Student Sketches: Brianna Goncalves

November 18, 2013
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Brianna Goncalves failed her first class at WPI. That was not what she expected as a top high school student back home in East Longmeadow, Mass.

“It kind of took me aback,’’ she says. But she quickly recognized her mistake. “I was more into the social life than the academics. It was an adjustment.’’

These days, the energetic sophomore swears by her to-do list.  “I live off my calendar and my phone,’’ she says, laughing.

The schedule spells out the day’s demands and what her priorities must be to meet those demands. “If you look at your schedule and you find free time, then you can be social,’’ she says.

Brianna eagerly shares this lesson, which is not taught in any classroom but may be the most valuable a student can learn. “My transition as a freshman wasn’t always the easiest thing,’’ she says. “I don’t want them to go through what I went through.’’

As a community advisor, she works with first year students on a specific floor to help them adjust to the demands — and temptations — of college life that she knows all too well. She makes sure they are adjusting well and shares her own freshman year mistakes in hopes that they won’t repeat them.

"One of my hobbies is meeting people…"

Freshmen must keep current with their academics, she says. “You need to do well in everything, You can’t really cram the night before.’’

She also helps them master new college skills, such as how to approach a professor. “That can be kind of intimidating,’’ she says.

And she encourages them to use their precious free time to make friends. One way to do this, she says, is to join one of WPI’s nearly 200 clubs and organizations. By meeting people with shared interests, students can become “a lot more comfortable’’ on campus.

“It’s all about balancing time,’’ she says.  Take a peek at Goncalves’s trusty to-do list on Wednesday and you will likely see another of her volunteer activities: Crimson Key tour guide.

She offers tours of the campus to a range of visitors, including accepted high school seniors, curious eighth graders, and “anyone who comes to the school.’’ She tells visitors that WPI is “a difficult and challenging school, but everyone is going through the same thing, so many people are always willing to help. There’s a huge sense of community.’’

During finals week, the most pressured and stress-filled time of the year, Goncalves becomes an especially popular member of the community. She hands out candy. “Everyone gets really excited’’ by the sweet diversion, she says.

Serving the much-needed treats is part of her position as the aptly named “sunshine chair’’ for Phi Sigma Sigma sorority.

She also sends out holiday cards and otherwise orchestrates activities to lift the spirits of her classmates.  She describes her role as that of a “picker-upper.’’ That role fits her personality perfectly.

“I meet new people every day. One of my hobbies is meeting people,’’ she says. “Every day is an awesome day. It just makes me happy.’’

By Sandy Quadros Bowles, photos by Louie Despres

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