The Davis Degree Program gives women beyond traditional college age and experience the opportunity to participate fully in a Wellesley College education.
Designed to accommodate the needs of women choosing to pursue a traditional liberal arts education at a nontraditional time in their lives, the Davis Degree Program gathers a group of women from diverse backgrounds and provides a foundation upon which they can build both their educational and social experiences at Wellesley.
Known as Davis Scholars, these nontraditional Wellesley students are generally at least 24 years old, although younger women with children and veterans of the armed services may also be Davis Scholars. Applying to the Davis Degree Program is separate from the application process for first-year and transfer students, and a separate orientation program addresses the concerns and interests of adult students. The program grants Davis Scholars the flexibility to design an academic schedule that accommodates other demands on their time, such as work and family responsibilities. Davis Scholars may be full-time students living on campus, or they may live off campus and take either a full- or part-time course load.
Davis Scholars take the same classes and meet the same academic degree requirements as all other Wellesley students; they can participate in the same organizations and activities, and they have access to all the resources and supports of the College. They are eligible for financial aid; in addition, the Davis Scholar Lifeline Fund can provide some supplemental financial assistance.
Special programming and spaces on campus help to reinforce the connections among Davis Scholars. There are two dedicated residence halls for Davis Scholars, and both resident and commuting students gather for events, studying, and socializing at Continuing Education House. While they are integrated into the community as a whole, Davis Scholars also benefit from the intimate connections and enthusiastic support of this distinctive community within the community.
History of the Program
In 1870 Wellesley was founded “to provide an excellent liberal arts education to women who will make a difference in the world.” Almost exactly one hundred years later, when the idea of educating young women was no longer unusual, the College faculty decided to expand the mission by making a Wellesley education available to women who were not necessarily young and who, for one reason or another, had departed from the common timetable of going to college directly out of high school.
As a result, the Continuing Education Program was established in 1971. In 1991, on its 20th anniversary, the program was renamed for Elisabeth Kaiser Davis ’32 in recognition of her family’s generous financial gift to the College. A substantial portion of this gift was designated for student financial aid and for the renovation of housing for Davis Scholars. More than 900 alumnae have graduated from the Continuing Education/Davis Degree Program at Wellesley since the program began.