With less than two weeks left in the semester, I’m coming to you all with my last President’s Corner in the Wellesley News. What an amazing and busy year it’s been. All of us in Senate, College Government Cabinet, and CG President’s Council are so grateful to have had the opportunity to bring both Ideafest and FAILSAFE: Redefining Failure to you. To our staff, faculty, alums, and students who joined us throughout the year as well as, particularly, last Wednesday and Saturday for our FAILSAFE conversations on nonlinearity, failure and redirection: Thank you. Thank you for your immense care and your love of the Wellesley community. This great week couldn’t have been made possible without the members of our community who brought their rich experiences and stories to the table. I hope the intergenerational conversations we had and the spaces we shared will be the first of many as we continue to thoughtfully examine our notion of what it means to be part of this diverse and global Wellesley community.
For those of you who were not able to attend both events or either, I’ll provide a quick overview of what FAILSAFE looked like as well as the community members it involved. This was an event I’ve wanted to bring to campus since the very beginning of my term in the fall. Institutional notions of success as well as how we as students see ourselves represented in and contributing to Wellesley’s narrative of success are so critical to wellness as well as mental health on this campus.
As I mentioned several weeks ago while setting the stage for FAILSAFE in President’s Corner, much of my, Cabinet, and CGPC’s motivations for making this event possible came from a realization that nonlinear pathways and people’s experiences with failure too often take second stage to more traditional narratives of success here at Wellesley. FAILSAFE was a way for all of us to be reminded of the importance and the necessity of failure. It was especially a way to highlight how folks’ experiences not only within their college years but also outside of them so often did not and could not line up in neat and linear ways. And finally, it was CG’s hope as well as my own that, in establishing this event, our community would be better positioned in the future to consider new (more responsible and hopefully more forgiving) metrics by which we value ourselves, our own paths, as well as the necessary work we do in our personal and professional lives.
FAILSAFE was kicked off on April 20, Wednesday evening, from 8-10 p.m. For our first event, over 20 alums—with one Skyping in from Washington D.C.— returned to various residential hall living rooms (Severance Hall, Shafer Hall, McAfee Hall, and Stone-Davis Hall) to join College Government Cabinet members, CGPC, House Presidents, and students living in those spaces for open conversations on their experiences with failure, redirection and unexpected challenges encountered while they attended Wellesley. Although many of our alums came from the New England area, we had several who also flew in, notably from Arizona and Texas.
Our second and keynote event (the community brunch) took place on April 23 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. For this particular event, alums, staff, faculty, administrators, and students came together in Alumnae Hall Ballroom for food, drink, and intimate conversation on the same themes from Wednesday evening, except now expanded to also include life after Wellesley and post-college. We had over 35 alums, faculty, coaches, administrators, as well as staff members join us in these conversations; students arranged themselves in 12 round-tables and were addressed by Samantha Bellach ’10 in her keynote speech.
In both events, all participants (students, faculty, administrators, alums, and staff alike) signed a FAILSAFE guestbook, which served as an intergenerational memory, art, and narrative project that my CGPC team and I hoped would include even more students in the conversations that took place over the week. People added personal notes on their own failures and moments of redirection, penned encouraging messages to current and future students, or pasted their own pre-written reflections that they had prepared for the two events. In these next few days, my Council and I will be adding a background letter to the guestbook that will describe the impetus for creating this event and, moreover, our impetus for this guest book project in particular. Afterwards, we will be officially submitting this FAILSAFE memory project to the Wellesley College Archives as well as digitizing the book, so that students in any year, at any time can have access to these messages as well as build space in their own lives to reflect on their themes.
Finally, I also want to speak a little bit about the work that our various Ideafest ad hoc groups have completed this past semester as well as the groundwork that’s been laid by some groups in their partnership with various administrative offices and student organizations so that they might continue building on this work for the next year. I’ll be submitting an official review of all of these groups’ work in a few days and passing along this review to next year’s CG President but wanted to release some details here as well. Notably, our Lending Library initiative has partnered up with the First Generation Network, the Office of Sustainability, and three students-at-large to create a Book Donation Party that will be happening this coming Monday, May 2nd from 7:30-8:30pm in the Cow Chair Room and Lulu Fire Pit. Many students responded to a survey that had been released a few weeks prior indicating their interest for donating upwards of five books per person, and so this event was created in direct response to these responses from the student body. Our Turn Up for the Tassel initiative—geared to making available caps and gowns for students—will also be using its Ideafest funding to purchase regalia from our campus vendor and distribute them to seniors for this year’s Commencement ceremony. Breathing Space, an initiative to help bring Adirondack chairs to scenic campus locations, partnered up with PERA (Physical Education, Recreation, Athletics) and the Office of Sustainability—two administrative groups that had begun working on the project earlier in the year. Chairs, a number of which were purchased through the Ideafest funds allocated to the initiative through CG, have been placed in (1) the Stone-Davis Patio, (2) Munger Upper Patio, (3) Hazard Quad, (4) Tower Court Patio, and (5) Green Beach. Be sure to enjoy them the next time you are in those areas, especially as the days and nights begins to warm up!
If you have any questions, I am, as always, happy to answer them in person or via email. It’s been such a pleasure working with you all over these last four years and in my capacity as President. I am more than ever overflowing with love and thanks for this singular and beautiful place. Thank you to all of you, students, faculty, administrators, and staff who have done so much and continue to do so much to make Wellesley’s beauty and Wellesley’s unparalleled excellence possible.
All my best,