Mercyhurst Magazine Fall 2022


As senior history and political science major Lily Smith steps into her role as Mercyhurst Student Government (MSG) president this academic year, she joins a long line of others who have spoken for the student body. Smith’s election is historic. She is the third female African American student to serve in this esteemed role. The first and second graduates to hold this position, Emma (Newby) Mason ’59 and the late Rochelle George Wooding ’71, like Smith, sought to overcome political and racial divisions of their times, promote inclusivity, and ensure all members of the student body had a voice. One of Mercyhurst’s first Black students, Mason had a passion for promoting equality and inclusion for people of color. Her lifelong interest in social justice prompted Mason to major in sociology and French and pursue service projects at school. Her strong commitment to service won her the student government election in her senior year. Mason was determined to not only work for social justice in Erie and at Mercyhurst, but also eventually pursue teaching and attend Case Western Reserve University to study law. “My years at Mercyhurst have opened many doors for me and benefitted me my entire life,” Mason said. “I hope I made a positive impact on it, too.” While the country has made great strides toward acceptance and racial justice, Mason notes, there is still far to go. Smith echoes this sentiment for the Mercyhurst community. “We have been on a roll in becoming more inclusive and relatable, and I want to be a part of that change,” she said. Joining MSG was not in Smith’s original plan for college. What began with encouragement from

her friends culminated in Smith being an active participant in Mercyhurst’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. A member of History Club, Laker Leaders, and Black Students for Unity, Smith began her MSG career as the Cultural and Diversity Senator for student clubs. Once she saw the effect her work could have for students in these clubs and organizations, Smith committed to carrying on positive change for the university. “Most times it’s about educating and talking about situations that make students of color feel uncomfortable,” Smith said. “It’s not about pointing fingers; it’s about improving the environment to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.” Having a supportive community is key to promoting inclusivity for all students, especially for those breaking into leadership roles. “I didn’t really intend to run for president, but my community of friends, peers, and professors saw something in me and encouraged me that I could do this,” Smith said. Similarly, Wooding was encouraged by her friends and white peers to become a leader for the student body. As one of the few Black students at Mercyhurst during the late 1960s, she left her mark on the university through her activism and commitment to making Mercyhurst welcoming for everyone. Smith said she is honored to join Mason and Wooding’s legacy in MSG. “Seeing Lily step up as president this year makes me feel very proud, and I wish her well,” Mason said. “I am so glad that the student body and faculty recognized (Smith’s) skill and ability to lead. When we choose not to provide people of color with equal opportunities, we are really missing out. We all benefit from their talents.”

“It’s rare to see women in leadership, and even more so for Black women. That is why representation is so important. I want to show younger students of color that they can thrive here and feel that they have a voice.”

-Lily Smith ’23


Rochelle George Wooding ’71

Emma (Newby) Mason ’59

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