Wells Urges Diversity

Claire Hogg, News Writer • cohogg16@ehc.edu

John Wells

Courtesy of ehc.edu

 

Diversity, inclusion, and the value of a liberal arts education – these are the things on the mind of Emory & Henry’s new provost and dean of faculty, John Wells. A Knoxville native, Wells joined the college in June 2017. His new positions include overseeing the academic programs at Emory & Henry and working to attract strong students from all walks of life.

Since June, Wells has set goals for effecting change in the lives of students. Wells hopes to help students link classroom passion to real world applications.

He said, “I would like to see a very direct, better connection between what the students are doing here and what they can do for a living when they graduate. So, connecting our curriculum to the world of work is really important to me.”

Wells wants to help students make the most of their undergraduate experience. Diversity is an area in which Wells wishes to promote progress and growth. He said that one of the most powerful aspects of a liberal arts education is the ability to learn from one another and that inclusion must be a priority.

“Is our curriculum open and diverse? Is it inclusive? Have we done everything we can to make sure every student who comes here, regardless of their socio-economic or demographic background, can really succeed here? So, in a way, what we have to do is build the capacity for diversity and really make that happen. I want to make certain that students from all backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender are really able to do well here,” Wells said.

Wells believes that learning in an institution that has a legacy of involvement with slavery means that tough conversations and topics must be addressed to fully facilitate inclusion.

“The legacy of racism in America is a sickness that is unfortunately one that we see not going away, so we have to confront it to engage that [progress],” Wells said. To have a successful liberal arts experience that is inclusive, systemic racial oppression must be addressed.

Wells values an interdisciplinary approach to learning that allows students to view the world through a multitude of perspectives. To Wells, this kind of learning enriches the human experience. He explained, “I’ve never heard of anyone coming to the end of their life with a liberal arts education who says, ‘Boy, I really regret that. I read too much literature and I experienced too much art,’ you know? We educate in a way for the world to work, but there’s also a way to educate because we’re human beings and the liberal arts educates us to be full human beings.”

Wells attended Carson Newman for his undergraduate degree in history and the University of Tennessee for both his master’s degree in political science and Ph.D. in political science. Before being hired by Emory & Henry, Wells taught political science at Carson Newman for twelve years, served as executive vice president and chief academic officer at Mars Hill University for seven years, and was the higher ed commissioner for the United Methodist Church.

With a father as an alumnus of Emory & Henry and a grandmother who once worked on campus as a dorm-mother, Wells is excited to be working in a place that feels so special to him.

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