President Wooten boasts successful first in-person semester

“I think it was reenergizing to be back on campus, to be with what I call my community, my village of faculty, staff, and students,” said President Wooten.


Simmons President Lynn Perry Wooten. Image courtesy of Simmons University.

Olivia Ray, Arts & Entertainment Editor

For Simmons University President Lynn Perry Wooten, last fall marked her first year away from a college campus since 1984. Despite this setback, President Wooten is finishing her first in-person semester at Simmons with low COVID-19 positivity rates and a strong leadership message.

According to Suzanne Murphy, Vice President and Chief People Officer, President Wooten was determined to have an in-person fall semester. 

“She was committed to bringing students back and she wanted to do it safely,” said Murphy. “President Wooten really wants a great experience for students and for faculty and staff.” 

President Wooten said she feels that this return to campus has been essential to solidifying her relationship with faculty and staff, as well as to community morale.

“I think it was reenergizing to be back on campus, to be with what I call my community, my village of faculty, staff, and students,” said President Wooten. 

The in-person semester also had its challenges, ranging from student concerns over the quality of dining hall food to keeping the community COVID-19 free

“My area of research is crisis leadership, so I’m constantly asking myself how can we prevent it from happening, how do we make sure we learn from it, and how, through the process, do we make sure our residents feel safe and that we’re providing a high-quality learning experience in the midst of this crisis,” said President Wooten.   

According to Student Government President and graduating senior Sara Mitchell, that leadership includes working closely with students.

“With the new president coming in, communication and transparency have been incredible with a lot of upper administrators,” said Mitchell. 

According to Murphy, Wooten has spent significant time building her leadership team, fostering a culture of collaboration, and maintaining a positive and supportive work environment throughout the semester. 

“The world is really tense right now and Lynn always says we should assume people have good intentions,” said Murphy. “It’s been terrific. She’s got such a calm and competent style that I love.”

Mitchell has also noticed President Wooten’s commitment to bettering the community.

“President Wooten’s mission, too, is very student-centered and focused and I think we’ve seen that in the rise in student engagement and seeing people really excited to be back on campus and get involved,” said Mitchell. 

President Wooten said she believes that the groundwork she and her team are laying for operating a college during COVID-19 will become standard among universities.

“We’re building the bridge as we walk on it. I would say the next six months to a year I think we’ll all get used to what I call the pandemic era the way that we’ve gotten used to flu shots. Because I think pandemics are going to be our new normal,” said President Wooten.

The reality of an ongoing pandemic presents those in positions of power with a unique leadership challenge. 

“One of my ethos that I’m talking about as a community at Simmons is everyday leadership,” said President Wooten. “And part of everyday leadership is taking care of your wellbeing. So, in the middle of a pandemic, what do wellbeing practices look like?”

Looking forward to next semester, President Wooten plans to continue searching for the answer to this question and said she will strive to provide students, faculty, and staff with the support and resources they need to thrive under her leadership.