HKB Vision for 2020 and Beyond

Wellesley in Five: A Framework for 2020 and Beyond


Wellesley is an institution that has refused to accept the status quo since its founding. For 140 years, the College has given women a uniquely inspiring learning environment to prepare for ambitious futures and enabled them to drive change across the globe. Despite this unwavering commitment, obstacles remain. Economic pressures have left no sector of society untouched, and members of the public increasingly question the value of a liberal arts degree. At the same time, our students are graduating into a transformed world. Technology means that information travels at the speed of a keystroke, causing the world to seem smaller even as our knowledge about it expands and new fields of inquiry demand our attention. These changes inspire us to be ambitious on behalf of our students and our faculty; to be deliberate as we set priorities; and to be confidently aspirational in how we conceive of Wellesley’s future.

This document is a distillation of ideas I have gathered during the past eight years as president from conversations with faculty, planning committees, the College’s senior staff, and a wide variety of other Wellesley community members. It is an attempt to cultivate the ambition that changing times demand by refocusing our collaborative efforts on three pillars on which the College has rested since its founding:

  • Re-imagining academic excellence
  • Epitomizing the value of a liberal arts education in the 21st century
  • Renewing our diverse community

While these pillars are not new to the College, sustaining them over the next five years—in an era of finite resources—will require new and different approaches for each. Still, all three pillars must also be supported by the same operational principles. Guided by our Campus Renewal Plan, we must make sure that Wellesley has facilities that support our mission and community. We must secure the necessary financial resources through successful implementation of our new comprehensive campaign. In addition, we must engage in thoughtful and transparent fiscal planning. Finally, we must achieve greater operational and administrative efficiency through the prudent use of risk management, data analysis, and other strategic tools. 

First Pillar: Academic Excellence

What does it mean to be academically excellent? How do we ensure that our students and faculty reflect a diversity of opinions, cultures, and experiences? A Wellesley education is characterized by rigorous inquiry and creative, cross-disciplinary thinking. Our definition of success will continue to include redrawing intellectual boundaries, creating knowledge and beauty for their own sakes, and making significant and sustained commitments to the public good. To this end, Wellesley will focus on strengthening the vitality, rigor, and effectiveness of our educational programs over the next five years.  Together, despite fewer resources, we will

  • Attract and enroll the best students, drawn from the widest possible applicant pool
  • Support and attract new members to our world-class faculty
  • Bolster support for curriculum development, teaching, and research, including improvements in sponsored research support, and integration of classroom and non-classroom learning experiences
  • Improve our ability to ensure that all of our students receive the support they need to thrive at Wellesley by reducing disparities in student achievement and retention across groups

Second Pillar: Liberal Arts Education in the 21st Century

How do we effectively communicate the value of a liberal arts education? How do we fortify the bridge between Wellesley and life post-graduation? From its founding, Wellesley has encouraged intellectual exploration and collaboration, advancing women’s careers and lives by fostering qualities such as leadership, innovation, and perseverance. In a world where some have questioned the value of a liberal arts education, Wellesley will meet the challenges posed to our graduates by implementing an intentional strategy to prepare them for successful, productive, and satisfying lives after college. Together, we will

  • Create more opportunities for students to understand and articulate the value and relevance of a liberal arts education and to successfully link that education to a career
  • Develop a state-of-the-art “college to career” program that builds on alumnae and faculty networks and strategically employs technology
  • Develop strategies for improving public communication by the faculty and administration that celebrates the powerful role of liberal arts education in society
  • Support practices that promote student well-being, with a focus on resilience, adaptability, and skills for coping with stress

Third Pillar: Community Renewal

What does it mean to be a women’s college in the 21st century? How do we build a purposeful community defined by a collective vision of belonging and a shared sense of inclusion? The spirit of our College—what I called the “Wellesley magic” in my Convocation address—is embodied in our talented students, outstanding faculty, devoted staff, and committed alumnae. Our vibrant intellectual community has never been one to shy away from difficult questions or controversial ideas. While we live in a time when complex issues require negotiating conflicting values, Wellesley’s unifying commitment to diversity and discourse must remain unwavering. Wellesley must be a leader in framing the larger conversation that can help resolve such issues as a regular feature of College life. In the next five years, in order to increase engagement in the Wellesley community, foster a campus climate that is welcoming and inclusive, strengthen bonds formed in residential life and in participatory governance structures, and strengthen our commitment to stewardship of our campus, we will

  • Build an inclusive campus climate in which Wellesley students, faculty, staff are better able to engage with and learn from the diverse cultures and backgrounds that make up our community
  • Empower our campus governing bodies to support a strong sense of community
  • Discuss and affirm our mission as a women’s college at a time when opportunities for women remain unequal and the definitions of gender are changing
  • Strengthen campus educational efforts and practices about environmental sustainability
  • Develop a strong, vision-driven sense of campus residential neighborhoods
  • Enlist an increasing number of alumnae as mentors, supporters, and ambassadors
  • Maximize participation in local and international collaborations in ways that enhance and expand the College’s connection to the world beyond campus boundaries

An Invitation

These principles are meant to be aspirational, building on what we have done well, with the recognition that institutions like ours constantly need to innovate and adapt. They also seek to inspire further conversation among students, faculty, and staff. I invite all members of the Wellesley community to partner with me in framing the three pillars in a way that is meaningful to you. Our shared future belongs to intellectually gifted and purposeful women—Wellesley women. 

—H. Kim Bottomly
October 2014