What Matters Most

November 20, 2020

Fall 2020 Issue of Wellesley magazine

Wellesley Fall 2020 magazine cover

It was a Flower Sunday like no other in Wellesley history. No chapel service, no communal song, no rush of spontaneous hugs.

Yet, in true Wellesley fashion, we rose to the challenge, keeping this cherished tradition alive, pandemic notwithstanding. Abundant flowers in residence halls. The gift of gratitude journals. The ritual pairing of Bigs and Littles, while keeping physical distance.

Overseen by our Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, this was a community-wide effort that brought out the best in us. Our creativity. Our resilience. Our love for Wellesley and each other.

“We’ve had to reinvent the wheel every step of the way,” said Pomeroy Hall (aka Pom) House President Caroline Witten ’21. “It starts with digging into why we have these traditions. Flower Sunday is about putting down roots and building connections with each other. That’s what we wanted to preserve. And it went really well.”

Fostering friendships and community in a time of physical distance—this is one of the most critical challenges that lies before us. Such connections are one of the greatest gifts of a Wellesley education. We are fully committed to ensuring that they continue.

As I write these words, we are just two weeks into the fall semester. Already, I have been deeply impressed by how we have come together.

Across campus, we are joining forces to keep each other healthy. As we know all too well, testing and mask-wearing mandates only work with widespread buy-in. So many have gone all in to make this true at Wellesley.

One of these is Sophia Ashebir ’21, who returned to campus from a summer in Springfield, Ill., working as a long-distance contract tracer for Massachusetts. Eager to be of service, she offered to help with our training this fall, and collaborated with our Office of Student Wellness on a training video. Her core message? “The most critical thing I’ve learned is the importance of working together,” she said.

This fall’s #ForMeForUsForAll social media campaign similarly helped to set a positive vision for the year ahead, featuring videos with a range of eloquent campus voices. Among these was College Government President Tatiana Ivy Moise ’21, who called on Wellesley to stand as an example of how to avoid transmission. “I think that if any student community can do it, one as empathetic and caring and intelligent and compassionate as ours can be the one,” she said. I couldn’t agree more.

On the academic front, faculty are going above and beyond to build community—virtual economics-related movie night, anyone?—while virtual study halls attract both students now living on campus and the roughly half of students studying remotely. Among those on campus, we’re seeing a renewed appreciation for the value of in-person learning.

And beyond the classroom (whether real or virtual), we are also finding safe ways to relax and have fun together. Upward of 200 people have turned out for virtual bingo nights that have drawn students from as far away as China and India. We’ve had matchmaking for “playdates” to make new friends and explore the campus, and we’re about to kick off a semester-long campus-wide scavenger hunt. (This last one is the brainchild of Caroline and Sophia, the two students I mentioned earlier.)

There is no denying the challenges of this year. Our losses are painful and profound. Yet throughout, we are finding ways to flourish as a community. We are doubling down on our values and our commitment to each other. We are walking into history together.

On Flower Sunday, our College chaplains offered a blessing with these beautiful words:

May Wellesley provide fertile ground
for you to develop resilience

May you have many opportunities
for your creativity to blossom

May your efforts cultivate compassion
in our community

May gratitude and kindness root
your daily choices and interactions

While much has changed—and much will change—these aspirations are enduring, as precious and unwavering as our communal bonds. The pandemic has taken much, but it can never take these. We are together. We are Wellesley. This is what matters most.