Wellesley College, women's college, Massachusetts,

A Powerful Engine of Social Change: Education at Wellesley College

This article is part of a series of women’s college features written by L. N. Holmes. The last feature covered Cedar Crest College.
Wellesley College, women's college, Massachusetts,
Wellesley College campus” by Jared and Corin/ CC BY-SA 2.0

 

What do Madeleine Albright, Diane Sawyer, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Robin Chase, and Hillary Rodham Clinton all have in common? You’ve probably already guessed that it is their alma mater: Wellesley College. A highly respected institution of higher education, Wellesley College is the best women’s college to attend — according to bestcolleges.com and College Choice — and one of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation — according to US News & World Report. It is located in Wellesley, Massachusetts, only 12 miles west of Boston.

In 1870, Henry and Pauline Durant founded Wellesley College. They began classes in 1875. Henry recognized the obstacles women were facing during that time. At one point he said, “Women can do the work. I give them the chance.” In this regard he sought out and appointed many women to teach at the college. Pauline also brought in talent, like her friend Jenny Nelson, who taught one of the college’s future presidents, Alice Freeman Palmer.

One thing that is interesting about Wellesley College is their emphasis on inclusion despite a student’s particular financial need. While the tuition cost for the 2015–2016 academic year is $46,550 (resident students, don’t forget room and board and other fees: $14, 790—a total of $61,340), many students are awarded financial aid. Any aid needed (not to be confused with any aid wanted) by a student is met 100%, according to Kiplinger. Kiplinger also states that the average debt around graduation is about $14,030 — less than the combined cost of room, board, and extra fees paid for one academic year. According to Wellesley’s website, the average annual scholarship aid award is more than $39,000.

Wellesley College, in addition, was “the first women’s college to offer massive open online courses (MOOCs)” through the edX program, in which people from all over the world could audit particular subjects absolutely free. Their motto of “not to be ministered unto, but to minister” is apparent in these actions. They are setting an example of social change for both their students and other women’s colleges.

The academic program is rigorous, but students have options. For example, some select programs are offered with cross-registration at other institutions, like Babson College, Brandeis University, MIT, and Olin College of Engineering, among others. There are internship and international studies options, and there are also interdisciplinary majors and research opportunities. Fifty-six majors are offered, including a diverse amount of languages, such as Korean, Swahili, Russian, Arabic, and others.

Wellesley, MA, Central Street, American town
Central Street, Wellesley MA” by John Phelan/ CC BY 3.0

Like so many other women’s colleges, Wellesley emphasizes inclusion through unique traditions and social experiences. Some of these events include Stepsinging, Flower Sunday, Hooprolling, and Junior Show. There are also more than 150 student organizations and many student centers to explore. Serious athletes can become part of the volleyball, crew, squash, and other sports teams that are available. In addition, Boston — one of America’s most iconic cities — is less than a 45-minute ride from the campus. Near campus activities are reported to be a lot quieter, according to RealEstate.

Wellesley College has little in the way of negative news. The student newspaper is filled with examples of how the institution is creating progressive and positive change (here, here, and here) with only minor student dissent being reported (here). The Boston Globe recently published an article on how the college is inspiring change, yet again, among other institutions with Wellesley’s “simplified aid calculator.”

The scholars and women of Wellesley are championing change among women’s colleges. If you want to be involved with those transforming the world as we know it, you may want to consider attending this proud institution.

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