Matt and Melissa vandenBerg will move to Delaware with their two children, Jackson, age 10, and Sylvia, age 6, and their 1-year-old golden retriever, Penny. (Photo by Frankie Creel)

Matt vandenBerg Named 17th OWU President

Ohio Wesleyan announced in January that Matthew P. vandenBerg, Ed.D., will succeed Rock Jones and become OWU’s 17th president when he takes office July 1. He most recently was president of Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina.

“Ohio Wesleyan is poised for greatness,” says Nick Calio ’75, chair of the Ohio Wesleyan Board of Trustees. “Under Rock’s leadership, the university has advanced in so many areas, and we are pleased to hand the baton to Matt. We are confident he will bring the vision and execution needed to help Ohio Wesleyan continue to advance and succeed in its critical mission of preparing future generations of engaged citizens and effective leaders.”

Kara Trott ’83, chair of the Presidential Search Committee and vice chair of the OWU Board of Trustees, says, “Matt is an innovative, energetic leader who will help to build upon Ohio Wesleyan’s reputation and success, especially as the Columbus region works to transform itself into the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. Matt has the drive and vision to ensure that Ohio Wesleyan is an integral part of this high-tech transformation. Both the Presidential Search Committee and the university’s Board of Trustees were unanimous in their selection of Matt to boldly and confidently lead Ohio Wesleyan into the future.”

vandenBerg says he is excited to become a Bishop and continue the progress Ohio Wesleyan has experienced under Jones’ leadership.

“Ohio Wesleyan is a distinctive, forward-looking, and appreciably student-centered institution that transforms lives,” vandenBerg says. “With initiatives like the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan and its faculty are reimagining the liberal arts for the needs of a new world and a new generation of students.

“I want to honor all that makes Ohio Wesleyan special as I work to build relationships, earn the trust of stakeholders, listen with care, and make values-based decisions that continue to differentiate and distinguish the university,” vandenBerg says. “This is an exciting time for OWU, especially with all that is happening in central Ohio, and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this accomplished university.”

He jumped into OWU’s enrollment push in March, with encouragement from Jones, filming a brief video message that was sent to prospective students explaining why he’s joining OWU—and why they should join him.

During his two years at Presbyterian, his many achievements included:

  • Growing first-year student admission substantially in his first year as president.
  • Leading the college through an intensive and inclusive process to identify a distinctive new market position as “America’s Innovative Service College” and launching a strategic plan, with unanimous Board of Trustees’ approval, to support the position.
  • Building a new Division of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the college, including an endowed vice presidency.
  • Building partnerships with the community to drive economic development, cultural enrichment, and student engagement.
  • Launching the nation’s largest service-based entrepreneurship case competition for high school seniors.
  • Leading the college’s most productive fundraising year in its history.

Amy Downing, professor of biological sciences, says the faculty look forward to working with the new president to ensure students are ready to achieve their career and graduate school goals.

“We believe the experiences Matt brings to OWU and his approach to leadership will be an excellent fit for the Ohio Wesleyan community,” says Downing. “He understands the mission and value and culture of an institution like Ohio Wesleyan and shares the faculty’s commitment to transforming the lives of students through a liberal arts education. He is creative with bold ideas and a proven ability to execute them. The faculty are eager to partner with Matt as we envision the future directions for OWU.”

The fall issue of OWU Magazine will include much more about OWU’s new president, including an interview exploring his goals for Ohio Wesleyan.

Graduates of the new public health major will join a growing number of alumni, such as Allison Kolbe ’12, working in the field. With a background in biology and bioinformatics, Kolbe is a health science policy analyst at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo by Mike Morgan)

New Major Focuses on Creating Healthier World

Ohio Wesleyan is adding a new public health program and public health major in fall 2023 to prepare students for careers focused on promoting wellness and preventing disease.

“Public health workers are critical to keeping communities healthy, preventing and managing pandemics, working toward social justice, managing disaster relief, and increasing access to health care and quality of life for all,” says program director Christopher Fink, who is overseeing the program with Vanessa Hildebrand, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology.

Students who earn a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health at OWU will be prepared to enter the workforce or any graduate program related to public or global health, says Fink, who also is an associate professor of health & human kinetics.

“This could be in a government, nonprofit, or private sector setting, and could include work in community health education or research, data management, health system administration, and more,” Fink says, “or graduate study in a range of public health subdisciplines, as well as medical school, veterinary school, public policy, or law school.”

Every Ohio Wesleyan student majoring in public health will complete a hands-on learning experience outside the classroom, such as an internship at an agency or healthcare organization, or a research project with faculty.

The interdisciplinary program builds on OWU’s strong programs in areas such as biology, health & human kinetics, economics, politics & government, sociology & anthropology, and nutrition. Students will develop skills to identify, analyze, and help solve public health problems and inequities.

Graduates of the program will join a growing pool of OWU alumni working in public health, including physicians, nurses, academics, researchers at the Centers for Diseases Control, government officials, and a public health leader at The Carter Center whom you can read about in this issue’s So Close feature story.

Sai Suresh Kannan ’24 (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Doing Good

Through the Bishop Scholars program, students, including Sai Suresh Kannan ’24, are tutoring third-graders twice a week at Columbus Bilingual Academy North. The Bishop Scholars also are tutoring youths in the Delaware City and Buckeye Valley Local school districts. More than 70 OWU students have provided intensive support in math and reading to help children get back on track academically following the COVID-19 pandemic. OWU earned a state education grant of nearly $500,000 to support the Bishop Scholars program, which launched in the fall.

New Program Elevates First-Gen Students

OWU is launching a new “Bishop Elevate” office and program to help first-generation college students thrive in their educational careers and persist to graduation.

The Bishop Elevate initiative is being supported with a $250,000 lead gift from Thomas Palmer ’69, and his wife, Susan Palmer, and a two-year, $150,000 grant from the Florida-based Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

The Bishop Elevate program is the foundational component of Ohio Wesleyan’s new Bishop Elevate office,  which is being led by Thea Smekens, director of first-generation student success.

One in five OWU students is the first in their family to attend college.