Magazine

Our Newest Women of Influence

We launched the academic year on Tuesday, September 4, with convocation, our spirited celebration of the individuals and cohorts who comprise Mount Holyoke’s community. Some years, our newest students enter the amphitheater hesitantly, timidly. “Are we in the right place?” they ask, as they look around trying to determine if anyone else is wearing their color. The class of 2016, however, took the amphitheater by storm! There was a sea of blue in place before other classes had even begun to arrive, and long before the green-clad class of 2013 assembled to process, there were chants of “2016...2016...2016,” ringing out across the campus. This latest entering class is ready for the Mount Holyoke experience, and they are making their presence known.

Perhaps this sense of class spirit reflects the privilege they feel in being here. The 506 incoming first-year students were selected from 3,872 applicants, the largest and strongest applicant pool in the College’s history. In an era when college-bound students have a plethora of options, this rise in applications reflects Mount Holyoke’s growing prominence around the world and the tireless work of admissions staffers who visit significantly more high schools than any of their counterparts. This success is also due to you, our alumnae, who refer every woman you know to Mount Holyoke. Thank you for being our ambassadors around the globe.

With such a significant number of capable, qualified applicants, the decision of who to admit was challenging. Each of our incoming students has lived an exemplary life, and though they are new to campus, they seem to understand inherently our commitment to academic excellence, liberal learning, and our uniquely diverse student body. Nearly 60 percent of these students graduated in the top ten percent of their high school class, and they completed the highest number of honor, AP, and IB level courses in our history.

Over a quarter (27 percent) of this newest class identifies as African American, Latina, Asian American, and Native American, and 25 percent of the students are international students traveling to South Hadley from thirty-seven foreign countries. The greatest representation of international students is from China, and it is a particular pleasure to welcome them after visiting a number of Chinese cities during my trip to Asia this past June. We continue to partner with the POSSE Foundation, selecting a cohort of ten POSSE scholars from Miami to attend Mount Holyoke together after an intensive leadership-development experience in their later high school years. And with sixty “legacy” students in the class of 2013, these students are relationally connected to Mount Holyoke’s past as well as to Mount Holyoke's future. Thank you for sending your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and sisters to us.

In welcoming new students and their families, Diane Anci, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission, always seeks to convey the tremendous leadership experiences of our incoming students. Rather than search by hand for a select group of unique achievers, Diane simply selects a letter of the alphabet and reads the files of all students whose last name begins with her chosen letter. To know the kind of company I was in, she chose to read the “P” students, and together we marveled at their accomplishments: debate chair, president of a cultural association, coxswain, captain of an athletics team, first instrumental chair in an orchestra, class president, student council president, winner of a “voice of democracy” essay contest, and more. The leadership roles in the P’s alone filled a page of Diane's welcome remarks. Perhaps we should not have been surprised by their coordinated and powerful arrival to the start of the year.

The theme of convocation is our theme for the year, “175 years of women of influence,” and our students’ sense of enthusiasm is deeply connected to their understanding of our past and their desire to be part of our future. Their influence is already being felt here, as is yours. I hope you will join in the celebration.

--President Pasquerella ’80