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Photo courtesy of Hollie Watts

Authentic Eagles: Hollie Watts on Empowerment

Students come to Boston College for a great learning experience, yet we were accepted as Eagles based on our capability to give back to the Heights. As President John F. Kennedy famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Graduating from BC in May 2021 with a degree in Political Science, I am all too familiar with the notion that power is the “capacity to affect outcomes.” But, from my favorite Professor Paul Christensen, I learned that empowerment is a type of power––‘B’ has power if they are able to assist ‘C’ to achieve a goal that they could not alone. Every Eagle has the potential to empower others.

In my opinion, giving time and energy to projects and organizations makes BC a better place for all. Personally, my extracurricular involvement really began with the underground group Students for Sexual Health (SSH). My freshman year, I thought that I was suffering from appendicitis––with pain so bad that I could hardly think straight––and I agreed to a myriad of tests at University Health Services (UHS). Delivering my results, the first point my provider mentioned was "you’re not pregnant." I was speechless. I did not give consent to be pregnancy tested, nor was I asked if there was any possibility that I could be pregnant (not that there was any chance, given my pain). After confiding in an upperclassman, I learned that this was not a unique experience for women at BC. That really pissed me off--I did not want any other student to be unnecessarily robbed of their bodily autonomy, so I threw myself into organizing with SSH.

Upon reflection, student leadership can be as simple as identifying a need, creating a plan, and giving everything you have to execute an action. If not you or me, who? Back in 2019, I led the ‘Lies Feminist Tell’ protest after peers expressed sentiments ranging from disappointment to outrage that a BC event would call those identifying with feminism “liars,” undermining efforts to advance gender equality on issues ranging from healthcare to gender-based violence. All that my team and I did was publicize the event so others knew what was happening on our campus, and could subsequently make their voices heard. Four thousand people watched the protest live stream. The event attracted opposition, largely from people marginalized on account of their gender, who asked well-thought-out questions which challenged the status quo at BC.

I suppose that I followed my heart over my head in determining how to spend my time at BC. I tried not to worry about what I was supposed to be doing for my resume, and have come to the conclusion that I instead attempted to live by an adapted version of Fr. Michael Himes’ infamous three key questions: “What brings you joy? What are you good at? What does the (BC) world need you to be?” I certainly pushed myself out of my comfort zone, though–as a freshman, I would have thought anyone who said I would run for and win a student government position was joking! But I have found that sometimes the biggest risks have the biggest rewards. Through the Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC), I sponsored a resolution to create a Women and Gender Studies major at BC, due to student demand from current minors. Advocating for students' ability to pursue their chosen course of study is one of my proudest achievements, and I look forward to the introduction of the major as soon as possible.

In the end, I think that I gained much more from BC than the school did from me. I loved what I did in four years, but more importantly who I had the pleasure of meeting along the way. They shaped me into the person that I am today, and for that I am forever grateful. I truly recommend setting campus aflame as practice for setting the world aflame.   

 

Hollie Watts
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