Women at the Helm
For the first time in WPI’s 150-year history, an all-female executive committee will run the student government. Despite a 67-33 male-to-female ratio in the undergraduate student body, in the recent SGA election, the president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary are women. Even the election slate offered a symbol of gender equality: students had a choice between a man and a woman for each executive position this year.
“I think having an all-female executive committee is really exciting,” says president-elect Niamh Fennessy ’17, currently SGA vice president. “It’s definitely a bit unusual given the gender ratio at WPI, but I’m excited to see what we can accomplish.
“Even though we are females, we will still be able to consider male perspective,” she adds. “I do not think that the gender of our execs will affect what SGA will accomplish this year, but I hope it will set an example for other female student leaders on campus.”
The other members of the new executive committee are vice president Veronica Delaney ’17, secretary Carlie Alfaro ’18, and treasurer Liz Desjardins ’17.
SGA advisor and student activities director Christine Girouard says it’s not a new phenomenon for female students to hold leadership positions in SGA, or in other campus organizations.
“It’s fair to say that when we look at the leadership of all 200 clubs and organizations on campus, a range of men and women are at the table, as well as in committees,” she says.
But the historic slate is still something to celebrate.
“I find that WPI is just a wonderful community, very open, and students are very supportive of one another,” Girouard says.
Current SGA president Tommy Larkin ’16 agrees, noting that although this election is historic, it is not surprising.
“It’s exciting, because it’s the first time in [WPI] history, but it’s not the result of a recent cultural shift. The result is more about the fact that women have been involved in SGA all along, and this happened to be the magic year that they all won,” he says.
Larkin and secretary-elect Alfaro emphasized that the slating process ensures that “anyone who was slated was definitely qualified” to serve the needs of the student body. To choose the final slate on which the student body votes, the slating committee reviews candidates’ applications very carefully to make sure they would be able to perform well in their position. Then the students vote on who they think will best represent their interests and concerns.
The slating committee looks for students who have shown involvement and leadership in a variety of campus organizations, who connect well with their peers, and who will serve the needs of the student body, says Girouard.
Larkin says he expects the biggest impact of the election will come from the fact that Fennessy will have two consecutive years of SGA leadership, one as VP and one as president, to provide continuity to SGA’s programming and goals.=
“I agree with Tommy,” says Fennessy. “I think that because I’m serving as vice president this year, my transition to president will be smoother. This year I focused a lot on improving the internal connections between senators, and as president I hope to be able to improve SGA’s connection with the students as well as the clubs and organizations on campus.”
Girouard concurs. “I don’t see the women as coming in with a set agenda, other than moving the organization forward. Their role is still the same—to support the student voice. Whether the executive team is male or female doesn’t have an impact.”
– BY CATE PRATO