July 18, 2024

Michelle Mattson has entered her first academic year as Wittenberg’s new Provost. She was appointed in February, after multiple on-campus interviews over the course of the last academic year, during which she had conversations with students, faculty and staff members. She arrived on campus this summer and has spent the last few months adjusting to her new role.

“It’s a busy time around here,” Mattson said, during an interview with the Torch. “I’ve already talked about a whole variety of things, and it’s only 11 a.m”

Mattson’s previous position was vice president of academic affairs for institutional assessment at Rhodes College, a private liberal arts college in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee. Both Wittenberg and Rhodes, Mattson explained, have similarities in size and in the engaged learning opportunities offered to students. But what is different about Wittenberg, she believes, is “a kind of collegiality and mutual support that is…incredible.”

“When I came on campus for my campus interviews, I was really struck by the positivity of the conversations, and how much everyone, from the staff members to the students to the faculty I met with, were just so committed to the institution and what it represents…and that impressed me a lot,” Mattson said.

At Wittenberg’s opening convocation, Mattson delivered her keynote address to the campus and the freshmen class of 2023 in her speech, “The Roads Home.” Mattson, in her address, appointed herself an honorary member of the class of 2023 and looks forward to building relationships with the students.

“It was, of course, nerve-wracking, because it’ll probably be the only time that I, in this capacity, will have the opportunity to address the entire incoming class like that, in a sustained manner for a whole 20 minutes,” Mattson said of the event.

Mattson was both grateful for the opportunity to speak to the entire campus and a little relieved that the intensity of the event has passed.

 “I don’t mind getting up in front of people and talking, but there’s this sense of gravity with something like a convocation address,” she said, laughing.

As Provost, one of Mattson’s chief duties is to the academic priorities of Wittenberg. She says Wittenberg’s administration is in the process of having conversations about the structures of the academic curriculum and the administration itself. Whatever steps Wittenberg takes going forward, Mattson ensures that “the process will be one that respects what all of the different programs contribute to and will hopefully lead to a stronger institution.”

Mattson sees her status as a new member of the administration as an asset. Her outside perspective can help the university creatively restructure and reorganize the administration to “build the kind of community that makes this place feel like home, if only a four-year home for the students coming through the door now.”

Another one of Mattson’s goals is to get to know the people living and working at Wittenberg.

“I hope to have, at least once or twice a week, lunch over at the CDR,” Mattson said, “and encourage people, whether that be students or faculty or staff, just to come by and chat. I will hopefully, with Dean Casey Gill, get to know the student government folks better. I’m working really hard at remembering names of [the people] I’ve met so far.”

As a professor of German, Mattson taught German language and culture classes at Rhodes, and hopes to begin teaching German at Witt next year, after she’s transitioned into her position.

“I feel like when I’m in a classroom, the students should be my first priority,” said Mattson. “But in a position like this, there’s so much competing for your attention that it’s hard to do that justice. I am very much committed to student learning.”

If Mattson didn’t teach German, she would love to teach a course on the visual representation of society.

“I love art, and I love the way that art tells stories. I could see myself having gone in that direction had I known that that was a thing when I was a kid, which I didn’t,” Mattson said.

Mattson looks forward to getting to know Wittenberg better, and is excited to see how things will change over the next academic year.

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