Women of the Week

Dante Sasso and Marcy Forti

The women nominated this week by the Women of the Week program are Aisssata Diallo, Ruchi Raval, and Erynne Blackburn. Aissata Diallo is a senior at Union College. She was nominated by Ginde Baker ’23, who stated “Aissata is an amazing mentor! She’s always had my back and pushed me to try out new things, and she always puts a smile on my face. She’s so driven and passionate about everything she does and she’s one of the many women at Union I look up to.” Aissata states “my proudest accomplishment is the fact that I have been able to check off every goal I had for myself before coming to Union. Today I am satisfied knowing that I never limited myself. I did not let my culture become a barrier. Going away for college was not an option for me but I am glad that I was able to fight for myself. I only hope that I inspired other young African Muslim women to attend the colleges they love instead of limiting themselves to only staying home. I am graduating knowing I did it all!” She is passionate about fighting for women’s rights and education in her homeland of Guinea, stating “I am dedicated to fighting for those young girls so they can live up to their full potential. My goal is to be a voice for the voiceless.” She wants those girls to grow up knowing they matter and is passionate about making sure that, regardless of social class, education is available for every girl in Guinea regardless of class. There are many women who inspire Aissata in her life, from her mother to my little sisters/cousins, to all the strong women in her community. Aissata says “I am inspired by all the African and/or Muslim women challenging the cultural norms set on them and living their truth. I am inspired by anyone challenging the status quo and questioning things. I am inspired by anyone willing to fight for the injustices in this world, especially towards women.” Aissata states that being a woman at Union “means taking advantage of every opportunity available. It means owning my story and being my own narrator. It means recognizing that I am part of a change that only occurred 50 years ago. It means not shrinking myself and my voice. It means knowing that I matter and I deserve to be heard.”

Ruchi Raval is a senior at Union College. She was nominated by Dhea Kothari ’22, who stated that Ruchi “is super involved in everything on campus. She cares about student life,south Asian culture on campus, she is an SI and helps students out, she really cares about every event she hosts, she’s honestly the best student I know on campus. Super friendly, respectful and always helpful. One of my biggest motivators. I am inspired by her!” Ruchi states her proudest accomplishment at Union was “serving as the third-ever female student trustee. I had the distinct privilege of representing my peers and using my voice to engender positive change in the community around me.” Ruchi is passionate about “learning new ways to provide equitable access to quality healthcare” in the classroom, while outside the classroom she is passionate about dancing. “Since the age of 3, I have been learning various traditional forms of Indian classical dance.” At Union, Ruchi looks up to “all the female professors and administrators. As a biology student, it is especially encouraging to see all the women in STEM.” Being a woman at Union, to Ruchi, means “pursuing and studying all that I am passionate about with no limits. At Union, I know that my opportunities are limitless.”

Erynne Blackburn is the Program Coordinator for Community Outreach and STEP at the Kenney Community Center. She was nominated by Rebecca Tegiacchi ’23, who states “Erynne started working at the Kenney Center in the winter, and the first day I met her she made me feel comfortable. I am a first year work study student at the Kenney Center, and Erynne made me look forward to being there each week. She encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone to help with a program called Junior Science, but most importantly, she was a great role model. She made it so easy to talk to her about anything, work related or otherwise. She made sure we were all comfortable and happy, and never failed to put a smile on my face. She genuinely cared about all of the students that work at the Kenney Center, and even despite the virtual nature of spring term, continues to be there to support us and answer any questions. Erynne has definitely been one of my favorite people on campus, because I know I am always able to talk to her about anything. I am nominating her because I believe she deserves to be recognized. She has changed my experience at college, despite only being here for a few months.” Erynne states that her proudest accomplishments are “the relationships I’ve built and nurtured. I’ve been in a loving marriage for eight years, have strong family connections, and maintain friendships that have withstood the tests of time and distance.” These relationships bring a great deal of joy to her life. Her passions include “health and wellness, learning and personal growth, and organization.” Erynne looks up to her two yoga teachers and mentors, who own Bodhi Tree Yoga in Rochester, NY. “Theirs is the story of two women who set out to do what they love and ended up having a huge impact on their community. In a world that often teaches us we must do more, move faster and push through in order to be successful, these women have instead built their success from a place of intentionality, mindfulness, and ease.”  For Erynne, being a woman at Union is “a reminder to stay open to the possibilities.” Originally, Erynne’s path to Union was not so clear as she began as a fourth-grade teacher. “I’m grateful to be a part of this campus and community where I work with a number of strong women, both staff and students, who I see as sources of inspiration. Union reminds me that we’re constantly evolving and always get to choose the next best version of ourselves.”