Kendall Mitchell `17
Many members of the Trinity community have been discussing the whirlwind of excitement that is the inauguration of the College’s first female and African-American president, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, which took place on Oct. 26, 2014. From seeing positive Facebook updates to selfies promoting the hashtag “#JBS22” to celebrate the arrival of Trinity’s twenty-second president, people have noticed the inviting atmosphere around campus that her fresh leadership has created.
At the Trinity College Black Women’s Organization’s (TCBWO) “Roundtable with the President,” on Oct. 30, President Berger-Sweeney noticed the same excitement for her arrival throughout the community.
When asked if she felt welcomed at Trinity, President Berger-Sweeney said, “Never before have I felt so welcomed at an institution. Throughout the day, students ask me how my transition to Trinity has been. It’s a great feeling to know that others are as excited for me to be here as I am.”
TCBWO hosted the Roundtable with President in order to give attendees the opportunity to learn more about President Berger-Sweeney and her goals for the next few years. It is apparent that the president has a strong idea of what is needed to lead a top institution after serving as the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University, and also as a nineteen-year associate faculty and dean of her alma mater, Wellesley College.
Whenever you see Dr. Berger-Sweeney around campus, you are always greeted with conversation and a smile. Her transition to Trinity seems nothing less than effortless, so people were surprised to hear her speak about the one difficulty she has faced in her time so far at Trinity. President Berger-Sweeney said one of the most difficult parts about her move to Hartford was that for the first time, her immediate family is not residing in the same home. Clara, the president’s seventeen-year-old daughter, is a senior in high school, so due to college applications and the festivities of senior year, she will continue to reside in Massachusetts along with her father, Dr. Urs V. Berger. Dr. Berger-Sweeney’s fourteen-year-old son, Tommy relocated with his mother to Hartford and he is currently enjoying his first semester at Trinity Academy. Dr. Berger-Sweeney is grateful for weekend family time, and she also spoke on the fond memories they shared this summer, while experiencing everything they could in Hartford.
TCBWO’s Roundtable Discussion with the President was set up so that students were able to submit questions in advance, or to simply stand and ask any questions that they thought of. One of the first questions asked was about her vision for student organizations on campus. Dr. Berger-Sweeney expressed her desire for students to want to engage in extra-curricular activities at Trinity. The president showed her support for any activities that Trinity students would like to participate in when she said: “When smart students engage, good things happen. I am a big believer in participatory democracies.” She went on to say that she is aware that many students feel as though they do not have a voice at Trinity, so her goal is to motivate students to break out of their comfort zones and to try new things.
A question that many people were eager to hear the answer concerned further information on Dr. Berger-Sweeney’s financial goals for the institution. Many audience members were happy to hear Dr. Berger-Sweeney say that her number one financial priority was to provide more need-based financial aid opportunities for students. In an economy where the interest rate for student loans remains fixed at 4.66%, it was quite refreshing to see that Dr. Berger-Sweeney is pushing for more funding to be allocated toward need-based scholarship opportunities for students.
Taniqua Huguley ’15, asked Dr. Berger-Sweeney for advice for young women entering the work force. Many left the event feeling inspired when Dr. Berger-Sweeney simply stated: “You can be anything you want to be.” She accredited her mother for instilling a sense of confidence within her, as she described her early memories of her mother reminding her daily that the world was her oyster. The president went on to say, “I hope that you have someone in your life that says you can be anything you want to be. If you do not, I speak for myself, along with my faculty members, that we are here to assume that role for you.”
Although the event has passed, many have continued to hear positive feedback about TCBWO’s event, and how attendees are grateful to have had the chance to speak with Dr. Berger-Sweeney on such an intimate level. Overall, TCBWO’s Roundtable Event with the President served as a great way for the community to create a connection with the president that many know will only deepen as time passes.