Official WLP chair, vice president hired

by Jackie Tempera / Beacon Staff • April 12, 2012

The college announced they filled two administrative vacancies April 5, naming a chair to the Writing, Literature, and Publishing department and selecting a new deputy for President M. Lee Pelton. 

Jerald Walker has been hired as the writing, literature, and publishing department chair, and Donna Heiland will be the college’s new vice president and special assistant to the president. They will take office this summer.

Walker has served as the interim chair of the writing, literature, and publishing department since August. The last department chair, Dan Tobin, left in 2010 to serve as the interim dean of the school of the arts. 

A string of other interim chairs have held the position since then, said Andrew Tiedemann, the vice president of communications and marketing. Tiedemann said the college is pleased to have Walker take on the position permanently. 

Prior to becoming interim chair of the department, Walker worked for two years as an associate professor. 

Walker said he hopes to boost the department through vigorous fund raising efforts that will allow for more money for graduate students.

Walker was disturbed when the literary magazine Poets and Writers ranked the top 50 Master of Fine Arts writing programs nationally and Emerson placed 63, as an honorable mention. 

“That is a tragedy,” he said. “We have outstanding faculty, and I want to do what we can do strengthen the curriculum.” 

Walker said he hopes to revamp the undergraduate program by adding and refining course, adding he will engage in a review next year. During this time, scholars will come to observe the department and make suggestions.

“We set the standard,” he said. “We are always looking to improve, but we do what we do very very well.”

Alyssa Guarino, the Student Government Association’s writing, literature, and publishing senator, said she looks forward to continuing to work with Walker.  

“I’m totally behind everything he is working on,” said Guarino. “I can’t speak highly enough about him. He is great.” 

Heiland, preceded by David Rosen who retired in January, said she looks forward to working with Pelton. 

“I think Emerson is a really interesting college, and the mission is one that speaks to me really strongly,” she said. “I’m really energized to work with a dynamic leader like Lee.” 

Heiland said her main goal, at this point, is to speak with faculty and students and learn about the college. 

“Everyone I’ve met is really engaging and inspirational,” she said. 

Both Walker and Heiland hope to bring past work experience to Emerson. 

Walker was previously employed as an English teacher at Bridgewater State University. While at the school, he said he improved the literature program, developed an award-winning literary magazine, and created a festival of the arts program. 

Heiland serves as the vice president of the Teagle Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the conditions of higher education, according to the organization’s website. 

“I want to bring all the experience I have at this point in my career,” she said. “It seems to me that to be successful in this job you have to listen to the people already there.”

Heiland will begin work at Emerson July 23. Walker will take his position officially Aug 15.