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Head and shoulders shot of Fred McCall with blurred background
Office of the President

Announcing Widener’s New Vice President of Student Engagement and Transformation and Dean of Students

Widener University has named Fred C. McCall as its first vice president of student engagement and transformation. McCall, who will also serve as dean of students, will begin his new duties July 1, and comes to Widener from the University of Illinois, Chicago, where he has served as executive associate vice chancellor and dean of students.

“I am very excited to welcome Dr. McCall to Widener University,” said President Stacey Robertson. “He is a strategic collaborator and a student-centered educator with a deep commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in higher education. I look forward to the impact his leadership will have on Widener students’ success.” 

During his five-year career at the University of Illinois, Chicago, McCall was focused on student engagement, advocacy and support, and professional development. He led a variety of areas including the Center for Student Involvement, Commuter and Off Campus Life, Fraternity and Sorority life, Career Services, New Student and Family Programs, and Community Standards. He previously served as assistant dean and director of the Office of Student Engagement at California State University, San Bernardino, and held leadership roles at the University of California-Berkeley, Purdue University, the University of South Florida and Tusculum College.

“I am thrilled to join the Widener community and partner with students, faculty, and staff to continue the transformative work of belonging, engagement, and student success,” McCall said. “I am looking forward to forging deep connections with the Widener and Chester communities. The university has a long tradition of education and service, and I can’t wait to positively contribute to this important legacy.”

During his tenure at University of Chicago, McCall co-chaired several committees, such as the chancellor’s committee on advancing racial equity that provided key strategic recommendations to the institution. He also led several successful initiatives to impact student engagement and campus culture, including bias reporting tools and a variety of collaborative efforts with the university’s Office of Diversity and Office of Access and Equity.

McCall will lead Student Engagement and Transformation at Widener, a new unit that includes the offices of Student Engagement, Student Living, Athletics and Pride Recreation, Well-being and Belonging, and Student and Campus Services. The unit is designed to spark innovation and enhance the university’s holistic approach to student engagement. In his role, McCall will bring new student-focused leadership to the President’s Leadership Team and reinforce Widener’s student-centered culture of belonging by championing above-and-beyond responsiveness, care, and creativity.

McCall received his Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs from Indiana University, Bloomington. He received his master’s in college student personnel administration from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and his bachelor of arts in psychology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

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An aerial image of Old Main surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Facilities Management and Real Estate

Campus Tree Planning Reflects Our Pride

Dear Widener Community,

Over the past few months, we have been making changes to the tree population on our Chester campus. These changes are part of a strategic effort to assess the existing landscaping and develop a comprehensive plan aimed at improving the health of our existing trees while increasing diversity in tree species with new plantings across our beautiful campus. I am writing to share updates on this ongoing process so that you may feel more connected to the work that is occurring within the greater campus community.

The tree and landscaping work are the result of a multiyear consultation with arborists and landscape architects to develop a holistic plan for a cohesive appearance across campus. These experts consider many factors when making tree planting and removal decisions such as safety hazards, tree species and origins, impact on existing facilities, campus beautification, and more. Their evaluation identified a number of trees for removal due to the hazards they pose to individuals and facilities, but we are committed to replacing each tree lost with two new trees. To that end, we installed more than 100 trees in the fall semester and we look forward to adding additional trees each spring and fall planting season. Our designers and contractors have been directed to beautify the campus with a preference for native trees to provide biodiversity, sustainability, and beauty while also maintaining open recreational spaces.

Trees play a critical role in urban environments from mitigating air pollution and providing shade to improving mood and mental health. As you return to campus, we invite you to look around and enjoy the natural beauty on campus with pride. 

For more information on the Chester campus’ tree inventory, click here

Learn more about the trees chosen to be planted:
Tree Replacement Master Plan
Tree Factsheet
Tree Species Overview


Kevin Kane

Executive Director, Facilities Management and Real Estate

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President Robertson talking and smiling, with a student off to her side doing the same.
Office of the President

President's Spring Message

Welcome to the spring semester!

January is an invigorating time of year, when we arrive refreshed after what I hope was a restorative winter break. We are ready to seize the endless possibilities of a new year and new semester. While many of you are returning to classes at Widener today, there are also new, incoming students who will experience their first semester with us. I extend my personal welcome to all of you!

While the semester begins with cold temperatures, there are so many opportunities for us to come together and share the warmth of this welcoming community. Next month in Harrisburg, we’ll kick off the 25th anniversary of Commonwealth Law School’s renowned Law and Government Institute, and in Delaware, students will watch attorneys argue in front of the Delaware Supreme Court when the justices hold court on campus. In Chester, we started this week hosting the opening ceremony of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, and taking part in the peace march from Lathem Hall to Chester city hall. We’re looking forward to welcoming alumni to campus for lectures and special events – including a talk from the leader of the construction firm central to the heroic 12-day rebuild of the collapsed I-95 bridge, who happens to be an alum!

Even as we challenge ourselves with new growth opportunities, it is important that our community prioritize well-being. We must practice self-care, make time to get outdoors, put down our devices and decompress with exercise, a good book, or both, and make sleep a priority! As always, our student support services are ready with help for those who need an extra hand. I hope you’ll open your hearts to new people and experiences, and grow from all that Widener offers.

With Warmth and Widener Pride,


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President Robertson in regalia touching the Pride of Lions statue
President's Office

Welcome to Fall!

Dear Widener Pride community,

This is the best time of year! I love the way our campus becomes enlivened by the energy of our arriving students, who are full of excitement for the new year and all the opportunities it brings. It is so inspiring to see the familiar faces of our returning students and welcome the newest members of the Pride. 

I am especially excited for our new and incoming students to begin living into our culture of belonging. You will find that Widener is a place where we are all free to be our authentic selves. 

Widener is also a place that is committed to student success. I encourage our first-year undergraduate students to take advantage of Widener’s new First-Year Experience student coaching program to help with your transition to college life. I have benefitted from having a personal success coach, and I highly recommend taking advantage of this! 

To all our returning students, I can’t wait to see you again at athletic competitions, club and organization programs, and all the special events coming up this fall, like the Future of Work conference that helps kick off Homecoming Weekend. Widener is a vibrant and welcoming place because of all that you contribute.

As we begin the semester, don’t forget we are One Widener, committed to supporting one another with open hearts and minds!   

With Warmth and Widener Pride,


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Photo shows MLK's "I have a dream quote" carved onto the floor of the Lincoln Memorial overlooking the Washington Monument at sunrise.
Office of the President

Widener Remembers MLK Jr. with Service and Reflection

Dear Pride Community,
Understanding our history is critical for understanding ourselves. In coming together to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we remind ourselves of the sacrifices and struggles that paved the way for our own opportunities. We also recognize the work yet to be done.
Dr. King was an exceptional leader whose faith in nonviolence and love guided his work as a civil rights activist. He modeled this philosophy through his own willingness to risk assault, arrest, abuse, humiliation, and even death.
Though Dr. King’s leadership in the 1950s and 1960s was a highwater mark for racial justice, it is important for us to understand that he followed a long history of civil rights activism in the United States. Thousands of men and women, mostly Black, challenged the pervasive racism that ensured their second-class citizenship.
During his lifetime of activism, Dr. King spoke about the Beloved Community as a space in which everyone is cared for; a community of inclusion and affirmation where its members could come together to learn from each other, address concerns, and solve problems. The Beloved Community reflects personal authenticity, true respect, appreciation, and validation of others. The spirit of the Beloved Community can be found in Belonging.  We continue to enhance our community by advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB). 
On this day of remembrance, we encourage our entire community to come together in a spirit of belonging, hope, love, and justice for all. Let us reflect upon the footpath of Dr. King as we take our next steps to a better Widener and a better world – because we are in it!
Small actions can have tremendous impact. There are so many options for becoming a change agent! Reach out to a fellow member of the Pride and offer support. Lean into your commitment to belonging by becoming an ally to others. Speak up with courage and compassion when you witness injustice. Offer your time or resources to causes that speak to your heart. Vote! Become involved in Chester through volunteerism. Educate yourself on the history of racism and civil rights. We recommend Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson. Walk in a march for social justice and become a visible part of the civil rights movement. Help us work for an equitable, safe, and loving society for all, in the spirit of Dr. King. 
If you are in need of support, reach out to a member of our community. You are not alone.
With warmth and Widener Pride, 
Dr. Stacey Robertson, President
Ms. Micki Davis, Chief Diversity Officer

Head shot of President Stacey Robertson
President's Message

Welcome to the Spring 2023 Semester

Dear Widener Community,

Welcome back for the start of the spring semester!

January is a time of fresh starts, new hope, and endless possibilities. There is a singular energy that comes with new beginnings. My hope for this semester is that we all boldly pursue opportunities for academic and personal growth while further connecting with one another.

Being a member of the Widener community is such a privilege. There are countless opportunities for us to come together as we learn and grow. This week in Harrisburg, a three-part symposium examining veterans courts from a statewide and national perspective kicks off. Students will be welcome to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with practicing attorneys who visit the campus to attend this special event. In Delaware, students with the Widener Law Review will sponsor a symposium in March that focuses on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. And in Chester, the President’s Lecture Series begins this month, offering conversations on a myriad of topics. 

Even as we take advantage of the opportunities around us, it is important that we also remember to practice self-care. Prioritizing your well-being is essential to a successful and fulfilling Widener experience, and belonging to this community means help is available should you need it. Take time to enjoy the outdoors, as even a five-minute walk can lift our spirits and reenergize us. And let’s remember to offer steadfast support with open hearts to one another.

I hope to see you soon!

With Warmth and Widener Pride,


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John Downey
Dean of Student's Message

Student Satisfaction Survey Yields Excellent Results

Dear Widener Families,
As we prepare for the arrival of students, I wanted to share some excellent results from a survey we use to track student satisfaction at Widener. Students took this nationally administered survey in the spring, and it allows us to track their satisfaction and compare ourselves with hundreds of similar institutions. We experienced the highest survey participation rate in Widener’s history this year, making the results even more meaningful!  
In almost every category, student satisfaction at Widener has increased dramatically since 2018. Widener students have also demonstrated a higher level of overall satisfaction when compared to students at similar institutions in the eastern region. 

I was personally excited to see dramatic improvements in the Campus Life category. As we all know, 2021-22 was a challenging year as the pandemic persisted. Despite that, student satisfaction has improved in every category since 2018, including Campus Support Services, Academic Advising, Service Excellence, Student Centeredness, Campus Climate, Registration Effectiveness, Campus Life, Instructional Effectiveness, Recruitment and Financial Aid, Safety and Security, and Concern for the Individual Student.  We had the highest satisfaction rates since 2014 in nine of 11 categories.

Below are some examples of findings, particularly as they pertain to Campus Life and the out-of-class experience:
1.    83 percent of our students said their Widener experience so far has met or exceeded their expectations, as compared to 76 percent for students at similar institutions.

2.    Among 90 items measured, the area that improved most dramatically from 2018 was in Student Health Services (“The staff in the health services area are competent”), which is notable given the pandemic circumstances!

3.    These additional items pertaining to students’ out-of-class experiences either demonstrated significant improvement from our 2018 results, achieved higher scores when compared to other private institutions, or both:

a)    The staff in health services area are competent (both)
b)    New student orientation services help students adjust to college (both)
c)    Residence hall regulations are reasonable (both)
d)    The student center is a comfortable place for students to spend their leisure time (both)
e)    I seldom get the run-around when seeking information on this campus (both)
f)    The intercollegiate athletic programs contribute to a strong sense of school spirit (both)
g)    There are a sufficient number of weekend activities for students (both)
h)    There is a strong commitment to racial harmony on this campus (*results are lower for students from under-represented groups) (both)
i)    Students are made to feel welcome on this campus (vs. other institutions)
j)    Most students feel a sense of belonging here (vs. other institutions) 
k)    I can easily get involved in campus organizations (vs. other institutions) 
l)    A variety of intramural programs are offered (vs. other institutions) 
m)    The student handbook provides helpful information about campus life (vs. 2018)
n)    Counseling staff care about students as individuals (vs. 2018)
o)    There is an adequate selection of food available in the cafeteria (vs. 2018)
p)    Males and females have equal opportunities to participate in intercollegiate athletics (vs. 2018)
As you can see, Widener student satisfaction is moving in a terrific direction. We look forward to students arriving for classes this month as we continue to build on our excellent results.  As always, we are committed to exceeding student expectations.

With pride,

John P. Downey, Ph.D.
Dean of Students

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Head shot of Delaware Law Dean Rod Smolla with plain dark background
Provost's Message

Delaware Law School dean to step down

Dear Widener Community,

After seven years of dedicated service to Widener University Delaware Law School, Rod Smolla will step down from his role as dean effective June 30, 2022 to become president of Vermont Law School. 

Rod assumed the role of dean in 2015 when the school debuted in its current form as Delaware Law School, after a change in accreditation that resulted in Widener having two separate law schools. He led the effort to develop the school’s identity and raise its profile.

During his time as dean, through the superb efforts of the Delaware Law Admissions Office, the school experienced a significant rebound in admissions that has been among the strongest in the country. The school’s financial position has dramatically improved to reach a position of long-term stability. 

In its ABA re-accreditation process, the school successfully presented its long-standing tradition of pride as a school of opportunity that offers upward mobility to many first-generation law students, and first-generation college students. The school’s Graduate International Compliance and Legal Studies office launched many new programs – international and domestic – often in partnership with other institutions.

Under Rod’s leadership, the school has engaged in the most comprehensive curricular reform in decades, which placed emphasis on increasing experiential learning opportunities and improving bar passage rates. The school adopted an institution-wide approach to improving diversity, equity and inclusion, including adopting an ambitious strategic plan and hiring an assistant dean for DEI. 

In addition to serving as dean, Rod taught constitutional law courses, bar passage courses, and judicial internship seminars. He took and passed the Delaware bar exam after arriving at the school and was active in service with the state’s bench and bar, frequently presenting at continuing legal education programs. He served on multiple committees, including the high-profile Steering Committee of the Strategic Plan for Improving Diversity in the Delaware Bench and Bar initiated by the Supreme Court of Delaware.

Please join me in thanking Rod for his years of distinguished service to Delaware Law School. We wish him well in Vermont.


Andrew A. Workman, PhD

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Dr. Julie E Wollman
President's Message

In-Person Classes Resume Jan. 24, 2022 as Planned

Dear Widener Community,

As we look forward to returning to Widener’s campuses for the start of in-person classes next week, I want to thank you for your cooperation with our efforts to bring everyone together safely.

Compliance with our updated vaccination policy, including Widener’s booster requirement, is making it possible to resume in-person classes Monday, January 24 as planned. We will be welcoming back to campus:

  • All students and employees who are in compliance with our vaccination policy, including boosters, and have uploaded their updated vaccination card.
  • Fully vaccinated students and employees who are not yet eligible for a booster, but will be receiving the booster and uploading their updated vaccination card within one week of their eligibility.
  • Students and employees who have been granted an approved exemption from the policy.

For your convenience, Campus Safety will move all Main Campus identification card operations to the lobby of University Center from Monday, January 24 through Wednesday, January 26 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. They will help anyone who needs assistance uploading vaccination cards, addressing building access issues with their Widener identification card, or obtaining new identification cards. These operations will return to Lipka Hall under normal operating hours on Thursday, January 27.

Masks continue to be required indoors and we strongly recommend wearing an N95, KN95 or KF94 mask. We are purchasing a supply of these masks that will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis on all three campuses, for those who may have been unable to obtain them. Watch for a message about their availability. You may also choose to double mask, using both a cloth mask and a surgical mask for extra protection.

It is extremely encouraging to see decreasing infection statistics in Pennsylvania and Delaware this week, and while it is possible Widener may see an uptick in case numbers as we resume in-person classes, that should be temporary. It is important to remain vigilant by wearing your mask properly, washing your hands frequently, and staying home when you are ill.

If you haven’t already uploaded your updated vaccination card, please do so by today’s deadline at Sign in with your Widener credentials and follow the prompts.

Thank you for your patience with our remote start this spring. Now it’s time to come together for a productive semester!

I look forward to seeing you on campus,

Julie E. Wollman, PhD

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President's Message

Widener's Vaccine & Booster Requirement

Dear Widener Community,

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked OSHA’s COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate that called for large employers to either require the COVID-19 vaccine, or test workers for the virus. Under the decision, workplaces like Widener may still choose to require their employees be vaccinated or test regularly. This action does not change Widener’s policy requiring vaccinations and boosters for our employees and students.

We adopted our vaccination and subsequent booster policy to help protect the health and well-being of our community. Vaccines and boosters have proven to reduce severity of illness and hospitalizations. And based on the CDC’s updated guidelines, anyone fully vaccinated and boosted is no longer required to quarantine after an exposure to someone with COVID if they continue to wear a mask for 10 days.

With every member of the university community compliant with our vaccination policy, we can minimize time lost and more effectively keep everyone learning, working, and engaging with one another in person on our vibrant campuses. If you have not received your booster and uploaded your updated card, please do so as soon as possible. The deadline is Friday, January 21st.

Although it has peaked in our region, as the omicron variant continues to spread, we anticipate that cases may increase with our return to in-person classes on January 24. We expect this increase to be temporary and not to disrupt our plan for in-person classes.

Masks are another important layer of protection and will continue to be required indoors on our campuses. We strongly recommend wearing an N95, KN95, or KF94 mask, or double masking with a cloth mask and a surgical mask. These options provide the best defense for you, and for everyone in our university community.

As always, you must stay home when you are sick or have any symptoms.

Health care is a personal responsibility and amid a public health crisis like COVID-19, it also becomes a community responsibility. We appreciate all you do to keep our community healthy and to allow us to return to the in-person experience we value so highly.

With pride,
Julie E. Wollman, PhD

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American flag half mast in front of Old Main
President's Message

Reflections on the 20th anniversary of 9/11

Dear Members of the Widener Community,
Today we mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. A reverberating shock etched in our memories; a day that changed our communities and our country; a harrowing tragedy that caused terrible, painful loss for so many families. For those families who lost loved ones and friends, and for any of you who may have been directly impacted by the aftermath of the horrific attacks, we continue to grieve. The shock and pain remain raw two decades later. As always, campus counseling services are available to support students, faculty, and staff.
At Widener, we stand together as a community, ever resilient and eager to serve, honoring the heroism and courage of our first responders, our veterans, and those of us who simply reach out with care and an open heart seeking to help fellow community members, to understand the stranger, to find common ground, to heal pain, and to seek peace. 
Widener is a university dedicated to creating better futures. We are reminded on 9/11 of our individual responsibility and power to make a positive difference in our communities and our world. It is my sincere hope that we collectively embrace this responsibility and respectfully care for one another today and every day.
With deep sadness for the lives lost and the ongoing wounds of 9/11, and also gratitude for the opportunity to shape a brighter, safer future,
Julie E. Wollman, PhD

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Dr. Julie E Wollman
President's Message

Update on Widener's Fall Semester and Pandemic Response

Dear Widener Community,

We’ve crossed the two-week mark of the fall semester and I want to thank everyone for contributing to a very positive start. It is great to be back together! Widener is a highly vaccinated community.  More than 97% of our entire campus community is vaccinated, and others either have approved exemptions or are on leave. Our entire on-campus student vaccination rate is 98.2 percent and our entire on-campus employee vaccination rate is 94.4 percent.  With the addition of our masking policy, we are one of the few institutions that are providing this strong combination of safety measures to protect students, faculty, and staff against COVID-19 and its variants.

While national infection rates are at concerning levels, it is important to remember public health information has shown the majority of those testing positive and experiencing serious illness are unvaccinated. 

Throughout the pandemic, Widener has experienced zero cases of classroom transmission of the virus.  In the first two weeks of this semester, we have posted just six positive cases in total from our three campuses; none involved classroom transmission. We attribute this low number to our careful planning and our commitment to the health and well-being of our community.

We recognize positive and breakthrough cases are an unsettling reality, and we are prepared to handle them. Anyone who tests positive must contact Student Health Services immediately. Student Health Services will conduct contact tracing and reach out to close contacts of those who test positive, while keeping health status confidential for all involved. Close contacts will also be offered testing and provided more instruction. The university is prepared with space dedicated for student isolation and quarantine if needed.  

Widener develops its COVID-19-related plans by carefully monitoring information coming from the Centers for Disease Control and health departments in Pennsylvania and Delaware, where our campuses are located.  We rely on input from our Health Advisory Group, comprised by public health experts and our Crisis Management Team, Provost’s Council, President’s Leadership Team, Education and Enforcement Group, and multiple task forces that have included faculty and staff, an industrial hygienist, and students. Our efforts are tireless, and ongoing.

As this work continues, we encourage on-campus events and activities to be held outdoors whenever possible. And we’re asking that everyone in the Widener community also does their part. Stay home if you are sick. Wash your hands. Follow our masking policy, which is explained in detail on our Coronavirus Information webpage and will be updated there if changes are made. Seek testing if you feel ill, or if you are identified as a close contact of someone who is. 

Our goal is to provide the most robust in-person learning experience possible under challenging circumstances that are constantly evolving. I am grateful for your cooperation and your commitment to keeping our Widener community safe.

With Pride,
Julie E. Wollman, PhD

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