Campus Call for Free Expression Participating President:

Wellesley College

Paula A. Johnson, President

Wellesley University President Paula Johnson

“Colleges and universities in particular must be places where ideas, even ones that some find objectionable, are tested through discourse and where we take up the most controversial, complex, and nuanced issues. They must be places where students of diverse backgrounds learn from each other. This is essential to our mission and is at the heart of a liberal arts education.” — Paula A. Johnson


Campus Call for Free Expression Planned Activities

President Johnson will begin the year addressing democracy and the need for dialogue across differences in her Convocation speech on September 4, 2023.

President Johnson will follow up her convocation speech with a Wellesley alumnae magazine column on strengthening democracy in the Fall issue.

In August 2023, we will launch a Civic Action Lab for 35 sophomore students who will navigate through constructive dialogue groundwork in partnership with the Constructive Dialogue Institute, ensuring foundational knowledge and shared language. Students will also participate in a 3-day immersive retreat focused on civic action and democracy where they will see the concepts of communication across differences modeled and begin to actively practice with new tools and frameworks. The plan is for this program to be inclusive of all sophomores in the future.

Throughout the academic year, we will work to implement Perspectives from the Constructive Dialogue Institute more broadly across campus.

In the spring of 2024, Wellesley will host a summit on the theme of strengthening democracy—including the role of higher education.

About the President

Paula A. Johnson is a pioneer who brings decades of experience in the fields of academic medicine, public health, and higher education. Since joining Wellesley in 2016, she has placed the College at the forefront of STEM education for women and has led the creation of the school’s new strategic plan, which places inclusive excellence at the heart of the Wellesley experience. President Johnson has held several leadership roles in her career as a physician-scientist. She most recently served as the Grayce A. Young Family Professor of Medicine in Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School and a professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Health. In addition, she founded the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

President Johnson is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has received several honorary degrees and numerous awards for her contributions to science, medicine, and public health.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, President Johnson attended Harvard University, where she earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. She also trained in internal medicine and cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, one of the leading Harvard teaching hospitals. Dr. Johnson has served on several national and international boards, and she currently serves on the board of directors for Rockefeller University, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and Johnson & Johnson.

The Campus Call for Free Expression is a commitment by a diverse group of college presidents to urgently spotlight, uplift, and re-emphasize the principles of critical inquiry and civic discourse on their campuses. The Campus Call is centered on a coordinated set of presidential and campus activities focused on free expression that collectively amplify higher education’s role in preparing young people to be the empowered citizens our democracy needs.