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.
A series of five international films that explore the predicaments of the European refugee crisis, in English or with English subtitles as indicated, will be shown at 7 p.m. in Bill Hall 106, Silfen Auditorium, on the dates below. Screenings are free and open to the public and are followed by a discussion.
The film series is an integral part of “Migration Crisis in Europe,” an anthropology course being taught this fall by professor Catherine Benoit, who will offer comments following the screenings. The course discusses the current migrant situation in the context of the global reinforcement of borders through the development of walls and camps in and on the outskirts of "Fortress Europe" and looks at the development of "sanctuary cities" across Europe.
Note: Bill Hall is located in the south area of campus and visitors are encouraged to park in the South Parking Lot or close to Cummings Arts Center.
Wednesday, Sept. 6 “Stopover” (L’escale) by Kaveh Bakhtiari, 2013, 100 min. Genre: Documentary. French-Swiss co-production. Filmed in Greece. Languages: Farsi, Greek, English, with English subtitles. In Athens, Amir, an Iranian immigrant, has a very modest flat which has become a place of transit for migrants who, just like him, chose to leave their country. But Greece is only a stopover, all of them hoping to reach other Western countries. They find themselves stuck at Amir’s, waiting for ID documents, contacts, and the smuggler to whom they might entrust their destiny. Of Iranian origin himself, Bakhtiari stayed one year in the flat with the film’s characters, in total secrecy, smuggling the footage every month to Switzerland. “Stopover” is Bakhtiari’s first feature-length documentary. In addition to premiering at Festival de Cannes (Quinzaine des réalisateurs), it was featured in over 20 festivals around the globe. It also won the Special Jury Prize at the International Francophone Film in Namur, the Critic’s Prize at New Cinema Festival in Montreal and the Colombe d’Or New Talent Prize at DOK International Festival in Leipzig.
Wednesday, Sept. 20 “The Land Between” by David Fedele, 2014, 108 min. Language: in English “The Land Between” offers an intimate insight into the hidden and desperate lives of Sub-Saharan African migrants living in the mountains of northern Morocco. For most, their dream is to enter Europe by jumping a highly-militarised barrier into Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the African continent. With unique and unprecedented access, this film documents the everyday life of these migrants trapped in limbo, as well as the extreme violence and constant mistreatment they face from both the Moroccan and Spanish authorities. It also explores many universal questions, including how and why people are prepared to risk everything, including their lives, to leave their country, their family and friends, in search of a new and better life.
Wednesday, Oct. 18 “Welcome to Refugeestan” (“Bienvenue au Réfugistan”) by Anne Poiret, 2016, 71 mins. Genre: TV Investigative Documentary. French Production. Filmed in: Tanzania, Jordan, Greece, Kenya, Switzerland, France. Languages: French, Arabic and more, with English subtitles. Almost 17 million people - refugees, displaced persons or migrants - live in camps, in a virtual country the size of the Netherlands. Yet the names of these places do not appear on any maps. The UNHCR and NGOs have developed ways of running them that are both efficient and absurd. This film explores the land of camps, from Kenya, to Tanzania, Jordan, and the Greece-Macedonia border, as well as at the UNHCR’s headquarters in Geneva.
Wednesday, Nov. 1 “Border,” by Laura Waddington, 2004, 24 mins. Genre: video art. French / English co-production. Filmed in France. Language: English. In 2002, Laura Waddington spent months in the fields around Sangatte Red Cross camp in France with Afghan and Iraqi refugees, who were trying to cross the channel tunnel to England. Filmed at night with a small video camera, the figures lit only by the distant car headlights on the motorways, “Border” is a personal account of the refugees' plight and the police violence that followed the camp's closure. Laura Waddington made this video at a time when few European directors and artists were working on the subject. “Border” opened at Locarno Festival, won awards at Oberhausen, Pantin and Zürich festivals, and is now part of the collections of major museums and universities.
Wednesday, Nov. 8 “After Spring” by Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez, 2016, 102 mins. Language: English With the Syrian conflict now in its seventh year, millions of people continue to be displaced. “After Spring” is the story of what happens next. By following two refugee families in transition and aid workers fighting to keep the camp running, viewers will experience what it is like to live in Zaatari, the largest camp for Syrian refugees. With no end in sight for the conflict or this refugee crisis, everyone must decide if they can rebuild their lives in a place that was never meant to be permanent.