As graduation approaches, seniors who held leadership roles in clubs and organizations reflect on their experiences and the impact they had on others.
African Renaissance founder and team captain Aakash Phulwani, ’17, is an international student from Tanzania. When he arrived at Lehigh for his first year, he noticed the campus was void of African culture and decided to start a dance team with his two friends, also graduating seniors.
“I wanted to introduce something new to Lehigh and show how vibrant (African) culture is,” Phulwani said.
Phulwani has seen the dance group, which performs at events such as Dance Marathon, Dancefest and Relay for Life, grow immensely over his four years and receive recognition from the administration as well as the Lehigh student population.
He said he takes pride in founding a club that has become larger on campus and is satisfied with the cultural diversity he helped to initiate.
“Everywhere we go, people have heard of the African Renaissance group,” Phulwani said.
Cory Bierman, ’17, is a project manager for Engineers Without Borders and has been with the organization since she was a first-year student. She still loves the work she does four years later.
Bierman wanted to participate in something on campus that actually helped people. As project manager, she organized a trip to Cebadilla, Nicaragua, where she and her team of civil and environmental engineers worked on a water distribution system providing 40 houses and 200 people with clean water. Bierman worked on this project for four years before completing the system.
“It’s really interesting to be part of something that is so beyond Lehigh, and the fact that there is an opportunity for that on campus is really special to me and has impacted my experience a lot,” Bierman said.
Bierman said she is drawn to leadership roles because they allow her to make a large impact in an organization. She was a teacher to other members and aided them in their projects. Bierman is also the president of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists and helped start the company Kelpy with her friends, selling kelp chips.
Peer educator of Break the Silence Erinn Ball, ’17, has been affiliated with the organization for three years and will work as its graduate assistant next year.
Ball gives presentations about gender violence and sexual assault to athletic teams and Greek life organizations through Break the Silence.
“People call me the ‘sex talk’ girl because I like to keep an open environment,” Ball said. “Sex talks are always awkward, so I change the climate of that, saying ‘it’s OK to ask questions and be curious.’”
Like Bierman, Ball wanted to be able to help people in her time at Lehigh and was able to do so through Break the Silence. She said the organization helped her through tough times. She joined her sophomore year so she could transfer that support onto others in need.
“Through Break the Silence, I’ve been able to bring awareness to people around me, changing how they see sexual assault and showing that it’s a much bigger issue than people initially expect,” Ball said.
All three seniors believe they have made a difference at Lehigh during their college careers for the better by opening people’s eyes and shedding light on prevalent issues on campus and in America as a whole.
“Seeing it all come to reality is not typical (in) classes,” Bierman said. “It has been really cool to be able to make a difference.”