Macro Mind, Micro Master

In a community that prizes independent thought, leader can be a freighted term, as it invokes the complementary notion of followers.

In Person

Patience, persistence, and a flair for the persuasive arts are handy talents for those who wish to mobilize a diverse group toward a shared goal. Strategic vision is a multiplier. Charisma doesn’t hurt a bit. Case in point: Leonardo Rocchiccioli ’18, who served a highly effective term as chair of Undergraduate Student Senate last year and devised innovations that will benefit future student leaders.

“It’s an interesting dynamic here,” says Joshua Luce, director of student leadership and involvement. “Our students are very independent and tend to take unexpected paths through the institution. They’re so independent that some of our best leaders would not call themselves leaders.” What impressed Luce about Rocchiccioli? His ability to share big ideas and negotiate tactical plans to achieve them.

“The primary objective of the Senate has been to be the student voice,” says Rocchiccioli. “That meant having administrators coming to the Senate to meet, or taking student voices to the College committees we worked on without editorializing.” Looking for more efficient means to foster change, Rocchiccioli convinced Senate members to set concrete goals for the year. After brainstorming and debate, the students decided to focus on all-gender bathrooms on campus, sustainability, and accessibility. “The idea was to hold the Senate, student body, and administration more accountable,” he explains. “We also have tangible evidence of our progress now, which is good for morale.”

Paige Crandall, dean of student affairs, worked closely with Rocchiccioli last year. “I call Leo an old soul,” Crandall says. “He has a big heart and is very mature. Some students are hesitant to address any type of conflict, but Leo will take it head on to resolve it.”

Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, Rocchiccioli also has a preternatural grasp of how organizations operate. “If the Senate were discussing a security issue, he’d bring in the director of public safety,” says Luce. “He’s savvy about reaching out to the right people to ensure they’re in the room to make things happen.”

“The idea was to hold the Senate, student body, and administration more accountable.”

Rocchiccioli came up with another innovation after recognizing that student groups had shared issues on their agendas, but they weren’t collaborating. He suggested forming cooperatives (called clusters) to amplify the power of the organizations. “This could be huge for activism on campus,” says Rocchiccioli. “A lot of activism here comes from outside the structures of the College, and rightly so, but a lot could greatly benefit from working within those structures.”

Of course, when it comes to activism, reality often interrupts long-term planning and demands immediate action. So Rocchiccioli helped rally the Sarah Lawrence delegation that participated in the post-inauguration Women’s March in New York City. “Leo worked with one of our faculty members and took it upon himself to do the organizing,” says Crandall. “He is still carrying the message of what that march was about here on campus.”