Wells College: Wikis


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Wells College
Official Seal of Wells College
Motto Habere et dispertire (To have and to share)
Established 1868
Type Private liberal arts college
President Lisa Marsh Ryerson
Faculty 75
Staff 120
Students 630
Location Aurora, New York, USA
Campus Rural
Mascot The Express
Website http://www.wells.edu

Wells College is a private coeducational liberal arts college located in Aurora, Cayuga County, New York, on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. Historically an all-women's institution, Wells became a co-ed college in 2005.

Wells College is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is about a half-hour drive from both Ithaca and Auburn, and just over an hour from Syracuse and Rochester. It is part of the Aurora Village-Wells College Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With five residence halls, four academic buildings, and an average student body of 550, class sizes are small and allow close faculty-student interaction. The student to faculty ratio is 9:1.

Wells' academic program allows students freedom to create unique educational experiences. It has an experiential learning program and cross-enrollment with Cornell University and Ithaca College. The College is strengthening its off-campus study programs, introducing new initiatives in its Book Arts Center, and expanding its athletics. Traditional undergraduate students are required to participate in off-campus internships during three of their winter recesses.

The Wells motto is Habere et Dispertire - To Have and To Share.



Wells was established as a woman's college in 1868 by Henry Wells, founder of Wells Fargo and the American Express Company. Wells had the building for Wells Seminary constructed on property he donated. Not long after its construction, Wells Seminary burnt to the ground. The first building was replaced in 1890 by the current Main Building. Henry Wells' mansion, Glen Park, was later donated to the college for its use. It is part of the campus.

After 1965, Walter Netsch designed the Louis Jefferson Long Library. The design of this award-winning building inspired two other buildings on campus, Barler Music Hall and Campbell Art Building.



After 136 years as a women's college, Wells announced in October 2004 that it would become a co-educational institution in 2005. This drew student protests on campus.[1][2][3] Some parents of students also became involved in the protests.[4] Some of the students said that their protests were patterned after ones at Mills College in the early 1990s.[5] A website called Wells for Women was established [6] After the college's decision to adopt coeducation was approved by its board, students filed a lawsuit, which the courts rejected.[7] The college adopted coeducation in 2005.


Classes at Wells are taught seminar-style by professors — not teaching assistants — and 83%[8] of Wells faculty have doctoral degrees.

The Washington Monthly's "College Rankings" (an alternative college guide to the U.S. News and World Report) ranks Wells College as number thirty among all liberal arts colleges in the United States -- as well as the top such college in New York state—in the September 2006 issue.[9]

In 2006, Wells was ranked 12th in the nation by the Princeton Review for being best at encouraging class discussion. In its 2007 rankings, released in August 2006, U.S. News & World Report put it at #24 on the "Great Schools, Great Price" list of best-value schools. It has previously been listed based on the beauty of its campus and frequently makes lists of the nations most-haunted campuses.

U.S. News ranks Wells at 122 among liberal arts colleges.[10]

Wells college tuition along with room and board has now gone from about $29,000 a year to $38–39,000 a year starting with members of the class of 2013. Singles now cost $800 a year and $400 per semester.

Majors with concentrations

  • American Studies: African-American Studies
  • American Studies: American Cultures
  • Biological & Chemical Sciences: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Biological & Chemical Sciences: Biology
  • Biological & Chemical Sciences: Chemistry
  • Economics & Management: Economics
  • Economics & Management: Management
  • English: Creative Writing
  • English: Literature
  • Environmental Studies: Environmental Policies & Values
  • Environmental Studies: Environmental Sciences
  • Foreign Languages, Literatures & Cultures: French
  • Foreign Languages, Literatures & Cultures: Spanish
  • Foreign Language Education: French
  • Foreign Language Education: Spanish
  • History
  • International Studies
  • Mathematical & Physical Sciences: Computer Science
  • Mathematical & Physical Sciences: Mathematics
  • Mathematical & Physical Sciences: Physics
  • Performing Arts: Music
  • Performing Arts: Theatre and Dance
  • Psychology
  • Public Affairs - Ethics, Politics & Social Policy: Ethics and Philosophy
  • Public Affairs - Ethics, Politics & Social Policy: Government and Politics
  • Religion: Historical & Comparative Studies
  • Religion: Religion & Culture
  • Sociology and Anthropology: Sociology
  • Sociology and Anthropology: Anthropology/Cross-Cultural Sociology
  • Visual Arts: Art History
  • Visual Arts: Studio Art
  • Women's Studies
  • Individualized Major: An opportunity for students to design an alternative major of special interest

A new major, previously only available as a minor, "Book Arts" will officially be a major at beginning in the fall of 2009. Wells College is ranked #1 in the nation for Book Arts.


Wells is a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III member. The College currently offers six varsity women’s sports teams: field hockey, soccer, tennis, swimming, lacrosse, and softball. All six are members of the New York State Women’s Collegiate Athletic Association (NYSWCAA), while field hockey, soccer, swimming, softball and lacrosse compete in the Atlantic Women’s Colleges Conference (AWCC).

In fall 2005, Wells introduced men’s soccer and swimming teams at the club level, and an intercollegiate cross-country team for both men and women. When these new programs elevate to varsity status in the 2006-07 academic year, they will participate at the NCAA Division III level. The College continues to develop plans for additional sport sponsorship that are inclusive of both men and women, and meet the needs of college students today.

Wells College announced plans in late 2005 to add a men’s lacrosse team beginning in Spring 2007. Men’s lacrosse will be offered at the club level during the first year, and will elevate to the intercollegiate level in the 2007-2008 season.

Wells offers a variety of indoor and outdoor facilities. The Schwartz Center houses a swimming pool, gymnasium, and two tennis courts. Renovations for a new state-of-the-art fitness center are taking place with an expected spring 2006 opening. Outdoor facilities include four newly rebuilt tennis courts, softball field, boathouse, a 9-hole golf course (partially designed by famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones) and game fields for field hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. New cross-country running trails have been designed and will be developed this spring.

Community Involvement

Honor Code

Like a number of other liberal arts colleges, Wells has an honor code to which all students subscribe. By signing the Honor Code, Wells students pledge "not to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, or conceal in the conduct of their collegiate life".[11] Wells prides itself on its honor code, which permits it to maintain an environment where students are able to have take-home exams, and to work in their dorm rooms, at the library, or on the dock by the lake, rather than in crowded classrooms.


Traditions and rituals at Wells College are often described as the backbone of student life. Each student is indoctrinated with the overwhelming number of traditions, ceremonies, and songs; in this manner incoming students are connected with those of yesteryear and the close-knit Wells family grows. Here is a list and brief explanation of some of the Wells traditions:

Institution Wide

  • Odd/Even
Upon entering, first-year students are assigned to one of two traditional lines. The Evenline, whose colors are blue and green, consist of students who will graduate in even-numbered years. The Oddline, whose colors are purple and yellow, consists of students who will graduate in odd-numbered years. Each line also has its own mascot. Evens have Cleo (the elephant), and Odds have Oddwina (the bear). During the first week of this tradition, tryouts take place and teams are picked for the annual basketball game and sing-off. Each team then selects its song leaders, who then carry the responsibility of preparing the teams for the sing-off competition the day before the basketball game. The song leaders also supervise the creation of the class banners, as well as the writing of the class song. After two weeks of practice and songs in the dining hall, the first-year and sophomore teams meet in the gym (in front of a packed audience) for the famed game. The victors get first dibs on a side of the "smoke pit," which they paint over. The other team shares this experience and paints the other side of smoke pot. The very first Odd/Even game was played in 1898.
In Spring 2008, the school had its first Men's Odd/Even competition, which involved a dodgeball game and chili cook-off.
  • Wells Families
Each first-year student is teamed up with a Wells student from each class to form a branch of the Wells tree. This provides each first-year the opportunity to know a unique group of students from each class year, who often do recreational activities together. Wells families are revealed in the fall by the Traditions Committee. The Traditions Committee also then plans out a designated day to host its annual Wells Families Day. During this time, each family is reunited and joined by its new family members. In the spirit of the Sycamore tree, Wells alumnae/i form the base of the tree and current Wells students are the branches—each part of the Wells family.
  • Tea Time
Tea and coffee are served every weekday afternoon in Macmillan Hall’s Art Exhibit Room. Though the long dresses and china cups have long since disappeared, this break from afternoon seminars is still a great time to get together with friends and professors.
  • Convocations
Opening Convocation celebrates the beginning of the academic year and is the seniors’ first chance to wear academic gowns. A traditional part of this convocation is the candlelight ceremony. Symbolized by a candle flame, the spirit of the Wells connection is passed from alumnae/i to students, signifying the support that Wells students give one another throughout their lives. The Collegiate Cabinet plans the Convocation that opens the spring semester and welcomes students, faculty and staff back to campus after the intersession. Honors Convocation is held at the end of the year where most annual award presentations for student’s achievements are made.
  • Weihnachten
To celebrate the holiday spirit that sweeps through campus each winter, the Traditions Committee organizes a traditional holiday show for all of the community to enjoy. Village residents and their children, students, faculty and staff engage in the activities that take place on the first Monday night of December. The main attractions of the night are holiday skits that are put on by the resident advisors, administrators and elves. Senior elves try to remember and re-create their first-year skit, and the new student elves work the crowd by performing theirs. Singing groups on campus such as Henry’s VIII, Appointed, and the Whirligigs are invited to sing. At the end of the evening, first-year elves introduce Santa Claus and everyone participates in singing carols over cookies and hot chocolate.
  • May Day
"May Day, May Day, May First coming!" May Day is a ceremony organized by the senior and first-year classes and celebrates the "Royal Senior Court." Held on or around May 1st, the ceremony includes announcing and crowning of the Senior Royalties. The College held its first official May Day celebration in 1923. Traditionally, the May Queen came from the junior class. Elected by the student body, she was crowned by her predecessor. During the celebration poetry is read, songs are sung, and the first-year student dancers, usually dressed in white, perform a dance while wrapping the May pole.
  • Commencement
Since the first graduation activities were held in 1869, Wells has hosted a distinguished Commencement ceremony accompanied by many festivities. A reception on Friday evening is held with a special concert by one of the College’s student singing groups. On the morning of Commencement, seniors ride with their families in the original Wells Fargo stagecoach to the ceremony where degrees are awarded. In the early days, essays (sometimes amusing) were delivered by the graduates on Commencement day, with musical interludes by the students; a dignitary gave the keynote address. Commencement speakers are selected by the senior class.

Class Year Traditions

First Year

  • First-Year Student Signs
When first-year students arrive on campus for the first time, they receive a small piece of cloth, a piece of string and instructions, usually given by their respective resident advisors. The job of the first-year student is to make a sign from the cloth, including their name and hometown. Students are to wear these signs throughout the first week on campus, to aid the faculty and other students in knowing their names. If a student is caught without his/her sign, they can be made to sing on the senior table in the dining hall during the next meal.
  • Halloween Hayride
On or around Halloween night, the freshmen class officers are given the task of organizing a hayride for local children and community members. Weather permitting, a hayride carries groups of students around campus where rehearsed skits are performed outside the residence halls and other buildings portraying ghost stories from Wells. After the hayride, the children are invited to walk around the campus supervised by parents or students and go trick-or-treating at each of the residence halls. Students who wish to hand out candy to the children will be asked to make a small sign to put on the door to let the supervisors know where to bring the kids. Afterwards, all are invited to a party on campus for snacks and cider.
  • Caroling
During the Christmas season, a few days before the start of J-Term (short for January Term), the freshmen class officers organize a multitude of Christmas events. The officers gather volunteers who wish to go caroling around the village of Aurora, making stops at the Aurora Inn and various other locations. The parade is concluded at the president’s home, where she offers cocoa and cookies to the carolers.
  • Elves for Weihnachten
During the Christmas season, the freshmen class officers gather volunteers or "elves" who, on a designated day, go to each residence hall and decorate the lobbies and common areas in the Christmas spirit. During Weihnachten, the elves are responsible for creating a skit to perform at the Sommer Center amongst all the other class skits. This gathering is open to the entire Wells community.
  • Talent Show
During Spring Week, freshmen and sophomore students star in a talent show, showing off their most amazing and unique talents to Wells and to the community. The event is hosted by the sophomore class and usually takes place in Barler.
  • 20 Days
During the last 20 days before the seniors graduate, the freshmen students choose 20 embarrassing things for the seniors to wear, do, say, etc. for the entire day. This is a playful revenge for freshman signs! If a freshman catches a senior not participating, that senior may be made to sing on the senior table in the dining hall.

Sophomore Year

  • Spring Dance
To welcome in the warm weather the sophomore class hosts an annual Spring Dance for Wells students and their guests. This event usually takes place in the Sommer Center in March.
  • Sophomore Smash
This annual event is run by the FARGO Board (Friends And Recent Graduates Organization). They throw an appreciation and bonding event during the first semester. Also, sophomores receive their Wells ivy plant which is symbolic of their growth, time and success at Wells.
  • Sycamore Tree
On the last day of classes, seniors (in their robes) are joined by fellow students and administration on the front lawn of Main where they dance and sing around the old Sycamore tree. After all the excitement, the sophomores present the seniors with roses to commend them on their accomplishments.

Junior Year

  • Junior Mugs
At the end of sophomore year, students receive their personalized ceramic mugs in celebration of being juniors. These mugs are christened at Junior Blast and then used for champagne breakfast during their senior year and other traditions.
  • Junior Blast
In the spring, the junior class throws themselves a party—Junior Blast! During the party, the first-year students secretly sneak a junior’s mattress out of her or his room and leave it in a hidden place to be found with clues. Depending on the bribing tactics of each junior to first-years, finding the wanted mattress may prove to be a difficult but always a fun task.
  • Junior Stunt
At the end of each spring semester, the junior class creates skits making fun of the seniors. The hilarity is open for the entire student body to watch.

Senior Year

  • Senior Auction
At the end of the spring semester, seniors compile a list of individual attributes that they auction off to their fellow students. The basis of this tradition is to exchange an item or a service to raise funds that will benefit the senior class. Some services include cleaning dorm rooms, holding study sessions, and possibly making home-cooked meals.
  • Caps and Gowns
Seniors wear academic gowns on the first and last day of classes each semester, at champagne breakfast, convocations, Odd/Even game and singoff, 20 Days, and at Moving Up Day.
  • Minerva
Outside of Main, the College’s first building, sits the lovely statue of the Roman Goddess Minerva. Symbolizing wisdom, craft, wit and intellect, the senior class does the honor of decorating Minerva at the beginning of the fall semester. Minerva remains decorated throughout the school year; then during the morning of the last day of classes and after singing around the Sycamore tree, the senior class takes turns kissing the feet of Minerva, believed to be good luck and bring success and prosperity to all graduation seniors.
  • Champagne Breakfast
Seniors are served champagne in their Junior Mugs (big beer steins) during breakfast on the first and last days of classes each semester of their senior year.

Programming Board Annual Programs

  • Disco Dodge
This annual event is held in the lounge of Dodge Residence Hall early in the fall semester. Wells students and their guests dance the night away to ’70s music and compete for best costume in their finest polyester attire.
  • Semi-Formal
In November, students and their guests participate in an elegant soirée with the chance to dress in formal attire and enjoy a candlelit dinner. Following dinner, a performance by one of the singing groups is held in the Chapel. After the performance, students head to the dining hall to dance the night away.
  • Mainly ’80s
Mainly ’80s is the perfect chance to break out the spandex and funky hairstyles and dance the night away. Held in the basement of Main Building (or in the Sommer Center), Mainly ’80s is the time where students dress in their best ’80s attire and cut "footloose" to live tunes of the ’80s (which also branches out from the 70's to last week!)! The night is also filled with hula-hoops, break dancing, and costume contests.

Institutional Lore

  • Bells
The bells in Main Building’s tower are rung to announce dinner every night, on the arrival of the first snowflakes, and other special events. Alumnae often request them rung in honor of a wedding, birth of a child, or other momentous life occasion.
  • Singing
When a Wells student deserves special recognition for an election, birthday, or other accomplishment, friends will often sing the "Wells Congratulation Song" which goes as follows:

Oh(name of student) we sing to you You are so good and true We’ll all be loyal to you We’ll raise your name And praise you, too And so we sing to dear Wells and you, hey!

  • Rings
Each semester, members of the upper classes may order the traditional onyx and gold Wells College ring. The ring symbolizes the memories that Wells provides. Modeled after Henry Wells’ own signet ring, it was originally gold with black onyx. However, students have the option of having their ring made in white gold.
  • Lake Freezes Over
Should Cayuga Lake freeze over, no classes are held that day and a formal holiday pronouncement is made. According to Wells College records, this last happened in 1979. However, other sources suggest that the only time the entire lake froze over in the 20th century was in 1912. The freezing of the lake is said to signify the virginity of the entire freshman class.

Points of Interest

Wells College has many interesting and beautiful spots on and around campus. It is approximately three miles from Long Point State Park; the scenic town of Aurora lies a short distance to its north; and Cayuga lake adds beauty to the scenery year round.
The String Room Gallery is the main location for Art Exhibits. It is located on the first floor of Main Building and features exhibitions from a wide range of prominent artists. This space is also the site of several student art shows a year, such as the Senior Thesis Art Exhibit, organized and presented each May by graduated studio art majors.
The docks provide a perfect location to swim or just relax and enjoy the weather. Several events at Wells College are held here throughout the year. You may see the floating classroom docked here at various times throughout the year.
The Wells College Golf Course is a publicly accessible 8 hole course that is free for Wells students to play on. Because of its location near the lake, this course is almost always thawed out before any other courses in this region, so you get more playing time throughout the year. The course has an unparalleled view of the lake.
The Waterfall is a short hike off of the golf course in the forests that surround campus. The region around the waterfall provides great views of the surrounding trees. In the fall the foliage changing colors provides a great location for photographers.
The new basketball court that has been installed in the Student Union is the talk of campus. Since its installation, only the basketball team has been allowed into those former indoor tennis courts. However, the room fails to meet New York State fire safety standards and as a result games can not be held there. This blatant oversight has been the spark of much resentment throughout the campus, board of trustees, the Friends and Recent Graduates Organization, as well as alumni and is seen as yet another example of the current academic administration's unilateral attitude and incompetence.

Notable alumnae

Notable faculty past and present


External links

Coordinates: 42°44′43″N 76°41′53″W / 42.7452°N 76.6980°W / 42.7452; -76.6980


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