Camellia Student Leadership Award recipients

Wellesley’s Student Leaders Shine in 2020 Camellia Awards

May 8, 2020

“The Wellesley experience is defined by a culture of participation, social responsibility, and citizenship. And while leadership can take many forms, ultimately it starts with embodying our values,” Wellesley President Paula Johnson said in her address for a virtual ceremony celebrating the 2020 Camellia Student Leadership Awards.

Presented on May 6, the awards—named after the camellia tree given to the College by its founders, Henry and Pauline Durant—recognize students’ commitment to leadership and service on and off campus. “Though this is just the third year of the Camellia awards,” Johson said, “the ethos of leadership that these awards honor comes from a long, proud tradition that is at the heart of Wellesley’s mission.”

This year’s recipients were recognized for work undertaken both before and after the College shifted to remote learning for the conclusion of the spring semester.  “While there is so much loss happening in our world right now, we are pleased to be able to maintain the Camellia awards,” said Sheilah Shaw Horton, vice president and dean of students. “It continues to offer our campus an opportunity to hold up examples of student leadership that transcends roles or positions. While we would have loved to have had the excitement of the actual ceremony and hear the cheers and claps that students have for each other, we are so grateful to have the most important part of the program intact, which is the nomination process, where community members have a chance to reflect on our amazing students and take time to shine a light on their leadership qualities.”

The prize celebrates leadership across three over-arching disciplines: self-awareness, engagement with others, and connection to purpose. “Even as the pandemic interrupted the nomination period for this year’s awards, we received a tremendous amount of student nominations from a wide range of members of the College community,” said Carol Bate, associate dean of students. “The diverse group of nominees the committee considered for this year’s awards is a testament to the many ways student leaders are fostering dialogue, establishing partnerships, and demonstrating leadership on and off campus, in all sorts of ways.”

“I think that leadership comes in many ways, shapes, and forms. It’s important that we recognize it in our classrooms, communities, organizations at every level of interaction.”

Krista Dong ’20

The recipients for the 10 awards, which honor both individual leaders and groups, are chosen from a pool of nominees submitted by students, faculty, and staff by Bate and a team of representatives from Student Life and Career Education.

“Wellesley has a strong legacy of leadership and service, and the inception of the Camellia Student Leadership Awards is important to me because it honors and continues this legacy,” said Diana Lam ’20, who received the Sed Ministrare Student Leadership Award for her efforts to enhance the student experience at Wellesley College through College Government. “To me, it does not matter if you are College Government president or if you are a first-year student. Both people have equal capacity to model and to follow what it means to be a good member of the community.” 

“Good leadership is all about bringing others up with you,” said Josie Kuchta ’23, who won the Emerging Leadership Award for her work as assistant musical director for the Wellesley Widows. “A skilled leader should not only be able to keep the group on track, but also encourage members to approach the problem at hand in their own way, incorporating different viewpoints to come to a solution. Understanding those around you, and what motivates them and what their goals are, is key to effective leadership.” 

“I think that leadership comes in many ways, shapes, and forms,” said Krista Dong ’20, this year’s Resilience in Leadership Award recipient. “It’s important that we recognize it in our classrooms, communities, organizations at every level of interaction. The large pool of nominees this year is really a testament to the leadership that is alive and well on campus.”

Individual award-winners receive a custom-designed sterling silver camellia pin, and winning student groups’ names will be engraved on a permanent plaque in the campus center and will receive a $100 grant to promote the work of their group.