King ’97, Perez ’98, Santana ’98 at 27th Dwight L. Greene Symposium

Allison Williams at the podim introducing the speakers

On Nov. 2, the 27th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium presented “Changing the Narrative: Women of Color Impacting Culture through Storytelling.” Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer Alison Williams ’81 introduced the panel. “Our topic today is near and dear to my heart. Telling our stories, changing the narratives, and women of color telling their stories and impacting culture through storytelling.” (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

Alumni speakers on stage

From left to right: Maria Santana ’98, New York-based anchor and correspondent for CNN En Español and frequent contributor to all CNN networks and platforms; Chrishaunda Lee Perez ’98, writer, producer, and orator best known for her popular debut novel, We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women; and moderator Kimberly King ’97, chair of the Alumni of Color Council and a marketing professional. This is not the first time these three women have come together to hold a dialogue in front of an audience: the first iteration of their panel was organized by Perez two years ago in New York City. With photos from their undergraduate days projected behind them, King opened the dialogue by asking, “What better way to talk about storytelling, than to start with a story?” According to King, “My narrative never looked like anyone else’s and I was able to find a space for myself when I was at Wesleyan.” Noted Santana, “If something doesn’t exist at Wesleyan, you create it.”

Photos of three alumnae on stage

Perez called Wesleyan “the best place to explore your ideas, and everybody is supporting you—that’s the school I remember.” Despite her deep interest in developing a career in fashion, she chose to attend Wesleyan rather than art school. “I told my mother, I want to meet future dentists; I want to meet future physicians. And I can dress everybody!” Drawing from friends pursuing majors across the curriculum, Perez was able to assemble a group around her interests, even holding her “very first fashion show.”

Women on stage

Santana recalls that she was shy when she arrived on campus, but at Wesleyan she learned to “figure things out by myself.” She and seven other Latinx students formed a dance group, Caliente, which would perform at La Casa house parties. With an appearance onstage at the all-campus talent show, Caliente gained popularity and grew to include about 35 multicultural members. “Seeing what it started out as and what it became was an obsession for me,” says Santana. “This group was where I gained a lot of confidence.” Noting her current career in front of a television camera, she says, “Wesleyan is the place that made it all happen.”