Catherine Summa, from Wellesley College, Shares the Value of Her Institution

Uploaded by EducationUSAtv on 23.08.2011


CATHERINE L. SUMMA: I think liberal arts education is the
best thing for a large number of students.
And the reason for it is because it encourages you to
develop a depth of knowledge in your major field.
But, beyond that, to develop a breath of knowledge that will
help you connect what it is you do in ways that solve
problems into the future.
We don't know the answers yet for a lot of the problems that
we'll be facing in the future.
And so therefore, what you learn in college isn't applied
directly to solving those problems. You have to be able
to think creatively.
And that's what a liberal arts education allows you to do.
It gives you the tools to be able to make connections
across what seemed to be disparate fields and put them
together in new ways.
I believe that, at Wellesley, we have students from 70
different countries.
And I would hesitate to characterize them
collectively, other than to say each and every one of them
as a Wellesley woman.
They all fit the institution.
Each one brings for owns uniqueness and her own
strengths to campus.
Nobody is an individual that represents their
country as a whole.
They are just one person, just like everybody from the US
doesn't represent individually the US, right?
Collectively, though, we represent the world.
And we're all sisters.
I think the services that are available to them are tailored
to what their needs are.
There are certainly services available if they need added
help in English language.
That would be available.
We have tutoring services available, just as they're
available to domestic students that need it.
We have tutoring services available in a teaching and
learning center, and also within departments.
And so, particularly in science and mathematics, there
are often peer tutorers that take place within the
And so, rather than going over to the teaching and learning
center, you can just avail yourself of peer tutors that
are either housed in the department area with specific
tutoring hours by class.
So if you're in a calculus class, go to the calculus
tutoring session, versus other departments have a general
tutoring sessions.
So all chemistry students can come in at these times and get
help in chemistry, if that's what you want.
There are services, likewise, for writing and literature
types of things.
I'm less familiar with them, of course.
And then there are social services.
We have lots of clubs, sort of the cultural things.
So there are student-run clubs for all of the different
international groups.
There's a Korean students club.
A Muslim students club.
I don't know the names of all of the clubs necessarily.
But there are clubs for the Latina population, the African
student population, et cetera.
All colleges in the United States, whether they're a
women's college or not, really put safety first. But because
liberal arts colleges are smaller enrollment schools,
and because liberal arts colleges for women are
specifically dedicated towards women's education, safety
becomes a prime mission in our educational environment.
Our campuses have police forces that we cooperate with,
or that are housed on campuses, to provide safety.
We have safe and secure dormitories for
students to live in.
Our campuses are open to the public, as all
campuses in the US are.
But they are very safe environments for students to
be able to walk around.
There are safety phones on campus.
So a student could pick up the phone and get a ride anywhere
she wanted to at any particular time, particularly
in the evenings, if she was needing to go from one
building back to her dorm.
And students are encouraged from the beginning to always
walk in pairs just because it's a good practice to do out
in the world.
But we do take safety very seriously.
Because we're a women's college, though, it's prime in
our mind, as it should be for a women.
For students who are of a particular faith, Muslim
students, for instance, we make certain that--
I think it goes back to our dedication and our commitment
to being an inclusive community--
diversity is really highly valued.
And therefore, we celebrate diversity, rather than look at
people as a series of others.
And after I graduated and finished my PhD, I went off
and taught at other schools.
And for many years, I was teaching in the Midwest. And
the biggest thing that surprised me was that there
was no diversity on campus.
And it was really hard to adjust to, having come from an
environment that had such a diverse population that I felt
like I was missing out for so many years being in the middle
of the continent.
So it's really important to have people who are different
than you, because we learn so much from one another.
There may be the social clubs where people can have their
identity with their peers from their own country or from
their own culture.
But then, the dorm living is all mixed.
And there is a very strong connection between those
people that you live with and interact with every day.
Once a student declares a major, she's in a different
community cohort with her peers who are studying the
same subject as she is.
She may be part of a music clubs on campus, and may be
involved in singing, for instance, and be
part of that community.
So a student is not limited to one microcosm on campus, but
is a member of a number of smallish communities that
intersect with one another in a variety of different ways.
As students get to know faculty, they also get
involved very early on in connecting with the faculty
member in research, however that might be defined.
In the sciences, it's a very particular kind of definition
where you're engaged with high-tech equipment and
understanding scientific problems. In the humanities
and the social sciences, it's defined a little bit
But you're engaged with faculty very early in your
career, working on problems. And you may have multiple
opportunities, from your first year through your fourth year,
to do a series of different projects.
Many of those projects, then, by the time you're a senior
lead to presentation or publication at national or
international meetings.
So that, by the time the student graduates, she's well
prepared to go on to graduate or professional school, or to
have built a portfolio to take with her into the workforce.
The statistics are clear.
Graduates from women's colleges are twice as likely
to go on and earn a PhD as are women graduates from
coeducational institutions.
And I think the numbers are even higher--
I don't know exactly what they are.
But in the sciences and math, I think that there are more
than four times the national numbers of people pursuing
degrees in the sciences and
mathematics at women's colleges.
So those benefits are very clear.
When you go off into those graduate programs, you're very
well prepared to compete with everybody else who's coming
from the high-end programs. And you're ready to go and be
One of the key characteristics of many of our schools is that
we have a very low student-to-faculty ratio.
So we tend to have small numbers of students,
relatively high numbers of faculty.
Classes are small.
Faculty are engaged directly with the students.
There are no graduate assistants teaching classes.
So students get to be very well known by the faculty.
And faculty really care about the students.
So you get to know them as individuals.
And you can tailor instruction to help
the individual student.
And so, you might have a class of eight or 10
students, not very big.
But the faculty member knows each and every one of you, and
can tailor the instruction to suit those students' needs.
And that becomes really important, I would imagine,
for international students who have a whole range of
different experiences that they bring to the classroom.
And that's not to say that it's a lesser than thing.
It's seen as enriching the classroom environment for
everybody in that classroom.
So this notion of diversity is something that goes both ways.
Our campuses really want to see international students
come, because we want international students to help
us increase our diversity.
But because women's colleges are preparing women for
leadership in a global society, we need to have a
campus population that reflects that
global society today.
And so, it's equally important for all students to embrace
and be inclusive.
Because it helps us all achieve
our educational mission.
I wouldn't learn as much if I were in an environment where
everybody was like me.
Bringing those different cultures to the table and to
the classroom really enriches the experience for everybody
who's in there.
There's a consortium of sister schools that include five
liberal arts colleges for women.
And those are Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Smith,
Holyoke, and Wellesley.
And in addition, each of us has partnerships, or
co-registration opportunities, with schools in our area.
So at Smith, which is in the west central part of
Massachusetts, there are five colleges in the region that
include Mount Holyoke, Amherst and UMass
Amherst, Hampshire College.
And students can co-enroll at all of those schools.
In the Wellesley region, we have similar partnerships with
MIT, the Olin College of Engineering, and the Babson
College of Business.
And students can cross-register and take
courses at those other institutions that count toward
their degree programs at Wellesley.
And so, students have the opportunity to explore other
educational venues.
So I'm a graduate of a woman's college.
I'm a scientist. So I went on to graduate school.
And I went on to one of the top graduate
schools in the country.
So there are no limitations in that regard.
Many of my classmates went on to do other things.
I have a classmate who went on to become an astronaut and
command three shuttle missions.

I think the sky's literally the limit for women who are
graduating from these liberal arts colleges.
It's a phenomenal thing.
Hillary Clinton is an example of one of the graduates of
Wellesley college.
Madeleine Albright, who was a former Secretary of State in
the Clinton administration, is also a graduate
of Wellesley college.
So two out of the three female Secretaries of State in the US
have been graduates of women's colleges.
We have the director--
for students who might be interested in science, the
director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator, which is
one of the premier research institutions in physics today,
is a graduate of Wellesley College, Persis Dress.
So there's just everything and anything you can do.
Doctors, lawyers, physicians, I said doctors already,
Congress woman.
We just don't have a president yet.
So maybe one of these students will achieve that goal.