Women shine in leadership throughout campus


Courtesy / GVTV

Tovi Gentilucci

Celebrating Women’s History Month can be done in many ways, including looking at strong leaders on campus. Women in leadership roles are found all over Grand Valley State University’s campus from the president of the university to the roles of student-run organizations. 

There are many aspects to being a leader, each one creating a unique individual. Students such as Sara Polanco, Gillian Noonan, and Alison Zdunczyk are some of the female leaders around GVSU’s campus.

“It’s important to think of leadership as this combination of all your personal experiences, and your knowledge, and your resources, and bring all of those things together,” said Julia Mason, Associate Professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

Sara Polanco, the president of the Campus Activities Board, has left her mark on campus by helping to provide events for students. Polanco helps to provide students with entertaining events that help to improve upon the campus experience. Her experience as a freshman and contemplating if she could really be in a big university or returning home has shaped her view of her position. 

As president, she is in charge of helping CAB bring events to life. Working with advisors, budgets and the directors of the CAB are some of the main tasks she has.

Determining what the campus and its community would want are some of the struggles that she faces. Her goal as a leader is to leave the feeling of being welcomed and the sense of belonging. 

Gillan Noonan, the Station Manager of GVTV, helps other students in broadcasting, and film majors to

Courtesy / GVSU

create content and learn outside of the classroom. Noonan started out helping on a show called ‘Late Night Brew’ and has slowly made her way to the position of Station Manager, the equivalent of being president. 

Noonan has always felt a pull towards leadership, which she feels has been thanks to her outgoing personality. COVID-19 has offered a push to ideas even when hindering GVTV’s production, giving the club the opportunity to become more centralized. 

The club created a Discord server where their members are more easily accessible to one another. Being more accessible makes these times only a little easier. With the restrictions required by COVID-19 safety guidelines, GVTV has had to limit their production for the safety of everyone involved, but it hasn’t stopped the group completely.

“Our last president was absolutely phenomenal,” Noonan said. “He kind of restructured a lot of the club and really raised the bar. So coming out of his presidency I knew I had big shoes to fill and COVID made it very hard to fill those shoes.”

Alison Zdunczyk is a member of the Student Senate with a chair on the campus affairs committee. Zdunczyk is also a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority and has held the positions of philanthropy chair, financial vice prescient, and personal chapter enrichment chairwoman. 

She comes from a family of women self-starters, her aunt being one of the first girls to play peewee baseball in Toledo, resulting in her grandparents receiving death threats.

Courtesy / Alyson Zdunczyk

Zdunczyk learned through her experiences of planning events for her sorority that there is a time to do the work on your own, and there are times to delegate. When planning an event she was also balancing school and social life, this resulted in a stressful time for her.

After being sat down with one of her sorority sisters, she said she was able to ask for help and receive it from her sisters, enabling her to properly fulfill her responsibilities. 

“My greatest influences by far are my grandma and my mother,” Zdunczyk said. “My grandma, Barbra Walters, was a huge civil rights activist back in the ’60s. And just her stories are so amazing. And how much she cares about women and minority rights.”

Leaders can be found all over GVSU’s campus and these three are only a few of the female leaders. These women may hold similar titles, but they have very different duties and experiences that have shaped them.