Parker Dockray ’95

Growing up in semi-rural Pennsylvania, I knew I wanted attend a college in a more diverse, more progressive community. I still remember my first visit to Wesleyan: I felt like while it was a place where there were a lot of social activities happening, the conversations people were having were wonderfully intellectual and political and progressive—and that kind of dynamic environment appealed to me immediately.

I think the overarching theme of my Wesleyan experience would be that the diversity of perspectives really challenged the way I look at the world, even while clarifying and crystalizing my own beliefs. While I appreciated the intellectual challenge and the academic side of things, to have conversations that included people with such different backgroundsadded complexity and nuance, challenged my preconceived notions, and allowed for much richer discussions.

At Wesleyan, I was part of a community where I was exposed to so many other areas I wouldn't necessarily have been exposed to in my own course of study. That multidisciplinary environment enriched my understanding of how everything is connected. I was able to dig deep into a topic but also dabble in other things—taking classes in dance and chemistry or economics or whatever it might be—outside of my own field. The experience helped me to see the value in and the role of each piece, along with how all the pieces connect in the bigger picture.

Rob Rosenthal was one of my favorite professors at Wesleyan. I really appreciated his commitment to social change and to building connections—the way he challenged students to interact with the real world and get involved with the community. It wasn’t just about academics; it was about making the world a better place. At Wesleyan, I volunteered with Planned Parenthood and escorted clients at a clinic in Bridgeport as a member of what was then called Students for Choice. Those experiences were formative for me—having the opportunity to connect my studies with community action, and to do work in a way that was very different from what I was learning, but that built on what I was learning.

While I came to Wesleyan with a real interest in sex education and in access to pregnancy options, it was my studies at Wesleyan and my interactions at Wesleyan that shaped my opinions about and my approach to reproductive health and justice. By the time I moved to California after graduation, I knew I wanted to work in reproductive health and abortion access, and I’ve been working in the field ever since, with a focus on connecting people, connecting different organizations, and connecting issues. My dedication to breaking down the silos and the way things are disconnected from each other in order to bring them together in a more holistic, real-world way was born and nurtured at Wesleyan.

Parker Dockray ’95 is the executive director of Backline, a national organization promoting unconditional and judgment-free support for people across all their experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption. Founded as a toll-free national talkline in 2004, Backline will open its first brick-and-mortar pregnancy center, offering in-person support and other non-medical services and resources, including free diapers and baby clothes, in March 2015 in Bloomington, Indiana. For more information, visit yourbackline.org.