Remarks by College Government President Giselle Mota ’22
Thank you, Provost Shennan. Hello fellow students, esteemed faculty, staff, administration and another welcome to the 2021–2022 Wellesley College Convocation. For those who don’t know me, my name is Giselle Mota, class of 2022, and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am beyond thankful and blessed to be this year’s College Government president.
I want to first acknowledge the ancestral land of the Massachusett and Nipmuc peoples and elders on whose land we are on today. I am angered by the Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and all others who have lost their livelihood to build this land that we pride on freedom. I grieve with those who have had their homes and families taken from them, and I am saddened to know that these injustices persist and increase every day. We must not only acknowledge the harm purported on these communities but must also be mindful and aware of their contributions to institutions like this College. It would not be right for me to stand here and say there is not work to be done. Instead, I encourage each and every one of us to utilize the resources we have to remain diligent in our strive toward equity, peace, and respect.
With that, I first want to say, “We made it!” I know we usually hear these words on our graduation date at the end of the school year, but not today—today we celebrate its beginning. Whether that’s getting up and making it in time on Saturday for Joe’s fried rice and eggs or getting your luggage under 50 lbs for your flight here, we made it. It has been 545 days, or about one and a half years, since the day we received the announcement of our evacuation from campus. This is my first time on campus since then, and trust me when I tell you, I did not expect to come back as your College Government president. But that’s the beauty of college, isn’t it? I am definitely not the first, and I will not be the last, in saying that you never know what’s in store.
I won’t walk you detail by detail through the ups and downs of my Wellesley journey, and you all are lucky about that because as my family watching and friends here today know, I can chat. For those who know me and those who don’t, if there is one thing I am going to do, it is to keep it real and very honest. The Wellesley College experience, like many college experiences, has its ups and downs. Yes, Wellesley is filled with amazing, intelligent, and driven students, but these aren’t the only things that define us. We are layered, we are intersectional, and we have different stories to tell. This is all to say that yes, while we all sifted through the Wellesley 100 for our applications, our individual experiences will not be the same—and that’s OK.
Take me, for instance. I have never been a cabinet member, senator, or committee member of College Government, yet I stand here as your College Government president. I have an amazing support system filled with friends, faculty, and staff, yet I sat on my bed in Shafer 325 in February of 2020 fully ready to submit my transfer application away from Wellesley. Why did I stay? I came to the reality that my time here was never going to work as long as I tried to make myself work for Wellesley. I told myself, “Giselle, it’s Wellesley. Make it work. Suck it up.” I thought that I was doing something wrong because I couldn’t fit this imagined perfect Wellesley student I had curated in my head. Instead, it was only months after the evacuation that I realized I had to make Wellesley work for me. I started to communicate my concerns with professors, seek out different avenues of getting internships that I wanted, and attending things that ultimately brought me joy, which sometimes were mutually exclusive to Wellesley. Yes, we attend Wellesley, home to the “stars,” but things will confuse you, frustrate you, and even anger you, but I am going to say it again: This is your journey, it is unique and solely yours.
I ran for this role because I found it hard to validate my experiences here. I am here to serve as an advocate and active listener to the students of this campus. I never want anyone to feel discouraged for not having the picture-perfect Wellesley journey and to let you know that we are capable of way more than we know. I am also a part of an amazing cabinet who not only serve in their roles, but work together with me to be the best liaisons and advocates for the student body, so a quick shoutout to my cabinet: Francesca, Maya, Imogene, Deavihan, Michelle, Ingrid, Sydney, and Julianna.
This brings me to the point of my speech today, the most important thing I can tell each and every one of you, and what I forced myself to ram through my head over and over as my anxiety built up toward coming here: Prioritize yourself. I did not say your grades, or assignments, or that meeting you have. Prioritize yourself. Give yourself grace. The last Christmas before the pandemic, a family friend brought a game where each person had to pull out a word and remember it throughout the year. My word was grace, and I put it back with hopes to pick out an “easier” word. I thought it meant I had to show grace to everyone around me, which is no easy feat, but I came to find that this grace was meant to be dedicated to me, which, trust me, was way harder.
We are in an environment that can sometimes be intense and stressful, but I encourage you to really take advantage of little moments that bring you peace and solace. Go to that party or event, COVID-19 restrictions in place of course. Take advantage of the little moments: Savor that last drop of coffee in El Table, splurge on some Hoop Nachos, and pay your tabs. Communicate your needs with that professor, say no when someone asks for a favor that you know you cannot commit to. Prioritize yourself and your well-being, because there was a significant point in my time here where I didn’t. The tide of life and assignments and responsibilities crept up on me and caused the deterioration of my mental health and ultimately led me to open that transfer application in the first place. We are students on a campus, with staff and faculty who are meant to support and teach. We have an administration meant to keep us safe and provide us the best experience possible. However, Wellesley College would not exist with just faculty, staff, and administration. We are here because we serve a purpose as well; Wellesley is at the end of the day here for us, for us to learn, to be empowered, and to sustain the connections we develop here. Therefore, all facets of health matter just as much as the first B+ you get or the “résumé-worthy” internship you receive. If we do not prioritize ourselves, our happiness, and spend the time marinating on what brings us joy, or what would be fulfilling to our lives, this campus fails to fulfill the mission it prides itself on.
So today, at Wellesley College’s 2021–2022 convocation and as your College Government president, I firstly congratulate you for making it here today, and hope that I provide comfort in the chaos and beauty that is to come. In these uncertain times, I encourage all of us to respect and support our sibs, because you never know the day or week someone has had. Create spaces where we feel comfortable to ask questions, make mistakes, and speak up. Give yourself and your sibs room to grow. Take a look around, breathe, embrace this moment: the trees, the purple, the gowns, and your support system. Be excited for the friendships that are to come and the memories to be made because they will be sweet and will last a lifetime. I can’t wait and look forward to growing alongside all the sides of ourselves this year.
Cheers to us and cheers to this year. We made it!