Boston College prides itself on teaching students how to think, and on its ability to live out the mission of a liberal arts college, namely, to challenge its students to discern truths for themselves rather than accept them from society. One campus group in particular is catalyzing discussions on race, gender, and sexuality in an attempt to make BC’s campus more inclusive for all.
The Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) Leadership Academy (ULA) is entering its fourth year of mentoring freshmen who are interested in joining UGBC. Zach DuBoulay, co-director of ULA and MCAS ’17, said the group was formed in 2013 by combining the AHANA Leadership Academy, the Mentoring Leadership Program, and a leadership program for the GLBTQ Leadership Council.
ULA aims to ease the transition into college for freshmen, and to also show them the ropes of student government at BC. The program uses a three-pillar structure for the mentoring of its participants, according to Lynn Petrella, co-director of ULA and MCAS ’17.
The system aims to identify who one is as a person, who one is as a leader, and how one can use his or her skills to benefit the BC community. As members discover their interests and talents, they are then paired with mentors who are involved in the area of policy that suits them best.
“We really try to have difficult conversations about race, identity, and other issues specifically related to this campus and the greater Boston community,” she said. “Having these conversations is really important to the formation of who you are as individual—especially freshman year. The goal is to have [the freshmen] take the conversation outside our group of 31 kids.”
The group is taking on pressing issues by bringing in groups like FACES—a race and privilege education organization on campus—to speak to ULA members.
“I think it’s a good characteristic of any BC student to be skeptical,” Petrella said. “We try to foster a culture of advocacy.”
The group also brings in professors like Kerry Cronin, who has given her famous hookup culture talk to the students in the past. The aim of bringing these speakers in is to give ULA members new worldviews and to create a well-rounded program.
The program changes slightly every year, though, depending on who the senior leaders are. But every year, it serves as an outlet for many students who want to get involved and explore conversations that can be challenging.
“I was involved in student government in high school, and that was very rewarding to me,” Petrella said. “Coming [to BC], the first month I felt like I was missing something, like missing a part of my identity. I ended up finding that in ULA.”
The group, however is not comprised of only students who were involved in student government in high school.
“It’s definitely a mix,” DuBoulay said, although the program attracts the type of students who jump at the opportunity to join a program that advertises itself as a student government leadership program.
Once members of ULA finish their freshman year, they can continue their relationships with peers and mentors by participating in UGBC throughout their next three years at the University.
“Ultimately, the goal is to form the next leaders at BC,” Petrella said. “Hopefully we can help.”
Featured Image courtesy Lynn Petrella