When Denison’s newest recent student trustee, Calandra “CeCe” McGee, officially joins the Denison’s Board of Trustees in July, she will hold a not-so-secret agenda. The women’s studies and black studies double major, who also is minoring in biology and acquiring a concentration in queer studies, wants to increase the understanding of intersectionality as it occurs on campus.
“I want to help us understand how the identities of students and faculty interact with each other across gender, race, class and sexuality,” said McGee. “As Denison becomes more diverse, we need to create a single source that can address all these issues — which by their nature overlap with one another and affect each other.”
“Being at college is more than just your grades,” she adds. “Your social interactions affect how you perform and whether or not you feel that you have a place here at Denison.”
McGee should know. In addition to her academic work, she has served on campus in leadership positions in Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority, Inc. the Multicultural Greek Council and in the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honorary Society. McGee has been a resident assistant and a fellow in the Women Studies Program and Black Studies Program, and her scholarship has been recognized with a Nan Nowik Memorial Award and a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship. She also has regularly volunteered with the New Beginnings domestic violence shelter, Nursing Home Companions and the Relay For Life, and she has been a committed member of Safe Zone and SHARE.
Clare Jen, an associate professor of biology and women’s and gender studies, has been a fulcrum for McGee during her four years here. “Clare has been so supportive. I would meet with her and we’d talk about all kinds of issues. She’s such a good listener and has strongly encouraged me,” says McGee.
Jen, in return, holds McGee in high regard. “Even before our first advising meeting, I really looked forward to meeting CeCe based upon her application materials, particularly her personal statement. Her essay was so original, thought-provoking and insightful, that I knew she had potential in women’s and gender studies.”
Jen adds, “Over the last four years, in advising meetings, classes, community service and campus events, I have seen her cultivate this original insight into a straightforward, sophisticated approach to social and political issues. For example, when controversial speakers come to campus, CeCe boldly poses considered questions, and the campus benefits from this smart dialogue. I’ve also conversed with her about the joy and meaning she’s found in Greek life, working as a resident assistant, teaching scientific literacy to girls in Columbus, and exploring her interests in Japanese, among others.”
Erik Farley ’03, associate dean and director of Denison’s Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, says that McGee is a reflective student leader who is task focused and persuades people through rational argument, not ego or force.
“As a member of the Campus Climate Team, CeCe helped monitor campus climate issues through the review of individual and aggregated incidents that violate community standards.” Farley said. “I have every certainty that she will represent the needs and concerns of students to the Denison Board of Trustees with wholehearted and committed interest.”
McGee is quite humble about her newest volunteer work on Denison’s Board of Trustees. “When I was nominated, I almost didn’t apply. I wasn’t sure I was the right person for this position,” she said, though she admits that feeling changed as she rose through the interview process.
“I feel the weight of this position. I recognize that it will be a lot of hard work, speaking for students whose voices are not always at the forefront on Denison’s campus, and outside in the real world.” She adds, “There are a lot of people standing on my shoulders. I know that they look to my position as a way for their voices and concerns to be presented to the highest circle at Denison. I want to make Denison an even better place for everyone, thus I possess full knowledge that this position is more than a title for me.”