Photo by Lisa Abitbol
The first time Diana Lam ’20 visited Wellesley, she had been accepted and was trying to decide whether to enroll. Her mother was with her. “You take two Californians who have lived in a drought all their lives, put them in front of Lake Waban, of course they’re going to say yes,” she says.
“I grew up just outside Los Angeles,” says Lam, the youngest of four. “My dad is a refugee from the Vietnam War, and my mom is an immigrant from China. We grew up without a lot, but we had an understanding that not only was education an integral part of being a full member of society, but so was service.”
Wellesley’s Non Ministrari sed Ministrare motto resonated powerfully for Lam. Another deciding factor, she says, was the liberal arts curriculum, “the chance to explore whatever you want to explore.”
And explore she has. Lam, who this year is College Government president, quickly focused on political science and economics. But, “in between, I tried computer science, I tried horticulture.” Distribution requirements pushed her to take subjects that “I normally wouldn’t have had the bravery to try. And [first-year] shadow grading really helped, because I’m first-generation and it took time to figure everything out.”
As a first-generation student, Lam says, “I looked at my major as a choice of what would be the most marketable. What would be the most employable? That’s how I chose political science.”
But things changed once Lam secured her post-graduation job at Bank of America in New York City. At the time, she had a year left at Wellesley. She asked herself: “What does that mean for what I want …? Having a job has given me the opportunity to breathe, to think about my interests and passions—and that’s peace and justice studies. So I changed my major. The beauty of Wellesley is that you can do that.”
Last fall, Lam did an independent study focusing on applying peace and justice theories to her work with College Government. “Wellesley College Government is an example of local government on a very small scale,” she says. “It’s very political. I’m trying really hard to be a peace builder within CG.”
Lam says, “I never really thought of myself as someone who would lead the table or even be at the table. I just knew that I really cared about being implanted in the community that I’m in.” She got involved in College Government at the urging of her “big,” a CG senator. “She gave me the confidence to run.”
The 2019–20 academic year began with dissatisfaction among the student body when 20 students arrived on campus to find they had no rooming assignments. (A new online housing system, human error, and recent storm damage to rooms led to the housing issues, which were quickly rectified by the College.) The dissatisfaction spilled over into concerns about the state of the College’s residence halls in general. Lam says that through it all she tried “to model, and get my peers to remember, that there is no us. There is no them. There is just a Wellesley College community.”
Lam emphasizes that her time at the College has not been all about success. “You’re catching me as a senior,” she says. “You didn’t catch me as a sophomore when I was struggling with figuring out a multitude of things. I want to be very clear: I made a lot of mistakes in the past three years. I’ve had a lot of different challenges that I had to work through.”
That said, Lam is proud of her time at Wellesley. “I was recently thinking, I am actually living not only the dreams of my ancestors. I’m also living the dreams of who I was four years ago when I first stepped foot on campus.”
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