Betsy Fleming

Year of Graduation: 
Betsy Fleming

"Successful transformation involves focusing on being rather than doing, getting curious, and owning the choice to reinvent."

Fall is a season for reflection and transformation. As I write, early morning temperatures have become cool. Leaves on trees are changing color. I think back to fall 1984 and sitting alone in the back seat of my family’s station wagon. We were pulling out of our driveway in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and heading to Exeter, where I would embark on my first year as a student. My heart raced with a mix of anxiety and optimism as I thought, “I get to choose now who I want to be” irrespective of the conventions and norms that had, up until that minute, framed my life in a small Southern city. 

This occasion was the first of many opportunities for conscious reinvention in my life. I am in one now in relation to the Academy, transitioning from supportive, yet distant, alumna to more engaged GAA vice president and new trustee. From my experience, successful transformation involves focusing on being rather than doing, getting curious, and owning the choice to reinvent. In assuming these new roles, I have chosen the mindset of being non sibi and being an individual who works to unite goodness and knowledge. I have also become insatiably curious about where the Academy is today, probing to understand how it is reinventing itself in the context of changing global, social, economic and health circumstances while remaining true to its distinct values and ideals. 

This curiosity led me to a Zoom meeting with the faculty of the Art Department. Today, five women — all outstanding practicing artists — compose the team that instructs more than 600 students each year in the visual arts. Their pedagogy integrates individual craft and skill development with a substantial grounding in art history and theory. The results are incredible bodies of work by diverse students, most of whom have no aspiration to pursue a professional career in the arts. Instead, they take a keen understanding of how creative expression cultivates shared humanity and belonging into a myriad of other disciplines and professions. While the Academy transforms with changing times, it remains steadfast in its commitment to provide a breadth of exceptional learning experiences that lead to an openness to differing perspectives and greater connection as diverse humans engaged in a challenging world. 

I invite you, too, to consider how you might reinvent and reinvigorate your relationship with the Academy. It is a choice to embrace a non sibi way of being and bring together goodness and knowledge in daily activities. I invite you to get curious about what is different today for Exonians in the context of the Academy’s 50th anniversary of coeducation and the expansion of its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. I invite you to engage beyond your class by becoming a mentor or joining an affinity group. It promises to pay dividends.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the fall 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.