Meet Student Body President Johanna Dory Wentworth


Journalist CJ Hoze interviews Student Body President Johanna Dory Wentworth Sept. 23 via WebEx.

CJ Hoze

Due to COVID-19 and the university’s new safety procedures, many of the president’s previous duties have shifted dramatically. However, Wentworth ensures that her primary duty to advocate for students on every level remains. Wentworth speaks more about COVID-19 and her plans for this year. 

Q: What do you think you can do as a leader to encourage students to be safe and social distance? Because I know that the university is trying to host online concerts and other online events, but I feel like those are not really sparking interest in our students. Do you have other plans to try and get students to engage?

A: So, there is actually a group of people who are working on events such as that and we are currently seeking student input so if you or other people have ideas and ways we can be engaging, we are looking for those. It’s clear that these events aren’t the most engaging and we want students to still have a good college experience. So how do you go about that and how do you stay safe and as a leader, I just try and set the example.”

Q: What other parts of your job are different this year because of the new policies?

A: A lot (laughs). When I was running for this position I had all these plans in place of what I wanted to do. And so that was climate related some of it was community on campus, getting students more engaged and helping them feel more at home, looking at retention numbers, a lot of mental health services, active shooter training and then COVID happened and then a lot of that stuff doesn’t even seem possible at this time or if it is it’s in a virtual setting, which I personally feel like has less of an impact when it’s a really important, heavy issue it’s harder to get people to engage. So, the whole focus of my term has shifted, basically.” 

Q: Well, what does a day in your shoes look like?

A: I think that’s the best part of my position that every day is different and I never know what’s going to be thrown at me but for the most part I’ll start off every morning I have an 8 a.m. check-in with administrators. Then, I’ll go through my email and some of them are student concerns, some of them are just people asking me for resources and  I’ll steer them in that direction. I’ll have other meetings throughout the day sitting on some of the committees I sit on or helping my executive organization with a project and answering questions and making concrete ideas. Usually in the afternoon I set up about four hours of free time because somewhere in the day something will change. I mean with COVID a lot of times the policy will change or we’ll have to change how we’re going to do an event. That’s like the fun part once you hit the afternoon, I don’t know what’s going to come. “

Q: Has there been more complaints this year related to shifting to learning in an online format?

A: “That one’s harder to answer because this is the first time I’m in that position as the role of president. So I’m not really sure how many they’re used to getting in comparison to previous years, but I served as an executive for WSG last year and my work load from then to now has increased. What’s different about the complaints are most of them are academic related or COVID-related, and what’s difficult about it is they are very polarized. I’ll have some students who message me and say “I don’t understand why we have to wear masks we should have fully in person classes,” and others will say “It should be completely remote, it’s wrong to have anything open at all.” And every student voice matters. But sometimes it can be very chaotic.

Q: What goals do you have for this year?

A: That’s a hard question because I feel like I had to shift what my goals were from when I first started the position, but now it’s making sure that every student is safe. I didn’t want a single student to catch COVID, but obviously if you look at the cases that’s not the case, so reducing that number to as low as it can possibly be. I want to make sure that students have the ability to not only have their classes, but have high quality instruction. So, whether that be hybrid or online, I want students to feel like if their professor or instructor is being unfair; that can be remedied. If a student has a reason that they can’t go to class, accommodations can be made or if they have wifi or technology issues. The hardest goal is that I want students to feel like they belong, I want them to feel like Whitewater is their home and that they’re valued here; particularly relating to the Black Lives Matter movement, I’m sure for those students its really hard and we’re not in person and for freshmen in their dorms. I just feel like this school year it will be super easy for students to feel like they don’t matter and that they’re just a number and that the university is just doing things for money. I want students to feel like they can still have an engaging semester and they’ll make memories. 

President Wentworth has demonstrated strength and determination to ensure that the student body will continue to have community on campus while maintaining the university’s safety policies and procedures. This year students can look forward to new and creative ways to engage with one another while continuing to work hard in their courses in varying formats.