Innovation at Whittier College has flourished under President Linda Oubré.
A proven business and startup leader of more than 20 new ventures, Oubré has lived the life of an innovator. Successful leaders must model their passion for innovation by personally investing in the future. In this spirit, President Oubré and her husband, Nate Oubré, have donated $50,000 to the College’s New Venture Fund. This new gift will support the newly launched Whittierinnovates, a forward-thinking initiative that represents a brand, an ethos, and a new way of thinking and doing. Under the Whittierinnovates brand, Whittier College is creating unique programs that deliver a quality learning experience to diverse markets while expanding accessibility and making education more affordable.
This commitment brings Oubré's total giving to Whittier College to over $110,000 since she joined the College as President in July 2018.
"We are fortunate to have President Oubré and her husband Nate invest in the future of Whittier College and lead by example. They have shown their commitment to ensuring that all students succeed during their time at Whittier and beyond,” said Board of Trustees Chair Miguel Santana '91.
The Oubrés’ previous investments in the College have supported the Presidential Innovation Fund, student scholarships, and other vital student programs. The Oubrés are also members of the Philadelphian Society, having made a generous estate commitment to the College in 2019.
Although the Oubrés have no exclusive control over how the funds will be allocated, they expressed their strong desire that the College use the money to support innovation that supports their shared values of equity, inclusion, and student success.
“Both Nate and I were first-generation college students; we understand the opportunities that can open up to young people, and their families, when they have access to the type of higher education experience that Whittier College provides,” said Oubré. "Access to a quality affordable education can be transformational for individual students, their families, and entire communities. When it comes to issues of equity and inclusion, it is personal for us.”
The Oubrés previously established an endowed student leadership scholarship fund for first-generation students, and a named endowed scholarship in honor of her grandfather, Ernest Dillard, Sr., a civil rights and union rights leader at her prior institution, San Francisco State University.
Moreover, Oubré wants her philanthropy to inspire a spirit of innovative and creative thinking at Whittier College.
“As a former start-up founder and business executive, I know that organizations must be constantly innovating to stay relevant. Higher education is not the exception,” said Oubré.
Thus, the Whittier Innovates Challenge was born in 2019. Funded by the Presidential Innovation Fund, the campus-wide competition was aimed at developing and supporting innovation throughout the institution. Initial funding came from the Oubré family, with additional gifts coming from individual donors and foundations close to the College. Open to Whittier students, faculty, and staff, the competition challenged applicants to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and collaborate across campus to “innovate ourselves.” The challenge has generated about 20 diverse and creative proposals over the past three years.
“The submissions have been thoughtful and compelling, and the committee is consistently reminded of how passionate the members of our Poet community are about the work they do here and our shared commitment to student success,” said Associate Vice President and Innovates Challenge committee chair Jessica Cobb ’05.
Funded projects have ranged from digitizing campus forms to adopting state-of-the-art classroom technology.
Oubré is not surprised to see the success of the challenge and the campus’ eagerness to innovate.
“The last two years have shown us that we are stronger than we think we are–both as individuals and as a community," said Oubré. "We did not let the pandemic stop our growth; in fact, our community has thrived over the last two years, as demonstrated by the results of the Whittier Innovates Challenge. Our commitment to innovation, access, and student success has also continued to attract attention and financial support for scholarship funds and other student support programs for continuing students. I am proud to be president of such a remarkable institution.”