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Nora Fitzgerald Finds Her Voice and Leadership Through Opportunities at Springfield College

By Hayden Choate

In the fall of 2018, Nora Fitzgerald came into her first year on the Springfield College campus ready for new experiences.

At the time, she would not have considered herself a leader or someone that would have taken a leadership role. Now, three years later, she is the Vice President of Student Affairs for the Student Government Association (SGA) and works closely with Dr. Slandie Diejuste, the new Vice President of Student Affairs, and is an intern in the Office of Non-Discrimination Initiatives.

“I feel like I’m honestly a very different person than when I first came here,” Fitzgerald said. “As I’ve gone through my time here I’ve made a lot of really good connections with a lot of faculty and professors. They’ve kind of helped me see that I do really enjoy doing this kind of work and getting things going on campus and I love it here so I want to make it as great as possible for everybody else.”

As the student Vice President of Student Affairs, Fitzgerald works very closely with Ari Susi, President of SGA, in her goal of “building the bridge” between the student body and administration.

“Basically we try to connect with students or different student groups,” Fitzgerald said. “See what they might need from the administration, see what the administration may not be hearing about because administration doesn’t quite get all the ears on the ground like that.”

The SGA held their own “build the bridge” event, a forum for students to ask questions to administration, moderated by Fitzgerald and Susi.

“What me and Ari and the rest of SGA try to do is basically provide a space for students to ask questions,” Fitzgerald said. “Tell us what they need and then we do with what we can with our resources here to see who we can contact to get those things changed for them or to just kind of fill in the gaps with what might be missing on campus.”

Along with the leadership role she has with SGA, Fitzgerald also has an internship working with Erin Leeper, the Director of Non-Discrimination/Title IX Administator and 504 Coordinator.

“The office itself is a one-woman office, it’s just Erin in there,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve been helping her with a lot of the educational programming, we do some residence hall programs with students and then we do a lot of tabling in the Union and things like that.”

Fitzgerald began her internship in January and in addition to the campus outreach work, she worked on a proposal last semester.

“I was able to work on a proposal last year on a restorative justice policy,” Fitzgerald said. “What that means is I was looking at ways we can handle Title IX cases and sexual misconduct cases in a way that’s less punitive and more like reformatory, instead of just facing a punishment that would engage the offender in fixing their behavior and preventing more incidents in the future.”

Now that she has experience being a leader on campus, Fitzgerald knows what it takes.

“I think it’s just really important as a leader to just show up, and be ready for anything,” Fitzgerald said. “Kind of understand what the people around you need and work towards getting that better for them, I think it’s really important to connect with students and see what’s lacking on campus.”

When thinking about a leader she looks up to, Fitzgerald credits her mother.

“My mom’s been a really influential person in my life,” Fitzgerald said. “Especially in a way that I go about work and school, she’s always been super super feminist and just, ‘you can tackle anything you want to’ so I just looked up to her for a lot of guidance with that because she works at a non-profit and in human resources and is very engaging with people and always making sure that her company is doing the best that they can to serve the people that they need to serve.”

Fitzgerald has definitely seen how this has affected her becoming a leader on campus and what she has been trying to achieve.

“I think I take a lot of guidance from her in trying to go about my college experience and just getting the best out of everything and making sure that it’s the best environment for everyone involved.”

In her senior year, Fitzgerald has goals that she would like to accomplish in addition to assisting the “build the bridge” campaign.

“This year I’m hoping to get everyone as involved as possible,” Fitzgerald said. “I think since COVID took away so much of our time I think everybody’s really eager to get back into it and just kind of hit the ground running. I’m just looking forward to working a lot more with Ari and a lot more with Dr. Slandie and Annie [Warchol] and seeing what we can do to get students having the best experience possible.”

Photo Courtesy Nora Fitzgerald

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