Spotlight on Staff: Assistant Dean and SCORE Director Dr. Marissiko Wheaton

By Katie Clelland ’21

Scripps recently welcomed Dr. Marissiko Wheaton as the new assistant dean and director of Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE). Despite the current virtual environment, Dean Wheaton has been busy in her new role, utilizing her significant expertise and passion for her work to create spaces for students to engage in dialogue and still be able to participate in the many opportunities SCORE has to offer. The Office of Marketing and Communications recently spoke to Wheaton to learn more about her professional background and her aspirations for SCORE.

Marketing and Communications: Can you tell us about the professional path that led you to working in Student Affairs?

Marissiko Wheaton: I received my master’s in higher education and student personnel administration from New York University. My career has consistently focused on social justice and racial justice issues, emphasizing college students and those in their families who are the first to attend college. I recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California, where I received my PhD in urban education policy. My dissertation explored Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) critical race resistance. As a researcher at USC, I worked on several projects that explored racial equity in higher education, particularly as it relates to racially minoritized students and faculty. I also worked at Mills College [another women’s college] in the Bay Area as a social justice programs coordinator.

MC: What drew you to The Claremont Colleges community?

MW: I was very intrigued by the tight-knit community. The fact that Scripps College is a small liberal arts college allows for close relationships. I am looking forward to having direct relationships with students and engaging in dialogue about matters pertaining to racial justice, mental health, civic engagement, and more. Also, the fact that Scripps a women’s college is great, as I love working in a community and space where individuals share a common experience of what it means to be marginalized. This allows for discussions that can be more profound.

MC: What are your plans as SCORE director in this virtual environment?

MW: So far, we have lots of exciting plans. Beyond programs on professional development, identity development, and social justice, I have new projects in the works. I have been working on launching a podcast series with our student interns. We hope this podcast will allow individuals to feel as if they are in dialogue with the myriad pressing themes and issues prevalent in today’s world—racial justice, mental health, self care, and more. This podcast will also serve as an archive for 2020. The world is already very different from what it was just a year ago, so it will be interesting to capture these moments. I have also been launching a mix of synchronous and asynchronous programs with students to discuss issues and host guest speakers, and have held lots of meet-and-greets with all the CLORGs. I look forward to getting to know the students and hearing their voices. Overall, the goal is to encourage and maintain ongoing dialogue in the community.

MC: How have you been adjusting your plans for the virtual community?

MW: SCORE is a sacred space for many students where they can feel at home and have unfiltered conversations. Although we currently can’t be in the same space breathing the same air and feeding off one another’s energy, I hope to alleviate this challenge through weekly tea times, general office hours, social hours, study hours, and more created spaces for dialogue and interaction so folks can continue be supported and feel connected to SCORE.

MC: How do you plan to foster a safe and interactive community in a virtual environment? 

MW: I plan to be available, accessible, and present. I have opened up my virtual door, and I look forward to hearing from students about their desires and needs. Building trust is an imperative aspect of the community. It is something we take for granted, as it is easier to build trust when individuals meet face-to-face. I hope to build trust by continually showing up each week and creating a virtual space for students to hop in and out whenever they please. In addition, our asynchronous programs such as the podcast and our Critical Conversations series will allow for students to feel like they are part of the conversations happening at SCORE. I don’t want this virtual space to feel foreign. I want it to feel like students are with me in person.

MC: What are you most excited about for this new position?

MW: I am excited to be creative in this role. I am eager to utilize my previous knowledge, resources, and experience while also bringing something new to the table. For example, I have lots of friends and former colleagues who would be exceptional guest speakers for students. It will be great to leverage my network and work from there. Despite the virtual environment, I love that this time is unprecedented and allows for new opportunities and events.