Courtesy of Patrice Collins, Aliesa Bahri and Meaghan McGeary

Currently, the three main student governing bodies within the University — the Yale College Council, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly — are all led by women.

This is the first time that this has occurred since the 2007-2008 academic year. Aliesa Bahri ’22 currently serves as the YCC president, Patrice Collins GRD ’22 currently serves as the GPSS president and Meaghan McGeary GRD ’22 currently serves as the chair of the GSA. All three women spoke to the News about what having all three bodies led by women means for the University’s progress toward gender equity.

“I don’t know how many students across the University know that they have all women leaders right now representing student issues,” Collins told the News. “I think it’s great that we spread that awareness, and I think that it’s important that we have more women at the table to help contribute to our overall success.”

As GPSS president, Collins primarily serves as a liaison for communication between the University administration and graduate and professional students, advocating for solutions to student concerns and needs. Specifically, Collins mentioned her work making sure that Black students’ needs are being met, a task which she said has been amplified since the death of George Floyd this summer. Collins is the first Black woman president of the GPSS.

The GPSS is composed of senators from all of the professional schools, including the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The GSA solely represents students from the graduate school.

Similarly, as GSA chair, McGeary explained that her role requires that she serve as the “primary advocate and interlocutor” between the GSA and the University administration. Both Collins and McGeary described their motivations for wanting to lead their respective governing bodies as rooted in their desire to make a difference in the lives of students.

According to Bahri, her role as YCC president involves advocating to Yale College on behalf of undergraduates and facilitating collaboration among students to tackle the challenges they face. Although McGeary, Collins and Bahri all have their own duties within their respective governing bodies, they often coordinate and work together on policy initiatives. For example, Collins noted that the three women worked together to provide free menstrual hygiene products to students across campus.

“I hoped to serve as YCC President to better support an undergraduate community that I am really grateful to be a part of,” Bahri wrote in an email to the News. “I am grateful to be able to see and work with women serving at the highest echelons of student government. Patrice and Meaghan have been wonderful to work with!”

Both Collins and McGeary expressed gratitude for female mentors within the Yale administration.

Both women expressed their belief that having these mentors — women such as Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Lynn Cooley — has provided them with strength, guidance and support as they work to represent their respective student populations. 

“It’s especially empowering to see strong female leadership within the University administration,” McGeary wrote in an email to the News. “I have learned a lot as a leader, speaker and advocate from Dean Cooley and Vice President Goff-Crews, both phenomenal role models and leaders at Yale and in the broader academic administration, and whom I seek to emulate in many ways.”

For her side of it, Goff-Crews told the News that she is “very glad to know” that the students regard her as a mentor.

Additionally, she commended all three women for their talent, communication abilities and dedication to advocating on behalf of their constituents during a challenging time for students. 

“Their elections reflect not only their talent and ability, but also the reality that most young people will choose the person that they think best situated to represent their interests, regardless of gender,” Goff-Crews wrote in an email to the News. “While society as a whole has made progress, and we can celebrate our first woman vice president of the United States, I think we can take a lesson from our students.”

2019 marked the 50th anniversary of coeducation in Yale College and the 150th anniversary of women students at the University as a whole.

Julia Bialek | julia.bialek@yale.edu