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More Than a Mentor

Surrounded by stories of violence against women, children without access to education, sexual assault, and various negative realities of the world, it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed. As one woman, how can I possibly feel motivated that my voice, my words, or my life will mean something, create change, or advance the world? But before I call it a day and fall into an always-regretful Netflix binge, I am reminded that it is up to me, and me alone, to use my voice as effectively, and sometimes as loudly, as possible. It is a lesson I learned from a woman named Lorraine Berry.


Photo Credit: Lorraine Berry

I first met Lorraine almost 14 years ago as a freshman at SUNY Cortland. I had settled on a major of Professional Writing and was encouraged to get involved in the international student magazine, NeoVox. On my first day, a plucky woman with short wavy hair strides to the center of the room, introduces herself as the Project Director, and immediately starts firing questions. I don’t know if there is a word for feeling immediately intimidated yet completely comfortable, but that’s how I felt with Lorraine. Whether I wanted to talk about racism or my insecurities as a woman, she was always there to listen and then pose a question.

“If students leave my classes not questioning information that is being presented to them, then I feel that I have failed as a professor.”

Perhaps without knowing it, Lorraine has this talent of knowing how to use her words. Whether writing for a magazine or lecturing to her students, she makes you feel like you’ve known her for years. As a student, I was easily inspired by Lorraine. She is a talented writer and a motivating teacher, somehow steering me to find my own voice, push myself beyond my own laziness, and be proud of my accomplishments. As a grown woman, I am still consistently inspired by Lorraine.

Lorraine still works at Neo-Vox while teaching classes on creative nonfiction and magazine writing. She is a consistent contributor to various publications, such as Salon and RH Reality Check, and also serves as senior editor for Talking Writing. Even with so many responsibilities, Lorraine always makes time for her students (past included), especially when it comes to the opinions of young women.

It comes as no surprise that many young women feel like they can open up to Lorraine. While she pushes her students to hone their skills in critical thinking, she actively mentors young women who are coming into a feminist understanding of the world.

“It has become increasingly clear to young women that things are not equal in the world, and they need to find ways to negotiate that.”

With a patient ear, Lorraine makes young women – myself included –feel less alone by validating our view of the world. She offers personal stories and helps us work around barriers posed by sexism, racism, homophobia, and heterosexism. Lorraine admits that she too feels moments of defeat but what gives her hope is that each year she meets young women who are waking up to the fact that we must preserve our rights and push for real equality in the world.

What gives me hope is that these young women have crossed paths with Lorraine. She can inspire you to make the most out of every day, every word, and every opinion. She is a true example of what it means to be a teacher, mentor, feminist, and activist (frankly I don’t know when she sleeps). I firmly believe that she touches the lives of all around her and I am grateful to call her a friend.

Photo Credit: Lorraine Berry

Photo Credit: Lorraine Berry

Lorraine Berry is a project director at SUNY Cortland, an associate editor at Talking Writing, and frequent contributor to Salon. Follow her on Twitter: @BerryFLW

This entry was posted in: Sheroes


Lauren Himiak worked as a journalist for a decade, covering stories in public health and travel, and currently works for Women Deliver where she is interested in issues of reproductive health, SGBV, gender equality, and youth empowerment. She has volunteered in Uganda and Haiti, working with local institutions like House of Hope and Let Haiti Live to improve education, health, and resources for children. Lauren is passionate about girls' empowerment and is interested in ways to improve gender equality and equal opportunity in both the developed and developing world. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from The New School and is an active advocate for the rights of women and girls, volunteering time with the National Organization for Women (NOW), Vera House, New York Cares, and local women's health clinics.

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