Student Voice

“She’s totally a Wendy.” Many Wellesley students use this description as an insult, but what does it mean? The main characteristic of a Wendy is a student who has a voice and is not afraid to speak up-be it on issues of organization, injustice, or simply to answer a question in class. When Wendy is used negatively, it has a similar feel to when we call assertive women bossy. Wellesley Wendy is an attitude which inherently projects a level of self assurance and an ability to speak out about their ideas. Wellesley empowers student voice in everything from selecting the school president and interviewing prospective students to shaping curriculum and school policies.

After the announcement that Paula Johnson would be the next president at Wellesley and we immediately heard from students on this decision. Two students on the search committee from the class of ‘16  were the first to interview President Johnson. For three years before coming to Wellesley, I worked with the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team to promote student voice in education legislation and issues pertaining to students.  After spending months with the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team working to pass House Bill 246 to allow an optional student on superintendent search committees in Kentucky and failing because of unfriendly amendments, knowing my college included student voice was an incredible win. Opportunities for students to have a seat at the decision making table are incredibly rare in large decision making processes, which is why it was an absolutely wonderful shock to see Wellesley students’ opinions included in the presidential selection process.

After I pulled up the Wellesley’s Student Employment website to begin searching for a work study position, I noticed positions for student interviewers in admissions. When I contacted admissions for an explanation of this position, excited to hear about it, I was ecstatic to receive this response:

“We do have current students who serve on the Board of Admission, and their opinion is a very important part of the decision-making process. Student interviewers input notes that they take during their interviews with prospective students into our database, and that information is also looked at by the Board of Admission during reading period. Our Student Assistants are the people who are primarily conducting interviews with prospective students.”

Again, I was amazed, students not only contributed to deciding who their administration was but also to deciding which students would follow in their footsteps.

Professors from a range of disciplines allow their students to shape the classrooms. They do not simply test to see if students understand the material, but request feedback and attempt to gain insight into the student’s engagement. After giving a reading, using a program, or giving an assignment, professors often pause and ask students for their thoughts on the task. The question is almost always encompassing student enjoyment, understanding, and improvement. Students are encouraged to speak up, be Wendys, and let professors know when something is not quite right with an assignment or if it broadens their understanding.

Not all Wellesley students are Wendys, but Wellesley almost inherently admits mostly Wendys. The movie Mona Lisa Smile depicts the idea of a Wendy: girls who participate, do all of the readings, and are well-prepared. These girls are not afraid to speak up or act out. As a shy student, I am a Wendy in some classes but not in others, I hope to someday be a confident, informed, and self-assured Wendy. Wellesley students may make light of the Wendy's on their campus, but the school climate is defined by the students that have a voice. At Wellesley it isn't difficult to behave like a Wendy because it’s easy to find ways to have your voice heard.