Congratulations to the Class of 2022.5!
For 62 students, December 14 marked the end of their final semester at Wellesley, a milestone they celebrated at a gathering on December 13. Dressed in formalwear or black graduation gowns, they sipped bubbly beverages from champagne flutes and ate cupcakes with blue and white frosting.
“Whether you are leaving this campus slightly earlier than expected or slightly later than expected, you have all accomplished something incredible in your time here at Wellesley,” said Sara Squeglia, dean of the class of 2023 (I–Z), in her remarks to the December finishers.
Maryellen Kiley, dean of the class of 2023 (A–H), acted as the emcee for the night, and 2023 class representatives Ahayla Ramgopal ’23 and Alex Hussey ’23, Provost Andrew Shennan, and Vice President and Dean of Students Sheilah Horton also addressed the graduates. (President Paula Johnson sent her best wishes but was unable to attend.) Shennan read the names of each student as they crossed the stage to shake hands with Horton.
Melissa Jo Zambrana ’15, assistant director of alumnae engagement, then officially welcomed the December finishers into the Alumnae Association and said they could be affiliated with whichever class they prefer––this year’s class, their original class, or even both: “Wellesley lets you choose your own path forward.”
Zambrana, a December finisher herself, started this annual celebration in 2015. She had taken a leave of absence her senior spring due to a concussion, and though she walked with her class at commencement in May 2015, she felt odd having her finals in December and leaving campus forever without marking the occasion. She wrote to the deans, asking for an event where members of the class of “2015.5” could “cry into cake after reflecting on all of [their] accomplishments, hardships, and memories.” Thus the tradition was born.
Over the years, the event evolved from a simple gathering in Schneider to a party at the president’s house; this year, so many students finished in December that it was moved to the Alumnae Hall Ballroom.
Horton ended the evening’s program with a toast, encouraging the students to savor this moment to be together. “You’ve been through so much in the past four-ish years,” she said.
“I’m excited and a bit sad,” said Huda Saeed ’23, a mathematics major and statistics minor, reflecting on finishing early. “Our class was so affected by COVID and spent so much time remote or distanced. I’m sad I didn’t have the most normal college experience, but I’m grateful for the memories I do have.”
Saeed said she hadn’t considered graduating early until this past semester. “I think on this campus, and I include myself in this category, we’re all very much type A and like to have long-term plans,” she said. She encourages her younger Wellesley sibs “to try to keep an open mind.”
“I think COVID pushed me to experience college and the bonds and connections that you make there at an expedited pace. … You just immediately find the people that you’re meant to be with,” said Anissa Mansour ’23, a double major in philosophy and psychology who, like many members of the class of 2023, had enough credits to graduate early. She said her major advisors, Julie Norem, Margaret Hamm Professor of Psychology, and Julie Walsh, associate professor of philosophy, helped her realize that “if an opportunity is presented to you, most of the time, it’s because you should take it and it’s something that you are capable of.”
The December finishers have a wide range of plans for the coming year. Mansour said she will be “relaxing and vibing” at home in Florida while she continues her job hunt. Saeed is applying to graduate programs in data science, hoping to start in September 2023. Manasvi Khanna ’23, a data science and psychology double major, is applying for tech jobs and is looking forward to going home to India for the first time in two and a half years, while Sanaá Walker ’23, a double major in Spanish and cognitive and linguistic sciences, is applying to master’s programs in public health. “I want to attend a grad school that continues looking at health through an intersectional lens, carrying on the message of social justice that Wellesley taught me,” Walker said.
Jessica Wegner ’22, a physics and environmental studies double major, is excited to return to Taiwan to celebrate Lunar New Year at the end of January with her family for the first time in four years. Kaitlyn Wang ’23, a neuroscience major who has been part of Wellesley Wushu since her first year, has enjoyed meeting Wushu alums in the Boston area and looks forward to expanding her Wellesley alum network. “Even after college there are so many relationships that can be formed,” said Wang.
Of course, leaving is bittersweet. Students said they would miss everything from living in the sustainability co-op to volunteering at the Child Study Center to being part of the swim team to boating on Lake Waban to working in the admission office to joining dozens of student organizations.
Above all, they said, they will miss the people––friends, faculty, and staff, including custodial and dining hall workers to whom they’d grown close during their time at Wellesley.
“Wellesley is a really safe place to grow and find yourself, because you are surrounded by people who support you,” said Wegner.