Meet Fred McCall -- Widener's inaugural vice president of student engagement and transformation

Mary Allen, executive director of communications
Fred McCall standing and speaking with two students in the University Center atrium
Fred McCall, vice president for student engagement and transformation, speaks with students Arielys Cuevas and Lanise Brown.

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

McCall leads 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.

Welcome to Widener! Your career has been centered around student engagement, advocacy and support. What is it about working with students that you find so fulfilling? 
College students are filled with curiosity, drive, and have so many different stories. This has been a fulfilling population to mentor and support given their critical time of learning and development. I am passionate about learning their stories and helping them achieve their personal and educational goals. I was so fortunate to have great people in my life during my collegiate years and realize how important staff, faculty, and peers are in successful collegiate experience. I have also worked very closely with student leaders at several campuses and enjoy supporting their leadership development journeys. These are valuable experiences that build important skills, which will translate to future educational and professional endeavors. I look forward to building strong connections with Widener students to learn from their stories and contribute to their Pride experience.  

You’ve moved halfway across the country to join the Pride. What drew you to Widener?
I was drawn to Widener because of the welcoming environment and warmth I felt getting to know the community. Students, faculty, and staff are passionate about Widener, and I loved the energy and commitment. I was also drawn to the reimagined role in Student Engagement and Transformation and working with talented professionals in the area. I’m looking forward to collaborating with this team to continue doing great work to serve students and the Widener community. Finally, I was drawn by the high level of engagement among campus leaders at Widener who are truly focused on the success of students and the entire community. It was clear to me this was a place I could grow and contribute.  

You did important work toward advancing racial equity at your previous institution. Tell us more about those efforts, and if you plan to bring similar approaches to your work at Widener.
I am very passionate about inclusive excellence and belonging in higher education. I was involved in many efforts at my last institution, including a Chancellor’s Committee on Advancing Racial Equity that I co-chaired in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, which focused on Black student success. In my role as dean of students, my office also managed the campus’ Bias Reporting Tool, responding to different bias events or microaggressions experienced by the campus community. I worked very closely with our vice chancellor for diversity and cultural centers on various campus climate concerns – most recently focusing on supporting Jewish and Palestinian students on campus.  

At Widener, I look forward to partnering closely with the chief diversity officer and campus community to better understand the campus climate. Belonging is a core value at Widener, which is an important principle to consider when it comes to diverse and inclusive environments. As I learn more about the campus community, Multicultural Student Affairs and other partners will continue to employ strategies that support belonging for our specific campus culture and community. It is important to include student, staff, and faculty in conversations about how we advance racial equity and include all members of the campus community in a rich learning environment.  

How important is it for students to have mentors? Was your career impacted by a mentor? In what ways?
I believe it is critical for students to have mentors in college and in their professional journeys. This issue is so important and personal for me that I wrote my dissertation on the topic of mentorship on college campuses. This is such an important tool for student engagement and success.  My career has been impacted by a variety of mentors, sponsors, and coaches who poured into me and provided guidance along my educational and professional path. Most notably, a graduate school professor who mentored me during my graduate studies and the beginning my career in student affairs. Mentors, sponsors, and coaches have provided me with advice, support, and encouragement to navigate the next steps of my career. I’d encourage every student to strongly consider building a mentoring relationship.  

The Pride Café is a big gathering place at mealtime. If you could share lunch there with anyone – living, dead or even a fictional character – who would you invite and why?
This is a hard question as there are so many people that I’d love to have lunch with at the Pride Café. If I had to narrow it down, at the top of the list would be Barack Obama. He has been someone I’ve admired for a long time and would love to hear more about his experience and wisdom on a variety of topics.  

The Pride Activities Council and many other groups put a lot of effort into offering activities for Widener students to unwind from their studies and stresses. How do you like to spend your free time?
I’m very excited to attend some of the Pride Activities Council programs and events. In my free time I love to travel, listen to live music, and I try to stay active in the gym.  

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