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BY Victoria Tilney McDonough ’83

 
Creating Space for Others to Shine

In the 138 years since Miss Mary Pickard Winsor founded The Winsor School, more than 6,000 students have graced its halls. These women have gone on to change the world in profound and meaningful ways, paving the way for those who follow, creating a lasting legacy and expanding the professional landscape for women far beyond the city of Boston. 

For many of us Winsor alums, who we wanted to become and what we wanted to do was inspired by a teacher, class, project, sports team or club, encouraging note, or leadership opportunity at Winsor.

The three Winsor alumnae featured here—who work in vastly different professional arenas—are making a pronounced impact on the world through their jobs and companies, not-for-profits, leadership roles on boards and in organizations, and, maybe most importantly, by positioning others—particularly women, when possible—to build upon their work.





    • Photos by Kelly Davidson Studio

For Kristin Bennett ’85, who was a student when Virginia Wing was head of school, it’s hard to forget Miss Wing’s love of Stuart Little and the quote she often shared, “I wish you fair skies and a tight grip...”

Kristin—who trained in mechanical engineering and geophysics—says she knew nothing about geophysics when she started grad school at the University of California, Berkeley and knew nothing about mountaineering the first time she laced up her hiking boots. “Knowing nothing” didn’t get in her way. Kristin earned her PhD in geology and geophysics and, to date, has summited seven of the world’s 10 highest peaks including Everest, Kilimanjaro, K2, and Aconcagua. “Winsor taught us that we can do anything, we just have to try—like Stuart.”

Kristin entered Trinity College as a math major in large part due to Winsor math teacher David Meyers’s deep love of the subject and his contagious sense of humor, but it wasn’t until she took a graduate school course in materials science that she seemed to stumble upon her passion: nanoscience. “Think about one grain of sand. Cut that grain into 100,000 pieces and now you are looking at shapes, patterns, and relationships among this tiny handful of atoms,” she says. “And the possibilities ‘down there,’ of new science and technology, when you tap into atomic vibrations ... mind-boggling!”

Earning the nickname “Nano Girl” by one of her bosses, Kristin spent years working as a materials scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national labs, overseeing the creation of five new nanoscience centers across the country, and helping the DOE and 17 other government bodies implement nanoscience in their work. Around 2000, nanoscience, a field that touches on physics, chemistry, geology, biology, materials science, and engineering, was exploding. Kristin was on the frontlines helping scientists from the public and private sectors work with the ultra-small to develop new technologies from green energy to treatments for certain diseases. While she was at the DOE and “shooting time-of-flight neutrons all over the world at rocks, plutonium, uranium, starfish, stromatolites”—you name it—she discovered an intense passion for adventure travel and mountaineering.

When Kristin turned 40, she left the government and her top-level clearance to start her own company, KB Science—and updated the Nano Girl moniker to the social media handle “Nano Woman.” “KB Science helps small businesses, universities, non-profits, and national laboratories capture federal grants in clean energy for the government,” she says. “It’s a long process that begins by helping our clients build the strategic concept of their basic science or technology story and then frame it so the government will not be able to say no to funding,” she explains.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to help people bring their brilliant and innovative ideas to fruition. I find it gratifying to work in this service-based way... and I never get bored. I mean, one day I might be working with material scientists and crystallographers who are developing super smart cement, then shift to helping fusion scientists spin hot plasma to produce carbon-free energy through nanomagnets.”

Now as her own boss, she has the opportunity to follow her love of mountaineering. Over the last two decades, she has trekked through India, Turkey, Russia, Nepal, Japan, Tibet, South America, and even Antarctica. During her travels and remembering her years at Winsor, Kristin cofounded Anything Is Possible (AIP) in 2021, a non-profit helping save the lives of Nepalese girls through education. “Nepal has become a special place to me. The people are incredibly kind and giving and by sponsoring girls through scholarships and donations, we have been able to help one girl at a time. This is so meaningful to me because in many rural communities like those in and around Nepal, most girls—and they are so smart—are not allowed any schooling after the age of 10, and sadly, these girls are often sold or trafficked. So, if we can get them into school, they have a chance at following their dreams. It’s still baby steps with AIP, but I hope that the more partnerships we forge and treks we organize to raise money, the more girls we can help and empower.”

Kristin is also deeply invested in promoting science education and outreach for K–12 and public audiences. One of her favorite projects was participating in NOVA’s Making Stuff, the popular prime time science series on PBS that enables educators and encourages young students to look at the world and its future through the lens of materials science. “Working on projects like that brings me back to my days at Winsor, which in some ways saved my life.” Because of a change in family status when she was a student, Kristin suddenly needed financial aid. “I felt incredibly supported by Miss Wing and Winsor and I never felt embarrassed that I needed this help. I think in many ways, the help I got from Winsor planted in me a deep understanding of the importance of serving others whether through scholarships or leadership. I have never forgotten what Winsor did for me,” she says. Fair skies, indeed.
 

 




    • Photo by Laura Barisonzi

    • The above photo was provided by Tiffany R. Warren '92 (L to R): Alethea C. Davis Taylor ’92, Tiffany R. Warren ’92, Tanisha Jorsling Sullivan ’92 (seated), Kamala Harrington ’92 and Jeana Brown ’92.

The assignment was to “draw what you want to be in the future.” So, in Upper School visual arts teacher Joanna Kao’s studio, while many of her classmates drew pictures of themselves as lawyers, doctors, and B-school prodigies, Tiffany R. Warren ’92 drew what basically looked like a recruitment advertisement for the Boston Ballet. “I drew a Black ballerina, voluptuous and beautiful, on her tippy toes with the words Join Today! Boston Ballet,” says Tiffany. “Unbeknownst to me, I had just drawn my first diversity recruitment ad.”

For more than 24 years, Tiffany worked as a talent strategist and one of the first chief diversity officers in advertising, the last 11 years at Omnicom Group, where she oversaw a team of diversity officers and directors that focused on the support, advancement, and retention of top performing talent inclusive of women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ professionals.

In 2020, through a chance reachout through LinkedIn, Tiffany was appointed executive vice president, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Sony Music Group, a newly created position established to expand equity and inclusion activities and policies across Sony Music Group’s global recorded music, publishing, and corporate divisions. “Here I was, 46, putting aside 24 years in one industry and culture to learn a new job, a new career culture. But how could I say no?” she says. “If a person of the future had come to 12-year-old Tyff and said ‘When you are in your 40s you are going to help nurture the culture of inclusion at Sony Music—the home of Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston’...some of the biggest artists in history—I probably would have passed out!”

But let’s backtrack for a moment. Tiffany doesn’t hesitate to say that she cut her teeth in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at Winsor and then at Bentley University. “When I arrived in corporate America, I had some chops as a woman of color and as a leader, which was due in large part to Winsor and Bentley.”

As one of five African American girls in her Winsor graduating class of 60, she remembers always being acutely aware of the idea of belonging. With School Nurse Jacqueline Arrington as their mentor, Tiffany and her classmates Tanisha Jorsling ’92, Alethea Davis Taylor ’92, Jeana Brown ’92 and Kamala Harrington ’92 founded ALAI (African American, Latina, Asian, Indian), a supportive group of girls from different types of marginalized communities. “Mrs. Arrington was the glue. She helped us create a safe space where we could exhale and be our full selves,” says Tiffany.

“Being a part of this group was intoxicating for me as a young girl wanting to belong, and I remember getting this curious feeling about how to expand that sense of safety not only for myself but for other minorities.” She credits her time in ALAI and her experience drawing the ballerina portrait in Ms. Kao’s class as pivotal moments for her. She notes, “I know they were significant catalysts for where I am today.” In college at Bentley, Tiffany poured herself into as many leadership positions as she could, in large part to help her face her social anxiety.  She served in every role for the university’s Black United Body, finally becoming president, and she founded and edited VOICES, a publication to give voice to and celebrate the community of color at Bentley. “I am definitely a learned extrovert,” she laughs.

In the early 2000s, riding home from work on the subway, the words “rise up, reach back” popped into her brain. She says that because of her background in branding, phrases and slogans often come to her out of the blue. Those two imperatives birthed ADCOLOR, a not-for-profit she founded in 2005 with the dual mission to build community and support equity. According to the ADCOLOR website, the organization exists to “help individuals and organizations RISE UP, letting their accomplishments and ideas shine,” then to “teach these new leaders and would-be mentors how to REACH BACK and find others who deserve to be noticed and promoted.”

Tiffany loves acronyms. At Omnicom, she created OPEN (Omnicom People Engagement Network), and when she started at Sony Music Group, she launched MILES (Mobility, Impact, Leadership, Equity, Safety). “Launching MILES has been one of my top five proudest accomplishments. Throughout the company it has become a rallying cry of sorts, which is thrilling to see. Colleagues tell me that, in some cases, they are applying MILES to their own lives outside of work,” she says. “When you think of DEI work company-wide in education, training, development, data analysis, and external partnerships, the needs that MILES stands for are more crucial than ever for a strong culture of equity and inclusion, especially when you think of people of color, women, and those in the LGBTQIA+ populations. People can sometimes have misunderstandings around exactly what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean, so I try to break down the meanings to meet people where they are and then take that journey with them. In this way, we are traveling and growing together. MILES has been the perfect map for that!”

Tiffany, who feels honored to sit on many boards, including serving as the first African American woman and 2020–22 chair of the National Board of Directors for the American Advertising Foundation, reiterates how her time at Winsor helped her develop a deep understanding of the transformative power of female leadership. “I was lucky to have my own Mt. Rushmore at Winsor. It featured the five faces of Mrs. Arrington, Head of School Carolyn Peter, my basketball and softball coaches Laura Gregory and Debbi Hill, and Spanish teacher Stephanie Bennett-Voght, who taught an unforgettable course during one January term on the power of positive thinking, where I learned that I—no one else—gets to determine how I think and who I am.” No doubt Tiffany will be one of the important faces on the personal Mt. Rushmore of countless people—now and for a long time to come.
 

 




    • Photos by Elisabeth Caren

Leslie Dewan ’02 remembers traipsing out to the Winsor courtyard with her classmates as they followed their Class III physics and astronomy teacher Denise Labieniec. There, Ms. Labieniec set up a huge telescope so they could all take turns looking at the moon. “We were studying the phases of the moon and learning in this multi-modal way really made the material stick,” says Leslie. “Ms. Labieniec always made science so interesting, relevant, and accessible. I wanted to be like her, and like my Upper School physics teacher Helen Young. They both went to MIT; they made it possible for me to see that I, too, could be a woman in science.” Leslie went on to earn a BS in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering and a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT.

In graduate school, Leslie met fellow student Mark Massie and after many conversations and collaborations—and inspired by the 1950s molten salt reactor design—they decided that the world needed new energy technology to generate clean, safe, and affordable nuclear power. In 2011, they incorporated Transatomic Power. “There were other big nuclear companies out there, like Westinghouse, but we thought we could develop effective, affordable, and safe technology in a more nimble way as a startup,” she says.

Since then, Leslie has served as CEO of RadiantNano, a nuclear startup developing next-generation radiation detectors with applications in national security, clean energy production, and medical diagnostics, and is now working on building robust supply chains for advanced nuclear reactors. “It’s actually a very exciting time in the nuclear energy field. China, for many years—primarily to reduce pollution—has been building up their nuclear technologies and facilities and there are also a good 100-plus new and varied nuclear startups worldwide, which are developing advanced reactors using different types of fuels. These different types of fuels, in turn, create less waste, lower costs, and safer technologies,” she explains. “The whole sector has taken off. My new work is focusing on filling the supply chain gaps for these companies.

“A lot of people are still afraid of nuclear power. They think about the meltdowns at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima and about the industry that for so long was shrouded in secrecy and isolation,” says Leslie. “People are afraid of the unknown. I want to help make the invisible visible—to combat public fear by talking about how nuclear energy can generate carbon- and emissions-free power, and how, going hand-in-hand with intermittent energy sources like solar and wind, nuclear power can provide us with safer and more affordable energy than that from fossil fuels. And frankly, we need nuclear power if we want to meet our carbon emissions goals to combat climate change.”

Leslie takes her role as a leader in science seriously. She is among the youngest ever to serve on MIT’s board of trustees, and currently, she serves on the advisory board of the University of Michigan Engineering School’s Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences program and on the board of Winsor’s Corporation. “It’s an honor to be on academic advisory boards like these—boards with defined missions, boards that run on long-term scales for big-picture success. I feel like I am part of something much larger than myself,” she says.

Leslie says she is thrilled to see that more young people, in particular women, are entering the field of nuclear engineering. “Because of Three Mile Island and the other historic meltdowns, most nuclear engineers are in their 70s to 90s but also now in their 20s to 30s. Fear caused people to leave the field; hence, the gap in ages,” she says. “Now, there are some universities with inspired and forward-thinking department heads in nuclear physics and engineering who have been listening to the concerns and ideas of their students and further developing their programs with those concerns and big ideas in mind.”
She also notes that in 2018, the Department of Energy launched “Navigating Nuclear: Energizing Our World,” a free K–12 program to support educators who want to incorporate nuclear science into their lesson plans. “I think the younger students can learn about science, can see themselves in a science career, can effect positive change in the world, the better—especially girls, who traditionally have been discouraged from pursuing study in science,” she says. “I want to keep my eye on that program if only because it resonates for me and brings me back to that time of keen excitement when I first caught the science bug at Winsor.”

Among other awards and recognitions, Leslie was selected as one of Time magazine’s 2013 “30 People Under 30 Changing the World.” She says she has been lucky enough to give talks at TEDx and other organizations, universities, and middle and high schools, including Winsor. “Some of the best questions I have gotten were from Winsor girls, even from the little ones in Class I. Talking to curious girls and young women about atoms and radiation, about nuclear energy and climate change, about how nuclear reactors are basically fancy ways to boil water is invariably rewarding.”

In addition to getting hooked on science back when she was in Class III, Leslie also credits Winsor for her confidence as a writer, public speaker, and leader. She laughs when she recalls being the coxswain—and “easily the worst person”­—on Winsor’s crew team. “I think it was my first real leadership position and there I was as a freshman and sophomore with that headset on yelling at juniors and seniors about strokes and cadences as we churned our way down the Charles. It gave me a lot of confidence, as did our having to survive Expos papers and Hemenway speeches.”

And Leslie recognizes those same benefits among other Winsor alumnae. In graduate school, as a teacher’s assistant for an MIT lab in materials science, Leslie kept noticing one of her sophomores who time after time submitted the most well written and well reasoned lab reports. “I was handing back some papers one day, and there on her finger was a Winsor signet ring.”




Mary Winsor founded our school with a vision of educating young women to be independent, wise, generous-minded citizens of this country. She knew the power of women and their voices, and the indisputable value of providing a rich environment where girls would be encouraged to pursue a wide range of important subjects, including—perhaps especially—those that had historically been designated as more masculine areas of study. She knew that a Winsor education could prepare women to lead in important ways, ultimately changing the world for the better, and developing a foundation upon which others could further build. And while the roles described here by Kristin, Tiffany, and Leslie didn’t even exist during Mary Winsor’s time, her influence is clear. Whether building inclusive professional cultures of belonging, blasting neurons at rocks, developing much-needed clean energy options, or summiting mountains, Winsor alumnae are at the forefront of their varied professions, inspiring those who follow to do the same as they forge their own paths.