Shereen Marisol Meraji, the keynote speaker at Boston College’s ninth annual Women’s Summit, first delved into the world of storytelling as her family taught her the importance of listening.
“It was, you know, my grandparents who taught me how to listen, sitting there listening to those stories,” Meraji said. “But my dad, he’s the person who really introduced me to the news, and public media, specifically.”
On Saturday, the BC Women’s Center held its first fully in-person Women’s Summit in two years. The event featured workshops and panel discussions that aimed to empower attendees and engage in meaningful conversations, according to the Women’s Summit website.
Meraji, an audio producer and reporter, co-hosted the NPR Code Switch podcast—which uses humor to discuss issues related to race—until 2021. Meraji began her keynote speech by discussing her childhood with her grandparents.
“I was the only grandchild for a few years, which is one of the reasons why I have this really strong and unique bond with the elders on the Puerto Rican side of my family,” Meraji said. “I was always around them, and I did a lot of listening growing up because in my family at that time, children should be seen and not heard.”
Through her career, Meraji said she aims to share the stories of those who may be underrepresented in traditional news media.
“I have tried really hard to center the people at the margins who’ve been underrepresented and not heard,” Meraji said. “And I don’t like tying things up in a nice, neat bow at the end, and I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud of the work that I did on Code Switch.”
Meraji said she recently stepped down from the Code Switch podcast to focus on teaching and mentoring. She is now an assistant professor of race in journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
“I love it, and I’m physically closer to my family now,” Meraji said. “And I’m really just trying to make up for lost time and gather all of our stories before it’s too late.”
After Meraji’s keynote speech, the summit also held various workshops for its attendees, ranging from “The Mystery of Recycling”—which discussed the intricacies of daily recycling—to the “Art of Quitting”—which captured the fear of failure that comes with quitting something as large-scale as a job or as small as a mindset.
“We’re really going to talk about those times in your life when you realize that you have to quit something, which can be a really scary feeling, but how beneficial it can be and how it can open the door for something really new,” said Tess Murphy, a workshop leader and BC ’19.
After participating in two workshop sessions, attendees chose between listening to two mainstage panels, “Navigating Life After Graduation” or “Feminism and Spirituality,” where panelists spoke about their experiences as women in male-dominated spaces and answered questions from the crowd.
“Navigating Life After Graduation” emphasized the importance of self-advocacy when planning for the future, while “Feminism and Spirituality” centered on how to incorporate ideals of feminism and self-worth into the Catholic faith.
Janasia Little, one of the panelists, said she wanted to return to BC to speak at the 2023 Women’s Summit as a way of giving back to the Women’s Center.
“I think the short answer is I love the Women’s Center,” Little, BC ’22, said. “But I feel like in the past year it was hugely impactful to hear other people’s perspectives. So you need advice not only from your mentors but also from your peers. And so I feel like if I benefited so much from that I hope to be back and do that as well.”
The 2023 Women’s Summit wrapped up with a dance performance from Females Incorporating Sisterhood Through Step, a poetry performance from Emme Mackenzie, MCAS ’25, and a student vendor fair that took place in Gasson Commons.