Emily Berry Breaks Through Barriers in the RHA

In every aspect of her life, Emily Berry is the epitome of female accomplishment. 

Emily is a junior working towards double degrees in government and politics and economics. She is in a five-year program for a master’s in public policy and plans on going to law school after graduation. All while maintaining a full course load, Emily is the president of the University of Maryland’s Residence Hall Association.

The Residence Hall Association (RHA) acts as the voice for 12,500+ students, and 15 hall and area councils. The RHA plans fun and informational events and includes a senate body, which works towards passing resolutions in regards to campus-related issues. 

During her freshman year, Emily became involved in RHA through her dorm building, Hagerstown Hall. She participated in student government in high school and was eager to stay involved during her college years. Emily joined the Hagerstown Hall council for RHA as Director of Communications her freshman year and later became a member of the executive board during her sophomore year.

Photo courtesy of Emily Berry

In regards to the presidency, Emily shared that the thought of running hadn’t even crossed her mind. It wasn’t until this past spring when one of Emily’s peers approached her asking “why not?” that she considered running. 

“No one runs as a junior,” said Emily. 

During election season in the spring, candidates running for an officer position in the RHA must go through a two-step process. First, candidates present their platform of ideas to the senate of the RHA, then at the next meeting you vote. Emily ran against a senior that had been a member of the RHA for longer, but in the end, she received more votes and won the presidency. 

“Some of the members of the [executive] board are my best friends. Being in my third year in RHA, I finally feel like I know enough to advocate for things on campus that I’m really passionate about. Plus it’s a drama-free organization,” said Emily. 

Though Emily shared the many benefits of being president of the RHA, she says that the biggest challenge she’s faced thus far is dealing with a sense of imposter syndrome. Emily finds difficulty in being a junior in the position, especially with her opposing candidate always around. She often feels like she constantly has to prove herself to everyone and is always kept on her toes.

Photo courtesy of Emily Berry

Another struggle Emily has dealt with is getting students to advocate more for the things they’re passionate about. 

“I wish students could advocate for issues they care about more because anything RHA proposes is merely a recommendation, and the administration doesn’t always listen to our recommendations. For example, we’ve been trying to advocate to fix the parking fees from DOTS on campus,” said Emily.

Outside of the Residence Hall Association, Emily Berry works at the Student Involvement Suite in the STAMP Student Union and is a member of the Student Alumni Leadership Council, Omicron Kappa Delta sorority, Kappa Omega Alpha public policy fraternity, and the National Residence Hall organization. 

Since she’s so involved on campus, Emily finds it hard to balance both classwork and extracurriculars. 

“It’s definitely been the busiest semester of my life, especially with a full credit load. Even though I knew what I signed up for,” said Emily.

If Emily were to give any advice to an underclassman looking to run for office in the RHA or any organization on campus, it would be to not be intimidated by others around you.

“If you feel passionate about something, go for it, whether it’s an election or even if people simply choose you as their leader. Someone once told me that you can’t count yourself out, it’s everyone else voting for you and making the decision of whether or not you should lead,” Emily said.

Emily strongly encourages students to have their voices heard on campus. She advises others to choose a few organizations or clubs to be involved with on-campus and focus on them because ultimately, the goal is to leave college with a few valuable things you’ve learned - not necessarily in a classroom setting. 

 

Photo courtesy of Emily Berry

When asked if she has encountered any difficulty being a female leader on campus, Emily’s immediate response was “Oh my gosh, yes!” Although she doesn’t believe that any difficulty is particularly intentional, male students need to be more aware of the differences in how girls and guys are treated. She finds that it takes longer for her to get others to listen to her or to settle down. 

“If a guy says something, it’s quicker. People are not intentionally taking a longer time to listen or settle down, but the difference is there, and we need to actively try to prevent it. If you’re not trying to do something about it, then it is somewhat intentional,” said Emily.

Emily shared that she has seen committee boards on campus cut girls off or simply tell them they’re wrong when they are sharing their ideas. 

“It’s not a huge problem, but it’s the small things that really impact your confidence. Where is the legitimacy in what we’re saying if we are being cut off or told that we are wrong? Girls should not have to be mean or pushy in order to do their jobs. Girls are seen as mean instead of powerful, whereas guys are just seen as an individual taking charge, ” stated Emily.

All in all, Emily wants girls on the University of Maryland campus to feel entirely capable in their abilities to succeed. 

“Leadership takes empathy. Girls are often really good at paying attention to detail and then making decisions based on those details. On the other hand, boys are typically good at making things up on the spot,” stated Emily. “In general, we need more female leaders in our society. You shouldn't have to prove yourself to have your voice heard, but we can show that we [girls] can do it just as well as boys can, if not better.”