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Dr. Robertson has been president of the institution for six months. Courtesy
Dr. Robertson has been president of the institution for six months. Photo: Courtesy

From Historian to President of Widener University

Dr. Stacey M. Robertson shared with AL DÍA her objectives to promote the inclusion of Latinos in the institution.

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There is no doubt that Dr. Stacey M. Robertson’s professional career as historian, researcher, professor, and provost confirms her expertise and passion for higher education.

To give you a chronological order of Robertson’s journey through academia, it is important to start with her first experience as an adjunct professor of history at Bradley University in Peoria County, Illinois, where she practiced for 20 years. There, she also directed the Women’s Studies program and was head of the History Department. During her last years at that institution, Robertson served as interim dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"I consider myself a happy historian”, confessed Dr. Robertson in an interview with AL DÍA.

Before becoming president of Widener University, she spent five years as provost of the State University of New York College (SUNY) in Geneseo, New York. Then, on July 1st of last year, she was officially confirmed as the 11th president of Widener, a private university whose enrollment exceeds 5,000 students.

Widener has three campuses, two of them located in Pennsylvania (Harrisburg and Chester) and the other in Wilmington, Delaware.

In Harrisburg, Widener has the School of Law, which reflects the largest number of Latino students enrolled in the institution, with a total of 12.4 %. On the Chester campus, the figure is 6.4 %, while on Wilmington it is 7.7 %.

Her arrival at Widener

Robertson left the rural area of Geneseo, in the Finger Lakes region, to move to Pennsylvania, a state that she already knew perfectly due to its historical background, especially in the city of Philadelphia. As a historian, Robertson has a special appreciation for Philly and traveled to the city on multiple occasions to work on her research, focused on the history of the United States for the 19th century and the history of women and the abolitionist movement.

During her first four months as President of Widener, Robertson dedicated herself to meeting and talking with the student community to refine the institution’s objectives and align them with the needs of the students.

From the moment I stepped on campus, I felt like I had come home

Recruiting Latino students and hiring a diverse team of university leaders where the student body is represented stands out among the list of priorities for the recently elected President of Widener.

Currently, the institution has a wide variety of key initiatives to support Latino and first-generation students to be successful in their university life. One of these initiatives is the Pride Mentoring Program, with which students have the opportunity to have a mentor accompany them during their first year of university and answer all the questions that arise on the way to higher education.

In addition, the institution has the 1821 Program, focused on first-generation students who wish to enroll early. The program includes five days of workshops and activities for new and transfer students on preparing for college life. Participating students will be able to apply for housing at the 1821 Living and Learning Community, where they can live in a space together with other classmates with similar cultural backgrounds.

Widener University also has the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, serving Latinos, where bilingual mentoring is offered to students and their parents.

According to the President of the institution, one of the main problems faced by students is the lack of affordability to continue their university studies. To respond to this need, Widener works with the Expected Family Contribution of each student to measure the economic capacity of their relatives. In this way, the institution seeks to calculate the subsidies that can be granted to future students so that they can enroll and complete their university degree. 

Under Robertson’s leadership, Widener is increasing its investment in financial aid for students whose family circumstances require additional support.  Next year alone Widener plans to invest more than an additional $1 million in student aid.

“The worst thing that can happen to a student is that they get into debt and then must leave the university without completing their degree. So, what we want at Widener is for them to finish their studies with little debt and a high level of success”, concluded Robertson. 

Her academic credentials

Native of Scottsdale, Arizona, Dr. Robertson has a BA in Social History and Social Movement from Whittier College, California. She also earned a PhD in History.

 

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