The main event for the weekend is always the opportunity for parents to visit their daughters and to experience Wellesley through their eyes. This weekend is also always full of Wellesley traditions, and people enjoying them.
Every year at this time, our sophomore class plants their class tree—a tradition dating back to the College’s earliest days. This year, we joined the Class of 2018 at Green Beach to plant a lovely magnolia tree. I look forward to seeing the tree in bloom this spring, adding a burst of color to the shores of Lake Waban. The Class of 2018 wasn’t the only one planting trees this weekend. Wellesley welcomed back to campus about 30 members of the Class of 1983, who came together for a mini reunion and replanted their class tree, a sugar maple, which had been compromised over the years. These alumnae made the most of their tree re-planting by dressing up and singing songs out of the Wellesley songbook, as Wellesley women did back when the tradition of Tree Day was first established.
Not far from the Class of 2018’s new magnolia tree, a little farther down on the shoreline, we celebrated the newly renovated Butler Boathouse—renovations that were made possible through the generosity of Alice Lehmann Butler ’53 and her husband, John. Wellesley has a strong tradition of rowing on Lake Waban, a tradition that, like so much of Wellesley, spans generations of students. Rowing has been a part of our culture since the late 1800s (we were the first college in the U.S. to establish a women’s crew team), and, since 1963, our Boathouse has been home to class and dorm crew, another longstanding Wellesley tradition. It is no wonder that rowing in dorm or class crew is on the list of 50 things to do at Wellesley before you graduate!
It also was a great weekend for the Wellesley Blue, including games and alumnae-athlete events on Saturday, and a Blue Nation Fun Run on Sunday.
It was a pleasure to share the past few days with members of Wellesley’s extended family, and to join them in keeping our Wellesley traditions alive and well.
The start of the school year is the best time of year. That’s because with every new class, there are more Wellesley women for the world—more women who will become leaders, more women who will drive change, more women who will make a difference.
I’m not the only one who is excited about the newest members of our sisterhood. All of Wellesley is! I hope you’ll watch this video that our Orientation student leaders recently put together, to see why.
I have enjoyed seeing our first year students—and student leaders wearing their bright orange shirts—on campus this week for Orientation. It was a pleasure to formally greet members of new Class of 2019 earlier this week in Alumnae Hall, and I hope to have the opportunity to meet each of them personally this year—whether out and about, or in the dining halls at lunch, or during my open office hours.
It’s going to be a great year. Welcome, Class of 2019!
There was Senior Lunch, a wonderful rite of passage for our graduating class, in which the yellow Class of 2015 was welcomed into the Alumnae Association. Following the time-honored tradition of students selecting a faculty member to speak at the lunch, Stacie
Goddard, the Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science, drew on international relations theory to provide some wonderful life advice to seniors: all units are sovereign, and none are sovereign over them; you will need allies; and choose your battles carefully.
Just a few days later, we were celebrating our seniors once more at Commencement. It is always a meaningful day, assembled on the Academic Quad and surrounded by family (biological and Wellesley) and friends as we send our graduating class off into the world. Our speaker, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, told our seniors: “Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get-your-hands-dirty way.”
And then, this past weekend, campus was abuzz with alumnae and friends (2,700 of them!) who were here to celebrate Reunion. It was a weekend of reconnecting with old friends, laughter, and traditions such as Stepsinging and the All Class Dance Party.It was also a weekend to recognize alumnae who have dedicated themselves to Wellesley. Congratulations to Shirley Young ’55, who received this year’s Syrena Stackpole award! As one alumna said to me last weekend, “the Wellesley spirit was contagious.”
No matter if they graduated in 1940 or 2015, it was clear that the core of what it means to be a Wellesley woman endures.
I recently had the opportunity to spend time with some of higher education’s future leaders. They are smart, ambitious, and talented. They are committed to their disciplines and to the pursuit of knowledge. And they are Wellesley women (of course!).
More specifically, they are our 16 students who are part of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program. MMUF is a highly selective program that supports students from underrepresented populations who wish to go on to earn advanced degrees and teach at the college level. This national program has been in existence since 1988, and Wellesley has participated in it since 1989, having now graduated 109 fellows. The goal of the program is simple: to increase the number of underrepresented faculty at colleges across the country. With generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, these fellows are able to work on original research in the humanities and social sciences.
Last week, at this year’s Ruhlman Conference, I enjoyed attending a panel session in which four of our Mellon Mays fellows presented their work. Research included: the ways women of color use online social networks to thrive in the real world; the role of race and religion in college students’ perceptions of mental health; race relations in political protests in this country; and the role of gender and the Brown Berets during the civil rights movement. This past Tuesday, I had the privilege of recognizing our Mellon Mays fellows, as well as their Wellesley faculty and staff mentors, during a reception at my home.
What’s remarkable about the MMUF program is that our students are supported not only by Wellesley faculty and staff who care deeply about them, but by Wellesley faculty who are MMUF alumni themselves.
MMUF is making a quantifiable difference in increasing the diversity of college faculties around the country. It is and will remain an important program to Wellesley and to the future of higher education.
I love Wellesley traditions. This morning, members of the golden Class of 2015 joined generations of Wellesley women before them by rolling their hoops down Tupelo Lane for the chance to win some serious bragging rights. The winner is said to be the first in her class to be successful—however she defines success.
Sophia Garcia ’15 not only crossed the (yellow) finish line first, she was a great sport as her classmates threw her into Lake Waban on such a chilly spring morning.
Last week, I joined our Class of 2015 for their Senior Soiree. An always-festive occasion, the event is made even more special by an announcement that, until that evening, is a highly guarded secret—the naming of the Senior Class’s Commencement speaker.
Senior Class Officers Sahitya Raja and Ahilya Chawla had the honor of making the big reveal: this year’s Commencement speaker will be award-winning novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
The announcement was met with loud cheers—and for good reason. If you haven’t read Ms. Adichie’s work (and I suggest that you do) you may be familiar with her words from Beyoncé’s Grammy-nominated song Flawless (Beyoncé loved Ms. Adichie’s 2013 TEDx Talk, “We should all be feminists”). She is a talented writer, a distinguished humanitarian, and unabashed feminist whose thought-provoking work has inspired a generation—including scores of Wellesley students.
Simply put, Chimamanda is the perfect choice to send off our graduating seniors as they get ready to make their mark on the world. We can’t wait to welcome her to Wellesley!
As I tweeted earlier this week, Wellesley truly was not the same without our students over the winter break. As we welcomed you back to campus, we also welcomed the return of our true New England weather. And it made me smile to see that it took practically no time at all before fresh sledding tracks appeared along Severance Hill.
As we dig out and the semester gets underway, let me share just a few thoughts about the coming semester.
We all know that Wellesley is an amazing place. It is amazing because of the people who are part of this community and because of the opportunities that are available on and off campus. This semester, there once again will be many ways to experience quintessential Wellesley—and I hope you will take advantage of them!
Here’s just a sampling:
- I hope you will spend a few moments—or more!—inside our world-class museum, The Davis, this semester. Among the many fabulous exhibitions on view this semester will be the work of critically acclaimed artist Parviz Tanavoli, who is known as the “father of modern Iranian sculpture.”
- I invite you to join us in celebrating the important role that wellness plays on campus. This week we re-opened a beautifully renovated Field House, one of the many buildings to benefit from our campus renewal projects. New walls, a new roof, and new windows that bring in more natural light have given the Field House new life. It also now features a new Fitness Center overlooking a permanent basketball floor. (Read about the old portable floor’s second life with Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournaments.)
- There will also be opportunities to contribute to the sustainability of campus. The Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability is looking for ideas to make Wellesley even more sustainable than it is. (Due to the snow days earlier this week, they will be rescheduling their Idea Fest. Stay tuned!)
- And there’s one more weekend left to catch Wellesley Summer Theatre’s production of Virginia Woolf’s gender-flipping 1928 novel, Orlando.
Last, I want to personally invite you to be in touch and stay in touch with me this semester—whether in person during my Open Office Hours or over lunch when I’m in the dining halls; or over email or on Twitter. I want to know what’s on your mind!
I look forward to this coming semester—it’s going to be another great one!
On December 12, the Boston Globe columnist Lawrence Harmon wrote a “follow up” to Professor Jerry Auerbach’s recent work in American Thinker. Professor Auerbach does not reflect the views of Wellesley College, and as Dean of Students Debra DeMeis and Professor Larry Rosenwald explained to Mr. Harmon, Wellesley is dedicated to supporting a rich and active Jewish life on campus—as well as an inclusive and respectful community for all our students.
We encourage our students to engage in the meaningful discussions—including respectful exchange of differing views—that advance their learning. But in case Mr. Harmon’s opinion piece caused any confusion, let me be clear: Anti-Semitism is not now and will never be tolerated at Wellesley.
The events of the last two weeks from Ferguson to Staten Island have once again raised serious questions about whether the same justice exists for everyone in our country. My heart goes out to the families who are suffering. I know that these have been difficult days for members of our community as well, particularly our students, faculty, staff and alumnae of African descent, as they struggle to make sense of the decisions and to understand their implications for their friends, their family, and communities across the country.
Today our students have brought the national discussion to life on our campus. I support them in their protest.
In reflecting on the situation, I am grateful for our Wellesley tradition of reasoned discourse and commitment to justice. We must recognize that there is much work to be done across our country—and we must start in our own community.
We must confront any racial injustices that black students, faculty, and staff face on our campus, and we, as an institution, must demonstrate the value that all members of our community bring through our actions and response to these injustices.
These conversations are not easy. But let us not be deterred from the important work that lies ahead.
Wellesley is a remarkable institution. It always has been, and it always will be, thanks to the incredible dedication of the generations of people who care so deeply about it.
It is a pleasure to share my thoughts on what’s new at the College, what we’re focused on, and how Wellesley continues to be the exceptional place you know and love.