If you could say anything to future women of William and Mary, what would you say?
I would say there are a lot of challenges to being a woman, in general. Especially being at a school where a lot of things, a lot of fields, and a lot of subjects are still super male-dominated, it’s harder to gain recognition as a woman in leadership roles. It’s difficult to be in charge of an organization if people don’t take you seriously. I also think that we as William & Mary students like to believe that we’re a very progressive campus and that things are really good here, but I think there are always ways to improve. For example, in ROCKET Magazine, it’s a great organization and I love everyone, but sometimes it still feels like because I’m a woman, I’m not taken as seriously if people think I’m too nice or cute or dainty. If people think that of you, they think that you’re not going to do anything to enforce what you say or the rules that you set, traits that are naturally attributed to men, so I think that is something difficult that I’m still working to overcome. But to future women of William & Mary, just keep persevering – ultimately your work ethic will show through, so do whatever it is that you want to do, no matter what and no matter who says that you can’t, because you can do anything.
So moving forward from that last thing you said, how do you personally go through those challenges on a daily basis?
I’m an art major who specifically focuses on sculpture and I’m actually one of the only technical sculpture majors on campus, and I think that is something that I deal with more often than I’d like to. I also think that personally because I do sculpture, I’m very hands on, and the materials and tools I work with are really industrial, and could be male-dominant and attributed to men. I do a lot of cement work, I weld, and I use a lot of metal for metal work that involves power tools. So to me, I always feel like I”m a good example of the fact that anyone can do it, that it’s not just something that a man can do because they’re “big” and “strong.” I’m a five-foot-tall Asian girl, and I can do whatever a man can do. Anybody can, but I deal with a lot of people being surprised at what I do, and not thinking that I can do the things that I can do. I’m always trying to fight the stigmatization, so for things like that, I always like to surprise people with how strong I can be and what I can do, but it shouldn’t even be a surprise. Why are there even still gendered characteristics and stereotypes?
In contrast to just naturally being boxed in both your pursuits as an artist and as a woman, how does the college support you?
The college itself can always do things that are better, but there are still good aspects of the overall experience. Having a lot of outlets on campus that allow for women to express themselves is something that stands out to me. I also appreciate having peers that are really supportive, like my advisor and my mentor who is a woman. She was the head of the art department, (though she’s on sabbatical right now,) but I think that’s a huge step to show that a woman can be the chair of the department. I think that’s cool–it’s not surprising, but it’s nice. On the other hand, there are only two female professors in the art department, which is pretty strange, but her being the chair was really cool and impressive. She also does sculpture, which is awesome. I think having great people on campus facilitating this William & Mary “personality,” one that’s really open to always helping others and taking people on in mentor-mentee relationships, is good and specific to William & Mary. That also carries over to my peers and friends. In Rocket, I also had a mentor who continues to guide me as a leader and friend. The last Editor-in-Chief, Isabella Arias, started as my editor on the style team when I first joined Rocket, and she was in wholeheartedly in charge of that team. She was super stubborn with her opinions and really strong-willed, and she got things done. She’s definitely a powerhouse and continues to be. She became the editor-in-chief, so it was clear she had what it takes to be an effective leader. But she showed that you can do whatever you decide you want to do, and I think that was something that really helped solidify my confidence in my own leadership abilities.
Considering that William and Mary is a predominantly white institution, what do you think your role is as a woman of color here on campus?
I think a huge thing to think about as a woman of color is definitely how to make things better for future women of color on campus. I think you need to do everything possible to support and change the way the dynamics of the school serve some and not others. We’ve done a lot, but I think that you can never do enough. Instead of just saying we want to do things and saying we support certain movements, it’s about action, so that’s what I think about a lot. I think about how I need to do more, always, and I think that mentorship, taking people on, helping other people and discussing their problems, their doubts–it was something that helped me so much, and hopefully I can be that for someone else. I’m often in a predominantly white space, my high school was extremely white and William & Mary is a PWI, so I think it’s hard sometimes as a female person of color to actually realize how rare it is to be a female person of color in any of your classes and on campus itself. It’s strange honestly. But I think keeping it in mind and being aware and trying to help future generations–I think that’s what’s important. Becoming a leader on campus and being involved so as to create larger platforms for WOC on campus is also a great goal to have. I also think that branching out and learning and talking about other issues, like the oppression of minorities, and intersectionality, is also imperative to a positive culture on campus.