Eden Marchese, class of 2023, has shown great leadership potential on our campus, specifically as an advocate for gender inclusivity and support for LGBTQ+ students. The selection committee has identified Eden as a change-maker and public problem-solver, key criteria for the Newman Civic Fellowship. Eden’s social action project proposal aims to continue work Eden that began in Fall 2020. Eden spearheaded an initiative through the Residential Housing Association to designate one of the restrooms in our residence halls as all-gender. Eden gathered support and signatures from fellow residents, drafted a proposal, and presented the campaign to the Office of Residence Life, which accepted the proposal. Although Eden has been a member of our university community for less than two years, the committee notes Eden’s potential for leadership and innate passion for issues of social justice. One nominator called Eden’s work for social change and advocacy “tireless.” We hope that participation in the Newman Civic Fellowship will further develop Eden’s capacities for leadership, activism, and action in the pursuit of a just and inclusive community, not just at Fairfield University, but in our broader community as well.
My action project aims to make Fairfield University safer and more accepting of students who may not identify on the gender binary. Through my journey coming out as non-binary and gay, one of the greatest challenges has been finding safe spaces to express myself in social circles and institutions. Much of my life has been geared around making sure the people I know are comfortable being themselves in a safe environment. When I first came out as gay, my high school administration and friends made sure that I had a safe environment away from the hostile reactions to my coming out and I have dedicated myself to doing the same for others. Without the support of them and my family, I would not have been able to continue to explore who I am and be able to find love for myself. In this way, working to spread “all-gendered” bathrooms to other buildings on campus as well as working to make “all-gendered” floors in living buildings is essential in creating safe spaces for people at Fairfield University. If conversations around gender identity can become normalized on campus and be destigmatized, Fairfield University can be a campus for all students.