Greetings from Wellesley!
I am excited to announce that the first concert of the newly minted Harambee Singers will be held on April 23, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. in Harambee House Living Room. The Harambee Singers is a new choir that began in February, 2019 as a result of the generosity of alumnae in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Ethos. Thank you for your support.
The Ethos 50th Anniversary Fund provided an opportunity for us to think about what is missing from the Wellesley experience for students of African descent. As the new dean of students, I met with many students and listened deeply to learn about their experiences at Wellesley. I also consulted data from a recent survey on the health and wellness experiences of our African-American students. While our organizations for students of African descent help to foster genuine relationships and promote well-being, what I learned is that there is a real need to offer additional bonding opportunities specifically connected to wellness. The intensity of the academic experience, coupled with the isolation and loneliness that many college students experience, creates a need for programs that promote acceptance and connection. The decision to bring back the choir addresses this need because it provides a supportive structure, connects with spirituality and is a group activity that students enjoy. Indeed, we hope to ignite the sense of community and connection that the Ethos Choir created for alums.
The process to initiate a new choir came after careful deliberation and exploration with students to determine whether they might be interested in a choir. Dr. Tracey Cameron, assistant dean of intercultural education, director of Harambee House, and advisor to students of African descent, took time to find the right choir director who could inspire students, connect them to the richness of the original Ethos Choir, and help to build an intentional community. We are so fortunate that Linda Brown San Martin '70 returned to Wellesley to serve as the director of the newly minted Harambee Singers. Linda was the director of the first Ethos Choir! The group of about 10 students meets weekly in Harambee House. Linda sets a tone of warm embrace as she welcomes the students and engages them in the music. After their performance this month, we expect that the group will increase because other students will be impressed and want to participate.
The funds from the 50th Anniversary of Ethos are being used to cover the costs of the choir director, purchase identifying attire for their concerts, and support the students in traveling to other schools to perform. Regarding future use of the 50th funds, we are in the process of analyzing our data and working with students to initiate additional programs to address specific needs. For example, funded from another source, this year we piloted two retreats focused on “connection for first-year students.” Each retreat included diverse students and fostered a stronger sense of belonging. We have also received requests to start a step team which promotes physical health and teamwork. The value of co-curricular programming is essential to retention as it builds a community that promotes resilience, inspiration, and academic success. As we assess these programs and create new ones specifically focusing on the health and wellness of students of African descent, we will determine additional ways that the 50th fund can be used.
I hope you will be able to attend the concert on April 23 at 7:00 p.m. in Harambee House Living Room. We are so grateful to have the 50th funds to contribute to making Wellesley a vibrant, supportive environment for our students.
Sheilah Shaw Horton, Ph.D.
Vice President and Dean of Students