On Thursday, April 12, members of the Class of 2018 gathered in Alumnae Hall for Senior Celebrations. The event was organized by the Wellesley College Alumnae Association (WCAA), the Wellesley Fund and the Class of 2018 Senior Gift Committee. It combined the annual Senior Soirée, in which the commencement speaker is traditionally announced, with the Alumnae Induction Ceremony. Several of the seniors in attendance boasted commemorative purple class of 2018 champagne flutes, which were given to graduating students who donated $10 or more to the Senior Gift. Additionally, Elinor Higgins ’18, the Chair of the Mental Health Campaign, spoke to the senior class about how they have the option of designating their donations to a Mental Health and Wellness priority for the first time in the history of the Senior Gift.
The Senior Gift is one of Wellesley’s oldest and most celebrated traditions. Contributing to it is often the first time members of the graduating class donate money to the college as alumnae. Sarah Moreta ’09, assistant director of the Wellesley Fund and staff liaison for the Senior Gift Committee, indicated that one of the primary purposes of the initiative is to educate the graduating class on the importance of giving back to Wellesley. “As an alum myself, I know it’s sometimes hard to believe that Wellesley needs more money— it has a large endowment, and we typically hear about the large gifts that are made to the college,” she explained. But she also added, “However, Wellesley can only spend the interest on the endowment each year, and it covers only a fraction of the cost of Wellesley’s annual budget. Additionally, tuition, although obviously expensive, only covers approximately two-thirds the cost of one Wellesley student to attend each year. The other third is paid for through giving from alumnae––and through Senior Gift.”
In addition to raising money for the college, the initiative seeks to boost Wellesley’s alumnae participation rate. Chelsea Gell ’18 is a member of the Events Committee, which is a subcategory of the Senior Gift Committee, and the initiative’s leading advocate. She spoke about the importance of alumnae participation in the college ranking process. “When you see rankings like U.S. News and World Report and other places that are ranking colleges and institutions, one of the factors they consider is alumnae giving. The senior class counts as alumnae, so it’s important that people are giving, and it doesn’t matter how much. Whether you give a dollar or five hundred dollars, that is one more person who gave. The higher the percentage of alumnae who are giving, the better it makes Wellesley look,” Gell commented.
The Senior Gift Committee is comprised of students from the graduating class and is responsible for advertising the Senior Gift initiative as well as organizing fundraisers such as Senior Celebrations. This year, the committee hopes to attain an 85 percent participation rate from the class of 2018, which would require approximately 500 seniors to donate. If the committee meets its goal, the 2018 Senior Gift will raise Wellesley’s alumnae participation rate by an entire percentage point.
As of Monday, 292 members from the class of 2018 have contributed $5,264 to the Senior Gift. The Senior Gift Committee has therefore reached 58 percent of the 500 seniors they hope will donate by the end of the year.
The money generated from the Senior Gift goes towards the Wellesley Fund, which provides funding for the college’s annual budget. The Senior Gift Committee encourages students to designate their gifts as unrestricted, meaning that the college can use the money wherever it sees fit. However, students also have the option of designating their gifts to 10 different destinations, including the unrestricted option, Mental Health and Wellness, Current UseFinancial Aid, Friends of Athletics, Science and Sustainability, Residential Experience, Academic Innovation, Friends of Art, Campus Renewal and Career Education.
Gell indicated that the designations give students the option of donating to the causes about which they are most passionate. “I think students at Wellesley have a lot of different passions. Some people want to donate to mental health, and others want to donate to the Davis Museum or to the athletics program. The priorities are about giving students an outlet and a voice to tell the administration what they are most passionate about and want to see their money going towards,” she said.
This is the first time seniors have had the option of donating to the Mental Health and Wellness priority. The Senior Gift Committee created the Mental Health Campaign, which is responsible for advertising and educating students on the new priority. Higgins shared that the primary goals of the campaign are to improve mental health resources at Wellesley and to include students in the process of creating change. She hopes that this year’s focus will demonstrate to Wellesley’s administration that students are passionate about seeing mental health reform on campus.
“We want to demonstrate to the administration that students care about mental health resources and services, and that we want to be involved in improving them. The new designation allows us to point to a number at the end of the year: the number of students who have donated money towards mental health resources with the intent of making their voices heard and advocating for change and improvement,” Higgins explained.
According to the Senior Gift website, the Mental Health and Wellness priority has attracted the most donors of all the possible gift designations. The campaign has raised $1,316 from 99 donors. The unrestricted option is the second most popular designation, generating $1,507 from 68 students. The Current-Use Financial Aid option is the third most popular designation and has received $858 from 60 donors.
Higgins believes that these numbers demonstrate that the Class of 2018 is dedicated to improving the lives of Wellesley students. “I think this shows that the Class of 2018 cares deeply about helping and improving Wellesley College. Unrestricted money tends to go toward the greatest need, and that is usually financial aid. So between that, the formal financial aid designation and the mental health and wellness tag, we are raising money for things that will improve the lives of current and future Wellesley Students,” Higgins said.
The Senior Gift Committee has approximately two months left to reach its 85 percent participation goal. Gell hopes that this goal is reached and emphasized that the Senior Gift is a way for the class of 2018 to give back to the Wellesley community. “When reflecting on your time at Wellesley, it’s important to remember that a lot of the opportunities you’ve had here are because alumnae chose to give back to the school. If you want to leave a lasting impact, and if you want these opportunities to continue for future generations, it’s important to give back in whatever capacity you can,” she said.