“Success is not a goal on its own.”
Ligia Bonetti Du-Breil’89, who runs a major corporation in the Dominican Republic that is known for its socially responsible practices, made that point while accepting an honorary degree from Wheaton this year.
Her point—that success is an outgrowth of dedicating yourself to work toward some greater purpose, no matter the obstacles—expresses a core value for which our college stands. Indeed, the entire group of alumnae/i who received honorary degrees or alumnae/i achievement awards during Commencement Reunion Weekend exemplify that ideal. They are unquestionably successful—leaders in business and finance, art and education, government administration and community organizing. But in every case, their achievements are inextricably linked with their passions for promoting education, equality and understanding.
It is interesting to note that the alumnae/i who were honored represent the breadth of liberal arts disciplines, from art and English to economics and chemistry. The fact that Wheaton alumnae and alumni excel in every occupation and interest is a wonderful testament to the flexibility that our truly excellent liberal arts education provides. The college offers an amazingly broad range of courses, majors and minors and experiential learning opportunities. It is key to Wheaton’s distinctive character. Those programs, designed and delivered by a faculty committed to working individually with every student, create a truly personal education that reflects each person’s interests.
And it is clear that students are attracted to Wheaton precisely because of the wide array of choices and flexibility the college provides. Roughly 25 percent of the members of the Class of 2016 earned degrees with double majors, often with novel pairings: English and psychology, economics and theater and dance studies, bioinformatics and business and management, Hispanic studies and neuroscience. I am regularly impressed by the interesting combinations of courses and experiences that our students put together.
The appeal of helping students pursue their interests is growing stronger, too. In fact, the number of applicants for admission this year set an all-time high for the college. And despite having admitted a smaller percentage of students than in recent years, the Class of 2020 will be the largest in the college’s history as well as being among the most diverse, on every dimension, from race and nationality to gender. Indeed, the diversity of the incoming class extends to their academic interests. The intended majors attracting the most interest from the enrolled members of this class run the gamut—biology, computer science, environmental science, philosophy, religion and the social sciences.
When it comes to student success, Wheaton delivers amazing results. In the last two years, 97 percent of graduates found their first jobs, enrolled in graduate school, engaged in public service positions with the Peace Corps or a similar organization, or were pursuing a special opportunity, such as a Fulbright fellowship, within six months of Commencement. What’s most impressive about that fact is not the overwhelming majority of graduates successfully launched into life after Wheaton, but the variety of pursuits in which they are engaged.
Ultimately, Wheaton’s mission is about empowering young women and men to live abundantly the life that they imagine for themselves. The liberal arts education that we offer not only helps students to discover and refine their interests, but also enables them to develop the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions. For our college, that is the very definition of success.