McDaniel College in Westminster this week celebrated the inauguration of President Julia Jasken with a range of on-campus activities including performances, academic symposiums and a community film night and fireworks display. On Saturday, the official installation ceremony is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and concludes with Jasken ringing the Old Main Bell and a reception at Memorial Plaza.
Jasken, 49, took over as McDaniel’s president on June 1, 2021, replacing Roger N. Casey, who retired after spending more than a decade at the helm of the college.
She is McDaniel’s 10th President and the second woman to lead the college in its 153-year history. A Minnesota native, Jasken earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Saint Benedict, a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University and a doctorate from Michigan Technological University.
Jasken is no stranger to McDaniel. She began working as an English professor at the college in 2003 and served as the college’s executive vice president and provost for five years. As Provost, she led McDaniel’s Return to the Hill Task Force, which prepared the college for students returning to campus in the wake of the spring 2020 pandemic.
As a champion of the liberal arts and McDaniel’s student-centric mission, Jasken emphasizes experiential learning, alumni connections, diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, according to a school press release.
Approximately 18,000 undergraduates and more than 13,000 graduate students attend McDaniel, with more than 40% identifying as racial or ethnic minorities and 40% as first-generation college students. In McDaniel’s 2025 class, more than 45% of students identify as Black and represent 11 countries of origin.
You’ve served as President of McDaniel’s for about 10 months, how was that experience for you?
I am grateful to be part of this institution. These last few months as President have really been community focused. We welcomed back our employees over the summer who have been working virtually during the pandemic and introduced several new members of the senior leadership team to the college.
I also met with members of the Westminster community to discuss how we can both strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones. Our community helped launch a new strategic planning process that will shape the future of the institution over the next five years. Now that the threat of COVID is starting to recede, it was great to set off to meet with our dedicated alumni who live across the United States.
How did your nearly two decades at McDaniel prepare you to lead the college?
McDaniel is a special place and I’ve been fortunate to be part of that community. After getting my Ph.D. In 2003, I drove to Westminster from the Midwest with my husband, our newborn son, and our border collie, Molly, and came to teach as an English professor at McDaniel. During my time here at McDaniel I have really benefited from having the opportunity to work from many different sides of the college and I have learned so much from each of these experiences. Although I did not anticipate moving into administration when I joined McDaniel, I believe my extensive experience as a faculty member and administrator prepared me well for this position.
They led the McDaniel’s Return to the Hill Task Force to prepare for the return of students to campus following the pandemic shutdown. How did that go and what was it like taking the lead amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Leading the College’s Return to the Hill effort while I was Provost allowed me to begin my new role as President with the backdrop of all that the College was able to accomplish in that time frame, including record enrollment in our largest undergraduate program of all times. During this time, I have always been impressed by the creativity, perseverance and commitment of our faculty, staff and students. During the pandemic, the safety and well-being of our campus community has been at the forefront of every decision made, and we’ve also worked hard to maintain the close-knit community that McDaniel is known for. I’m particularly proud of how our entire campus community has come together.
Your predecessor has said that as president it takes a decade to fully achieve and realize goals in a collegiate setting. What is your 10 year plan for McDaniel?
This is truly an exciting time at McDaniel. This fall, we launched our strategic planning process and are working to gather input from our entire campus community. The strategic plan will truly shape the direction, priorities and investments for the college’s future. Student achievement and professional success are our two biggest priorities in the coming years.
I also look forward to having the opportunity to build and expand many of the initiatives I helped build during my time at McDaniel, and to further develop and nurture community partnerships and lead the fundraising efforts needed to support the development of new programs are. especially at university level.
What efforts can be made to improve the relationship between the City of Westminster and McDaniel?
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Establishing the college’s signature program, the McDaniel Commitment, I have seen our partnerships with the city and county continue to grow over the past several years. During my time at McDaniel, I have shared my passion for community involvement, and I believe that allowing our students to receive meaningful learning opportunities outside of the classroom as part of their McDaniel experience is truly a game changer. I look forward to continuing these community partnerships.
Are there specific programs in the curriculum that you feel McDaniel needs to address, or programs you would like to bring back to college?
We have now fully integrated the four components of the McDaniel Commitment as a guarantee to all students during their time at college. These elements – ‘My Place’, ‘My Design’, ‘My Experience’ and ‘My Career’ – are embedded in the college’s overall curriculum and a team of mentors help students deliver a fully tailored program of courses and opportunities develop to prepare them for personal and professional success.
Alumni mentoring is an important part of McDaniel engagement and we continue to look for ways to connect our alumni to these efforts. Our Center for Experience and Opportunity is also constantly seeking to partner with local businesses and organizations interested in hiring McDaniel students for internships, jobs or volunteering as part of the McDaniel Engagement. We also look forward to building new programs at the graduate level.
Under your leadership, McDaniel held his first ever Black History Month call last month. Why do you think it is important to address equity, diversity and inclusion issues as President and what are some other ways you can achieve this in the future ie. programs, initiatives?
A key priority for the college, which I continue to oversee in my role as President, is our cross-disciplinary efforts related to diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. I remain committed to doing everything in my power to ensure McDaniel is a welcoming, equitable and inclusive environment for students and staff alike.
In the fall, we appointed Richard M. Smith, associate professor of sociology and graduate of the college in 2000, as our first associate provost for justice and belonging, and we remain committed to diversifying our workforce and improving DEI training. We look forward to connecting students with various community leaders owned by BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, People of Color] Businesses and members of the social justice community. We also look forward to developing further DEI-related partnerships with the city.