T Is for Tanner: What Happens When Liberal Arts and Experiential Learning Collide

October 30, 2019

On October 29, Wellesley held its annual Tanner Conference, a unique tradition at the College that showcases the power of combining the liberal arts with experiential learning and the value for students of pursuing off-campus opportunities through internships, volunteer work, fellowships, civic engagement service, study abroad, or research.

Tanner is a memorable experience for the entire Wellesley community. All classes are canceled for the day—a rarity—so that students can attend the presentations and learn from their peers and faculty and staff advisors can celebrate their advisees’ work.

For the first time, this year the conference included a foreign-language panel, “Around the Globe in Spanish: Spanish Foreign Language Panel (Por el mundo en español. Panel en español),” during which students gave their presentations entirely in Spanish. Another first: A panel of Wellesley faculty spoke during the lunch break about the benefits of experiential learning in their own careers.

Here’s a look at scenes from this year’s Tanner Conference.

Five students sit at a table about to give their Tanner presentation. They laugh together

In 49 different presentations, students from a wide variety of disciplines shared the lessons they learned from their experiential opportunities, both individually or as part of group panels. Left to right: Goretty Chavez ’20, Aditi Saha ’20, Jahanara (Jana) Freedman ’20, Maya Weber ’20, and Lauren Sun ’22 prepare for their panel, “Intersection of Education and Prehealth Careers.” Saha and Freedman discussed their experiences at the intersection of physics and medicine, and the varied career paths they are now familiar with. Both worked as undergraduate researchers at MIT institutes this past summer, at Saha at Koch and Freedman at Picower.

Nikki Tanner takes a photo of the Tanner posters outside LuLu

Wellesley College trustee emerita Estelle “Nicki” Newman Tanner ’57, who established the day-long conference in 2001, stops by the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center to snap a photo of one of the new posters created this year to promote the event.

Lee Cuba, professor of sociology, worked with Tanner to create the conference—he was dean of the College at the time. “Nicki hoped the conference would provide another, and perhaps, a different, opportunity for student-faculty collaboration,” Cuba said. “She has always appreciated the genuine interest Wellesley faculty take in their students’ educational and personal growth. Much of this growth takes place outside of the classroom, and the Tanner Conference promotes student-faculty interaction focused on reflection and holistic learning.” (Photo: Elizabeth Mandeville ’04)

Students walk to lunch in Alumnae ballroom in the background. A fire pit is in the foreground.

On their way to and from lunch in Alumnae Hall Ballroom, students, faculty, staff, and visitors took advantage of an end-of-October Wellesley staple—the firepit outside the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center. The crisp temperature was just right for a few logs and great conversation.

Four students take a selfie with their Tanner name tags before giving their presentation at Tanner 2019

From left to right, Davis summer interns Maddy Allan-Rahill ’20, Stephanie Fan ’22, Aviv Shimoni ’21, and Nancy Chu ’21 hold up their name tents before speaking at the panel “Adventures in the Arts: The Davis Summer Internship.” Each summer, a small group of students join the Davis Museum staff on campus for 10 weeks of hands-on experience in museum operations, practices, and policies. (Photo: Michelle Shen ’22)

Cookies with the Tanner logo sit on a table.

Overheard at Tanner Lunch: “Well, aren’t those the most Instagramable desserts ever?” We couldn’t agree more!

Another highlight: For the second year in a row, Tanner was a zero-waste event, which means waste the event generated was either recycled or composted.

Outside Green Hall, 5 students pose for a photo making a T sign with their hands.

“T for #Tanner2019!” On their way to a midafternoon break, (left to right) Jocelyn Ramirez ’20, Katie White ’20, Bella Virgilio ’20, Amanda Wright ’20, and Lucy Wenstrup ’20 show their Tanner pride outside Green Hall. (Photo: Lucy Wenstrup ’20)

Fun Tanner fact: Between sessions, the Wellesley Carillonneurs share their musical talents—the carillon bells ring across campus, marking the next stage in the Tanner journey.