Featured Member: Leslie de Leon, ’07
Leslie de Leon ’07 is a program manager at the American Association of Medical
Colleges. And she could beat you in a swordfight.
How she first heard about Wellesley: In my junior year, I won the Wellesley Book Award: Norton’s Anthology of Literature by Women (I still have it.) At that time, I had never heard of Wellesley. Then I went to Spring Open campus in April, and there was a freak snowstorm. Everyone was so apologetic, but I thought it was so neat! I’m from L.A., and it was the first time I had seen snow.
How she picked up an Italian major: When I started at Wellesley, I wanted to get my Ph.D. in art history. To do that, you have to learn the language of your period. I loved Margaret Carroll’s courses Dutch and Flemish art, but I didn’t want to learn Dutch. So I started Italian, and studied more Renaissance art. The Italian department was so welcoming and they helped me study abroad twice--Rome for winter session and Bologna for a semester. In my senior year, I also had a chance to become president of the Italian Society and live in the Italian Corridor in Caz.
On representing Wellesley on the piste: We had that physical education requirement; I took fencing because it fit in my schedule. The coach (Gamil Kaliouby) encouraged me to come to practice. In order to qualify for competition, you need a certain number of fencers. And in one case they were short female saberists. I had no idea what I was doing, but Gamil put me in there. He was a great coach, mentor and friend. I was very fortunate to learn from him and the rest of my very talented teammates.
How she got into the museum world: I always knew of the Getty, being from Los Angeles. I got an internship there with the Illuminated Manuscripts department. Because I had interned there and it is such a small community, they helped me later land a job at the Cloisters – part of the Metropolitan Gallery in New York. The Skirball Cultural Center also took a leap of faith and gave me my first real job after Wellesley. The Skirball folks taught me a great deal not just about museum education but also about how to be a good team player and the importance of serving one’s community.
Why she left the museum world: I thought I had landed the best possible job for an aspiring art historian: a position at the Met Cloisters. I was really excited when I got the job at the Cloisters. But I had taken a pay cut, from practically nothing to begin with. I loved my co-workers, the museum itself was unreal, and my supervisor was a great manager and mentor. But, paying bills was stressful and things got real, real fast. I was not financially independent. That was a hard lesson. I think that’s still a big challenge for some art institutions--how can they achieve racial and socioeconomic diversity in their staffing, if they can’t offer competitive wages?
On making her next move in D.C.: I was doing some soul searching and ended up taking a bus from New York to D.C. to visit my Wellesley big sister. Her partner (now wife and Wellesley alum too!) worked for Georgetown Law, and told me that if you’re admitted to a program and continue working full-time, they help pay for your grad school after a year of service. I wanted to go to grad school and it sounded like a good way to finance it. I put in an application and got a job working as a coordinator for the pro-bono legal clinics at Georgetown Law.
On overcoming her fear of numbers: I was the wild card in my class at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. That was the first time I took economics and accounting. It seemed like for everyone else, it was a refresh. It was a humbling experience and the first time I found myself questioning my ability to succeed academically. But my Evening Program cohort helped me get through a myriad of cases and exams. Now, I don’t run away every time I see a P&L statement or a spreadsheet.
How she stays connected to Wellesley: Volunteering for my regional club, class council and the Wellesley Latina Alumnae Network (WLAN) helped me stay connected to Wellesley. I’m currently on the board of directors of the Wellesley College Alumnae Association (WCAA). One of the goals of the WCAA is to keep the alumnae community connected to each other and the College. President Johnson launched an initiative called Inclusive Excellence. Along with the other WCAA directors and staff, I am trying to look at inclusivity at the alumnae level and how we can engage alums who have not traditionally felt a sense of belonging to the Wellesley community after graduation.
Where to find her on the weekend: I live in Bethesda with my partner, Henry (who has gotten stopped on the streets when sporting his Wellesley sweatshirt). We don’t consider ourselves foodies, but we are culinary explorers and will rarely say no to trying out a new spot. Our latest find is an Italian place in our neighborhood called Positano’s. They pride themselves in having served the Bethesda for over 40 years, and according to their website, they’re not going planning on going anywhere despite the many new skyscrapers go up around them!
The Washington Wellesley Club is excited to introduce you to DC area alums through this new series of online profiles. Each month, a local alum will talk about living and working in DC and share memories of Wellesley. These profiles will illustrate how Wellesley alums stay creative and resilient despite the challenges that inevitably come our way. To view profiles of previously featured members, click here.