Walk through the front doors of Billings, make a sharp left, take the first left on your right, and there it is. This office is a little hidden. It’s behind a few twists and turns, but sitting in the quaint 108 office in the corner of Billings sits Wellesley College’s new director of residential life and housing, Helen Wang.
Wang grew up in New Jersey and attended Carnegie Mellon University. While attending Carnegie Mellon, Wang received degrees in both English and psychology. Following her undergraduate studies, Wang received a Master’s Degree and Doctoral Degree in American Studies from William and Mary University. After finishing her degree at William and Mary, Wang felt a calling to work more closely with students to help them figure out their individual role in student life.
“I took a sharp left and decided to pivot my focus towards student affairs at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in New York City,” she said.
Through this transition, Wang realized that she no longer wanted to use her skillset to impact the broad realm of New York City. She prefers a more specialized profession that allows her to directly impact individual students and work with them on a more personal level. Therefore, she wrote to a mentor at Carnegie Mellon and was named the Gender and LGBT+ Director at CMU, a role which allowed her to do more hands on work directly in leadership and student life. “I am really passionate about helping people with the process of discovering who they want to be, so my job at CMU never really felt like work,” said Wang.
Her role at CMU allowed her to encourage more open lines of communication between all types of people and inspired within many the belief that one of the simplest ways to become the best version of yourself is through dialogue and a sense of wellbeing. Wang worked diligently to promote a true sense of belonging in every space she encountered at CMU.
With things seeming so perfect at CMU, it’s easy to understand why Wang wasn’t looking for another job. However, Wang was slowly beginning to realize a desire for something that was missing from her work.
“Although I really enjoyed what I was working on at CMU and all of it was very important to me intellectually, none of it was resonating with my soul,” she said.
Nevertheless, she kept with it as she loved the community at CMU and how it had so greatly impacted and transformed her. Slowly but surely, her friends, colleagues and family members began to send her little snippets and clips of the job posting for director of residential life and housing at Wellesley College. At first, Wang ignored them. But overtime she began to realize how perfectly-suited the role at Wellesley seemed for her. As she gave it more thought, Wang recalls her realization of her calling to go to Wellesley.
“Sometimes you have to leave the people you love and world you know to do new, even more incredible things,” she said.
Wang realized that the transformative nature of her job at CMU was even more apparent on a campus like Wellesley’s.
“I yearned to be part of a community filled with so many talented and capacious women, and I really wanted to give back to those women,” she said.
Wang couldn’t help but gravitate towards the application. So she applied, and got the job. She started working at the college in early April of 2018, a fast and furious time on Wellesley’s campus following college government elections. She was still silently grieving the loss of her community and focus at CMU, but Wang used the emotion as a motivator and jumped headfirst into working hard and building her curriculum.
Wang was immediately taken under the wings of student leaders, house presidents and mentors who guided her along the way. She was soon struck by how much she had to learn about the Wellesley community. Wang loves that so many students, faculty and staff at Wellesley work hard to grasp every new opportunity.
“Everyone here truly has a capacity to change the world,” Wang said.
At Wellesley, Wang has observed reserve when it comes to administrative support for students on campus, and she’s very interested in understanding where that comes from and how she can help students to realize that she really is here to be helpful to them. She is eager to work with and hear Wellesley’s smart, analytical and rightly critical students present their issues so she can figure out how to solve them. Despite being fairly new, Wang is already very busy at Wellesley. However, she will stop anything for students.
With that being said, if you ever need to sit down with someone and talk about your campus experience, what your role at Wellesley means or just want to watch a movie in the common room, head over to Freeman and ask for Helen’s apartment. She might be doing yoga with her son or working on a new proposal for the dean’s cabinet, but her door is always open for students.