WCVB’s Chronicle HD Profiles President Paula A. Johnson—and Wellesley College—on “Game Changers”

WCVB's Chronicle HD covers inauguration
October 28, 2016

President Paula A. Johnson appeared on WCVB’s news magazine Chronicle HD Wednesday evening as part of its “Game Changer” series. The segment featured an interview with Johnson and included the sights and sounds of her recent presidential inauguration, which transformed the “famously grand campus” into “a buzzing procession of luminaries and a roaring celebration,” according to reporter Sangita Chandra.

“Wellesley and its alums are known for breaking down barriers, as is [President Paula] Johnson,” said Chandra, calling the president “an internationally renowned leader in women’s health.” (As an alumna, Chandra knows more than most reporters about Wellesley.) Talking about what this moment means for Wellesley, Johnson said, “If you look at some of the inequities that exist in our world, if you look at…the fact that women’s leadership is being recognized, Wellesley is the perfect place to be.”

In her interview, Johnson talked about her career in science and medicine and how her background gives her “a different lens” as president. She said such a lens is important, “just as the tremendous diversity among the faculty [and] students is critically important.”

The segment included interviews with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, both of whom spoke at Johnson’s inauguration. Warren, Massachusetts’ senior senator, described how Johnson’s “historic appointment strengthens what’s called the ‘Wellesley effect,’” reported Chandra. “Wellesley grows women leaders; that’s what it does. It nurtures them and helps them blossom,” Warren said. “And we need women leaders in this country. The old order is seeing a real shake-up and some pushback against that. Being here with a new generation who will lead this country and lead this world is truly inspiring.”

“[Johnson] understands the importance of reaching across differences of ethnicities, races, national origins, things that are best understood in the context of language and history [and] anthropology,” said Faust, “so she knows that science needs to have a partner in the social sciences and the humanities to be practiced most effectively. Wellesley is very, very lucky to have her.”

Natalie Mendenhall ’17 and Denesse Salto ’17 were also interviewed, and they shared their hopes for Wellesley under Johnson’s leadership.

The segment also highlighted a few key messages from Johnson’s inaugural speech. One is her belief that “[m]ore than any other fields of study, the arts and the humanities fortify us to do the work that we are called to do. If the sciences tell us how, the humanities and arts remind us why.” Another is her commitment to creating a culture that respects difference: “In recent years, many have questioned the notion that colleges should prioritize being warm and welcoming places—the idea being that this is at odds with rigorous learning. I reject that wholeheartedly.”

Said Johnson about leading Wellesley College into its next chapter, “It’s one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting opportunity I’ve had in my life.”

Chronicle HD was one of several media outlets that were on hand for Johnson’s inauguration. The Boston Globe featured the event on its front page, and WBUR’s Edify aired highlights from the day’s speeches. WBZ-TV, the Boston Herald, Jet magazine, and others also covered the inauguration. Learn more about Johnson’s many accomplishments and read her complete inaugural address.