Arianna Giasson, from Somerset, MA, is a junior in the Occupational Therapy program. Along with her academic course load and involvement in campus leadership programs, Ari is also president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, secretary of the LGBTQ+ Alliance, and a member of Best Buddies.
How do you think you’ve changed as a leader throughout your time at WSU, and what aspects of your experience most influenced this change?
At WSU, I have definitely become a more active, involved, and confident leader. When I started, I was really quiet and super nervous! Meeting new people, student leaders, and staff here has really made me come out of my shell. The people around me have shown me what it takes to be a leader, and most importantly, they showed me that I have what it takes. I have been met with kindness and open minds who want to hear what I have to say and help me to reach my goals.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned when it comes to leadership?
The biggest lesson I have learned when it comes to leadership is that it’s okay to ask for help! I wouldn’t be the person I am if it weren’t for the help of the people around me. I used to be really afraid to ask for help but through being involved on campus I have gotten so much better at this.
We really want to highlight the intersection of identity, culture, and leadership development. Can you share how your identity has shaped your leadership style throughout the years?
As I’ve gotten more involved on campus I have felt so much more comfortable being myself. Coming out was a huge part of this. It was so scary, but in the end I felt so accepted by the community around me and found that it was just another thing that I can use to help make me a better leader. Since I have come out, I have become a part of the team behind the LGBTQ+ Alliance on campus. I found that I can contribute to the wonderful safe space that they create. I have even become a safe space for others who need someone to talk to when it is too scary to talk to anyone else. I have come to appreciate the unique experience I have as someone in he LGBTQ+ community, especially since I can use it to help others who are working through it.
What would you say has been your best experience here at WSU?
My best experience has been working with OSILD through the leadership programs. And I’m not just saying this because they gave me the opportunity to talk about myself! They really do give so many opportunities. They have really helped me to work on myself and my leadership. They gave me opportunities to meet leaders like myself to share and hear ideas. They also stick with you- checking in, and helping out.
What was your most meaningful experience while at WSU?
When I was in freshman seminar my first year, it was required for us to participate in a “mock interview.” I didn’t think much of it- it was just an assignment that I needed to get done. However, I actually met some really amazing people in my interview, and since it wasn’t real, I felt really calm, and every interview since then has been a breeze. I really recommend this program.
However, the people I met were the most important part. They opened up a door I didn’t even know existed. Before I knew it, I had a real interview for a summer job. I worked with individuals with disabilities and I learned so much that summer. I even learned that this is a population that I want to work with in the future as a therapist. It’s a really great feeling. And this job opened up so many other opportunities for me.
What has been your biggest accomplishment since beginning your journey at WSU?
Honestly, I think my biggest accomplishment has been becoming more me. As a teenager I was really shy and hid who I was. The community at WSU has shown me that there is a place for me- a lot of them actually. After coming out I have made so many connections with people and learned to embrace who I am.
What advice would you give to students who are just beginning to explore the type of leader, or the type of person, they hope to become?
Don’t doubt yourself! This was something that was really hard to learn. I used to be really focused on my mistakes and setbacks, but you can’t do that to yourself. You have to learn from these and move on. Don’t let yourself be your biggest barrier. When in doubt- ask for help. An outside perspective can change your own
What are your current plans for the next few years?
I hope to study and receive my masters after graduation. I want to continue working with others and helping people.
Ari is a graduate of the Circles of Leadership program. Learn more about Ari here.