Senior Speaker

Nuha Khan '13, mathematics and economics major, spoke to classmates and supporters.

Members of the Board of Trustees, President Bottomly, faculty, staff, families, guests, and my fellow graduates. Welcome!

This might sound slightly weird, but I am going to start by telling you what this speech is not about. I am not going to reiterate what bright and successful futures we all will have. Trust me, it is a given. Nor am I going to give you any advice on how to deal with the practical world. Honestly, I desperately need it myself. And I am definitely not going to dwell on ‘women who will’ because in my mind, we already have. WE ARE HERE. We are the graduating class of 2013!

Instead, I am going to go all “Wendy Wellesley” on you and walk you through a simple regression. Yes, the economist in me is finally out of the Paramecium Pond! So what is a regression? A regression, as my econometrics professor will say, is a statistical technique for estimating relationships among variables. Think of how more snow days make happier Wellesley students. There is a positive relation right there, which can be captured by this technique. But today the metaphorical regression that I would like to run analyzes the relationship between the people we have become, owing to the unique experiences we had during our time here. Wellesley has shaped us into remarkable individuals. Each one of us being a distinct data point in this regression. But at this hour of happiness, we should not forget the absence of one of those points, a Wellesley sister, whose loss has made us all realize the importance of this sibling-hood. Adey Assefa, you are missed! Let us also not forget the victims of the recent tragedies, in Boston and around the world, and hope that instead of fostering a culture of fear, these events make us stronger and even more united.

So, four years! That’s a LONG time. Keeping our regression metaphor alive, let us explore the independent or “x-variables” and see what did we learn in the past four years? We learned to speak our minds, but at the same time listen to others; to appreciate different cultures, languages and habits, and to be tolerant and respectful of everyone’s opinions. We learned that it is ALWAYS a bad idea to start a 10-page paper the night before it is due, and that Stone-D elevators are very unpredictable. We learned to make memes, thanks to a certain exchange student who shall not be named, and that many of us are still wary to uninstall Firstclass from our computers. Our four years at Wellesley have been turbulent for sure, but not in an “oh-my-I-am-stuck-in-the-middle-of-a-sea-with-a-tiger” sort of way, instead, like an exciting ride down Severance Green. Wellesley has enabled us to have a deep and profound understanding of the world. It has not only provided us with a great education, but also some quirky and awkward growing-experiences, opportunities to meet some truly amazing people, and countless firsts that we will cherish and build upon as we go forth.

For all of us Wellesley was a constant learning adventure both inside and outside of the classroom. I feel no shame in saying that when I first came here, my biggest fear was ordering coffee from Starbucks. How does one do that? THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS. Indeed, I came as a sheltered young girl, whose knowledge mostly came from textbooks, but now having spent four years here, I have met people from Guernsey to Slovakia, have fallen in love with East Asian cuisines, can talk for at least an hour about impressionist art, can FINALLY differentiate between the Boston Celtics and the Red Sox, and yes, I am a pro at placing orders in Starbucks! I am a changed individual! This is the power of Wellesley. THIS is the power of us all.

In many ways, the Class of 2013 is the class of change. Sure, Peter Pan stopped going to Riverside, Wellesley went Sakai, then Zimbra and then Google, and we now have a Leaky Beaker in the Science Center… but on a deeper level, WE have changed, the people around us have changed, and the world has changed. In a world where corporate structures and cultures work against women and push them back, our iron-will has become diamond, and our education has enabled us to fight for equality. Coming from Pakistan, and raised in a family of only daughters, my parents have always taught me to be a strong, independent individual. My mother sadly could not attend today. She is currently back at home in Pakistan taking care of my eldest sister, Nida, who has Down syndrome. Both women have been my constant sources of inspiration and love; my mother has supported and encouraged me at every step, and Nida has always known best how to lift my spirit with her laughter and joy. After coming to Wellesley I see this love and support everywhere. Having interacted with some of the most passionate people and the best in academia, I was able to reinforce my beliefs. Four years ago, in Lahore, I could have only dreamed of this, but now at Wellesley College I actually am a part of this change. I feel inspired.

However, some things still never change –Wellesley’s drive for excellence, the compassion and generosity of our professors, the famous tradition of Flower Sunday, getting lost in the maze-like Science Center, the freak-out upon getting the first C, my friend’s habit of playing video games before every final, and my inability to pronounce words with W’s. During one of my job interviews, the interviewer asked me, “Why Wellesley?” I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I hoped that after four years of studying at this college, I will finally get my W’s right.” “It’s Www-ellesley, NOT Vvv-ellesley!” my friends will always tell me. “How come you can’t say it right?” they ask. Today, while standing before you all, I just want to say one thing, “Well, when we went walking while watching wicked women wash wrecked wallpaper with water we wondered who would win without wavering.” [Insert polite laughter] I tried and I think I almost got it now!  Unfortunately, I did not get that job. But hey, no regrets. I mean, if I gave him the real reason, it would seem too good to be true. Not to be narcissistic or anything, but after all, I went to one of the best women’s colleges and studied amongst the brightest: future leaders, young scholars, certified scuba divers, wushu experts, chess master… the list goes on and on. But in all seriousness, the real reason I chose Wellesley was… because of ALL OF YOU, my oh-so-perfect data points that make my regression so smooth to run, and of course because my second sister Sahr, Wellesley Class of ’09, told me, “You do realize you get unlimited ice cream here!” Case closed. I was sold!!

Thank you and Congratulations class of 2013!

pinanski prizes

2013 Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Read the full citations.

 

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