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Hometown: Micoud, Saint Lucia
Major: Corporate Systems
Notable Activities/Achievements: Woods College of Advancing Studies Manresa Experience Scholar; Information Technology Services intern; chosen to sing at the Woods College graduation ceremony.
Post-Graduation Plans: Pursue master’s degrees in cybersecurity and leadership and administration with a project management focus.
A native of a small farming village on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, Gawain Dornelly moved to Boston to pursue his higher education dreams. After earning an associate’s degree from Bunker Hill Community College, he transferred to the Woods College in 2017.
What was it like coming to the U.S. for college?
It took me seven years to save up enough money to start on this journey. In 2014, I quit my job at a bank in Saint Lucia and came to Boston. I’m the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree, so it was daunting and scary but also exciting. My fear of failing was something that almost impeded my ability to just step out and do it, but a family member told me “If you want something bad enough, you will do whatever is necessary to make it happen.” These words resonated with me.
Why did you choose Boston College?
I went to several college fairs at Bunker Hill and always ended up at the BC table. One thing that attracted me was being able to connect with my Catholic identity. I was raised Catholic, so coming to a Jesuit college felt right. Separately, when I stepped on campus I remember feeling at peace. There’s just something magical about the BC campus that does that to you.
More importantly, every encounter with Woods personnel gave me a great sense of value as a human being. In the last sentence of my application letter I wrote that, “I see the Woods College as a place where I will be valued not just as a student but as a person.” At the time, it was just a hope, but that hope ended up being a literal manifestation of my experience here. All of it came to fruition during my time at Woods.
Which professors had the most profound impact on you?
Every professor I’ve encountered has in one way or another supported me both academically and personally. In particular, [Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs] Akua Sarr was really instrumental in my educational journey here. I took Contemporary American Ethnic Literature with her and it was such an eye-opening course because it addressed issues of race in America. My experience of being black from a Caribbean island is different from that of someone from the U.S., and being in the U.S. made my blackness more salient, especially as someone to be feared or fetishized. For the first time in my entire schooling process, I was in a course that challenged and illuminated the notions I had of what it means to be black in America. The conversations were uncomfortable but Professor Sarr made it easier to have that dialogue.
What has been your most formative BC experience?
Being accepted as a Woods College Manresa Experience Scholar changed me. In addition to the scholarly work, it’s really about formation—who I want to be as a person and how I see myself being in the world. We all read Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, S.J., which focuses on the theme of kinship. For him, kinship is about being in a place and connecting with people. His story really resonated with me, and I saw a lot of parallels with the way that Woods has supported and said “yes” to me.
Being a Manresa Experience Scholar also required me to be vulnerable, and being vulnerable is not my strength. Pride is one of the things that can get in my way, and I think my growth at BC has really been steeped in humility. Being humble enough to ask for help, and being humble enough to accept help.
What interests you about cybersecurity and project management?
I’ve always been interested in technology—it’s where we are now, and it’s where we’re headed. I’ve taken two cybersecurity courses on policy and risk, and found them to be so relevant to people and systems today. Cybersecurity is greatly complemented by project management, which is the area I’m focusing on for my summer internship. Project management can significantly benefit and assist in cyber strategy and risk, and it appeals to my love of problem solving and seeking greater efficiencies. With the skill sets from cybersecurity and project management, I think I’ll be able to achieve my goals regardless of the industry I’m in—finance, technology, or health care.