posted on: Thursday September 12, 2019
by Kerry Torpey ’20 and Katherine Torok ’20
Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editor-in-Chief
When Providence College first opened its doors in 1917, it was an all-male institution. It was not until 1971 that female students received admission and started making their mark on PC history.
In 2017, Phionna-Cayola Claude ’18, Elizabeth Jancsy ’18, Simran Madhani ’18, and Marcie Mai ’18 broke the glass ceiling by becoming the presidents of Student Congress, the Board of Programmers (BOP), Friars Club, and the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs (BMSA). After the elections of these four female leaders, Dr. Abigail Brooks, director of the women’s studies department, told The Cowl, “The more we see women, and importantly a diversity of women, inhabiting leadership roles, the more likely it is that other women can also imagine themselves in these roles.”
Following in those footsteps this year, Kelsey Christianson ’20, Ariel Tavares ’20, Acklynn Byamugisha ’20, Bailey Zimmitti ’20, and Amanda Gaccione ’20 take on top leadership positions for Student Congress, Friars Club, BMSA, Campus Ministry, and BOP, respectively. Christianson, Tavares, Byamugisha, Zimmitti, and Gaccione sat down with The Cowl to discuss challenges they have faced as well as their goals for this upcoming academic year.
Who has been your biggest female role model on campus?
AT: To settle on one is impossible as I am inspired by most of the women I am surrounded by every day. But, I have succeeded two of the most well-rounded Presidents of Friars Club, Sabrina Morelli ’19 and Simran Madhani ’18. They have taught me that there are different ways to be a woman, to be a friend, and to be a leader. They have broken barriers in their own ways but both with a grace I can only hope to emulate.
KC: My biggest female role model from PC is Kelsie Laferriere ’17, my “Congress mom.” She was one of the strongest women I have ever met and taught me to always speak out and let your voice be heard. Even though I only had one year on campus with her, it was enough to realize how great of a person she was.
BZ: My biggest female role model on campus has been Sister Anne Frances, O.P. From the moment I stepped on campus, Sister Anne Frances has been a reflection of Christ’s light for me. As a religious sister, she is not only a symbol and reminder to the world of God’s reconciling the world to Himself through Christ’s incarnation and sacrifice, but she is also a spiritual mother to all of God’s children, beautifully imitating St. Dominic in her balance of gentle, tender compassion and zeal for souls.
What goals do you have for your organization this year?
AB: I want everyone in the organization to feel that there will always be a family supporting them at Providence College. More importantly I hope that the executive boards within each club and organization can work together, create events with one another, and move towards a bigger, more unifying narrative where all students involved on campus can feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves, and just create a stronger sense of Friar family for everyone.
AG: This year my goal for BOP is to truly go above and beyond in making inclusive, new events that make everyone feel welcome. Our theme this year is “Making PC feel like home.” As said on countless tours by the members of Friars Club, our goal is to keep people at the school, and we have been working tirelessly to brainstorm new and innovative events that will allow students to make new friends, branch out, and feel comfortable and happy every single day in Friartown.
KC: I have many goals for Student Congress this year, but my number one goal is to really connect with the student body. I want everyone on campus to realize that our organization is there to serve them and that we can be a resource to them. Another goal I have for Student Congress is to increase campus awareness of what Student Congress does. Most of the school doesn’t know what Congress does or how we can help them, and I want that to change.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at PC?
BZ: The biggest challenge I have faced at PC has been learning how to deal with feeling unsatisfied. There have been many moments in college when I thought I knew myself and what I wanted, but after having obtained what I wanted, I was left still not feeling satisfied. Last year as I read with a heavy heart from Ecclesiastes in our beautiful chapel at adoration one night, I was struck by this verse: “God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put [eternity] into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done” (Ecc. 3:11). We are temporary, finite beings with eternity in our hearts—nothing of this world could possibly ever satisfy us in a real, lasting way.
AG: One of the biggest challenges I faced was during my sophomore year. I am also on the swim team here, and I had to “redshirt” the entire year from swimming, which means I couldn’t compete due to an injury. However, that was also my first year on BOP, and provided me with the opportunity to dedicate all of my energy, effort, and love to BOP. It was a blessing in disguise that I was not able to compete that year because I had more time to go to more BOP events and make amazing memories with the club.
AB: Working with close-minded people. I find that I am very comfortable being myself in all spaces, but it hurts me that people cannot feel the same way or struggle with working with people that are not like themselves. But it’s okay, things happen and sometimes I have to expect that.
If you could tell your first-year self anything, what would you say?
KC: I would tell my first-year self to make yourself a priority. College is about learning who you are, and you need to take time to do that. Take the time to process and learn about yourself. Do things for you that are in your best interest because that is how you will figure yourself out and how you can help others.
AT: Do yourself a favor and get rid of all of your skirts, dance a lot more, and share more of yourself with those around you because people are not always what you expect.
BZ: The best piece of advice that I have received and that I wish I could tell my freshman self came from someone you may have known as Daniel Arteaga ’19, but who is now Br. Raphael Mary. It is that you have to pray knowing that God will take care of everything. Sometimes we can feel like God does not hear our prayers because He is not answering in the way we want or expect Him to. But it’s important to remember that we cannot always see God weaving our stories day by day; rather, in hindsight, we can see in the small things how He has equipped us and carried us exactly where we should be.
What is the best piece of advice you have received at PC?
AG: Be who you are and say what you feel because those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.
AB: Meeckral “Meecky” Searight [from the Personal Counseling Center] told me that I cannot control what is not in my own control, so I should not stress over what I do not have the direct ability to change. Ever since then, I have been a lot less stressed.
AT: You are more respected being yourself than anyone else.