President to president

Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney and Student Government Association President Kristina A. Miele ’19
Photo by Helder Mira

As Trinity begins its celebration of the 50th anniversary of coeducation, The Reporter sat down for a conversation with two prominent Trinity women: President Joanne Berger-Sweeney and Student Government Association (SGA) President Kristina A. Miele ’19.

What does it mean to you to be a leader at Trinity as we mark this anniversary?
JBS: It’s a magnificent time to be here celebrating coeducation. Part of the decision to admit women was to have a higher quality student body, realizing that if you had both men and women in your admissions pool, you could select the top of each of those groups. I am so proud to be the president 50 years after Trinity made such a consequential decision, one that I think made the institution better.

KAM: It’s exciting to be in a leadership position on campus and to be seen as a person who represents Trinity, the SGA, and the student body. It’s crazy to think that it was just 50 years ago that females were first admitted because, in addition to me being SGA president, our entire SGA Executive Board is female. Also, Trinity now has five sororities, and we had only two when I got here. There were so many opportunities for guys but not for women. I was excited to be a part of helping to found the Stella Society [a new sorority] to close that gender gap. We wanted to have an organization focused on leadership and diversity of involvement on campus. One thing that we are really proud of is that there is no “Stella girl.” We’re not all from a specific sports team or a club; we’re all leaders from different parts of campus.

How do you two work together to benefit Trinity?
KAM: We’ve had joint office hours, and hopefully we will continue to do so. The goal is to show a united front to listen to everyone’s concerns—not just me for the students, not just the dean of the faculty for the faculty—that we’re really all here to listen to everyone. I think it’s important to show that act of transparency in that we all have the same goals and we’re all hoping for the betterment of Trinity.

JBS: We also held a joint meeting this past fall for our leadership teams [the President’s Cabinet with SGA Executive Board and class presidents] so that the president could talk with the president, vice president with vice president, finance with finance. It was an opportunity to have integrated conversations between the leadership groups to hear what they care about and what they are working on. Once again, it’s a sense of collaboration and cooperation for the betterment of Trinity, just as Kristina said. You know, we may have different perspectives at different times on different things, but I hope we’ve instilled a sense that we all care about making Trinity better.

Each of you brings your own personal history to your position. Keeping your background in mind, what do you see for the future for coeducation?
I’m hoping we can continue to break down any barriers that would stop women from taking leadership positions and from realizing their full potential. We should continue conversations on women’s leadership so it’s not an anomaly to have a female president of the college, a female SGA president, and a female SGA board, but so it’s the norm.

JBS: I realize that I bring a perspective of someone who went to an all-women’s college [Wellesley] as an undergraduate. I knew that women’s institutions and coed institutions were different, and I brought with me into this role a desire to help make women feel as supported here at Trinity as I felt at a women’s college. On a very practical basis, during the 50th anniversary of coeducation, we’re planning to celebrate during the next three semesters: one semester recalling the past, one examining the present, and one looking toward the future. I hope that in the fall, during the time that we’re looking at the present, we might be able to have a commission on the status of women at Trinity to look at tough questions: How are women students faring? How are we doing in terms of staff pay, in terms of faculty pay, in terms of curriculum and supporting issues related to women and gender? I’d really like to be able to say, “Here’s where we’ve come from, here’s where we are, and this is the jumping off point for what we need to do in the future.”