Finnegan Award Winner Finds Leadership a Challenge, Not a Burden

Finnegan Award Winner Finds Leadership a Challenge, Not a Burden

By Sean Smith
Chronicle Editor

She does not have a "perfect" definition of leadership, but Mikaela Boyd '02 says she knows it when she sees it - and is not embarrassed to apply that quality to herself.

Mikaela Boyd
Photo by Lee Pellegrini
"I've had some great opportunities to be a leader during my time here at Boston College, and so I've also spent a lot of time thinking about leadership," said Boyd, winner of this year's Rev. Edward H. Finnegan, SJ, Award as the graduating senior who best exemplifies the University's motto, "Ever to Excel."

"I see myself as an adaptive leader. Sometimes it is necessary to be out on the forefront pushing for things you want to happen. But there are also situations where you lead by being a participant."

The leadership attributes of Boyd - a Seattle-born Presidential Scholar who received a bachelor's degree in sociology at Monday's Commencement Exercises - have been apparent to BC administrators and faculty who have known her inside and outside of the classroom. They cite her involvement with the Emerging Leader and Jenks Leadership programs, her selection as a marshal of the Order of the Cross and Crown, and such activities as O'Connell House undergraduate program manager, Student Judicial Board member and women's crew coxswain.

"Mikaela is a thoroughly effective, thoroughly accomplished, thoroughly unassuming student leader," wrote College of Arts and Sciences Dean Joseph Quinn in nominating Boyd for the award. "She has followed her own advice to her fellow Presidential Scholars to 'dream big' and her pursuit of those dreams has expanded our conception of what a student can contribute to the community."

Boyd's tenure with the Jenks Program stands out among her accomplishments, her wellwishers say. As co-director for the 2001-02 academic year, she was chiefly responsible for a strategic revision of the two-year intensive leadership development program, one described by its advisor, Counseling Services Director Thomas McGuinness, as better reflecting "the needs of today's students.

"She has made a significant and sustained impact on the program while juggling a myriad of other academic and extracurricular commitments," said McGuinness in his nomination letter for Boyd.

While she took to the Jenks Program with great enthusiasm as a junior, Boyd says that the program seemed "geared toward a business-management perspective. I felt we needed to emphasize a more basic service ethos, because that is at the heart of Boston College's mission."

Boyd stated her case to McGuinness, then set about working with fellow Jenks members to refocus the program, organizing workshops and speaking events that reflected the increased attention toward service, designing year-long outreach initiatives and managing the Jenks Program budget and grants.

"Dr. McGuinness was a real mentor for me in this process: He allowed me to succeed, but he also allowed me to make mistakes," said Boyd, recounting Jenks members' lukewarm response to a speaker she had invited. "It was important for me to realize that, as a leader, not everything you do is going to work. You have to learn and move on."

Boyd has learned from other experiences during her BC years, including her two-week service trip to Tijuana, Mexico, with the Ignacio Volunteers during the winter of 2001 and her internship last summer with a social research organization in Turkey.

"Working in Ankara gave me insights into international issues, such as the struggle over Kurdish rights," said Boyd, who roomed with a 28-year-old Turkish woman employed by a non-government organization. "But it was also very enlightening to be a young American woman living in a non-Christian nation, whose culture is increasingly affected by Western influences.

"Everyone I met thought I was younger than I actually was, but this helped me to feel more independent, and more confident about what I was doing."

Boyd sees the key aspects of her academic and extracurricular work continuing into the immediate future, which will include a 10-month fellowship at the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy.

"There are so many things I see myself doing," she said. "I am drawn to business, and I know something of the corporate culture from having interned at Microsoft one summer, but I also know that's not my calling. I've done quite a lot of work in philanthropy - that was the theme of my Scholar of the College project - and, with what I experienced in my community service activities, I could see working in the non-profit or charitable foundation field.

"Because of what I've been able to do through BC, I believe it is possible to combine all these areas of interest, in a way that is satisfying and useful."

Also nominated for the Rev. Edward H. Finnegan, SJ, Award were Meredith Roberts and Carol Huezo.

Meredith Roberts
Roberts, a native of Williston Park, NY, pursued a dual major in operations and strategic management and information systems management at the Carroll School of Management. A member of the CSOM Honors Program, she earned the Outstanding Student Paper award from the Academy of Legal Studies for Business for her writing on charter schools and legal issues.

During the 2000 spring break, Roberts lived at the Shushwap Indian Reserve in British Columbia, where she volunteered at the Shushwap school and assisted in other service activities. She was selected for the Alpha Sigma Nu and Beta Gamma Sigma honor societies.

Huezo, whose family is Salvadoran, majored in human development in children and society as an undergraduate in the Lynch School of Education. Her extracurricular activities included the Festival of Friendship, Christmas Buddies, BC Connections and the AHANA Leadership Council.

A finalist for the 2001 Archbishop Oscar Romero Scholarship and an Orientation 2000 leader, Huezo volunteered with the Carney Hospital Starlight Program for children, the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and Teen Voices, a non-profit magazine written by and for teenage girls. She also was active with the University's Organization of Latin American Affairs and participated in the Ignacio Volunteers service and immersion trip to Tijuana, Mexico.

-Sean Smith


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