Wellesley College Government President Speaks About Civic Engagement on Campus

October 23, 2019
Members of College Government sit in the academic council room

On October 23, College Government President Diana Lam ’20 joins the Board of Trustees’ Wellesley in the World Committee, which stewards Wellesley’s profile, interactions, and reputation. Lam has thought through how she will approach her role as a committee member: “Be confident in yourself and know that you deserve this seat. But at the same time, also be cognizant of what you assert, because what you say will be construed as the opinion of two thousand and some students.”

Lam is no stranger to committee work at Wellesley. Two years ago, she was a student representative on the Admissions and Financial Aid committee, a part of Academic Council. “I was definitely nervous about it,” Lam said. “But I think that nervousness came, not only because I was a student rep, but because I was young.”

Now, as College Government president, Lam deals with senior administrators all the time. “Being able to face that nervousness early on, I think, has made me more confident as a person, and in turn, has made this an even more valuable learning experience. Because at the end of the day, that’s what all these leadership experiences are supposed to be, right?”

Lam’s early exposure to administrative committees helped her during her recent summer 2019 internship in finance, during which she was required to present a stock pitch every three weeks to members of the firm. “It was not just first-year analysts, but also managing directors, people who have been in the financial services industry for 20-plus years,” she said. She found the first presentation daunting and felt what many people feel as they face a room full of executives: imposter syndrome.

But then she thought back to her time as a student representative sitting among members of senior leadership, including Piper Orton, vice president for finance and administration, and Andy Shennan, provost and dean of the College. “If I could sit in those rooms, why can’t I sit in this room right now?” she asked herself. 

“These committees give you the sense of what it feels like to be at the table, so that when you do graduate, you don’t dream of being at the table,” she said. “You expect that you’ll be at the table. And when you get to the table, you know what it’s like to conduct yourself.”

Lam said serving on committees gives students interested in community development a chance to participate in that space on campus. “We think of social justice and community work, and community engagement, as outside of the community that you’re in. But for me, I’ve always thought that the best civic engagement has always been here, [at Wellesley].” 

Lam is excited for what opportunities lie ahead now that she is a part of the Wellesley in the World Committee, and she can’t wait to serve on it with chair Sue Wagner ’82, co-founder and director of BlackRock. “Sue Wagner is definitely a name that you know on the street, and to be able to sit in the same room as her, and to know the impact she has had on Wellesley, that has in turn impacted my own personal experience is… It’s a lot to process,” Lam said. 

Lam ultimately sees the committee as a space for people who care about the College to come together. “We all come from the same kind of home right? Wellesley.” 

Photo: Before a College Government senate meeeting, Diana Lam ’20 (center) sits with her cabinet members in Wellesley’s Academic Council Room.