A Wellesley College update from President H. Kim Bottomly, January 2015.
I hope that your new year is off to a wonderful start. As we welcome students back to campus (and as we dig out from the snowstorm), I wanted to update you on the latest news from Wellesley.
I also wanted to invite you to join the ongoing discussion about Wellesley and gender (you will find a link for alumnae input below).
Building Another Strong Class
Wellesley continues to be a first-choice school for bright and talented young women around the world. This fall, we received more early decision applications than ever before! The 166 students who have been admitted from our early decision pool, and are now a part of the Class of 2019, bring an impressive level of excellence and diversity, and they represent about 28 percent of the total class. Additionally, Wellesley has again received a robust number of strong applications as part of our regular admission cycle, consistent with the past few years. As the Board of Admission reviews those applications, it is clear that we continue to attract the very best and brightest.
Wellesley Hillel: Moving Forward
A thoughtful process, initiated last spring as part of a broader consideration of Wellesley’s multifaith model, concluded that a dedicated, full-time rabbi would best serve our Jewish community. The search for a new rabbi is well underway and we expect to welcome a permanent, full-time Wellesley rabbi by the start of the next academic year.
Until then, I am pleased to report that we have hired an interim full-time rabbi to support our Jewish students and our active Jewish community for the coming semester while the search for the permanent rabbi is underway. Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz comes to Wellesley with more than 20 years of experience in the development, growth, and leadership of Jewish community organizations. He served as president of Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) in Pennsylvania from 2002 to 2013, and as a senior advisor to RRC for the past year. Previously, he served as rabbi of Bnai Keshet Synagogue in Montclair, N.J. Since 2007, Rabbi Ehrenkrantz has consistently been named by Newsweek/The Daily Beast as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in the United States. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s degree from Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
I am grateful for the support of members of the Wellesley Hillel Alumnae Board. Hillel alumnae—along with student, faculty, and staff representatives—actively participated in the search to fill this position.
These are important times for Jewish life on college campuses everywhere. Wellesley is committed to fostering a thriving Jewish community on campus and an inclusive and respectful community for all our students. Rabbi Ehrenkrantz joins the College chaplains, and all of the Student Life division, in strong support of this commitment.
Academic freedom and free speech are basic tenets of our educational system, but what does free speech mean in the 21st century? The Freedom Project at Wellesley explored this timely topic last week during its third annual Wintersession program: “Liberty, Society, and Social Policy.” Wednesday’s program, for example, brought Flemming Rose, editor of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen, together with Mary Kate McGowan ’90, the Luella LaMer Professor of Women’s Studies and professor of philosophy, for an exchange of views on the limits of free speech in our interconnected and multicultural world. Through such debates, this academic institute exposes students to a range of thinking on critical issues, challenging them to synthesize opposing views in formulating their own ideas.
Please stay tuned as the Freedom Project continues to bring thought-provoking speakers to campus throughout the spring, including Michael Ignatieff, a former member of the Canadian Parliament and leader of the Canadian Liberal Party, who on April 13 will present the first annual Thomas Jefferson Lecture on Freedom: “Is Freedom Divisible? Capitalism and Authoritarianism in the 21st Century.”
The Albright Institute 2015
Since 2010, the Madeleine K. Albright ’59 Institute for Global Affairs has encouraged interdisciplinary learning and intellectual exchange, accelerating our efforts to learn from, as well as serve, cultures and communities around the world. This year’s Albright Institute is once again a living laboratory of the value and real-world application of the liberal arts disciplines: http://www.wellesley.edu/albright/wintersession2015
Last Thursday, as part of this year’s Albright Institute, we proudly welcomed former Secretary of State Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59 back to campus for a dialogue on ending poverty and transforming economies through sustainable development. Secretary Albright was joined by Distinguished Visiting Professor Elizabeth Cousens, former U.S. representative on the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and Homi Kharas, senior fellow and deputy director of the Global Economy and Development Program at the Brookings Institution. Our own Rob Paarlberg, the Betty Freyhof Johnson ’44 Professor of Political Science, moderated the lively discussion: http://www.wellesley.edu/albright
Wellesley and Gender: Next Steps
I have very much appreciated hearing from so many of you on the topic of gender and Wellesley. No two of your letters have been the same, although every message I have received has thoughtfully contributed to the discussion. We all seem to appreciate that this is a complicated topic with ethical, legal, and mission-oriented dimensions—and we emphatically agree that Wellesley will remain a women’s college.
I also encourage you to continue to visit the website that the President’s Advisory Committee on Gender and Wellesley (PACGW) updates regularly; it is accessible via https://my.wellesley.edu
(you will need your Wellesley login). The PACGW will be reporting its findings to me early in the semester and the Board of Trustees anticipates a decision on any policies that may need to be addressed in mid-spring.
A Commitment to STEM
Wellesley continues to graduate more women who go on to earn doctorate degrees in the sciences than any other liberal arts college. A recent grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation will enable us to strengthen existing programs while expanding support for students who are interested in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Newer initiatives are focused on getting more students excited about science from the start of college. Last year, when invited to participate in the White House’s College Pipeline Initiative, Wellesley pledged expertise and resources to achieve the goal of engaging more students in the STEM fields. Stressing early exposure to inquiry-based, high-impact approaches to learning science, the emerging program includes close faculty mentoring and participation in a supervised 10-week summer collaborative research project. Already, we are seeing a difference. Last summer, 36 percent of the students who participated in our flagship Summer Science Research program were from traditionally underrepresented communities—an increase from 14 percent three years ago.
Following Renovations, Field House and Boathouse to Open Soon
This spring, we are celebrating wellness at Wellesley—and the important role fitness plays in college life. This week we will open the newly renovated Field House, one of many buildings that will benefit from our campus renewal project. New walls, a new roof, and new windows that bring in more natural light have given the Field House new life. It also now features a fitness mezzanine overlooking a permanent basketball floor. (Read about the old portable floor’s second life with Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournaments: http://www.wellesley.edu/news/2014/july/node/44241.
Later this spring, the beloved boathouse on Lake Waban will also reopen after undergoing a complete renewal of its own. The current building, home to class and dorm crew since 1963, has never had any significant updates—until now. Thanks to the generosity of an individual donor, the boathouse has a new main entry, prep room, improved shop space, canoe/kayak room, and storage. Work is expected to conclude in mid-May, just in time for Reunion!
Indeed, there is much to celebrate at Wellesley as we head into the spring semester, and I look forward to keeping you updated as another compelling year unfolds.
I wish you and your families all the best in 2015.
H. Kim Bottomly