January 16, 2012
Erin Brioso ’13 thrives on breaking down stereotypes. A member of the debate team, the philosophy and pre-law major is determined to get people to examine topics from a different perspective. And she makes sure she’s doing the same by attending diversity and inclusion trainings and participating in community service—that is, when she’s not busy as the vice president of Non Compis Mentis (NCM), PR chair of Spectrum, the Office of Multicultural Affairs representative for The Sandspur, or a member of Making Lives Better.
What do you perceive to be the most pressing issue that your generation should address?
I think the most pressing issue for my generation is a lack of communication skill. My generation was exposed to the Internet, emailing, and all-things digital at a very early age. Consequently, I think a huge disconnect is forming. The injustice that I see stemming from this is a scarcity in compassion.
During his “I Have a Dream Speech,” King laid out his dream. What is your dream?
My dream is for everyone to have an equal voice, for no injustice to go unnoticed, and for people to remember the importance of others. I think we all get so caught up in material things and what the media says is cool that we forget what really matters—people, family, friends, making relationships that last, and being thankful for what you have and conscious of what other people need.
How does this dream drive what you’re studying?
Philosophy is about thinking about and understanding life. What I’ve figured out so far is that no life should be wasted, degraded, violated, or silenced, and that is wholly up to us. We have the ability to do anything but people bog down their minds with limits and rules when in reality sometimes you have to stretch things, take risks, and fight for what you believe in.
How does your involvement influence your vision?
I’m pretty involved on campus, but it’s all for the same reason: I want to have the opportunity to affect other people in a positive way. I want to put my dream into action by offering a different perspective. I joined my sorority because I wanted a sense of family here at Rollins—aside from all the wonderful people I knew in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. The moment I knew that NCM was the place for me was when I heard that their main philanthropy was TOMS, an organization that was inspired by a man who understood the devastating poverty that third world countries faced and then took action to change what he saw. Joining my sorority was a gateway to realizing that I had the ability to help others become more aware, and shortly after I joined, I took on the position of organizing our philanthropy and community service events. I can't imagine any other place I'd rather be or any other position I'd rather have.
How are you working to ensure freedom for yourself and others?
I think mostly I work by using what I already have: a voice—and having the luxury to keep using it without fear of being stopped. I think many people are afraid to step out of their comfort zones and fight a little.
How are you working to end discrimination?
I think one of the leading causes of discrimination stems from the perpetuation of stereotypes, so every time I hear friends or people in general using stereotypes to belittle or bully others I make sure to step in and tell them they’re wrong. As vice president of my sorority, I also feel it’s important to educate the fraternity and sorority life (FSL) community about the LGBT community. I love being a part of the FSL community, but I don't believe for one second that it should be a place where intolerance lies and ignorance festers.
How are you helping to improve the living condition for others?
Poverty is everywhere, and people try not to notice it. When you take a closer look at statistics, it's staggering that over three billion people live on less than $3 a day, and almost 80 percent live on $10. When I was younger, I would volunteer at homeless shelters for the holidays and serve a meal or wrap presents—never realizing that these were luxuries. Since then, I always knew that I wanted to know more, and to be able to do something about it so I still volunteer—now regularly with Habitat for Humanity and Coalition for the Homeless. It's funny. Sometimes you walk into a situation and have no idea that it could change your life, your perspective, your purpose—and that's how my experiences working with Coalition for the Homeless and Habitat for Humanity have been.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in becoming involved but aren’t sure where to start?
Ask friends with similar interests what they’re involved with, walk into Chase Hall and the Mills building and talk to someone about getting involved—no one will turn you away. Also, joining a sorority or a fraternity would be another really great way to get involved; joining my sorority definitely helped me.
Honoring the life and legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr, MLK Celebration runs January 16-21. Join us in paying homage to King’s work toward equality and economic justice for all people.
By Laura J. Cole
Office of Marketing & Communications
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