Convocation Kicks Off Wellesley’s 149th Academic Year

Seniors gather around the 2024 class banner for photos before convocation.
Author  Photos and Text: Shannon O'Brien
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In spite of the late summer heat, many seniors donned their academic gowns and gathered on the green near Alumnae Hall to take photos, hug classmates they hadn’t seen all summer, and revel in the first day of their last year of college. Then they processed with faculty and staff to Hay Outdoor Theater for the start of convocation, joining students from all classes to formally welcome the new academic year.

In her opening remarks, President Paula Johnson noted the diversity of the incoming class—58% are domestic students of color, 24% will be the first generation in their families to attend a four-year college; 14% are international citizens; and 53% speak a language other than English in their homes.

“Of course, the value of diversity is not in representation alone. It is not enough to simply travel through a college career alongside peers with different histories, backgrounds, and identities,” Johnson said. “What matters is listening to those peers, developing curiosity about them, fostering appreciation, and, sometimes, closeness, and friendship. We strive not just for diversity at Wellesley, but for inclusive excellence—which is the recognition that there really is no excellence without diversity and inclusion.”

Andrew Shennan, provost and Lia Gelin Poorvu ’56 Dean of the College, reflected on the fact that this year’s seniors were the first class to experience a full academic year during the pandemic. “[H]ow strange was that entire semester—sorry, T1 and T2!” he said. “Strange for all of us, and (I can never say enough) also arduous and exhausting for all of us.” Whether on Zoom or on campus, he said, “we were all improvising in an extraordinary way during those months. It wasn’t our ‘normal’ academic community, but it was completely recognizable as Wellesley, a kind of distillation of who we are and how we teach and learn together.”

Ingrid Bell ’24, College Government president, said she is proud to be part of the red class, a group whose journey to senior year has not been easy.

“Our unconventional beginnings have led this class to carve its own path through this institution, to fight to hold on to the best of Wellesley and change what wasn’t working,” she said. “So let’s celebrate the overwhelming accomplishment of making it this far, and let’s make this year our most fun yet. We’ve earned it! But also, let’s take full advantage of the chance to change our own and our sibs’ experiences for the better.”

Chief Justice Dhanya Srikanth ’24 told her fellow students, “On this first day of classes, I want you to think of the Honor Code as two promises. The first to yourself: Continue searching for your answers and asking questions that get you closer to the truth. And the second: Realize that while the pursuit of truth may be inherently individual, the extension of respect is what makes us a community.”

The full ceremony will soon be available on the College’s YouTube channel.