Senior Snapshot: Francelis Morillo Suarez Appreciates the Value of Flexibility

Francelis Morillo Suarez ’21
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The summer before her first year at Wellesley, Francelis Morillo Suarez ’21 put together her four-year plan for attending college: What she would major in (environmental studies and italian studies). When she would study abroad (her junior year) and for how long (one semester). Her advice to incoming students—be more flexible than that!

Morillo Suarez ended up veering from her four-year plan, deciding to study abroad for two semesters rather than one. She said it was “a pretty big shift, and it took some planning and petitioning, but I’m really glad I did it.” Of course, the ultimate teacher of flexibility was the global pandemic that cut short her second trip. After spending the fall of her junior year in Bologna, Italy, she was in Morocco for the spring semester when she learned she would need to return to the U.S. She hasn’t been on campus since her sophomore year, and now she is about to graduate remotely.

Morillo Suarez, an environmental studies and Italian studies double major, lives in Lawrence, Mass., not far from Wellesley. She opted to study from home this year so that she could be with her 11-year-old brother, who is also attending school remotely.

Though she isn’t on campus, she stays connected with the community in a variety of ways, from texting and video chatting with her friends to participating in the upcoming Ruhlman Conference and keeping in touch with her cohort in the McNair Scholars Program, which she credits with helping her become a better scholar and researcher.

“Going into Wellesley, I didn’t really know what research was … I didn’t really see myself as someone who would do that or was never in a space where I was encouraged to do research,” she said. When she learned of the McNair program, which prepares historically underrepresented students to enter graduate school, she decided to apply.

“The program, for me, was a way into a new space,” she said. Most of her experience with the McNair program has been remote, through panels and conversations, but she said it’s been an important part of her Wellesley journey. “It’s an amazing community of people to be a part of and I’ve learned so much,” she said.

Morillo Suarez intends to go to graduate school, but her immediate plan after Wellesley is to start an internship that she secured through the Clean Energy Leadership Institute. “I haven’t had the chance to learn much about the clean energy sector,” she said. “I thought, this is the best time, early on in my career, to be able to do that.”

Morillo Suarez earned a sustainability certificate while at Wellesley; the program, which includes Babson and Olin colleges, taught her about the three pillars of sustainability—economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity—and how to work with students from other disciplines, like engineering and business. “I felt like that was really, really important for me as an environmental studies major because once I go out into the field to do that work, I’ll be way better at collaborating and understanding where others are coming from,” she said.

Morillo Suarez is particularly interested in environmental justice thanks to a high school summer program at Brown University, where she learned about environmental justice communities; later, she discovered that she came from one. Her hope is to find work that combines her interests in climate resilience and environmental justice. “I feel like wherever I end up working I’m going to try my best to make it so that environmental justice is a part of it,” she said.

Finishing her last semester off campus feels bittersweet, Morillo Suarez said. She lives close enough that she’ll be able to stop by to say hello to professors and students once visitors are permitted again, but she hasn’t seen many of her friends in person in a long time, and as a first-generation student, she was looking forward to having her family cheer as she accepted her diploma. “Instead, I will be able to graduate at home with my mother right beside me and will celebrate with my immediate family and with the majority of my extended family—who we will most definitely video call—who live in the Dominican Republic,” she said.

Though completing her senior year remotely was challenging, and she wasn’t a fan of the shortened term system, Morillo Suarez said, “Overall, I still learned a lot … the pivot Wellesley made, I feel, was done very well.”