Features co-editor Emma Shinker ’24 sat down with Giselle Rivera ’24 and chief copy editor Nemsie Gonzalez ’26 to talk about their participation in the 2024 Harvard LEAD conference, along with five other Wooster students, from Feb. 9 to 10.

Can you introduce yourself? 

I’m Giselle, I’m from Fayetteville, Georgia. I’m majoring in global and international studies with a focus in economics. I use she/her/hers pronouns. And I have a pathway in entrepreneurship, as well.

Photo courtesy Giselle Rivera.

What are you involved with on campus?

On campus, I am a part of Latinas Unidas (LU) as the co-president. I am also the vice president of Scot Council, and I am part of Tri Alpha, which is the first generation student honors society. And then I’m a part of the Omicron Delta Epsilon chapter — the honors society for economics. I’m also a senior admissions intern, so I work in the admissions office and I interview prospective students. I’m also a peer mentor, and I’m a tutor at the Boys and Girls Club in Wooster.

Tell me about the Harvard LEAD conference. What is it and how did Wooster end up taking students this year?

It’s been a part of our [Latinas Unidas’] budget for the past three years, but each year it’s been — because of the pandemic — online, and then last year it was supposed to be in person and then it got canceled. Last year, I was actually an ambassador for the LEAD conference, so I was doing the same things that I did this year, like making sure we got funding for it [and] getting people interested in applying for it. This year I was serving to help our trip leader.

The conference — It’s an acronym: LEAD stands for “Latinas Empowerment And Development Conference.” It’s to empower Latinas in a lot of different fields. This year, they had a business panel; an entrepreneurship panel; STEM, medicine and tech panels. They also had law and policy, and non-profit and advocacy. It’s to showcase that Latinas are up and coming — that we can take up space in rooms where otherwise we wouldn’t be represented.

What was the best thing you got out of the conference this year?

I think one of the best parts was during the panels. Although they were pretty long (honestly, I was expecting to just be, like, sleepy the whole time), because of the stories and of how great at public speaking the keynote speaker was — they actually engaged a lot with the audience — it really kept me engaged. I think one of the most impressive speakers was Leila Cobo [Chief Content Officer, Latin/Español at Billboard]. It was really empowering to see her story. Initially, she thought she wanted to be a musician. Similar to her story, I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. It was great to see that not everybody has that linear path, and that the different experiences you have can eventually take you up to a position like hers.

How do you feel this experience is going to affect you moving forward?

It really helped me think about using LU, but also using different departments on campus to continue to empower Latinas, Latinos, Latinx individuals. I’m a senior now, so it’s gonna get cut short, but I hope to help the board that’s going to come in… because it is a little hard sometimes, especially being here in Wooster, just navigating your first year, being like, “Oh, there’s no one who’s supporting me. How can I figure this out if there’s no one that looks like me in the rooms that I’m in?” I think going forward, this conference has really helped me to get the ball rolling again, so I can continue to do the best that I can with the time that I have left here at Wooster.

If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?

I think I would be a Hello Kitty thing from Five Below. Either that, or a Hello Kitty puzzle, or a poster, anything Hello Kitty. Or I’d be a lip liner, because it just completes a look.


Can you introduce yourself? 

I’m Nemsie Gonzalez. I’m Salvadorian. I’m a sophomore environmental studies and philosophy double major, and I’m from San Fernando, California.

What are you involved with on campus?

I do the Voice, I’m in Model UN and I’m [the] diversity and dolphin chair for my sorority.

Tell me about your experience with the conference. What made you want to go?

Going to a predominantly white institution, I think it’s really important for me to go out of my way and talk to people who are Hispanic, but unfortunately due to some of my extracurriculars overlapping, I don’t often have the chance to go attend any of the LU events. So that’s why it was important for me, personally. It was also just a really good networking opportunity, to see other Latinas in the field really being able to reach such high levels of success; [it’s] pretty unprecedented for Hispanic communities because there’s a lot of different factors working against women just in general, especially when that gets compounded by issues of race. It was just nice to see all these women taking time out of their day to come talk to us, talk about their experiences… encourage us and offer us some really good opportunities to develop our own professional careers.

Participants of the conference pose with activist Sylvia Mendez. Photo courtesy Nemsie Gonzalez.

How do you feel this experience is going to affect you moving forward?

I think it already has. I have gotten a couple of leads for internships, I’ve learned how to build up my LinkedIn, I have new potential career paths I might be exploring. A lot of what they talked about was learning to open up and embrace your Hispanic community and use the different things that you can leverage from that. So [for example], my experiences as a Hispanic woman are going to provide an entirely new set of eyes to a project that’s predominantly run by white men. 

Were there any specific speakers that stood out to you?

They had a law and policy panel, which had a bunch of interesting speakers from all sorts of sectors. They also had a non-profit panel. I think the non-profit panel really spoke to me because you had two pretty elderly Hispanic women who were still working very hard in their careers and working hard for their non-profit and just showing how necessary passion is to be successful and how important it is to do things that matter to you. I think that was the most impactful to me — to see women that are older than my grandma still going out and fighting for change in their communities.

Anything else you want to add about the conference?

The theme was “En Voz Alta,” and they talked about this idea of how women are often told to be quiet, and that quieter is prettier. There’s a phrase in Spanish: “chiquita quientita es muy bonita,” which is, like “the quiet girl is prettier.” So just talking about how important it is, especially for women of color, to be outspoken and really embrace their culture, because I know that can be difficult, especially working against the stereotype of women of color being loud and aggressive and stuff. And just kind of embracing the different ways that your passion may come forward.

If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?

I think I would be a highlighter. I think I’m very good at highlighting the skills of other people, highlighting things that are important to me and important to other people. I’ve always been somebody who gravitates toward leadership positions so just making sure — even if I’m not in a leadership position — that other people are being seen. So I think I would be a highlighter. They’re also super bright, noisy colors, and I normally have really bright hair. My hair used to be green, and I also just have a very bright personality.