The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Brenna McConnell: Getting Involved, Embracing Unexpected Opportunities

Printed with permission of Brenna McConnell

Senior Brenna McConnell has embraced her Colgate University experience to the fullest. Along with being a French and international relations double major, McConnell is a part of numerous organizations where she has been able to both discover and pursue her passions as an undergraduate student.

Although she did not step foot on campus prior to her arrival as a student, McConnell knew she wanted a school like Colgate and was inspired by what she had heard about the University. 

“I actually never visited Colgate before coming, but I basically knew I wanted a small liberal arts school,” McConnell said. “Also, my mom went here, so I was lucky enough to know that she had a really good experience.”

Though beginning college during the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, McConnell was able to make the most of the situation by joining different groups to partake in activities.

“My first year was definitely hard, but that was because of COVID-19,” McConnell said. “Even throughout that year though, I was really, really happy because Colgate allowed me to get involved with a ton of things. I did tutoring, I performed in two orchestras my first year, I did debate — there was lots of stuff to do, even when we were locked down.”

Since her first year, McConnell has further immersed herself in the Colgate community and discovered her academic passions. 

“I was really happy to be able to join Greek life, work in the Office of Sustainability and do all of these things that I was not necessarily expecting to do,” McConnell said. “I would say I definitely did things I wanted to, and I really enjoyed that, but I ended up getting involved in other things that I didn’t expect. I didn’t know that I was going to major in French, I kind of just took a French class and was like, ‘Wait, why don’t I just major in French?’”

Before coming to Colgate, McConnell knew she wanted to join debate society. Now, as a senior, it’s her favorite activity.

“My biggest, most dear activity to my heart is probably the Debate Society,” McConnell said. “I absolutely love the opportunity we get to travel and do tournaments inside and outside the U.S. I’ve met such a lovely community of people who are interested in having civilized debate and learning more about topics that are very much outside their academic sphere.”

McConnell is also involved in the Colgate Vote Project as a team leader. Additionally, she works for the Office of Sustainability, where she is able to express her passion for the environment. 

“I joined in the summer of 2022 working at the Office of Sustainability full-time, and I’ve continued on since then,” McConnell said. “I just love the work that the office does because, obviously, I’m not an ENST [environmental studies] major, but caring about the environment is something that’s always been a part of my ethos. So it’s been great to be able to work on projects that actually, in small ways, make change on campus, like green bikes programs or food waste reduction programs — things like that. I also love working in the community garden. It’s my favorite place ever on campus.”

McConnell has also made time for music despite her busy schedule, as a member of the Colgate Chamber Players.

“I played violin in high school and I didn’t know if I’d continue playing, but then it was COVID-19, so I was like, ‘I want to do something,’” McConnell said. “So I joined the group and now I’ve continued to play, and we had our last concert two weeks ago. That’s been really meaningful to me because I didn’t think that music would still be a part of my life in college, but I was able to find a way to make it work because the professor who runs it is very accommodating and wants people who play instruments to get the chance to continue playing.”

Beyond her musical outlet, McConnell is a member of Gamma Phi Beta and says that the sorority allowed her to connect with a welcoming community of women after being confined to dorms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have loved the opportunity to take part in leadership and meet new people [in Gamma Phi], especially after COVID-19,” McConnell said. “It was a great chance to meet other like-minded women, and I took on different leadership roles through that [which] really helped me learn how to be a good leader.”

McConnell will start working as a paralegal in Washington, D.C., this summer, and as graduation nears, she explained that it will be difficult to depart from the Colgate community. 

“What I’m going to miss the most is getting to do fun activities with my friends,” McConnell said. “I feel like the community here is so strong, and I’m definitely going to be sad when all of us disperse into the real world and we’re not [able to be] literally on each other’s doorsteps in a split second to visit each other.”

As she reflects on her undergraduate years, McConnell believes her involvements have been the key to her fulfillment and urges underclassmen to explore as many interests and activities as they can while at Colgate.

“I think what has given me the most meaning at Colgate is taking advantage of every single opportunity that the school has, in the sense of getting involved with whatever clubs or activities you think you might be interested in and trying new things,” McConnell said. “I am very academically driven and I spend a ton of time doing academic work, but also making time for things that you care about and are interested in [are important] because those are the things that I associate when I think of Colgate.”

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