Greetings from the Students
Good afternoon, everyone.
I am Ellie Winter, Class of 2018, and on behalf of the students of Vassar College, I am pleased to welcome President Bradley to our campus and our community.
It feels like ages since I first sat down with the Presidential Search Committee to focus on our must-have qualities for a new President. When the students on the committee unleashed the laundry list, we were met with knowing smiles.
The search was good practice—Vassar students are taught to be critical. And, our first target is often Vassar itself. Sorry if that backfired on you all!
It’s a good thing, though—that critique is what drives this place to new heights. Actually, what began as a critical search through our College’s needs ended with a deep and balanced appreciation for our shared second home. That critique, even when hard to take, is energy given freely by the current community for the benefit of communities to come. We knew that we needed someone equally as generous, and we certainly found her.
In a rare break from hassling admins, after moving into my house in the South Commons earlier this year, I thought back to first-year orientation. That first carefree week of Camp Vassar was the perfect introduction to the moments of serendipity I’ve come to love most about this College. Though I don’t have much time for wandering anymore, it was the beginning of my journey to find myself and to feel at home here as a first-generation college student.
Now, as I begin my final year, and President Bradley begins her first, I wonder—what would it take to craft an orientation for her? What will she need to know? How will she come to know it? What will make her feel rooted when she questions her place?
Surely she needs to know that the secret to finding a library table on a Sunday night is to give up and go to Cushing’s Great Hall, that snapping in agreement will become a reflex unappreciated at fancy dinners, that all problems can be solved with a contemplative moment at the base of the oak tree by the Shakespeare Garden, and that everyone here has an riveting story and an impressive mind, from the professors to the gardeners to the security guards.
These are all facets that, combined with so many others, make this place a source of rising joy, of refuge from much-needed—if at times uncomfortable—growth for each person on this campus. All of this is essential knowledge, all of these are nooks and crannies worn by time, much like the divots in the library’s marble steps. Each footfall, however brief, is a beautiful and unique contribution.
President Bradley, as you settle in to your new home here at Vassar, I hope you find your own places and spaces to love. As you advocate for this Liberal Arts experiment on and off campus, we look to you to foster love between us back home. As we continually make space for new and diverse populations, we look to you to ensure that we all make it through. We hope to have in you a champion of institutional access, of unbridled intellectual growth, of true equity, with a vibrant presence, and a critical eye. You can do all that, right?
We hope you see Vassar’s potential to be a beacon of light in troubled times, an experiment in what the best minds can unearth together.
It has been a whirlwind to experience Vassar anew through your eyes, President Bradley. We, the students—past, present and future—have been given an incredible teammate. I believe we’ve found what we need to continue Vassar’s legacy in you, a careful steward of those moments of serendipity.