2019 Open Houses

Online Course: Rachel Simmons

Essential Info

GA Website Gets New Look!

Leading the Way Campaign

Toward the Building of Character

“At GA, we develop confident young women for a life of purpose.”—Molly King, Head of School

Lower School

When your daughter joins our Lower School, she gets the benefit of hundreds of big sisters to look up to and aspire to be.

Middle School

In Middle School, GA girls cultivate meaningful friendships, see their futures as boundless, and are inspired to make a positive impact in the world.

Upper School

In the Upper School, students discover that there’s almost nothing they cannot do. Teachers believe in them, classmates cheer them on, learning and ambition know no bounds.

children running in field


Varsity Athletic Teams

Character and sportsmanship are foundational to GA’s powerhouse athletics program.


Students of Color

GA strives to engage girls from a broad range of backgrounds and one third of students identify as people of color.


Student-Teacher Ratio

A small-school setting allows our outstanding faculty to give students the commitment and attention they need. A GA education begins and ends with relationships.


Upper School Courses

GA’s unique Coordination program with Brunswick makes for big-school opportunities within our small-school setting.


Financial Aid

Families across the economic spectrum benefit from GA’s expansive tuition assistance program.


Career Placements

Our innovative Career Resource Center connects students and alumnae to jobs and internships—more than 200 in the last year.


Students Pre-K–12

We are a community, with girls from all divisions leading, learning, and growing with each other.


Top-Choice College

GA’s attributes dovetail into a single compelling statistic: Almost every member of the class of 2019 is attending one of her top three college preferences.

Get to know our Community







Greenwich Academy is a purposeful, joyful, and supportive community whose mission is reflected in our motto, Toward the Building of Character. Every day we see faces of full of promise in the GA girls and our complete focus is in helping each one to reach her full potential. The GA experience is best captured by outstanding faculty members inspiring their students to learn, grow, and achieve so that they develop the skills and character to be the leaders of tomorrow. 


We are teaching our students for more than a final exam. We want their classes to take root, and we’re always looking for new ways to do that. Several years ago we started expedition classes, where we have students not only study a topic, whether it's biology or the Civil Rights Movement, but then go on trips that powerfully bring the course material to life. Whether they're doing marine biology at Woods Hole or they're meeting people who were on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement, we want the girls to have an education that feels personal and alive and asks, "What's next?"


By the time the girls get to 8th grade, they will have developed their academic skills and a true love of learning, and they will have also learned how to ask great questions and advocate for themselves. Having these skills is incredibly empowering and sets them up to achieve their goals in high school and beyond.


Schools boil down to the people and our Lower School faculty could not be more dedicated to the craft of teaching. There's not one teacher that I have worked with here in the Lower School who has not changed some element of the curriculum to make it fresh, to make it exciting, and to make it something that the girls want to come to school for, and go home talking about.


I’m sure we all can remember one teacher who made an enormous difference in our lives, someone whose belief in us carried us when our own confidence lagged or who opened up a subject to us in a way we had never imagined. Our goal at GA is for every member of the faculty to be that teacher for some of our students. Teachers here share a belief that great teaching begins with great relationships, and our hope is that through these relationships we will inspire a love of learning and a deep, unshakeable curiosity about the world that will inform our students’ lives forever.  


An important part of what I do is look at how we teach and model the importance of diversity. How do we provide opportunities for our teachers to learn, because you can't teach what you don't know, whether that's history or science, or how to work with people from different cultures. So for us, diversity isn’t simply about reporting numbers, it’s about who we are every day in every interaction.


More than anything, I'm impressed that our students and alumnae have confidence in expressing their opinions and are able to articulate them in respectful, clear, and powerful ways. By the time our girls graduate, they have an incredible sense of self at an age when I think many are struggling to figure out their place in the world. Our graduates are ready. They're hungry for what's next. 


Our athletics program is a direct manifestation of our motto, Toward the Building of Character. I feel like there’s no better way to learn those lessons than through athletics and PE because every game, practice, and class is about success and failure, and what you learn from that, and how you move forward. 



I teach creative problem-solving. Whether the work happens in the film studio, the art room, or the E&D lab, there is rarely a single answer to the challenges or the prompts I give my students. I tell them that the more questions they ask me about the prompt, the more they are limiting their possible solutions. I try to keep kids in a kind of creative gray zone, that gets them collaborating with each other and thinking broadly.


As advisors, we are the ultimate advocates for the girls our advisory. I am the adult who is there to know her as a student and as a person, to challenge her, to teach her to self-advocate, and to help clear a path when needed. My advisory and I are a team and I know I play a crucial role in making her experience the best it can be. 



I love teaching the GA girls because they are game for any new adventure or idea. Their excitement is contagious and I can take any topic in any direction in response to their interest and enthusiasm. Recently, one of my classes was especially interested in how a microscope works. After studying their parts and how they function, they were each able to build their own microscope in the Engineering & Design Lab. How cool is that?


Throughout the winter we always try to keep an ear open for different things the girls are curious about or having challenges with. This year the girls were frustrated that they had to clean up their block structures every Friday and wanted a permanent structure. We asked them to brainstorm ideas for how to solve this problem and one of the girls suggested buying a dollhouse. Rather than buying a dollhouse, we decided to make one! That became a project that carried us through two months. Were we doing other things during that time? Yes, but the reading, writing, and math works was often going into the dollhouse. We were measuring, we talked about the shapes that go in to a dollhouse, we practiced fine motor skills by cutting and weaving rugs, and we practiced letters and numbers by making signs for the dollhouse and writing letters asking for help from people in our community. There are so many ways to integrate traditional subject matter into meaningful project, and at the end of a project like this, the girls feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. 


Someone recently asked me to pinpoint the hallmark of the fourth-grade year. My response was that the entire year is a hallmark experience. We spend the year pulling together everything the girls have learned in the Lower School, and we increase our expectations of them in preparation for Middle School. And they are ready! Being the leaders of the Lower School is a big responsibility which they take seriously. We talk extensively about the school’s motto, Toward the Building of Character, what it means, and how it is essential to being a good leader.


My elective is called Power to the People: Hip-Hop, Literature & Art for Social Justice. I thought, what am I passionate about? I'll pitch that to the kids. I love hip-hop and I like studying it through an academic lens because it has so much influence on our society and our culture today. We look at the story of hip-hop itself and we use hip-hop as a text. We also look at the stories that birthed hip-hop, the stories of some of the most neglected people in America, empowering themselves and creating beauty and art. Then we look at the way that that story is translated into fiction, poetry, plays, and film.


As the junior class dean, I manage everything from small events like field trips to walking the girls through the gateway of the college process. Our approach in the Upper School is that the advisor stays with their advisory for all four years allowing deep relationships to form between the advisor and the girls, and among the girls themselves. Deans maintain their role in a particular grade and build up a nuanced knowledge of each particular year of the high school experience. For example, in the junior year spring, the girls and their families are beginning the college process, they are taking AP exams, and they are running for school-wide offices. Having gone through the process year after year, I’m in a great position to guide and advise the girls through the year. 



In Group VIII, I teach them about the skeletal system so they have an understanding of the key features of joints, bones, ligaments, tendons, and how all these components work together. Then, using tools and inspiration from the Engineering & Design Lab, I will have the girls design and 3D print their own prosthetics. Through this process the girls gain firsthand experience in the functionality of the human body. They learn that individuals have unique body mechanics, and the girls have to find creative ways of adjusting and customizing their prosthetics.


What has kept me here all these years is that my job is always changing and doesn't feel the same year to year. I also have the pleasure of getting to watch the girls grow. Many of the seniors that I'm teaching in Madrigals, Gospel Choir, or in the musical, I have taught since they were in fifth grade. I really enjoy connecting with them again in Upper School. Very often I end up having a different relationship with them. It's really special, and not something that happens everywhere or for every teacher.


My favorite part of the job is getting to know the kids. It’s why I got in to teaching. And as an English teacher, advisor, and coach, I get to know the girls in many different ways. In class I see a more serious side of the girls, and I love watching them make connections between their own lives and the literature we are studying. In advisory, I see the girls in a more low-key environment and enjoy hearing about their day and what’s on their minds. As a coach, it’s thrilling to see the girls compete, work as a team, and persevere.


I feel like sixth grade is my wheelhouse. By Group VI, teaching history is very much about teaching the girls to become analytical thinkers, and how to present their ideas both orally and in writing. The girls are old enough that we can dig into really complex topics, and I feel in some ways, like I’m inviting them into the world of adulthood. They kind of know what World War II is, but they don't really know, and they are so enthusiastic to learn. 



The change that happens in the Group I year is quite incredible. In first grade, we get little kindergarteners coming to us and in one year they become readers, their math gets better, and they become better writers because they have the foundation that CC has taught them. They become so much more independent. That is one of our major focuses in Group I, to make the girls more independent. By the time they go to Group II, they're completely different kids. It’s so exciting to be a part of that transformation.



Everyone at GA is smart in some way. Some girls are really good at history, and some are great with technology, some are terrific writers, and some are amazing artists. That’s what makes GA so special!


One of my favorite things about GA is the sense of community we have here. Our grade is an extremely tight-knit group. We genuinely care about what’s happening in each other’s lives, the ups and the downs. Not only that, our teachers care about us beyond just what goes on in class. It’s what makes GA feel most like home.  


For both my freshman and sophomore year I ran for student government and lost. When my class dean realized I had made the decision not to run again for my junior year, she tracked me down and encouraged me to try again. She said, “It’s always going to be a ‘no’ if you don’t try. What do you have to lose?” So, I ended up running for junior class president and I won. It was one of my favorite and most meaningful experiences at GA, and I would have missed out if my dean hadn’t encouraged me to give it another shot.


From guest speakers, to class projects, to advisory, GA teaches us that we are not limited by the expectations of others. We’re taught that you can achieve anything you want to if you are willing to work for it. And our teachers make sure we have all the tools we need to go out and accomplish something really great!


One of my favorite things about Group II was the Famous Buildings project. My partner and I researched Mesa Verde, we built a model, and presented our work at the Famous Buildings Expo.


The Big Sister/Little Sister program is an important part of the Middle School. As a little sister in Group V, it’s so helpful to have someone who is older than you that you can rely on and so that you learn how to make friends with older students. By the time you are a Group VIII big sister, you understand that it is a leadership role and that looking out for your little sister is an important responsibility. 


I’m looking forward to being in fourth grade because we’ll be the oldest in the Lower School and I’ll be able to help the younger girls. It’s not only my responsibility to help my friends. I want to look out for the younger girls as well.


When my little sister started in PC I told her that every grade at GA is really fun, that you learn a lot, and that the teachers and other girls are awesome!



Not long after my daughter started at GA in Group V, she was asked to speak at a large parent event. She had always expressed anxiety about public speaking but the Middle School head and advisor saw her potential and encouraged her to take advantage of the opportunity. She wrote and delivered her remarks flawlessly. Watching her stand on stage, perfectly poised, speaking before several hundred adults, I knew we had found the right place for her. My only regret is that we did not apply to GA earlier. 


GA’s Career Resource Center (CRC) is a great example of how GA offers its students and alumnae opportunities you can’t find at any other school. It’s incredible that high school juniors and seniors can take resume writing and interview workshops without ever leaving campus, or that they can explore different career opportunities through shadowing experiences and internships arranged by the CRC. When my oldest daughter was looking for an internship after her first year of college, she turned to the CRC for help. I know that my girls’ connection to GA will pay dividends for the rest of their lives. 


You don’t have to be a certain kind of girl to be successful and happy here. I have three girls who are all very different, but GA has been a great fit for all of them because this is a community where all types of interests and talents are celebrated. At GA, it's cool to be really smart, or a musician, or an athlete, or an actress, or all of the above. This is a community where the girls support each other and lift each other up. 


GA teachers are the best! The curriculum is challenging but the teachers make the material engaging and find a way to reach each and every girl in the class. My daughter always comes home excited to tell us about what she’s learning in school and eager for what’s next. What more could you ask for?


I love GA’s many traditions—they are such meaningful milestones for the girls. In Group III the girls perform the musical Adventures of Lewis & Clark, when they learn about the westward expansion of the U.S. In Group IV they have they Famous Women’s project and expo where they research a female trailblazer and present what they’ve learned as “wax museum” figures. I see my girls eagerly anticipating what’s ahead and looking back fondly at what they’ve already experienced. These traditions create a sense of connection between our girls and generations before and those yet to come.   



It’s difficult to separate what I can attribute to my mom’s excellent parenting and to GA’s amazing community and education. One thing for sure is that I always grew up thinking about how I could change the world. I absolutely felt empowered, important, and prepared for anything.


GA provided an environment in which I felt comfortable to be myself, and it transformed me into a strong, independent woman.


During college and after college, I realized very quickly that the education I received at Greenwich Academy would be my most valuable asset. During my time at GA, I was encouraged by all of my teachers to research things I was curious about and to think critically. I never went to film school in the conventional sense so I’ve had to teach myself a lot of random stuff. I now “get” that it’s really easy to teach yourself when you’ve had fantastic teachers. 


I appreciated all the ways that GA fostered community and family spirit, from processing for assemblies, to mid-morning snack afterwards (no matter how old you were), to serving lunch family style, to all the clubs and teams. All designed "toward the building of character" and a recognition that there is a place for everyone at the table. There was no question in my mind or in the mind of any of my classmates that we could do anything we set our minds to if we were willing to work.


When I made the decision to pursue medical school as an older nontraditional student who had not taken science classes since high school, I was confident that my GA education would carry me through. I am now starting my second year of medical school and I could not be happier with my career change. A GA education gives you the foundation to take any path, no matter how wind-y, to your future career.


Greenwich Academy gave me the tools to live a difficult life. What I learned from the Academy is that something that is always growing makes me happy. You have to have the courage to nurture your passion and it’s a lot easier if that’s nurtured in a place like Greenwich Academy.



As a parent now, I am well aware how rare the teachers at GA were. Finding adults who allow students to be unique while achieving their potential is huge. The sports were another part. I wasn’t sporty and my parents didn’t have sports on their radar, but at GA you try sports. They convinced me that lacrosse was my sport and I played all the way through college. It’s on my resume and when I went for my interview at my current firm, it was noted by the managing partner. Team sports are such good training for corporate America—from working as a team player to learning to lose. My most favorite part of my GA experience, however, is the friendships. I literally speak to someone from GA at least once a day and most often twice. My children refer to my GA friends’ children as their Connecticut cousins. Having that kind of unconditional support makes working in a difficult career easier, too. I feel pretty lucky.


I would not be where I am today if not for GA. Being surrounded by like-minded women who made you feel like you could do anything if you put your mind to it gave me the courage and strength to take on the challenges of being a female CEO in a male-dominated industry.


As much as I still have left to learn about myself and experience in the world, there is not a moment that goes by that I doubt my experience at GA informs the woman that I am today. The confidence I have in my abilities, the courage I portray when I take risks and bet on myself, and the constant yearning to learn and empower others through that learning is all because of my GA experience. I will never take my experience for granted and I think every day about ways I can give back and continue the GA legacy.


school building

 “From a young age, we want GA girls to understand that they can look at any question many different ways. We want them to feel comfortable testing their own ideas and hypotheses as a way of learning.”

SpotlightSTEAM at GA

GA was an early member of Maker Nation, opening the Engineering & Design lab in 2013. Naturally, we were full-STEAM ahead and today “making” is an integral part of our curriculum in all divisions. 

Learn more

Nine GA Seniors Named 2020 National Merit Semifinalists
Katherine Pushkar

On September 11, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 65th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Among this year’s semifinalists were nine Greenwich Academy seniors: Isabel Allard, Grace Austin, Holland Ferguson, Laura Kapp, Sophia Klein, Megan Meyerson, Sophia Moore, Sydney Pittignano, and Hanna Tulchinsky.

These girls qualified as semifinalists by scoring in the top one percent on the 2018 preliminary SAT (PSAT). Head of School Molly King congratulated the girls and noted that, “At GA, we are fortunate to be part of a community of achievers—to have 10 percent of our senior class recognized as National Merit semifinalists speaks to the depth of our senior class. We are immensely proud of these bright young women.”

To become a finalist, each girl must submit a detailed scholarship application in which she provides information about her academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, and honors or awards received. Finalists will go on to compete for 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $31 million.

Congratulations girls, and good luck!

Opening Day: Spirit of 2020
Asha Marsh

GA girls don’t just head back to school, they celebrate it. And that celebration is led by the senior class. 

Dressed in their signature red shirts, the Class of 2020 made their grand entrance on campus in a caravan of cars decorated with red balloons, streamers, and signs. After a class photo, they headed to Raether gymnasium to prepare for the opening assembly. As students in Groups I to XI approached the gym, they were greeted by the loud and energetic cheers of the 92 members of the senior class. Once inside, the girls pass through a gauntlet of seniors, each receiving 92 high fives (and sometimes hugs) before taking a seat.

In her opening remarks, Head of School Molly King introduced the theme for the school year—“We Can Do It!” As explained by Mrs. King, the phrase made famous by WWII’s Rosie the Riveter, “seemed like the right one, given all the building we have going on and the many other goals we’ve set for ourselves. What we inevitably find is that when we join together for a goal, we are even stronger as a community…When you unite for a shared purpose, the results are amazing—far stronger than any one individual. It’s a lesson that we learn here at Greenwich Academy, and it’s a lesson that you take with you through life.”

Cheered on by her “sisters in red,” School President Emily Fernandez ’20 then addressed the audience, sharing her simple but powerful slogan for the school year: Dream on. “After all, what are we if not but a bunch of dreamers?,” said Emily, “We are scholars, that is undeniable, but we all have so many dreams. A big win on the field, a lead in the musical, a good grade…Why do we dream? Because there is something in the water at Greenwich Academy, and that something is passion. It is a fire for life. Green and gold and burning bright, nothing like I’ve ever seen before. Here, we dare to speak our minds, do what we love, and try new things. And we dream, so that we stay daring and stay passionate. Because our dreams inspire us to do better, to be better, to be good.”

With the closing of the assembly, students returned to their respective divisions, but had one more opportunity to celebrate opening day—with an all-school cookout for lunch! 



Class Speaker Kate Hazlett's Commencement Remarks
Asha Marsh

Kate Hazlett began as student at GA in pre-K and graduated as a member of the Cum Laude Society. As a senior she was a captain of the GA Swimming & Diving Team and president of the GA Athletic Board. For 5 consecutive years, she has held the title of New England Champion in the 50 freestyle as well as 10 additional New England championship medals. She is a 12-time All-American and qualified and competed in the Olympic trials in 2016. In the fall, Kate will be attending Harvard University. She was elected by her peers to serve as their commencement class speaker.

During these past few weeks as seniors, wrapping up our time here has given all of us the opportunity to reflect on our Greenwich Academy experience.

For me, this began when I took a seat at the Harkness table of Mr. Motland's Russian Literature class a couple of weeks ago. Even after spending two years facing the wrath of Mr. Motland's existential questions, I can't say I was ready for the class ahead of me.

We had read Anton Chekhov's short story "Gooseberries" the night before, which is a story about a man who strives towards a single goal to achieve by the end of his life. He believes that if he ends up living in a country house lined with gooseberry bushes, he will have lived a life that he is satisfied with.

After discussing the story, Mr. Motland turned to us and asked, "What's your gooseberry?" Put in simpler terms, what is the one thing that if you have by the end of your life, you know you'll be happy? If you have that one thing, you will finally be fulfilled. You will have made it.

Our class went around the table, and we shared a diverse array of answers. But, we then asked Mr. Motland what his gooseberry was out of curiosity, and also probably partly out of frustration because there goes Mr. Motland, again, asking us another life-altering question right before lunch block.

But I'm not sure that any of us expected his response.

He said, "My vocation. There's nothing I'm better at and nothing I enjoy more than teaching at this school. A lot of my friends don't love what they do, but I do." He told us he wasn't looking forward to retiring, and he didn't want any other gooseberries.

That moment made me stop and think. We are so lucky to be at a school where the teachers not only love what they do, but the teachers at GA also are willing to teach beyond the curriculum. They teach to the person. They go beyond the equations. They prepare us for college and for the world. They guide us to be good people, and they truly guide us to build our character.

We, as students, can only hope for a time in our lives professionally where we can feel like Mr. Motland, happy in the moment and not always striving for something different and new. In today's era, it was comforting to hear from a person completely happy in his life, and someone who has achieved his goals.

And I mean, yeah, the more I think about it, the story is kind of ridiculous. The guy in Chekhov's piece thinks that if he doesn't have a bush with some mediocre berries on it by the time he dies, he'll have felt like his career and life tanked harder than James Charles'. And for my mom, who doesn't know who James Charles is, uh... think Laurie Loughlin.

But honestly, I appreciated hearing at this point in my life, that it is possible to be an adult who is truly happy in their profession and in their life. And thanks to Greenwich Academy, we're all ready and confident to find this in college, and more importantly, to find this in our lives.

As a class, we were guided through Greenwich Academy with poise and determination. Well, for the most part. The journey was not always easy. The lyrics to "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," were very much not clear to us the day before Mumming Sophomore year. And that sig fig quiz in 8th grade threw us for a bit of a loop, and maybe terrified us for high school Chemistry.

And, despite many of us dying of influenza on the Oregon Trail in 3rd grade, we have also accomplished great things. Of course, the most commendable being winning the dodgeball tournament versus the faculty this year, even though there seemed to be a bit of a controversy over who the winner was, but that's beside the point. We were also the first class at GA to do a grade-wide talent show piece in the middle school. We truly are a group of sisters, and we have only grown closer together with time.

Although we've gone through the same experiences at GA, as individuals, we have had so many different talents and interests fostered by this school. Some of us are beautiful singers and dancers, and some of us are phenomenal researchers. Some of us can hit a shot from half-court with our eyes closed, and some of us have already learned multivariable calculus.

So, on behalf of the Class of 2019, thank you to the faculty, administration, and fellow students for dedicating your time to inspire us. And thank you to our parents, for making the decision and sacrifices to send us to GA. We are thankful for the support that we have been given, shaping us to be who we are today. We were proud to be GA girls, and are now proud to be GA alumnae. And I am proud to join my mom and her two sisters as a GA alumna as well.

And to the Class of 2019, this is it. For years, we've watched this big white tent be put up for each graduating class, a visual marker that shows another school year is nearing its close, and that it's time to transition from one year to the next. But this time, the tent is for us, and we're the ones in white.

Sure, we might have swirled our last cup of frozen yogurt and taken that final path walk. We even ate our last Chef Anthony chocolate muffin. But I know that we will walk into our next classroom confidently, with the skills and lessons that GA and our 84 sisters have instilled in us. With our diplomas in hand, GA has prepared us for the next step, and I know we are all ready and eager to find our own gooseberry. Thank you.

Commencement Speaker Radhika Jones' Remarks
Asha Marsh

Radhika Jones graduated from Greenwich Academy in 1990 and went on to earn a BA in English from Harvard University and a PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair.

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Molly and the Board of Trustees, for inviting me to speak today, and thank you especially to the class of 2019 for allowing me to be part of your day. It has been 29 years since I graduated from GA, but it doesn't feel like that long ago, and I remember what it was like to occupy that space between an ending and a new beginning. One thing that happens as you grow older is that endings and beginnings can sneak up on you. A chapter of your life comes to a close without your even realizing it; a relationship strengthens while another fades away; you move to a new place temporarily and find yourself putting down roots. Those transitions aren't always marked with flowers and songs, and so I am honored to share in this moment with you, when a whole community has come together to celebrate who you are, and what you'll go on to do.

I have heard that you are highly accomplished, and that you wear your accomplishments with grace and humility. I have also heard that you have come into your own as leaders this year, and I am glad to hear it, because the world needs leaders, and in particular it needs leaders who are women. I want to tell you about a couple of things that happened to me in my career that helped me on my path to leadership. They have to do with being scared and also with speaking up.

After college I moved abroad for three years, and then I came back to New York to start a Ph.D. program in English literature at Columbia. As part of the program, we had to teach a composition class to first-year college students. We went through a training course to prepare for it. But on my first day of class, I was halfway up the stairs in Hamilton Hall, holding a cup of tea, when I had something akin to a panic attack, and I thought: I can't do this. I can't stand up in front of a room full of actual students, I can't hold their attention, this whole program was a terrible idea, and if I just turn around and calmly go back downstairs, I can quit Columbia and figure out something else to do with my life. I was frozen on the staircase, with students passing me in both directions, and I just stood there, fantasizing about walking away, which suddenly seemed like a highly rational plan. I think it was at least a minute or two before I collected myself and climbed up the rest of the stairs and went into the classroom. I can tell you without a doubt that my performance that day was not perfect. In fact, I was so nervous I had to lean against the desk for the entire hour to keep from shaking. But I am also one-hundred percent positive that the only failure that day would have been retreating back down the stairs.

It's ok to be scared. But you should do the things you're scared of, because they really do make you stronger, and that sets you up for bigger adventures. Now, I've done a lot of challenging things since that moment on the staircase. One time, when I was working at Time magazine, I had to get on the phone with Oprah to edit a piece she had written for me. When the phone rings and it's Oprah asking for edits on her piece—that is a little intimidating. I go on television and talk about the news and answer questions about my work—that can be intimidating. For the past two years I've hosted the Vanity Fair Oscar Party—it's a lot of fun, but the red carpet can be intimidating. So my secret is that, every time an opportunity comes up, I just say to myself, don't worry, if you could survive a room full of jaded first-year college students in a required composition class on your very first day of teaching, you can handle this. And it sounds ridiculous, but it really works. I remember the fear that paralyzed me, and then I remember the feeling of pushing past it. And the second feeling is the one that sticks.

Now you may have already experienced a moment like this in your life, of being afraid and doing the thing anyway, and if that's the case, I say, keep that memory as a measure of what you're capable of. It doesn't matter if it's a big thing or a small thing. Remember the pride you feel, the pride you earn, by doing the thing that's difficult.

The other thing I want to talk to you about is speaking up, which I know can be a big cliche in speeches like this, but bear with me. About a decade ago I started working at Time as the arts editor. There was a big meeting every morning, where all the editors sat around the table and talked about their stories for the day. On about the third day I was ready to talk through my lineup, so I did, and everything seemed fine, but on the way out, one of my new colleagues stopped me at the door. She said: "You have such a nice low voice, but I need to tell you something. Our boss is a little hard of hearing, and if you don't speak up, he won't be able to hear you." This was like a metaphor come to life. I had always been pretty quiet, but I wasn't going to be able to do my job if I didn't turn up the volume. So I literally got louder. I raised my voice. And once that happened, it was like a chain reaction. I found myself emboldened to speak about ideas and issues beyond my regular beat—about bigger stories I thought we should tell. And gradually, my boss, who was the editor in chief of the magazine, began to see me as a leader. He gave me more and more responsibility, and I grew more and more confident, and that's part of the reason I'm here today as an editor in chief myself, because I learned that life is too short not to speak up and make yourself heard, about whatever it is that matters to you. You will not always prevail, but you will know that you had the confidence to speak.

Commencements are beginnings—and starting today, you are in charge of defining your own success. This is something that takes getting used to. Up until now, you have been held to certain standards, you've gotten grades and awards and trophies, and you've known pretty much where you stand, relative to your peers. To a certain extent that continues through college, and in your career. And having those external metrics of success can be kind of comforting. But eventually you'll realize that none of it is more important than your own measure of success and fulfillment. Other people will try to legislate that for you, especially because you are women, and sometimes it may feel like you can't win. Women are judged in so many contradictory ways. We are judged for our intelligence and our competence. We are judged for how we look and what we wear. We are judged for the choices we make about our bodies. We are judged for having children, or not having children, and for how many children we have, and how we raise them. We are judged for how much we work, or how little. We are judged for our emotions, for getting angry and being outspoken. We are judged when we ask for more, yet somehow we are also judged when we don't ask for enough. We are judged for how we lead, even as we try to invent new models of leadership.

But there are ways to counter all that. First, we can help each other. You've had the privilege of a girls' education, which means you leave this campus today with a built-in girls' network. Use it. Be generous with it—make it bigger if you can. Be ready to reach out to women who may not have been as lucky as you, to women who might lack your experience or your confidence or your opportunities. And be ready to let other women help you. When I took my job at Vanity Fair, I began receiving emails from a number of women who held leadership roles in media. Some of them were technically competitors. But they reached out to offer advice and support, and we talked about every aspect of the work, the travel, the wardrobe, the personalities, the ways to keep everything in balance. That has been a huge gift. The need for support never goes away, however old you are, and I say that with immense gratitude to my GA class, the legendary Class of 1990, some of whom are here today, and who over the years have believed in me, sometimes more than I believed in myself. We have believed in each other. And it makes me so happy that you in the Class of 2019 will have that support going forward.

Second, we can push past our fears and speak up about the things that truly matter, the things that have meaning. We can define our own mission and our own success. For me, right now, that means shining a spotlight on a new creative class, one that is leading the culture to a more inclusive and equitable place. I didn't know I would ever have a platform from which to do that, and I don't want to waste it. You will find your platforms and your messages to the world. Stick with them. Speak with conviction. Make sure everybody can hear you. Be open to every opportunity, especially the ones that scare you. Don't get hung up on perfection. Go and attempt great, difficult things. The people in this tent will be cheering you onward and upward, every step of the way.


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