When Via Valenti ’21 toured the Bryant University campus as a high school senior, the first thing she noticed was the leaders. Everywhere she looked, she saw students actively taking a role in shaping their paths and aiding others, empowered by a supportive community. “I looked around and saw students, staff and faculty helping students find leadership positions and excel in them,” she says. “I knew immediately it was the kind of school that would not only help my professional career but also help with my personal growth.”
As a Bryant student, Valenti, who now works as a strategist at diversity and inclusion consulting firm Global View Communications, built on that network of support to drive change and inspire others. Her many campus leadership roles included Student Government President, Student Ambassador and serving on the Bryant Senior Advisory Council and Council for Inclusive Excellence. She also helped to organize the Delta Alpha Pi Honors Society, which spreads awareness of invisible disabilities.
That impulse to take the lead is common at Bryant, says Valenti. “I think one of the things all Bryant students have in common is that they want to make an impact, no matter what they’re studying or what their job is in the future,” she says. “We're a community with so many role models that want to help each other become the best that they can be.”
"I'm very confident when I say that there are a lot of powerful women students at Bryant who are on a trajectory to become successful leaders."
Advocacy and making change
“I really was able to create my own path at Bryant,” Valenti reflects. “I was able to gain first-hand experience with so many different things that were important to me, from being involved with diversity, equity and inclusion to representing my fellow student through Student Government to giving my own TEDx Talk and sharing an issue that was important to me.”
The entire campus community, it seemed, helped her make those dreams possible. “There were so many role models on campus that I saw myself in,” she remembers. “I reached out to them and they helped me find positions and opportunities that got bigger and bigger each time. Everything I got involved in connected me to new people, a new network and new opportunities.”
Mentors such as History and Social Sciences Instructor Mary Anne Clarke inspired her to take initiative. “She was one of the biggest role models for me, both in the classroom and beyond,” notes Valenti. Other mentors, including Bryant staff and her fellow students, showed her how to make a difference. “The number one thing I’ve learned is that in order to lead, you need to know and understand the people you’re serving,” she says.
"Through getting involved, you get to touch just about everything on campus–student life, academic affairs, strategic operations, everything. And the most rewarding part is that you get to see your changes come to fruition. You can point to something tangible and say ‘We made this change–student opinion made that change.’”
Valenti used that inspiration to pursue a passion that’s defined her, advocating for others and promoting equality. “I realized when I came to Bryant the legacy that I wanted to leave was empowering women,” she says. As Student Government President, she helped to raise the percentage of female students in leadership roles throughout campus through mentoring and encouragement. "I'm very confident when I say that there are a lot of powerful women students at Bryant who are on a trajectory to become successful leaders," she says.
She greatly valued being part of a university that listens to its students. “Through getting involved, you get to touch just about everything on campus–student life, academic affairs, strategic operations, everything,” Valenti says. “And the most rewarding part is that you get to see your changes come to fruition. You can point to something tangible and say ‘We made this change–student opinion made that change.’”
Rising to the challenge
Valenti’s Leadership and Innovation major aided her in exploring concepts that made her a better leader and collaborator, including organizational behavior, team building and conflict resolution. “It taught me how to make change not only in incremental steps but also in the big picture by using innovation to build inclusive strategies,” says Valenti, who completed United Nations and Twitter development programs while at Bryant as well as internships at Novelis, Liberty Mutual, and the university's Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
A Women, Gender and Sexuality co-major aided her in developing a deeper understanding of the structures of power that shape gender and identity. She was able to explore those issues in-depth through her Honors Thesis, "SySTEMic Misogyny: Why Women Do Not Win Nobel Prizes at the Same Rate as Men," which examined the factors that affect the low retention of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as representation and recognition disparities between men and women.
“If you want faculty, staff, and students who will ensure that you have the most rewarding four years ever, you should come to Bryant.”
“The Honors Program knows that students want to take on a challenge,” says Valenti, who used her research as the basis for a TEDx Talk she gave through Bryant’s TEDxBryantU program. “They know that we're capable of so much and that we want to push ourselves to do more.”
At Global View Communications, she uses what she’s learned both in the classroom and beyond to help organizations develop diversity and inclusion strategies that empower individuals and promote equality. “I want to be like the mentors I’ve had and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion professionals that I've had the opportunity to work with,” says Valenti. “I want to help make changes that people and future generations can capitalize on.”
She is also continuing her education by simultaneously pursuing her M.A. in Corporate Diversity at Tufts University and her MBA in Leadership at Bentley. “The more I learn, the more I realize learning never ends,” Valenti states. “I'm trying to develop knowledge that then I can pass on.”
She sees her current efforts as paying forward the guidance and assistance she received. “If you want faculty, staff, and students who will ensure that you have the most rewarding four years ever, you should come to Bryant,” says Valenti. “The individual attention that you're going to get from people who believe in you will push you to be your best.”