Wren-Coleman assumes VP for Student Life role, seeks holistic development of students
She began work in the new role on Jan. 9.
This past fall, it was announced that Bethel College leadership was undergoing a search for a new Vice President for Student Life. By winter, President Gering shared with the community who the school had landed on: Dr. MeShonya Wren-Coleman — or Dr. MeMe, among students.
Before arriving in North Newton, Wren-Coleman began job searching in 2020 during the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included interest in a position in higher administration for a four-year institution. She was looking for a small, private college that would accommodate her preferences and her love for helping students achieve their dreams.
Bethel checked every box.
“I had a colleague of mine, a young man that I call my son, who was actually job searching for me … they were applying for positions in which they knew I would be interested in,” she said. In fact, Wren-Coleman had never heard of Bethel College before nor had ever been to Kansas, but Bethel had what she was looking for in an institution.
Her credentials were sent and she applied. Shortly after, she received an email from President Goering. The rest is history. And on Jan. 9, she assumed her new role.
As she begins her first semester at Bethel, Wren-Coleman’s goals are clear. “My initial goals right now are to make sure everybody gets to know me as a person [and] a leader, build relationships with my students, be visible, and make sure that what I do in my first 90 days is effective,” she said. The former Jackson State University director also mentions the projects she’s already begun for the semester, mostly ones in coordination with the Student Government Association.
Others projects mentioned are tied to student body wellness. “The student body I've listened to has some concerns,” she said. “I want to make sure these issues are addressed and brought to the administration's attention.”
As she spoke, Wren-Coleman’s goals remained relatively broad: “I’m not gonna let all of my secrets out of the bag — some of it needs to be a surprise for the students.”
Long term goals for Wren-Coleman include ensuring that Bethel students develop holistically. “I’ve been telling everybody that it’s one thing to get the education behind the four walls, but I have to prepare them for beyond the four walls,” she outlined. This includes building social skills, helping students become financially aware, and preparing them to compete in the workforce. “I want people to know if you have a Bethel student, you have somebody that’s gonna come in and get the job done,” Wren-Coleman added.
She also credits her prior experiences in assisting her to reach her goals for higher education. “I owe it all to my mentors who’ve taught me so much,” she said. “They took me through some phases in my life where I was able to learn roles as it relates to higher education administration.”
Wren-Coleman even reaches back to her days working at McDonald’s — where she learned the importance of customer service. “Our students are our customers, and they’re important,” she explained. “So the service I provide is what makes them keep coming back. … I bring that same training wherever I go.”
“I want students to be comfortable with talking to me and knowing that I’m not just a body here, but I’m a person here that’s deeply concerned about meeting your needs,” Wren-Coleman said. She says this also applies to her team members and colleagues. “I want them to understand that they don’t just have a person that’s leading them, but someone who’s also teaching them how to lead.”