Due to the pandemic, no one had a “normal” Wellesley experience last year. As students are required to be in-person again, one group of students is feeling particularly isolated: sophomores who were fully remote their first year. According to Dean Alison Black, the dean for the Class of 2024, 63 sophomores are coming to Wellesley as students for the first time this fall. Despite being on-campus, many of these students feel unwelcome.
“It just seems like no effort has been put in to welcome us back to campus at all,” said Fiona Newberry ’24, who studied remotely from North Carolina last year.
One official academic event announced by the College for sophomores was a “sunset tour” of the academic buildings the night before classes began.
“There were 63 fully remote students last year, but over 100 students showed up for that tour,” Dean Black said. “That was very informative … students are still interested in getting together, even though they maybe didn’t need the full tour.”
Both Newberry and Moura expressed that they would like to have a sophomore social bonding event, such as a picnic or field day.
“I’ve heard from the people who were on campus [that] we didn’t miss a lot because last year there weren’t many events. I think it would be possible to have an event with everyone, not only those who weren’t on-campus last year,” Ella Xiao ’24 said. “I am a little bit nervous because … I feel like I haven’t had opportunities like the Class of 2025.”
Some sophomores reached out to Dean Black this past summer and stated these academic and social concerns, spurring a collaborative effort between the Deans, the Class of 2024 council, ASCs, and res life staff to support sophomores. In late August, the ASC sophomore liaisons, Janie Morency and Marissa Papagelis, held drop-in sessions to answer any questions about campus life.
“We came up with that idea because there were sophomores who had a lot of questions about things beyond academics,” Dean Black said. “All these things that you wouldn’t know if you were remote, so I started a document and started writing all the questions.”
The sophomore class council is also working with OSI on a class formal, game night and tree ceremony. In addition to concerns about social life, sophomores expressed a mixture of excitement and worry about the switch back to the semester system and in-person classes, which they have not experienced in 18 months.
“My roommates and I were talking about how we were so nervous because we didn’t really have this experience of taking in-person courses at Wellesley,” said Xiao. “But we are excited to have in person discussions and meet professors!”
Remote students also found it difficult to access academic resources and register for certain classes, especially lab courses or courses that were only offered in person last fall.
“I don’t feel like I was able to prepare myself in the same way. I’m thinking about doing an independent major and I had to set up meetings with 3 different people just to figure out what the actual process was. If I was on campus, I feel like I could have just talked to one person for 15 minutes and gotten it done,” Newberry said. “I haven’t even had any biology classes yet and I want to major in biology … and I haven’t been able to get into biology this semester. It’s difficult and it doesn’t make any sense either.”
Moura believes that sophomores who were fully remote last year should have been given some preference in choosing classes this fall due to the inaccessibility of exclusively in-person courses.
“It’s like a huge snowball that’s going to keep us behind no matter how much they say that we have equal chances,” said Moura.
The Career Education office and the class deans are aware of how disconnected some sophomores have felt from academic resources and are putting together a Sophomore Re-Orientation and Resource Fair.
“The class deans will have a table [at the Fair] and so will lots of departments and offices … One table will be focused on the major declaration process, identifying an advisor and declaring a major,” said Dean Black.
Despite academic and social concerns, sophomores are enjoying the energy of a full Wellesley campus.
“Last year … I wasn’t really sure if I was really part of Wellesley or not,” said Tseng. “But then this year, when I stepped on the campus, I could just feel the Wellesley vibe. The people are so nice, and seeing all these signs like ‘Welcome!’… this is actually Wellesley!”