The Presidential Scholars civic leadership community (for rising juniors)

At Wellesley, service is leadership. The Presidential Scholars program is an opportunity for Wellesley students, starting in their junior and continuing through their senior year, to focus intensively on civic engagement.

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Through a reflective co-curricular model that brings together academics and community engagement, Presidential Scholars will actively engage with communities beyond Wellesley’s campus through internships and volunteer opportunities to develop a civic lens, forming authentic relationships within their cohort and community in the process. Scholars will develop critical skills in social change work, active listening, effective advocacy, critical thinking, and empathic citizenship. Scholars will pursue intellectual curiosity and agility, the hallmarks of a liberal arts education, by applying their lens of social change to their individual academic pursuits and career development. 

Systemic social change is the work of a lifetime and requires long term commitment to dismantling systems of oppression. The Scholars program is designed as an entry point to that long term change work for every student. 

The Scholars will act as agents of change, learning through three interrelated paradigms: community development, effective practice, and intellectual curiosity. You can explore the components of each paradigm below. 


Community Development (Paradigm 1)

To change community, you first have to be in community. This paradigm allows Scholars to build and be in community.

  • Community of Practice
    Each Scholar is assigned to a Community of Practice (CP), a subcommunity within the broader Scholar cohort that focuses on a specific social lens. This is the lens that CPs will use to think about their experiences and focus their reflective work.
  • Guide
    Each Scholar will be assigned to a Guide. Guides will serve as the Scholar’s ‘home base’ and provide support as Scholars progress through the program. Guides and Scholars will meet throughout the academic year.
  • Mentor
    Each Scholar will select a faculty, staff, alumnae, or community partner mentor in a field related to their academic work and career goals to work with on an ongoing basis.


Effective Practice (Paradigm 2)

Practice is an important component of learning any new skill — and social change work is a skill! Effective practices provide a space to learn and implement new skills to hone them.

  • Internship or Work Experience
    Each Scholar will complete an internship or other immersive work experience the summer after their junior year in any field or industry that they choose.  
  • Leadership Development Experience
    Each Scholar will select leadership experiences and on or off campus to continue to develop core leadership skills. 
  • Service/Civic Experience
    Scholars will engage in ongoing community engagement as a Scholar community.


Intellectual Curiosity (Paradigm 3)

  • Academic Concentration
    Scholars will select four courses, two from the junior year and one each semester of the Scholar’s senior year in which the Scholar will bring a civic lens to the course.
  • Research
    Check back for more information! 
  • Public Voice
    This element may be an oral, written, or artistic representation of the Scholar’s work for internal and external audiences. This could include Tanner, Ruhlmann, op-eds, an art exhibit, Calderwood public writing seminars, professional conferences, etc.
  • Capstone Project
    Each Scholar will complete a capstone project in their senior year in their Community of Practice. Each Community of Practice will develop a body of work that will draw together their coursework, research, community, volunteer, and leadership work to share, collectively, what they have learned during their two years as Scholars.


Sample Presidential Scholars Pathways

View sample pathways as pdf.