Dr. Paula Dehn arrived at Wesleyan as the new vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college on July 1, 2008, with gratitude for her own undergraduate experience and passion for the mission of Kentucky Wesleyan. “I was a first-generation college student, and through scholarships provided by DePauw, I had the opportunity for a superior education in a nurturing environment. My undergraduate years had a tremendous impact on my life, opening doors and the world for me. I am still reaping the benefits of that education, and I am still very grateful for the generosity of donors to DePauw who made that possible.”
She began to invest in Kentucky Wesleyan as soon as she arrived and has given regularly since 2008. “I wanted to do my part to make a good college great. I had personally experienced the value of a small, faith-based liberal arts college, so from the beginning, I wanted to support Wesleyan financially. Wesleyan impressed me from the moment I arrived, and I felt an obligation to help the institution.”Dr. Dehn established the Academic Programming Endowment Fund to support student opportunities to attend academic conferences and help faculty acquire needed equipment to support their teaching and research. “This is a way I can help. It is truly my passion, and I’m honored to give.”
She described Wesleyan as a special place where personal interactions with faculty and staff help students figure out who they are and what they should do with their lives. “Every day I encounter students just like me, a first-generation student who needed nurturing and support and room to make mistakes with encouragement to get up and try again. I might not have been successful somewhere other than DePauw.”
Dr. Dehn emphasized the value of a vibrant learning culture. “Students learn by doing, and college is about more than listening to lectures,” she shared. “Our students are involved in many high impact learning practices, including research projects, an Honors program that provides the opportunity to go above and beyond, capstone experiences, the Bonner Leaders Program, and Wesleyan Fellows.
The Bonner Leaders program promotes community engagement and leadership development, and the Wesleyan Fellows program is an intellectually demanding opportunity closely related to a career or scholarly field that includes a Scholars’ Day presentation in April. Wesleyan Fellows have coordinated the VITA tax program, created music compositions for piano and orchestra, examined the feasibility of a recycling program for Owensboro, researched the impacts of pharmaceuticals on Lemna minor (duckweed) in aquatic ecosystems, and studied the public perceptions of police.
“Operating funds alone cannot support everything faculty and students need for robust programs and involvement,” said Dr. Dehn. “But when we give to our passion, we help provide quality experiences to our students and make Wesleyan a better place.”