Two Pioneering First Years Reflect on Their First Semester at Wellesley

December 17, 2013

It’s the end of the first semester of college for the class of 2017, which includes Wellesley’s first MasterCard Foundation Scholars, Martha Khalayi Aywa ’17 and Refilwe Kotane ’17. The two first years are also experiencing their first visit to the United States.

Wellesley College is one of 10 higher education institutions to partner with The MasterCard Foundation as it launches a $500 million education initiative that will provide talented, economically-disadvantaged students from developing countries—particularly from Africa—with comprehensive support for quality and relevant secondary and university education. The program was announced in September 2012 at a United Nations Special Session marking the kickoff of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s education initiative.

"Wellesley College is excited to partner with the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship Program to help ensure that economically disadvantaged women from developing countries, who are academically bright and talented, are able to become next generation leaders,” says Karen Zuffante Pabon, director of Slater International Center and advisor to international students. “Through this mutually beneficial partnership Wellesley is able provide valuable education and leadership skills to the scholarship recipients, and the scholars provide Wellesley with diverse worldviews and cultural perspectives both in and out of the classroom environment."

Throughout their education, The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program provides its Scholars with comprehensive financial, academic, and social support, as well as opportunities for community service and internships. An integral component of the Scholars' commitment is to give back to their communities and countries of origin. Students will demonstrate this commitment through volunteerism and community service, as well as other forms of experiential learning.

Wellesley plans to host a total of nine MasterCard Foundation Scholars over the next several years.

Martha Khalayi is from Kakamega, Kenya. She came to Wellesley interested in mathematics, biology, and chemistry, and is planning on pursuing a career in medicine, with a focus on public health. After she graduated from high school, the director of a camp she attended encouraged her to apply to Wellesley. “The small campus, the residential community really appealed to me,” she says.

Coming from Pretoria, South Africa, Refilwe Kotane has been impressed by her Wellesley peers. “Everything works at a higher level here,” she says, and she has been struck by “how amazingly diligent everyone is.” While she also came in with an interest in the sciences and has developed a specific interest in neuroscience, Kotane also has enjoyed her sociology and philosophy classes. “It’s nice to take courses that make you think in a different way,” she says. Kotane wants to explore the intersection of medicine and business with the development of pharmaceuticals.

Outside of class, both Kotane and Khalayi have joined the Wellesley African Student Association (WASA). Kotane serves as the African representative on the Slater International Center executive board, and is also on the 14-member inaugural MasterCard Foundation Scholars Council, a group of Scholars who represent the broader community of young people in the program who aspire to make a difference.