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.
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!
Today at lunch, I learned something that every student here likely already knows: You can eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you so choose. (And, that ice cream is delicious atop waffles.)
Thanks to the residents of Stone-Davis Hall for joining me for lunch today, and for the great conversation about a number of important topics—not just ice cream!
I hope to stop by for lunch at other dining halls this year, and look forward to seeing you there. I’ll tweet when and where the day before. Or, check out my Connect with Kim webpage to see where I’m headed next, and for other ways to connect with me in person.
In my Convocation address this week, I stressed the continued importance of being a women’s college today, and the advantages to our students stemming from Wellesley’s historic investment in women. This investment has paid off in generations of inspiring and dynamic Wellesley graduates making a difference in the world. As I said, this is the Wellesley “magic.”
Being at a women’s college matters. Being at Wellesley matters.
As I wrote to our students, faculty, and staff today—to continue to invest intelligently, and to serve all of our students well, it is important that we ask the question: What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century? It clearly does not mean the same as being a woman in the 19th or even the 20th century – needs have changed, context has changed, expectations have changed, societal practices have changed, even the language has changed.
The broad question has several implications and will serve as the basis this year for a number of important discussions—and as the foundation for meaningful change in several arenas. We as a community will approach these discussions in Wellesley’s usual thoughtful and inclusive way, and in a way that is reflective of our longstanding values, and our mission.
To begin these discussions, the President’s Office will sponsor a range of community events this year (such as lectures, presentations, and panels), to explore what it means to be a women’s college at a time when the definition of gender is becoming more fluid. In addition, recognizing the importance of that fluidity, I will appoint a special advisory group this fall to consider and make specific recommendations to me and to the Board of Trustees on how Wellesley should best move forward on this issue, as an institution and as a community.
Certainly, there are many other implications to the question of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century—such as the one raised by Provost Shennan in his Convocation remarks concerning how to best support today’s liberal arts students in their transition to successful careers, especially in our changing world.
Kudos to this year’s Hooprolling winner, Alex Poon ’14, who carried on the family tradition—32 years ago, Alex’s mother, Helen Poon ’82, was that year’s Hooprolling winner. In fact, Alex used a family hoop that has been used by every member of his family who has gone to Wellesley. All the names of the family members who have used the hoop are written on it, and star is placed next to their name if they win.
Congrats to Alex and to all the seniors who carried on this Wellesley tradition this morning.
The glorious fall weather was picture-perfect this past weekend, as I welcomed to campus Wellesley parents, grandparents, siblings, alumnae, and friends for Family and Friends Weekend and Homecoming.
One of the highlights of the weekend, as always, was celebrating one of Wellesley’s oldest traditions: sophomore tree planting. On Saturday, more than 150 students and their families gathered on the Academic Quad to dedicate the Quercus Rubra, or Red Oak, that the Class of 2016 had chosen as their tree.
At the Wellesley Debates this past weekend, Paulina Perlin ’16, Prerana Nanda ’14, Simone Thibodeau ’14, and Mariya Getsova ’15 debated the topic “The structure of the higher education system in the United States is not consistent with democratic values,” while Sophia Mo ’14 moderated. As always, the students did an excellent job of presenting arguments for or against the motion. The before- and after-balloting indicated that those debating against the motion swayed the audience with their arguments.
For me, the weekend is also a wonderful show of our school pride during our many athletic contests. I was happy to cheer on the Blue as they took on Cedar Crest in soccer, winning 9-0. Congratulations also to the residents of Pomeroy, who had the most Superfans at that game.
Family and Friends weekend was enhanced this year by Pam Melroy’s wonderful talk on Saturday night: From Wellesley to the International Space Station. A Wellesley alumna (class of 1983), and an astronaut who has logged over 900 hours in space, Pam Melroy was only the second woman to command a space shuttle. I am grateful to Pam, who also is a Wellesley Trustee, for returning to Wellesley to speak to students and their families about her experiences. She is always enlightening and engaging and, despite her profession, very much down to earth.
My thanks go to all of the students, families, faculty, staff, and alumnae who made the weekend such a success.
It was a pleasure to officially welcome to campus today our newest members of the Wellesley community, the Green Class of 2017, and their families.
As part of Orientation, I joined Provost Andy Shennan and Dean of Students Debra DeMeis in a panel discussion, moderated by College Government President Joy Das ’14, about the liberal arts, about what students can expect in and out of the classroom, and about the Wellesley community—both the community on campus and the community of Wellesley women around the world. Our hope is that today’s discussion, and all of the Orientation activities planned this week, will help students begin to feel connected, and rooted, to this campus. (This year’s Orientation theme is From Roots to Branches, inspired, in part, by the Class of 2017 class color.)
While we all had some thoughts and reflections for the first year students and their parents, perhaps the best advice came from Joy Das, who said to the students, “It doesn’t matter what your age is, who you look like, where you come from, or what your high school experience is… Everyone at this college—faculty, students, staff, and administration—believes you can succeed here. So just work hard, and remember that your acceptance to Wellesley College is a sign of the faith.”
Today’s Orientation, and the activities for the rest of the week, were planned by the Office of the First Year Dean, many in the Student Life Division, and Student Orientation Coordinators Patrice Caldwell ’14 and Melissa Zambrana ’14.
Welcome again, Class of 2017! We are lucky to have you here.
What a fabulous day for the members of the green Class of 2013 and their families! I am proud of our newest class of alumnae and all they have accomplished so far, and know that they will continue to make Wellesley proud in the years ahead.
The Class of 2013 will never forget this day. I know I won’t. (And not just because we all melted under our academic regalia, thanks to the 90-degree weather!) The day will long remain in our memories because it represents Wellesley at its best—coming together as a community to celebrate our students for their achievements and recognize our faculty whose work over the last four years has contributed to the education of this class.
It was also wonderful to have Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, join us today as our Commencement speaker. Though she isn’t a Wellesley woman, she embraced the College as her own, with her most salient remarks. “Our country needs you,” she said. “In fact, the world needs all you have to offer. Our challenges are great, but so too are the opportunities for the positive change that you will create, if you remember not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”
Congratulations, Class of 2013! Enjoy this moment and come back to visit often.
It is a busy and exciting time on campus. Last night, I joined our Green Class of 2013 at Senior Soiree, the first of many festive occasions to celebrate our seniors this spring. Senior Soiree is an opportunity for the class to come together to promote and drum up support for the Senior Class Gift, and it is the moment, in keeping with Wellesley tradition, that the senior class officers announce the Commencement speaker—a well-kept secret until then!
As you may have heard, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to President Barack Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, will be our 2013 Commencement Speaker. As an influential leader in public service, she is a fabulous choice by the students. I look forward to welcoming her to campus at the end of May.
It is no secret that Wellesley offers students many opportunities for global study, travel, and exploration. I recently received a postcard that reminded me of the transformative experiences that such opportunities provide. Postmarked in Kyoto, Japan, the postcard was sent by Wellesley students and their professor, who were just finishing up a successful Wintersession course there.
This past January, Jim Kodera, professor of religion, traveled with 11 students to Kyoto for a hands-on course focused on the religion and culture of the city. Students explored topics such as Shinto and Buddhism in traditional Japanese art and culture; Shinto and Japan’s appreciation of nature; the history of religion and nationalism in Japan; and religion in contemporary Japanese society and politics. While working on their research projects, our Wellesley students collaborated with students from Doshisha University and had a great get together with Wellesley alumnae in Tokyo.
I was delighted to read the sentiments that the students expressed in the postcard. They described their time in Japan as amazing, valuable, and inspiring. When they returned to Wellesley, I know these students brought a wealth of new inspiration and perspectives to the classroom, thanks to their transformative Kyoto experience.