Wellesley Celebrates December Graduates

Two students pose for a photo with one student holding up her diploma case that read Wellesley College.
Image credit: Shawyuan Hsu ’22
Author  Josh Idaszak
Published on 

On December 15, Wellesley seniors who completed their degree requirements this semester were honored in a ceremony in Alumnae Hall. The College’s newest alumnae were celebrated by Wellesley’s senior leadership and members of the class of 2022 class council. Kathryn Harvey Mackintosh ’03, executive director of the College’s Alumnae Association, welcomed them into Wellesley’s alumnae community, and Dean of Students Sheilah Shaw Horton toasted the group with cider at the close of the event.

“What you have achieved during your time at Wellesley is extraordinary,” said President Paula A. Johnson in her remarks to the graduates. “You have demonstrated that you can learn and grow and thrive through moments of profound uncertainty.” She urged them to carry forward the bravery and communal spirit they demonstrated during their years on campus, and in particular in the face of the challenges the pandemic presented, and she referenced writer and activist Rebecca Solnit’s thoughts on finding hope in difficult moments. “I know that you are well-equipped to find solutions, and to connect across difference with those who also want to build a better world,” Johnson said. “You will find each other, and together, you will move mountains.”

Despite the advent of the new omicron variant, and after a fall of carefully following COVID protocols, attendees were happy to be able to gather together safely for an in-person ceremony. “It felt a little bit surreal, to be a part of this ceremony, especially after the past couple of years and the uncertainty that has surrounded the previous graduations,” said Oreoluwa Odeyinka ’22, a class co-president, who addressed the graduates and welcomed Johnson along with Angela Qian ’22, a class co-vice president.

Odeyinka highlighted her classmates’ brilliance, as well as the care they have demonstrated for each other during their time on campus. “We often joke about this idea of being a ‘girl boss,’ and how that is viewed by many as the ideal Wellesley graduate, but our class has wholly taken on the challenge of redefining what an ideal graduate looks like,” Odeyinka said. “We are striving to be compassionate and empathetic neighbors and friends.”

“Wellesley taught us to define growth and success in our own ways,” said Qian. “I know this will carry along with the finishers into the next chapter in their lives.”

Sophie Barowsky ’21, a December graduate who majored in neuroscience and French, found the ceremony both celebratory and poignant. “I’m grateful for my experience here,” Barowsky said, “but thinking of leaving this second home is daunting.” Her most meaningful campus experiences, she said, were the moments she spent with friends: “I made my closest friends at Wellesley my first year, when we were all randomly housed in the same hallway in Bates. We are all so different, but we instantly connected on such a deep level and became fast friends. I honestly cannot imagine my time at Wellesley without this strong, supportive group of friends—my Wellesley family–especially throughout the past couple of years during the pandemic.”

Barowsky, who is from Framingham, Mass., plans to continue working in a local French bakery while she considers whether she wants to apply for research positions in psychology labs and eventually pursue a Ph.D.

“This semester has been a bit of a roller coaster in terms of thinking about my future,” Barowsky said. “Those programs are six years and a lot of grueling work, so you really have to be sure that it’s the right path for you.” Above all, she said, “I’m trying to take things slow and not compare my path to what others are doing or what I think I should be doing.… I have spent so many years focusing on academics, and I think it’s important to take time to breathe and reflect on my values and priorities.”

Natalia Bard DS ’21, a small-business owner and mother who majored in economics and international relations, said her Wellesley experience offered opportunities to exercise courage, patience, and persistence, and to use new skills and knowledge to solve unexpected problems. Bard studied art history in her native Poland, and she arrived at Wellesley with the hope of examining the ways art and social sciences complement one another. In addition to gaining insights into a variety of fields at Wellesley, she gained the tools she needed to start her own business.

“I started importing energy-efficient windows from Poland to New England a decade ago for my husband’s architectural projects, but it was at Wellesley that I developed the confidence to open my own company, OKO Windows and Doors,” Bard said. She said she is proud to belong to a network of women-operated businesses that seeks to expand opportunities for women in building and construction.

Bard said her economics professors taught her the economic principles and models that guide her business approach, and Wellesley’s alumnae network helped see her through the challenges that come with operating a global business and navigating international trade. “I remember sitting in [Senior Lecturer] Joe Swingle’s statistics class, when my 40-foot container with aluminum windows was approaching Boston harbor,” Bard said. “All would have been under control, if not for the recently imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum. For a moment I didn’t know if I should focus on standard deviation and normal distribution or on the emails from customs brokers! Well, I did both, and I opened the Wellesley Hive and connected with an alumna who became my sounding board.”

Both Bard and Barowsky said they will be sad to leave behind the many details that make life on Wellesley’s campus so special.

Bard will miss sharing meaningful moments with her favorite faculty members, including interpreting poems with Margery Sabin, bidding farewell to spacecraft with Richard French, distinguishing myth from memory with Nina Tumarkin, and playing the carillon with Margaret Angelini. “My children and I will surely miss the warmth of the Continuing Education house,” Bard said. “But we’ll be back to swing, catch fireflies, and watch the stars.”

“I’ll miss El Table and the fireplace in Lulu, walking around the lake, hearing the bells, and that weird staircase that leads to nowhere in Shafer,” Barowsky said. “But I definitely will not miss the geese.”