Photo by Webb Chappell
In the weeks before I started this job, I received two gifts from two important women in my life—one a childhood (and then Wellesley) friend, and one a professional mentor. My new coffee mug and my new insulated stemless wine glass are emblazoned with the same message:
“You’ve got this.”
My heart warmed when I opened the first one, and I laughed when I opened the second one. Here was consistent messaging, from the people who know me best, with the reminder they knew I most needed to hear. (We can set aside the significance of the message delivery mode—on places they knew I’d see it often, a coffee cup and a wine glass.)
Wellesley alumnae are that voice for one another and for the College. When we cite the Alumnae Association’s mission—“… connecting alumnae to the College and to each other …”—we are insisting on a meaningful connection. We strive for connections that support and lift up our fellow alumnae, current students (future alumnae), and the institution. Together, as an alumnae network, we are responsible for carrying that “you’ve got this” message to one another, and to Wellesley as an institution.
This is what “you’ve got this, Wellesley” looks like: using the Hive to share career advice with a student or help a fellow alumna negotiate a job offer; visiting an alumna in a nursing home, and then coordinating regular visitors for her through the local club; taking an evening in the fall to represent Wellesley at a college fair; giving to the Wellesley Fund each year to support the present needs of the College and to demonstrate strong alumnae endorsement; engaging in difficult conversations, whether online or in person, with empathy and respect.
Some days we’ll need to hear the “you’ve got this” message, and some days we’ll need to bear it to others. As an organization, the Alumnae Association is a mechanism for forging and strengthening that voice, for amplifying it and actualizing it.
I needed to reference my “mug message” as I headed into my first day as executive director sporting a Band-Aid, and beneath that, a scraped-up knee. Despite my better efforts to exude executive presence in this new role, I managed to skin my knee two days before my start date, and arrived looking like an 8-year-old recovering from a playground injury.
(I know pants would have been an easy solution to this predicament, but it was August. And I had new summer work dresses! And I had read the great pants/skirts controversy in this very publication!)
My undermined executive presence and minor injury helped me recall a parenting book on my bookshelf: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel. The author draws parenting advice from Jewish teachings, and building resilience is a cornerstone of her approach. That touchpoint was a helpful one: Each new Band-Aid over my progressive scab was a reminder through my first two weeks that there will be bumps and bruises ahead, personally and organizationally. The reminder necessarily includes the reassurance that with resilience and support, and some key “you’ve got this” voices, we can recover from setbacks stronger than before.
As I venture forth in this role, I’m sure I’ll have missteps, maybe even some scrapes that need further bandaging. Our team won’t always get it right, and as an institution, Wellesley is always striving toward improvement. Fortunately, through Wellesley, we have people who believe in our potential and support us despite our imperfections. Maybe even because of them, because they are proof that we are whole.