Major in political science recognized as one of the “29 who shine”

When Fiona Bruce-Baiden ’21, still dressed in her graduation gown, walked into a restaurant to celebrate with her family shortly after the launch, other patrons joined in the applause and cheers.

They didn’t know how much she had accomplished beyond graduation.

For his selfless and thoughtful leadership in student organizations and his advocacy for students of color, Bruce-Baiden has been recognized by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education as one of the “29 that shine” a prize awarded annually to one student from each of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities. Bruce-Baiden was appointed by Amy Liss, Senior Associate Director of Multicultural Affairs, and supported by academic leaders.

“I was really surprised and honored to receive the award,” says Bruce-Baiden. “It’s good to know that people see this potential in you and believe in you. “

A first-generation student whose parents immigrated from Ghana, Bruce-Baiden majored in political science and graphic design after studying graphic communication at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton, Massachusetts. She came to UMass Lowell because she had strong programs in both disciplines.
Once on campus, she got a work-study job at the Lowell TeleMedia Center, where she helped design and promote. During her junior and senior years, she worked in the university’s multicultural affairs office, where she served as a peer liaison with student organizations after training as a diversity educator.
She also served on the board of directors of the Association of Students of African Origin every four years and as president his last two years. She says the club, which includes students with ties to Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burundi, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Haiti and other countries, has become for her a home on the campus.

“I’m Ghanaian and having the opportunity to express this culture in school I never had before,” says Bruce-Baiden, who grew up in Randolph, Massachusetts. “It has been extremely life-changing for me to meet so many people with similar backgrounds, cultures and histories and to be part of a community. I was really dedicated to the organization and felt so connected with all the students.

“I wanted the groups identified by Blacks to come together and organize a town hall, Uniting Our Voices, to see how the students are feeling and how we can help them,” she says. “And from there, we just kept going. “

Courtesy photo

Bruce-Baiden with two friends from Multicultural Affairs: Rabia Haider, left, and Deepshi Ananthaswamy, center

BLAC has developed a strategic plan and set up four working groups to work to bring more diversity to the study program and to the hiring of professors, among others. Its leaders meet regularly with Brenda Evans, Dean of Student Affairs and Event Services, and Leslie Wong, Director of Multicultural Affairs, and they are also part of the University’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Working Group.

Helping to establish BLAC was the culmination of Bruce-Baiden’s growth in college. She came to UMass Lowell with the intention of becoming a lawyer. But as many of her classmates began studying for the law school admission test and pursuing a concentration in legal studies, she hesitated.

“I felt like I couldn’t fully engage in it, and I had to stop, think and think about why. I realized that I was interested in how communities can be improved through public policy and community engagement, ”she says. “And the more time I spent on campus as a student leader and listening to students and their stories about their lives, I thought maybe that would be a direction I could take.”

She focused on American politics. Then, wanting to learn more about politics and the legislative process, she applied and got an internship at the office of US Senator Elizabeth Warren. She spent the fall of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, researching nonprofits and responding to voters trying to access help with businesses, housing, unemployment and immigration.

“It was a very trying time working in this office,” she says. “But I certainly learned a lot about how the different roles and responsibilities in the office come together.”

Already member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society, Bruce-Baiden capped his final year by being inducted into Pi Sigma Alpha, a political science honor society. Now she is applying for summer internships and full-time jobs while researching graduate programs in public policy. She plans to work as a policy analyst.

At UMass Lowell, she says, she gained the skills and confidence to be a thoughtful leader, thanks to Liss and other multicultural business mentors. She is also grateful to many of her political science professors, who advised her as her interests changed and she began to consider graduate school.

“It helps a lot to find a mentor,” she says. “Amy is wonderful. I think a lot of opportunities have opened up for me after meeting her. I am really very grateful and grateful for everything she has done for me, and for my political science professors who have worked with me. ‘helped figure out what I could do next.

About Geraldine Higgins

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