By Sarah Vistocco ’13
Siena College is promoting leadership among its women students through the “Saint Clare Leadership Series: Ours to Do – Women Leading the Way.” What started out as a lecture series has become a springboard for other opportunities and initiatives. Instead of simply telling women at Siena College that they can hold leadership roles, Director of the Sr. Thea Bowman Center for Women Shannon O’Neill, Ph.D. and Associate Dean of Students Joy Galarneau, Ph.D. decided to use the series to show women how to become strong leaders.
“Until you see it, you can’t believe it or do it,” said O’Neill.
According to Galarneau, the title of the leadership series, “Ours to Do,” derives from St. Francis of Assisi’s final words to his followers before he died: “I have done what is mine to do; may Christ teach you what is yours to do.” Upon his death, one of St. Francis’ early followers, St. Clare, kept the vision of the Franciscan movement alive through her wisdom, courage, strength of character and humble perseverance. The leadership series teaches young women to follow in Clare’s footsteps by becoming “servant leaders” who work with people to achieve a common goal.
On February 6, the “Ours to Do” lecture series welcomed Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS. She has appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, The Colbert Report and The O’Reilly Factor promoting social and economic justice for the poor. Simone is the executive director of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby. Last summer, Simone and her followers traveled across nine states speaking out against federal budget cuts at the expense of the disenfranchised on what was called the “Nuns on the Bus” tour.
“What breaks your heart? What makes you cry? What breaks your heart, I hope, will make you act,” Simone said during her lecture. Sr. Simone’s message promoted action supported by personal experience, according to Galarneau.
The content of Sr. Simone’s lecture was particularly pertinent to the “Ours to Do” series as well as the Sr. Thea Bowman Center Service Trip Scholarship that resulted from the initiative. The scholarship provides two women students the opportunity to work with the Bernardine Sisters in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for one week. The trip affords students the opportunity to teach English at the school run by the sisters and to assist them in visiting the sick children and their families outside of school.
Gladys Veloz ’14 and Marisely Rodriguez ’14 received the scholarship this year. The sisters’ infectious enthusiasm transferred not only to Veloz and Rodriguez, but also to the students they served. “The children and the sick we visited were always happy to talk to us and always welcomed us into their homes,” Veloz said. Rodriguez explained that she connected with some of the local families on a personal level. She stated, “Coming from a family similar to some that we met on the trip has helped me increase my passion to work with such families in the future.” The experience, Rodriguez said, “has taught me the value of and importance of perseverance, dedication, commitment and desire to help others.”
Through celebrated guest speakers, scholarships for service trips, workshops with alumni and other programs of the Sr. Thea Bowman Center, Siena College is providing its women students numerous opportunities for learning and personal growth that encourage and empower them to take on leadership roles on campus and eventually in their careers and communities.