Wells graduates go on to exciting work in a variety of fields. Here are some examples.
Recent alumna Judith Lavelle ’14 is a great example of a student who combined two seemingly different areas and found success. While working towards a creative writing degree—and graduating with distinction in the major—Judy also cultivated an interest in science that is leading to remarkable professional opportunities less than a year after she received her diploma.
While pursuing a master's Degree in Science Journalism at Boston University, she works as an Educational Resource Center Writing Fellow, providing writing support and assistance to students in undergraduate and graduate programs across the disciplines. The Boston Globe recently published an article she wrote that highlights organizations developing environmental and scientific applications for human waste in southern Vermont.
As a student at Wells, Judy was organic chemistry peer tutor and science writing tutor with the Office of Student Achievement, logging enough hours to earn a certification from the College Reading & Learning Association. Her work in both English and chemistry earned her the College’s Ruth M. Dunlap 1911 Prize in Chemistry and the M. Helena Zachos 1875 Prize for English prose. She also lent her expertise and expanded her knowledge in an internship with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum.
Her work can also be found in the 12th issue of The Healing Muse, an arts journal published by SUNY Upstate Medical University's Center for Bioethics & Humanities. Or, if you’re on campus, you may track down back issues of the student-run Sycamore magazine; Judy adopted the role of editor-in-chief during her senior year, managing a staff of nearly two dozen fellow Wells students.She was inducted into the Wells chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and elected for a two-year term as Collegiate Trustee on the College’s Board of Trustees.
“I didn’t know anything about book arts. I thought, well, that sounds kind of interesting. Maybe I’ll take a course.”
So began the love affair Laura Rowley ’11—a recent Lecturer in Book Arts at Wells—never expected to discover when she first arrived on campus. But after taking courses in bookbinding and calligraphy in her first year alone, Rowley soon learned book arts was the field for her. She still raves, “It ended up being my true passion while I was here!”
Rowley became so passionate about the one-of-a-kind facilities and expert instruction available at the Wells College Book Arts Center that she pursued an Individualized Major in Book Arts. And she couldn’t have been at a better place. “As an undergraduate institution, with all of our equipment and a building dedicated to book arts,” Rowley explains, “[Wells] is very unique.”
“The education I got at Wells was remarkable,” Rowley continues. “It was just incredible in the fact that I learned my hands-on skills here.” Not only has Rowley learned hands-on skills, but she was able to learn them from the best in the country—including Sarah Bryant, who taught Rowley and other Wells students through the esteemed Victor Hammer Fellowship the center offers to exceptional book artists.
After graduation, inspired by her teacher and mentor, Rowley enrolled in the prestigious University of Alabama Book Arts MFA program where Bryant had received her graduate education. To receive the field experience required by her degree, Rowley returned to teach several courses to Wells students and to work with former Book Arts Center director Nancy Gil to promote the center’s work. Rowley received her master’s degree at the end of the academic year.Looking back, Rowley believes that her Wells education did more than introduce her to a lifelong passion. In her position at the Book Arts Center and in years to come, she looks forward to passing on the benefits of a liberal arts education to others. “All those things you learn as a Wells student,” she says, “to think critically, to question and reason—really played a part in my ability as a graduate student and now as a professor to connect to students and use book arts and craftsmanship as a way to investigate other broader issues and as a way to express students’ ideas and passions.”
Alex Riad '12
As a high school senior in San Jose, CA, Alex Riad was originally planning to pursue a career in criminal justice. Then he took a playwriting class. “It just came out of me,” he says of his experience writing. “And hearing your words come to life on stage—it’s the best feeling you can have.”
So instead of going to UC Irvine to study criminology, he came to Wells to major in English and Theater, a decision he made in large part due to the support he would receive to get his plays produced. He found that at other campuses, it would likely take a long time to get to the point of seeing his shows on stage, whereas at Wells, the faculty was ready to equip him to get to opening night faster.
“Here, if you tell your theater professor that you want to be a playwright, she does what it takes get you there,” he says. “If you have the drive to do something at Wells, you get the support to make it happen.”
During Alex’s first year, he wrote and produced two plays at Wells, and has since produced two more, including one that was also staged in Bath, England during his semester abroad.
Alex’s theater professor, Siouxsie Easter, played a central role in propelling his playwriting career. “She advises me on what I need to get it done and organizes the students to make it a reality. She’s my professor—not a TA. But she’s more just a professor. She has invited all the theater students to her home, traveled with us, and gotten to know us well.”
Beyond getting faculty support, Alex has found his peers ready to help. “Everyone at Wells is always up for doing something as a group to accomplish a goal,” he says. “So many students get involved in the shows here—not just theater students.”
Alex’s mother, Suzanne Doty ’71, is thrilled by her son’s success at her alma mater. Although the distance between San Jose and Aurora keeps her from seeing some of his shows, she knows that he has a cadre of fans. One of them, Alex’s “adopted grandfather,” is Alan Clugston, English Professor Emeritus. Joining with the rest of the Wells community, Professor Clugston is there to cheer Alex on, just as he supported his mother when she was a psychology major at Wells.
Hayley Messenger '13
If you’re not a Wellsian, it’s hard to understand the tradition of the “Oddline/Evenline” competition and why it means so much to many students. It sounds like a simple competition between the class years that end in odd numbers versus the class years that end in even numbers. But as Hayley Messenger ’13, a dancer from Clayton, NY says, “Oddline defines my experience here.”
As an Oddline Song Leader, Hayley taught parodies of popular songs to women in the Classes of 2011 and 2013. After three weeks of practicing and brownnosing judges, Hayley and her team proved triumphant in their sing-off in front of the entire school body. Her team also won the basketball competition. The men’s Evenline team won the dance-off and the men’s Oddline team won the dodgeball game.
Traditions like Oddline/Evenline are part of why Wells was appealing to Hayley, whose family members attended Wells. “I knew that the traditions gave you a special connection to other students and that there was a strong sisterhood and brotherhood bond here,” she says. “You’re really like a family. And I’ve embraced that. It means a lot to me to have this huge family.”
Hayley, who grew up in the Thousand Islands region of New York, was initially concerned about what the culture would be like at a college the size of Wells. “I went to a small high school, and there was a lot of gossiping and backstabbing. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t like that at Wells,” she says. “I’m totally comfortable here.”
Pursuing an individualized major in Education and French, Hayley completed an internship shadowing a French teacher to help confirm her career goals. She also continued to hone her skills as a dancer by taking courses at Wells in ballet, tab, jazz, point, and modern. As a member and co-chair of the Dance Collective, Hayley performed student-choreographed works to a packed Phipps Auditorium each year.
Hayley also served as a Wells Peer Leader, offering these pearls of wisdom to the incoming students she advises. “Be yourself—you won’t be judged,” she says. “Also, try new things, because there are so many opportunities to explore here, and you might be surprised by what you enjoy. And make connections that will help you grow now and in the future. Find a mentor and be a mentor. There are friends, faculty, staff and alumni who have great advice and can connect you with internships and other opportunities.”
Jennifer Miller '12
“It’s better to aim too high and miss than to aim low and hit.” This is Jennifer Miller’s mantra—a message she embraced as a leader in her high school ROTC program in Dunkirk, NY.
She continued to live up to her credo at Wells. As an intern, she advised the Wells President and other leaders on their institutional real estate holdings. As a student leader, she drove efforts to find a sustainable revenue source for a school in Kenya. She also soaked in new cultures by studying abroad.
“I want to make sure I’m ready for employers to look at me and say ‘she’s going to be an asset to this company. She has a lot of potential for advancement.’ I’m always thinking about building up that resume!” she says.
One major achievement was an internship in which she conducted market research and devised strategy related to Wells’ real estate holdings. Guided by Bob Ellis, former director of the Center for Business and Entrepreneurship at Wells, Jennifer helped develop a much needed plan for the College to maximize the value of several properties it owned in Aurora. Jennifer worked with three other students to gather data through online research, site visits, and interviews to compose recommendations to the College President, key Trustees, and other leaders at Wells as to whether they should sell or repurpose the real estate.
“I learned how to take initiative and work effectively in a group to reach a common goal,” she says, adding that she was honored to present her ideas to “big names” on campus.
Jennifer also applied business concepts from class to solve a funding problem for a school in Africa. As the president of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), she led a group of students to develop a sustainable business strategy for the Jamba Jipya School and Orphanage in Kenya, so the school can generate earned revenue rather than relying solely on charitable contributions.
Her SIFE project gave Jennifer exposure to a very different culture than the one she encountered first-hand studying abroad. While studying in Sterling, Scotland in the fall of 2010, she immersed herself in the Scottish culture as well as her economics, business and management courses. “I grew so much for the experience,” she says. “I learned that no matter what the situation, I can handle it.” She reports that about one-third of Wells students go abroad, in part because Wells helps to make it affordable. “So many of us want to travel, see what else is out there, and try new things. I saw it as a great opportunity, and I only needed to cover my personal expenses,” she says.
A highlight of her junior year was her “Innovation” class, a hands-on course in “design thinking” that develops creative problem solving skills and encourages students to build low-tech prototypes to help develop their ideas. Professor Tracy Brandenburg taught this methodology, which at the time was only taught at Wells College and Stanford University. “Her energy is so darn contagious,” says Jennifer of Professor Brandenburg.
During her senior year at Wells, Jennifer wrote her thesis on women in business and applied for admission to MBA programs.
Terry Harrison '12
When Terry Harrison ’12 looked at the stands from the basketball court during Wells’ first appearance in a NCAA Championship tournament, he was thrilled. A sea of students sporting red Wells Express t-shirts was cheering on the underdog.
He wasn’t surprised to see that kind of support. “We’re a tight-knit community,” said Terry, who describes an outpouring of support the team received through the end of the season. The president invited them to dinner at her home; the administration provided transportation to the games and made t-shirts available to the whole campus; and students followed the team by bus, online, and via text to stay up-to-the-minute. “It meant a lot to know that so many people were rooting for us—and we didn’t want to let them down. We weren’t playing just for us, but for the school as a whole.”
Although the team lost the game to SUNY Oswego, the accomplishment of making the tournament capped off a stellar year for Terry, who served as captain in 2012. Throughout the season, he received several awards, including D-3hoops.com All-East Region Honors, NEAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, and NEAC First-Team All-Conference.
But for Terry, who hails from Brooklyn, NY, college isn’t all about basketball. “I was sold on the education at Wells. And being from the inner city, it feels like a getaway when I’m on campus,” he says. “It’s not a huge school or a party school, so you can focus on your schoolwork and on sports, and it’s easy to make friends and get to know everyone.”
A business major, Terry was an active participant in Wells' 2011 Entrepreneurship Week, during which he and his teammates pitched a new business plan for selling 3D printers. The then director of the new business center, Bob Ellis, helped inspire Terry’s interest in business. Terry says, “Mr. Ellis doesn’t just relate to us through a textbook, but through his experience in the business world, which makes concepts easier to understand.”
Terry also worked as an Athletic Event Management assistant for the College, and he planned to pursue two internships during his senior year, exploring a future career as an athletic director.
Patrick Sodums '12
After spending time studying at a couple different colleges and working in Brazil, Patrick Sodums '12 knew what he wanted out of his last two years in college.
"The ability to individualize my own major was important, and I could study exactly what I wanted to at Wells," says Patrick, who transferred as a junior. "And there's a sense of humanity here rather than a sense of institution. That really spoke to me. That, plus affordability through scholarships made the choice easy."
Patrick, a talented soccer player, took a non-traditional path to Wells. After high school, when all his friends were heading off to college, Patrick headed to the soccer-player's paradise in South America. In Brazil, while working in a restaurant and playing soccer, he developed an interest in international business. He later returned to the US to begin his college career, but he didn't feel fulfilled. Before long he found his way back to Brazil to refine his long-term goals—and his soccer skills.
As he looked to return to school, he realized that at Wells he could custom-make a major to make him stand out in the job market upon graduation. "I wanted to anticipate where the market would be moving and design a degree that would put me ahead of the game," he says. He created a major in International Entrepreneurial Development with courses in political science, culture and language, international business, entrepreneurship, and quantitative measurement.
His individualized program allowed him to be in the driver's seat not only in course selection but also his coursework. "Rather than just completing a project as assigned, I can actually go the route I'm interested in and make that fit the assignment. Before, I felt like I was reinventing the wheel, but at Wells I feel like I can create something new and exciting. And the professors notice your passion and take an active interest in helping you get to where you want to go."
As captain of the soccer team, president of a student organization, and a peer leader for transfer students, Patrick gained additional experience that served him well beyond college. And while interning at Conservation International in Washington, D.C. and taking additional courses at Georgetown University, Patrick confirmed the direction of his career.
"I believe in making a difference through business rather than policy," says Patrick, who considered job opportunities in Ghana and Montreal.