Since she started high school, Rachel Conboy has been committed to bettering her community. A natural leader, she never let being a woman keep her from pursuing her goals. Now a senior at the University of Connecticut, Rachel is the first openly gay woman in student government and the first elected female president of the student body in 10 years! She is doing everything in her power to eradicate the prejudice around being a woman leader and a gay leader after seeing how much these labels were emphasized as soon as she stepped into her role as student body president.
In addition to fighting for equal opportunities for all students, Rachel is dedicated to creating a safer environment at UConn. Her goal is to facilitate a healthy dialogue between student government and activist groups—who don’t traditionally work together—on issues of sexual assault in particular. Whatever the issue at hand, this inspiring collegiette has one strategy: always speak up in the face of intolerance and injustice.
Name: Rachel Conboy
College: University of Connecticut
Major(s): Political Science & History
Graduation Year: 2016
Hometown: East Hartford, CT
Twitter Handle: @itsbigbadconboy
Instagram Handle: itsbigbadconboy
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Rachel Conboy: My greatest achievement to date has been getting accepted and attending the University of Connecticut. There was a point in my high school career where I thought that I was not cut out to attend college, let alone a top 20 public university. Despite this, I knew UConn was the place I was meant to be and I fought my way to get there. The UConn campus, my peers, administrators, mentors, professors, and my friends have shaped me to be a person I never could have imagined when I was in high school. I have discovered what my passions are, what I believe in, and the type of person I will strive to be in the future.
HC: What do you think is the biggest factor that led you to where you are today?
RC: I was lucky enough to be surrounded by many strong educators and even better role models in high school. At East Hartford High school my Spanish teacher, Mrs. White, always took the time to reach out to students that needed a positive influence. Not only did she teach me a language, but also inspired me to take initiative in my life. She pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and create goals for myself; one of these goals was to support and encourage others just as she had done for me. I was lucky to be her student and still look up to her as a valued mentor today.
HC: What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?
RC: After graduation, my goal isn’t necessarily to find a typical 9-5 job, but rather search for an opportunity where I can apply my best qualities. More than anything else, I intend to get involved in my community. Whether this be volunteering for a non-profit, remaining in a higher education, or going on to grad school, my biggest priority really is to contribute to the community in a positive and tangible way.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
RC: The best advice I could give is that the only person holding you back is yourself and now is the time to take a goal and run with it. This is a time in your life where making mistakes and finding your own path is encouraged. Embarrassing yourself, failing (more than once), and having a few miscalculations now is only going to help in the future. You will find that you are resilient and once you set your mind on a goal you have, you will most definitely find a way to get there.
HC: How can every collegiette respond to openly sexist comments?
RC: The best response is any respectful response at all. Being a silent bystander will not accomplish anything. This doesn’t mean that we should feed into sexist comments, but respond in a respectful and responsible way. If you don’t feel comfortable addressing the person directly, have a conversation with a superior. However you choose to respond, the important thing is that you take action.
HC: What has been the most difficult challenge for you as an openly gay woman leader? How did you overcome this challenge?
RC: The most difficult thing to overcome is the pre-conceived ideas most people have about the way a “Rachel” should look, act, and lead based on socially constructed ideas. I choose to live as my authentic self and it can sometimes be shocking for people when they first meet me because the person they imagined they were talking to on the phone is not the person that stands before them in real life. I sometimes feel as though I have ‘GAY’ tattooed on my forehead and it can make for some pretty awkward situations.
I have overcome this with my self-confidence and by not allowing ignorance to get in the way of my responsibilities as a leader. I know that I am in my position because I am a great leader and once people get to know me, they begin to realize this as well. I am just as important of a voice in a room as any other person and I am able to be this voice while also being comfortable in my own skin.
Iris is the associate editor at Her Campus. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications and gender studies, but was born and raised in France with an English mother. She enjoys country music, the color pink and pretending she has her life together. Iris was the style editor and LGBTQ+ editor for HC as an undergrad, and has interned for Cosmopolitan.com and goop. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @irisgoldsztajn, or check out her writing portfolio here.