Pursuing her lifelong passions for skiing and education, Missy Shea ’89 attended Wellesley College and went on to teach, ski and teach others how to ski. In tracing back her love for education and Wellesley’s mission, she recently returned to Wellesley College as the executive director of the Wellesley College Alumnae Association. With the help of several others, Shea works to organize programming for current students and Wellesley College alumnae.
Shea grew up in Vermont and enrolled in Wellesley College in 1985. During her time as a student, Shea kept busy by juggling different roles as a varsity field hockey player and as a residential assistant in Claflin. Since she loved skiing growing up, Shea returned to Vermont during weekends in the winter to teach the sport. At the end of her sophomore year, Shea declared a political science major and an education minor and later studied abroad in Ireland.
“The reason I wanted to study in Ireland is because it is part of my family’s cultural history, but also because I wanted to study in a society where church and state weren’t separate, in a language that was accessible to me, so that I could really explore that,” Shea explained.
Studying American politics in college, Shea held dear the separation of church and state, so she took the study abroad program as an opportunity to try something new and live in a place that lacked that same separation. Although she was not as cognizant of it at the time, Shea came to value the study abroad program’s emphasis on experiential learning.
In the spring semester of her senior year, she did her student teaching at Dover Sherborn High School and earned a certificate as an educator upon graduation. After Wellesley, she returned to her hometown high school as a classroom teacher.
When reflecting on her experiences in education, Shea fondly recounted Wellesley’s influence on her career path. As a student, she had fun but also worked very hard, approaching her studies like a job. When she saw how friends at other schools spent their time, she knew the Wellesley experience was different, but it would prove rewarding on several occasions after she graduated.
In her late thirties, she applied to Dartmouth for graduate school and needed faculty recommendations, even though she had been out of school for over 15 years. Unable to send recommendations from employers, Shea traced back to her time at Wellesley and emailed her two advisors, Joel Krieger from the political science department and Ken Hawes from the education department, apologizing for being a nuisance and asking if they had their recommendations on file. To her surprise, both professors responded warmly in less than 48 hours, not only remembering her as a student, but also offering to write updated recommendation letters.
“It’s amazing,” Shea said. “The value of my Wellesley education and being part of the Wellesley network is immeasurable.”
Weaving together her passions, Shea went on to work in executive-level management in the ski industry and also in education as the associate academic director of Vermont’s Green Mountain Valley School and as the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at the Ethel Walker School before returning to Wellesley to head the Alumnae Association.
She had read about the open position in the Wellesley College alumnae magazine, but at the time, brushed it off because she was not looking for a new job. However, she found herself thinking about the option more and decided to learn more about the position.
“I describe it as an itch that I couldn’t not scratch,” Shea said. “The more I learned about it, the more interested I became in it and then I was fortunate enough to be selected.”
The WCAA is comprised of about 35,000 women and is recognized as the largest, most powerful women’s network in the world. The Alumnae Association office is in charge of programming including reunions, the Alumnae Achievement Awards, the book award program for high school juniors and many other programs. It coordinates a faculty speaker program and events for Wellesley alumnae clubs, which are established internationally.
“I do a lot of work with my college colleagues to make sure that when decisions are being made by the College…we don’t forget alums as a major constituency,” Shea said. “We have a lot of employees here at Wellesley who are alums because we love the school so much. We believe so strongly in the mission of Wellesley College.”
As executive director of WCAA, Shea works to connect alumnae to each other and to the college and to support the institutional priorities of the institution.
“My vision for that is that the Alumnae Association is a key partner to the College in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Wellesley experience for alums, current students and future students alike,” Shea said.