Escaping a Genocide, Jumping on Train Tracks: Students Share Stories at Grad Talks

grad talks

From escaping the Rwandan genocide to jumping onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train, eight graduate students shared their stories and passions in the fourth annual Grad Talks event on Friday afternoon.

Three judges—Scott Britton, associate university librarian for public services; James Burns, the dean of the Woods College of Advancing Studies; Vice Provost for Faculties Patricia De Leeuw, and Nekesa C. Straker, director of residential education—chose Bolun Chen, GMCAS ’17, as the winner of a trophy and $500 honorarium. Chen has published six papers in peer-reviewed journals and has received more than 60 citations.

Erin Doolin, LGSOE ’17, currently serves as a graduate assistant at the Boston College Women’s Center and runs the Stand Up BC program, an educational program intended to teach students about bystander intervention. Doolin’s talk was titled “Stand Up BC: A Four Year Approach.”

Doolin started by referencing her relationship with her brother. Growing up, the siblings did everything together: participated in the same activities, took the same classes, and attended the same school, Emerson College. When Doolin’s brother was called in to be the single witness on a sexual assault case at Emerson, she realized that rape culture is prevalent everywhere, even at her tiny, quirky college, she said.

“This was happening to our friends, our classmates, to random people I was passing on Boylston Street,” Doolin said.

When Doolin came to study at BC, she became involved with the Women’s Center under the University’s Title IX coordinator, Katie O’Dair. Doolin shared her story working with Stand Up BC, and referenced the growth of the program, which now has over 50 student volunteers and gives over 70 presentations a year.

Doolin shared the upcoming goals of Stand Up BC, including tackling domestic abuse, focusing on LGBTQ issues, and implementing a separate program for athletes and seniors.

“‘I forgive you,’” he said. “When I uttered those words it felt as though the chains were cut from my legs. I felt free.”

—Marcel Uwineza, a Rwandan Jesuit priest and theology Ph.D. student

Chen, the winner of the event, followed Doolin. Chen discussed the synchronized patterns of fireflies flashing in a national park in Tennessee.

Chen explained that neurological patterns are responsible for their “internal clock” and flashing in unison. He then spoke about the effects of neurological patterns on other animals in nature.

Justin Cambria, who is currently pursuing a joint MBA and MSW, spoke about the problem of addiction in America. He shared his personal story about his struggle with addiction. Cambria, who is now 2,451 days sober, spoke about how the United States needs to find alternate solutions to jail time for addicts.

Rather, Cambria said that we need to stop viewing addiction as a moral failing and start viewing it as a public health crisis, and we must acknowledge the social causes of addiction including trauma, shame, and isolation. Society needs to take steps to offer holistic support, integrative care, and treatment for addicts, Cambria said.

“Recovery really unlocks the true beauty in life,” he said.

Marcel Uwineza, a Rwandan Jesuit priest and theology Ph.D. student who expects to graduate in 2020, shared his narrative of escaping the Rwandan genocide, which took place in 1994. Uwineza fled from a church when it became a place of slaughter, leaving behind his parents and siblings, who were killed in the massacre.

Uwineza shared his path to forgiveness when he travelled back to Rwanda to visit the burial ground of his family. While paying his respects, Uwineza came face-to-face with his family’s murderer, who had been released from jail. The killer got down on his knees and begged for forgiveness, Uwineza said.

“‘I forgive you,’” he said. “When I uttered those words it felt as though the chains were cut from my legs. I felt free.”

After his confrontation, Uwineza decided to drop out of medical school and become a Jesuit priest.

Bobby Wengronowitz, GMCAS ’19, who is currently an organizer, teacher, and sociology Ph.D. candidate at BC, then gave a talk titled “Climate Justice Demands Compassionate Activism.” He emphasized the fact that people have known about climate change since before the Civil War, and yet not enough has been done to combat global warming.

Wengronowitz also looked at the political history of climate change and showed how the issue has become more partisan in the last 10 years. He emphasized the need for activism surrounding global warming, but stressed that it needs to be done with compassion.

“We are our own worst enemy in many ways,” Wengronowitz said. “But we are also our only hope.”

Erlinda Delacruz, LGSOE ’16, who is currently working on her master’s in mental health counseling, spoke next about how makeup shades perpetuate the idea of colorism in society. Colorism is discrimination based on one’s own skin tone, in one’s own ethnic or racial community.

Delacruz shared her struggle of trying to find makeup that matches her skin tone as a Filipino women. She talked about how only the most expensive brands of makeup have created shades dark enough for her skin. Delacruz believes that this perpetuates white privilege, and weakens equality efforts.

“I want my sons to be able to live in a society, to go to school and eventually college, where they can be intimate and vulnerable with others.”

—Adam McCready, a second-year Ph.D. student in the higher education program

Danielle Heitmann, GSSW ’16, talked about the DSM-V, a manual that diagnoses mental illness. The guide, however, tends to perpetuate a negative stigma behind mental illness, Heitmann said.

“Illness is only a piece of the human experience and never the entirety of one’s identity,” she said.

Heitmann then attempted to put mental illness into a Catholic perspective. She believes that a Catholic voice is needed to combat the negative stereotyping of those who struggle with mental illness.

“People are always more than their problems,” Heitmann said.

Adam McCready, a second-year Ph.D. student in the higher education program who hopes to graduate in 2018, closed out the night with this talk, “What I learned by Jumping in Front of the Red Line Train.” McCready is currently studying the behavioral tendencies of college men, including hazing, alcohol abuse, and vulnerability.

McCready shared a story that incited his work on the lack of emotion and vulnerability of men in society. On his way home from work one day, McCready witnessed a man fall onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train. McCready jumped onto the rails and rescued the unconscious man.

“I can distinctly recall the adrenaline running through my veins,” he said.

It took over a year for McCready to speak about his experience and every time he attempted to share the story, he broke into tears. He realized that men are taught to be strong and not show emotion.

“I want my sons to be able to live in a society, to go to school and eventually college, where they can be intimate and vulnerable with others,” McCready said.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

About Taylor St. Germain 83 Articles
Taylor was the managing editor for The Heights, as well as a news alum. She is from Los Angeles, CA, but defies stereotypes by not surfing, rooting for the Rams, or tanning easily. You can follow her on Twitter @taysaintg.

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for covering the event, I felt humbled in the presence of the talent and greatness of the speakers.

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