By Caitlin S. ’21
Pamela McLaurin, this year’s commencement speaker and the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, has spent her 18-year tenure at Winsor shaping a diverse student body and helping prospective families afford a Winsor education. A Winsor alumni and one of the first black students at the school, Ms. McLaurin was compelled to return to Winsor as an administrator by the efforts of former Winsor Director Carolyn Peter. Ms. McLaurin recalled, “Ms. Peter had worked with intention to diversify the faculty, staff, administration, and student body.” Ms. McLaurin also credits then school nurse Jackie Arrington P’85 for encouraging her to apply to be Director of Admission. When Ms. McLaurin’s 30-minute interview with Ms. Peter continued for an hour and a half, Ms. McLaurin knew she “had fallen in love” and was excited “to carry forth Ms. Peter’s legacy and continue her work.”
During Ms. McLaurin’s tenure, she has contributed to the “visible diversity at Winsor, with 50% students of color now,” as well the invisible diversity of the Winsor student body. As Ms. McLaurin put it, “Our students are able to learn from and learn about each other in ways that are not possible anywhere else in their lives.” Differences in students’ religious beliefs, socio-economic backgrounds, countries of origin, and personal values provide a unique classroom experience in which students can exchange their opinions with people who have different life experiences than them. Ms. McLaurin emphasizes, “Diversity is often messy but my hope is that here, we can learn to agree at times, disagree at times and still love each other because we love how this community challenges us.” The diversity in Winsor applicants means that Ms. McLaurin “[met] some of the most fascinating people and [learned] about their lives and their journeys to our doorstep.” As the Director of Financial Aid, she also “[helped] at least 100 of these fascinating families each year to navigate this school without some of the financial pressures.”
Ms. McLaurin wears several hats at Winsor, another one being the co-leader of the affinity group for students of African descent, SISTERS. She loves being able to “maintain a safe space where students can be themselves, support each other, witness and model leadership, and Share Individual Stories Through Everyone’s Roots.” Additionally, as an advisor for a group of current seniors, Ms. McLaurin is a close “liaison between students’ homes and school.” She is grateful for her advisees, saying, “I have learned so much from them in our ‘McVisory.’ As seniors, we have grown particularly close having traveled this, our final year at Winsor, together.” Ms. McLaurin treats all of her student interactions with a tremendous amount of care, and she is committed to making students smile, as shown by her impassioned lip-sync performance of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” earlier this year.
Ms. McLaurin has seen the class of 2020 from their acceptance to Winsor to now, their graduation, and she is “proud of who they have become.” Ms. McLaurin identifies as someone who has “never been a big tradition person” and who tends to “[find] new ways to do things;” she embraces change and encourages the class of 2020 to do the same as they enter a new chapter of their lives. In closing, Ms. McLaurin wants Winsor’s newest alums to remember this message: “Congratulations! You have made this far. You are all shining stars. You have certainly brightened Winsor during your time here and now, it is time to go and brighten this world for the better.”