To Mark the Tanner Conference Turning 20, the Wellesley Community Is Invited to Talk About 2020 with StoryCorps
Happy 20th birthday to the Tanner Conference! This week, the annual celebration of students’ off-campus experiential learning will recognize the many ways this year like no other has affected the entire Wellesley College community. From October 19 to 22, the College will hold a virtual Tanner Summit that includes student panels on four themes: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the movement for racial justice, the changing environment, and the 2020 election. President Paula A. Johnson will moderate the panel addressing the pandemic.
“It is my hope that we can take this time with each other to move toward the heart of the issues of our time that we must confront, and begin to determine how we can engage, act, and learn from each other’s experiences,” Johnson said in her opening remarks for the panel she moderated.
Additionally, this year will feature a unique opportunity for Wellesley to make history through a partnership with StoryCorps that will celebrate interpersonal dialogue and the relationship between the liberal arts classroom and the world beyond the College’s campus. All members of the Wellesley College community are invited and encouraged to record a StoryCorps interview—with a friend, roommate, favorite faculty or staff member, or mentor—reflecting on the four themes of this year’s conference and their own personal experiences.
“By engaging in a StoryCorps interview, members of our community are not only contributing their stories to the historical record, but also creating space to sit down with someone they care for, share questions and reflections, and listen.”Elizabeth Mandeville ’04, director of exploration and experiential learning in Career Education
“A StoryCorps partnership feels like an especially moving way to celebrate Tanner’s 20th anniversary and recognize what we’ve all experienced during this tumultuous year,” said Elizabeth Mandeville ’04, director of exploration and experiential learning in Career Education. “By engaging in a StoryCorps interview, members of our community are not only contributing their stories to the historical record, but also—and most importantly—creating space to sit down with someone they care for, share questions and reflections, and listen. This is the gift that the Tanner Conference gives us every year, and it is a particularly powerful opportunity in 2020.”
The interviews will be archived in the Library of Congress as well as the College Archives (with participant permission) as intimate markers of history, accessible to future generations, that capture this moment at Wellesley. Participating in StoryCorps interviews is something of a Wellesley tradition itself: Students and alumnae have shared their experiences as part of the Ethos 50th anniversary celebration and the Wellesley Effect campaign, and Robin Sparkman ’91 served as the first CEO of StoryCorps.
Tanner panelist Shukri Ali ’21 said she wishes she could record a StoryCorps interview with her grandmother, who lives in rural Somaliland, herds her own livestock, and has experienced firsthand the devastating financial and personal impact of climate change. Ali, an economics major who will participate in the panel on the changing environment, completed a remote internship this summer at BlackRock, an investment management company, from campus as she was unable to return home to Somaliland because of travel restrictions. “Even though [my grandmother] never went to school, she understands when I talk about the changing environment and how it is going to alter the way we invest and live,” Ali said. “She has lived through many prolonged droughts and migrated to various regions in search of pasture and drinkable water.”
After completing her internship, where she had the opportunity to explore sustainable investing, Ali sought a deeper understanding of the role of climate change in our everyday lives and the intersection of economics and environmental studies. She decided to minor in environmental science, and “bring back all that I learned during my internship to my course work this semester as a senior.”
Panelist Iris Haastrup ’22, who will participate in the conversation about the racial justice movement, started a grocery pick-up service for members of her community on the South Side of Chicago this summer with the help of funding from organizations and community members in the Chicago area as well as her Wellesley connections, especially Black staff, Black students, and Black Tau Zeta Epsilon alums. Haastrup initially used her cousin’s paint shop as a drop-off/pick-up point, and two hours into the first day, the entire store was filled with fresh produce, toiletries, pantry items, and PPE. “A difficulty for me was not having a car and not knowing how to drive during this project, but this allowed me to open myself to help from people that I didn't know or I didn't have close relationships with as a way for building community,” she said.
Haastrup organized 15 volunteers and set up the South Side Grocery Pick-Up (SSGPU) like a grocery store. “I knew that there were other food pantries in the city during this time, but I wanted to differentiate the SSGPU by allowing people to choose what they wanted, not to just give people items,” she said. “In this way, I wanted to remove shame and invite human dignity and respect into this process.” She is currently shifting the SSGPU to a delivery service because of Chicago’s notoriously cold winters.
As part of her Mellon-Mays Fellowship, Haastrup is also researching Black urban design and how formations of cities recreate inequity against Black people.“Right now at Wellesley, I believe I am the only Black architecture major. I don’t say this as something worthy of praise, but a comment that should be shamed and dissected,” Haastrup said. “Why are there so few Black people in architecture and urban studies, if we know that urban spaces can act as a refuge or violence against Black people?”
The Tanner conference was established through the generosity of Wellesley College trustee emerita Estelle “Nicki” Newman Tanner ’57, who wanted to create an opportunity for the community to gather and learn from students about their participation in and growth from internships, civic engagement, study abroad, and other experiential opportunities.
“Experiential learning, even at this difficult time, offers opportunities to function both intellectually and morally in a complex world,” said Tanner about the 2020 summit. “I send my profound thanks to all participants for sharing your thoughts and experiences and for using your own strengths to help lead us to a more just, compassionate, and economically sustainable world.”
“I have long believed that some of your most profound learning will come from being open to a multitude of experiences, and leaning into them, some of which you can’t even imagine yet,” Johnson said. “It is my hope that, this week, you will begin to see such possibilities take shape.”