“Wellesley” Magazine Takes an In-Depth Look at Inclusive Excellence at the College

A drawing of the Wellesley College campus, students on campus
Photo provided by Illustration by Cat O'Neil
May 29, 2019

This article, by Catherine O’Neill Grace, originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Wellesley magazine.

“Inclusive excellence” might sound like a catchphrase. But not at Wellesley College. Here, the words have become a touchstone at Academic Council meetings of the faculty, in discussions among the Board of Trustees, around the table in the Alumnae Association offices, in the Science Center, and in res and dining halls. Inclusive Excellence is even the title of a mural by artist and faculty member David Teng Olsen on the third floor of Green Hall.

What do those two words mean for Wellesley?

President Paula Johnson says, “The way I like to frame it is that true excellence really requires equity, inclusion, and intellectual openness at all levels of learning and in all aspects of our community, from our academic program to our students’ experience of campus life. When you are focused on difference, you must take it as what it can give, as opposed to what members of the community don’t have.”

Johnson says that the community’s dedication to inclusion is not new, but it feels different now than it did when she joined the College in 2016. “There have been individuals committed for a long time, particularly in the faculty and the administrative leadership,” she says. “But this is a moment in which the mindset has changed. It’s a moment of viewing this whole initiative around inclusive excellence from a place of strength and a place of positivity, about what our diversity can bring to our community when fully realized.

“Right now there’s an engagement that is unprecedented,” she says. “This is the moment that we have to seize, because there’s a tremendous convergence of interest and passion and leadership and funding to do the work. A significant number of faculty are embracing this work in a very powerful way. And that’s really what it takes.”

The full story can be found on the Wellesley magazine website.