By Branden LaCroix
Framingham State student Leighah Beausoleil has been selected for the Newman Civic Fellowship for 2022-23.
She will be one of 173 students from across 38 states, Washington D.C. and Mexico to be part of the fellowship.
Campus Compact, a national membership organization of universities and colleges based in Boston, created the Newman Civic Fellowship, which “is a one-year fellowship experience for community-committed students from Campus Compact member institutions that supports students’ personal, professional, and civic development,” according to the Campus Compact website.
Only one student per institution is selected by that school’s president or chancellor for the fellowship.
Beausoleil is a junior English major with a concentration in journalism and double minors in political science and Chinese who is enrolled in the Commonwealth Honors Program.
She is editor-in-chief of The Gatepost.
She is also center assistant for the Chris Walsh Center, a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta honors society, an intern for the Digital Humanities Center, and a peer mentor for FSU Foundations – a seminar class for first-year students.
As a Newman Civic Fellow, she is a board member with MetroWest Nonprofit Network (MWNN), an organization that helps nonprofits in the MetroWest area connect to one another and provides them resources and opportunities for collaboration.
Beausoleil said it was “very exciting” to be named a Newman Civic Fellow.
During the summer of 2021, she was hired as a freelance journalist for The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times.
One of her focuses as a journalist is covering stories about people facing food and housing insecurity.
She said she has always been a “big proponent of helping people who are food and housing insecure,” adding, she wants to use her experience as a journalist to give a “voice” to “people who have those kinds of struggles.
“Civic engagement and journalism go hand-in-hand in that respect.”
She said when she sees complaints on social media about people struggling with homelessness, “They don’t ask themselves, ‘What is the city doing for those people?’
“It kind of shows how inhumanly these people are treated, and I think the articles I write can show that they are people, too, and they deserve to be treated with humanity,” she said.
As a Newman Civic Fellow, Beausoleil said she will be working to “establish stronger communications” for MWNN.
She said she hopes to “promote the work that the MetroWest Nonprofit Network does in supporting people who need help, and to promote ways that others can help out and volunteer their time.”
President F. Javier Cevallos selected Beausoleil for the fellowship because she “is a perfect example of what a Newman Fellow should be.
“I think it’s also good for the campus to have a student like Leighah engaged with organizations in our Framingham area,” he said. “It’s a win-win. It’s good for her in terms of her own learning and it’s good for us as a university to have such a nice student representing us in this organization.”
Cevallos added FSU’s previous experience with MWNN has been “very positive.”
He said students selected in the past “have done a great job” and “represented the University really well and have helped us build bridges and ties with our local organizations.”
Desmond McCarthy, English professor and advisor to The Gatepost, said, “[Beausoleil] is brilliant. She’s conscientious. She’s dedicated.
“She’s one of the most impressive student leaders I’ve worked with in my three decades at Framingham State and I know that she’ll serve as a Newman Fellow with integrity and commitment.”
Chris Latimer, political science professor and coordinator of the Civic Engagement and Service Learning Center, works with MWNN to decide which FSU students are nominated for the Fellowship.
He said he nominated Beausoleil because of her “stellar” GPA and the service she provides as a journalist.
“Sometimes we don’t hear things that are happening on campus and she’s able to provide the
information not only for FSU students, but the FSU community,” he said, “and I think that’s one of the key points of civic engagement.”
He added her reporting as a journalist for The Woonsocket Call and The Pawtucket Times was “admirable” because during “the worst times of COVID-19,” she was able to “inform people that there were housing and food shortages for people who really, really needed them.”
Latimer said he hopes Beausoleil will be a “bridge” between the Framingham community and FSU. “Why that is so helpful, is that many of the things that are actually going on in the community aren’t known by a lot of students at the campus.”
Anna Cross, executive director of MWNN, nominated Beausoleil along with Latimer.
Cross said MWNN created a student-representative seat on its board three years ago as one way to help strengthen its connection to FSU.
Cross said the organization looks for students who are “interested in and curious about the world around them and trying to figure out how to improve it, which we have seen with every Newman Fellow who has been through the program.”
She added, “[Beausoleil] has already been a really important voice on our board in terms of really bringing perspective and insight and working to help us create visibility for the organization.”
Cross said she also hopes Beausoleil raises the “visibility” of the certificate program MWNN created at FSU.
The certificate program is a 12-week course MWNN established with the Office of Continuing Education centered around nonprofit management and creating a “leadership pipeline” for students who want to learn about nonprofit work and how to form their own nonprofits, and to teach nonprofit leaders how to better manage their organizations, according to Cross.
She said the response to the program has been “very enthusiastic,” and “the instructors and mentors in the program have also been very enthusiastic about the opportunity to share ... some of what they learned with some of the folks coming in.”
McKenzie Ward, a junior English and history major, SGA president, and opinions editor of The Gatepost, was selected to be a Newman Civic Fellow for 2021-22.
Ward said when she began working with MWNN, restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic were still in effect, which “threw everything into a blender and made it a bit of a mess.”
However, she added she enjoys working with MWNN. “I really learned so much about nonprofit work and how nonprofits can support each other to do even greater work to support the community.”
She said when she was selected for the Newman Civic Fellowship, she worked with the MWNN board about how the organization’s certificate course could better serve FSU students as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted courses from in-person to online.
Ward said when Latimer reached out to her for recommendations for the next Newman Civic Fellowship award, Beausoleil was her “top choice.
“I was really excited that they’d pick someone like Leighah who has this experience of being a dedicated student to any of the work that she does,” she said.