The woman in front of me looks just like any other Wellesley student. Young, with hazel eyes, short blond hair and a can of Coke. At 27, however, she is older than the typical Wellesley student. Her name is Morgan Matthews, and she is a Davis Scholar.
Wellesley currently has 32 students in the Davis Scholar program, which allows women of non-traditional college ages to obtain undergraduate degrees. Most Davis Scholars are older than 24, though younger women who are veterans or have children may apply. Davis Scholars take the same classes as traditionally-aged students; they must declare a major and fulfill distribution requirements.
Matthews is working toward a degree in economics after a career as a professional figure skater. She believes that the diversity among Davis Scholars includes more than just differences in age.
“I have friends who are Davis Scholars who are my age, and friends who are Davis Scholars who are older than me. It’s kind of neat. We’re kind of a motley crew and we all come from different backgrounds,” Matthews said.
Davis Scholars can choose to live on campus in Cedar Lodge in Simpson West, or they can choose to live off-campus and commute. Davis scholars in the past have lived among traditional students, but this hasn’t happened for a while. Twelve Davis Scholars currently live on campus, while 20 of them commute.
Matthews generally enjoys living on campus but feels that it gets a little claustrophobic sometimes.
“I feel like I have to get out, usually, of the bubble by the end of the week,” Matthews said.
Matthews had to transition between learning on the ice and learning in a classroom, which affected how much she could participate in class discussions.
“If anything, I tend to speak up too much, I think, because I have this mentality like the professor is talking to me,” Matthews said with a laugh. “Wellesley is a great environment for me because it’s so small that I can at least have a little bit of that one-on-one feeling or small-group feeling. Whereas if I was in a huge lecture hall, I’d probably feel pretty lonely.”
Matthews is very involved in the Davis Scholar community and serves as the president of the Davis Scholars Class Council.
Linda Kosinski ’15 has four adult children and has worked part-time and full-time jobs over the years. She is pursuing a degree in women’s and gender studies with a minor in Africana studies to broaden the range of positions that are open to her in the job market.
Unlike Matthews, Kosinski commutes to Wellesley, with a 45-minute drive from her home in North Easton to campus in order to attend class. This limits the classes that she can take and how she spends her time on campus.
“I try to keep my classes at 9:15 at the earliest. If you don’t leave here by 3:30 you run into traffic. Right now it takes me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to get here with little traffic,” Kosinski said.
For Kosinski, it doesn’t seem strange that her classmates are of a different age than she is.
“I think it’s stranger for them than it is for us. I enjoy the students. They are so intelligent and thoughtful, and they come up with wonderful ideas – things I may not think of coming from an outside location,” Kosinski said.
Kosinski believes that some of her experiences in the adult world, such as balancing her family life and schoolwork, have given her a different perspective on mental health and the importance of schoolwork.
“The perspective it brought me was to realize the important things in life. That life is so good. Someone’s mental health is just so important -— it’s not just the grade I’m making in a class or doing something — it’s how other people treat you,” Kosinski said.
Kosinski is also very active on campus. She has a position on the Admissions and Financial Aid committee, the Senior Gift Committee and on the Davis Scholars Class Council, where she serves as vice president.
Due to the small size of the program and age gap from traditional students, Davis Scholars are a part of the bigger College community, but at the same time separate.
Susan Cohen, class dean for the Davis Scholars, explained that they have a dual life.
“They are full and into the community, but also have their own separate identities,” Cohen said. “Davis Scholars are and think of themselves as Wellesley students. Some think of themselves as Wellesley students first and Davis Scholars second, and sometimes it’s the other way around. I try to encourage both.”
Kosinski is one Davis Scholar who does not feel fully integrated into the Wellesley community.
“I feel integrated by some of the students. The ones who I know are very welcoming, and some of the faculty is very welcoming,” Kosinski stated. At the same time, she sometimes feels that it is a struggle to get information, because the Davis Scholars are a separate Google Group and people often forget to send emails about events to the Davis Scholar community. This makes her feel like she is missing information and not being included.
Matthews also struggles with whether to tell people right away that she is a Davis Scholar, since some of them don’t know how to act once they discover this fact.
“I kind of pass for a while. And sometimes I kind of out myself right away, but I don’t want to alienate people. Sometimes when you tell people ‘Oh, I’m of this minority group’ people are kind of like, ‘What does that mean? How do you want me to react to that?’ ” Matthews said.
Matthews tries to be understanding of the differences between Davis Scholars and other students, and she says that as a whole she feels well integrated.
“I understand that I am different, so I don’t expect students to treat me exactly the same way as they treat everyone else,” Matthews said. “But I don’t feel alienated. I feel like I can be as much a part of the community as makes sense.”
President H. Kim Bottomly hosted a reception last month for the senior class. Davis Scholars have historically been invited, but they weren’t this year. The reason for the break in the tradition is not known. Matthews sees the implications of this incident as a way of asking all event organizers to consider the Davis Scholars and include them in any campus events that might apply to them.
“These sorts of things happen, and I understand why they happen. A lot of things that are circulated do not apply to us, but just in case they apply to us, it’s important that you keep us in mind,” Matthews said.