide range of national and international initiatives in educational development, training, and research. A champion of “America’s Languages,” Brecht works to strengthen language and global competency across education, government, business, and the nation’s indigenous and heritage communities.
Brecht is the author of numerous books and articles on language policy, second language acquisition, and Russian linguistics. He has received awards from national and international organizations in the language field, including the Pushkin Medal from the International Association of Teachers of Russian Language and Literature. An expert in language and national security, Brecht has testified before Congress in matters of language preparedness, national security, international education, and higher education. He has also been frequently cited in the New York Times and other prestigious national newspapers.
Brecht received his bachelor of arts degree in Russian, summa cum laude, from the Pennsylvania State University in 1965 and his doctorate in Slavic languages and literatures from Harvard University in 1972.