Senior Snapshot, Charnell Jones ’23: “I Made Something That I’m Proud Of”

Charnell Jones ’23 poses for a photo on campus.
Image credit: Karen Osuna ’25
Author  Aidan Reid ’24
Published on 

As Charnell Jones ’23 enters their final few weeks at Wellesley, they are trying to absorb as much of the campus and activities as they can: “I’m really living it up in these last moments.” A double major in English and women’s and gender studies, Jones recently completed their honor’s thesis for English examining how 20th-century Black female writers subverted cultural and literary expectations. While senior year has been “intense,” Jones says, “In the end, I made something that I’m proud of.”

Many Wellesley students may have heard Jones’s name before: Their short film Am I Doomed? was the focal point of President Paula Johnson’s 2021 convocation speech. “For my Shakespeare class’s final project, I used a speech from The Winter’s Tale about time. We were at home, and it was COVID, and everything seemed so bleak,” says Jones. “There’s this song that I love called ‘Doomed’ by Moses Sumney, and I thought about this song when I was planning my project. And so basically, I did this time lapse from my front door of this parking circle outside my house for seven hours. I took that clip and I played it with ‘Doomed’ over it and the time speech scrolling on the side. I was proud of it because I’m not a videographer at all.”

Sarah Wall-Randell, associate professor of English, who taught the class, sent the video to other members of the English faculty and Johnson. Johnson asked Jones if she could use the video in her speech for convocation.“I was really happy and proud that the deepness for me was conveyed to everyone else,” says Jones.

Jones wasn’t on campus to hear the speech, however, as they spent their junior year studying at the University of Oxford. “The independence of it is almost indescribable to people who haven’t done it. It’s very much a once-in-a lifetime situation,” Jones says. “When I went over there, it felt like my life paused and I took on this whole other life. I remember that life very, very fondly.” That experience helped prepare them for graduate school—Jones will be attending NYU in the fall, pursuing a Ph.D. in English.

On campus, Jones is a member of the literary society Zeta Alpha (ZA), which they say has been a big part of their Wellesley experience: “I’ve found a lot of my friends and activities through ZA.”

A highlight of their final semester at Wellesley was experiencing their first Marathon Monday, as the marathons their first two years at Wellesley were canceled due to the pandemic, and they were abroad for the two that occurred during their junior year. “I had been hearing about it from people, but you’ve really got to live it to understand the energy of it,” Jones says. “I was really awed. I’m here having fun, and there are also people right in front of me who are running the Boston Marathon.”

Due to the pandemic and studying abroad, this was Jones’s first full spring at Wellesley, an experience that they are making the most of: “I’ve been trying to take in the sunsets, trying to savor living in Tower Court. I feel like the views are the best. I can’t beat them. And so I’m really trying to romanticize that experience as much as possible and just take in how pretty this place can be.”

“In the documents page of my thesis I found this quote from [writer and activist] Audre Lorde about one of her works where she said, ‘Whatever its faults and whatever its glories, it’s out there.’ And I feel that way about Wellesley, whatever its faults, whatever its glories, I’m so happy to be here and be with the people I’ve met here,” says Jones. “I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else.”