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A Chat With Student Body President Claire Mitchell

This semester, we elected our third female student body president, and the first of the new system after the consolidation of all three campuses. It has been over 20 years of men holding the position of president, and it has been great to see the trend of strong female leaders here at USF, going from one woman to another. I recently got the chance to sit down with our president elect, Claire Mitchell, and talk to her about her presidency and women empowerment. Here’s how it went!

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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What does women empowerment mean to you?

“Being in a sorority, we focus a lot on women empowerment and how that can affect someone’s life and how they portray themselves to others. Women empowerment has to do with confidence in yourself and confidence in everything you set your mind to. I am a strong believer in equality for all women and if you really want something and pursue something you can do anything.

“For me, having that ideology set with every woman that I meet and being able to portray that to the world is something that I’m really passionate about and something that my sorority is as well. Just finding those values in the women that I surround myself with is absolutely incredible. To me, women empowerment is having that confidence in pursuing anything you want to.”

Sororities are all about sisterhood. What has being a part of a sorority taught you that you can bring to your presidency?

“Being in a sorority has taught me a lot of things outside of women empowerment, and how to manage different personalities within all of the women that I work with, and that is going to be impactful when I bring it to my candidacy. Just having all of the different opinions and ideas from all campuses and students and how we can work collaboratively to pursue a goal we’re all working towards, and that’s something that I’ve learned through my sorority.

“In addition, I’ve learned about how to lead others and how to communicate with individuals and how they need that communication because everyone needs something different. Also, I’ve learned how to make sure that everyone is treated equally and fairly in all opportunities. Those are going to be key values in my candidacy.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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As the third female student body president of USF, how does it feel to be carrying on the legacy of female empowerment? Being a female leader yourself, is there anything that you hope to leave as your legacy?

“It was definitely a situation I didn’t expect to find myself in, but to be presented with this opportunity has been absolutely incredible. I was talking to Britney Deas (current USF student body president) and saw how much it impacts others to have women in leadership like this and how much women look up to women in leadership and how much that gives them strength and power to do things of their own. That empowers me, and so I hope that I am going to be a role model for others so that we can have more women leaders moving forward, but I am so fortunate in following in great footsteps. It’s going to be amazing to continue on this legacy and hopefully to encourage others to continue as well.

“I think that leading with grace and confidence is going to be my biggest thing as we transition to this period where we’re having to work with all campuses. There is going to be a lot of tension there, as far as making sure that everyone has the same access to resources and feels like they’re heard. I just want to make sure that as we move forward, I am leading as someone who is humble, self-sacrificing and definitely make sure to listen to everyone. That is something that I want in a leader and that is something that I want to portray as well. I think those values will help guide me in my new quest.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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With it having been Women’s History Month, there is always talk about feminism and the stereotypes of being a feminist. Being in such a high position of power, and currently taking on a role in the Senate – all while being a woman – what obstacles have you had to overcome or how has that affected your position of authority?

“I think that whenever you’re working with others, especially in a male dominant field, it is important to show that you are capable and that is something that can be challenging. I know that leadership in general tends to be male dominated, and so being a woman in that position, it can be extremely difficult to work with them but also for them to understand that the emotions that you are feeling are because you’re human and not just because you’re a woman. Making sure that everyone understands that you’re capable of your position and respect you as the highest authority has been difficult in that aspect, but I don’t foresee any problems moving forward especially with the leadership coming in and the ones newly elected, as far as everyone being so welcoming and open.

“USF in general has been really good at being inclusive to everyone, and I don’t see a problem with that moving forward, and I haven’t personally experienced anything like that in the positions that I’ve held here at USF. But in positions prior, I have experienced some of that discrepancy as far as being undermined for being a woman; however, I am very excited that I have not seen that here and hope to continue to not see that.”  

USF’s largest focus is in STEM. Being a biomedical sciences and international studies major, do you have any words of advice to encourage women in STEM and other fields predominantly consisting of men?

“I personally did it because I like to be a changemaker and I like to push those boundaries. Going into those male-dominated fields is something I thrive off of and love to be able to shake things up a little bit.

“I would just say that if you are passionate about something go ahead and pursue that dream because the world is becoming dominated by women in leadership roles, and that is something that I love to see, and I just hope that it continues and that we can see more women in these fields. I know for me that is so inspiring to see women doing it, and I know for others that if you have a passion for it, then continue to that because others will see that and get inspired as well.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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