7-Sisters, Public Ed, and me.
I like to tell people that I’ve had the privilege of public and private educations. I went to public school and then a state college and met phenomenal people along the way — some of whom I’m still lucky enough to call my friends.
So it was with a bit of reluctance when I left state school and transferred to a private women’s college. The concept of an “all-girls” school was something I’d never considered, and coming from a South-Asian background where this type of segregated schooling is common, this was not something I was planning to perpetuate.
So when Smith College came a-callin’, on April Fools Day of all days, I asked the admissions officer if this really was a joke. After a few apologies and quite a few congratulations, I was assured this was not a joke and that I had just been invited to join one of the 7-Sisters Ivy League Institutions.
Smith was a completely different experience from state school (and not just because I tried harder mom). My first couple of months are a bit of a haze now - though I remember taking quite a few trips to my old college and being so grateful for the friends who came to visit me. I remember working harder than I’d ever worked, and so escaping off campus that first semester was my reward. But soon, I started paying attention to the people around me on campus.
These women were just plain brilliant.
While I’d been active in sports and extracurriculars in high school, these ladies had organized rallies, written for magazines, had start-ups, and the person who turned out to be one of my best friends was even on the cover of the NOW (National Org for Women) brochure. They were so well-informed, so in tune to what was going on globally - politically, socio-economically, and locally. Yet they knew how to party too. (It helped to have four other colleges nearby).
I was challenged by the brightest of peers who constantly reminded me of how much more I was capable of. I was taught by people who were published, inspiring, and accessible. My role models were former Smith graduates who sometimes were even spotted on campus: Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Shelly Lazarus, even Julia Child - those were some of the ladies I got to see and/or meet. The other awe-inspiring women who visited our college, spoke, or taught are too many to count. But enough that they do count in our memories - and are reminders of what we are capable of - glass ceiling or not.
So after reluctantly walking into a ‘girl’s school,’ I pretty much strolled out as a well-prepared and well-educated woman, and one of the biggest cheerleaders of an education at a 7-sisters school.
I owe a lot of who I am today to that education - which is why I am beyond proud to see this kind of initiative taking place. And I’m stoked that one of my idols, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Wellesley ‘69) was the one to announce it.
Sec. Clinton Announces State Department Partnership with Seven Sisters Schools: Program will provide leadership, training, education to women around the world.
Happy belated International Women’s Day all.