If there is one thing we can say about senior Elizana-Marie Joseph, it’s that she’s simply one thing. All of her identities, passions, and interests meld together to create one of the most radiant individuals you will have the pleasure to meet on campus. With a perfect balance of confidence, empathy, and energy, Joseph has truly embodied what it means to be “ever better.”
Joseph notes that her journey begins with her family’s. Her grandmothers (for whom she’s named) instilled in her the importance of family and sacrifice, and her father’s journey from Haiti to the U.S. taught her the importance of education and endurance.
So where did her journey begin?
A native of Binghamton, N.Y., Joseph attended a Catholic elementary school, which taught her about what it meant to be a Haitian-American, what it meant to be alone,, and how to use that energy to better those around her.
She described a particular instance from fifth grade when a young man stepped on her friend’s fingers for being friends with a black girl,and said that she “didn’t belong in the world.”
Joseph told us that she came home crying for about a year of her life, and has since developed a passion for community engagement and support because she never wants anyone to have to feel that way again. In high school, she found her footing in fine arts, band, musical theatre, chorus, swimming, cheerleading—you name it.
Elizana’s decision to come to the University was partially based on her attachment to her sisters—she “takes being a big sister a little too seriously”—because she didn’t want to be too far away from home, or too close. She also loves learning for the sake of learning, and Rochester’s open curriculum provided her with all of the resources to succeed academically and socially.
This brings us to Joseph’s experiences here,(which are more extensive than we can cover in the space provided), but here is a laundry list of her involvements: President of the Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness (SOCA), Speaking Fellow, member of Off Broadway On Campus (OBOC), Peer Adviser for the Education Abroad Office, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) Note Taker, Student Alumni Ambassador, member of College Feminists, a participant in the Burgett Intercultural Center’s One Community Program and Safe Zone Training, a Ronald McNair Scholar, and a David T. Kearns Scholar.
Joseph’s investment in SOCA started early in her college career, and her impact on the organization has exponentially increased ever since. Her Caribbean identity is an important part of who she is and something she takes a great deal of pride in.
For this reason, she works to celebrate, embrace, and showcase her culture within the campus community. She notes that last year, while she was acting as the group’s vice president, the organization rebranded itself to better encapsulate the spirit of community it represents with the slogan, “Divided by water, united by culture.”
As president, Joseph’s main goal has been to set up a long-lasting infrastructure for the organization. Between their massively successful annual Caribash party, their heart-warming Bob Marley Expo, and raising money to donate to Hope for Haiti, Joseph has proven to be an amazing managerial and moral leader for SOCA.
Through these events, she hopes that others on and off campus can “experience and share our culture, and see how we use it as a vehicle in everything that we do,” as the organization continues to embody the notion of “one love” in all of its events and fundraisers.
Joseph’s work in the One Community program stems from her belief that it’s “important to have these conversations [around race] and turn them into actions.”
She also says that “race is important to talk about, but it is also important to recognize that it is not the one thing that defines me—there are so many other things that create us, and we are all intersectional beings,” which is why the idea of One Community spoke to her so much.
There is truly not enough room to speak about all of Joseph’s accomplishments, but we believe it’s important to include her shout-out to OBOC, as she says, “They are the OGs, they are my family, and they make me feel like a complete person.”
Lastly, advice. If Joseph could say one thing to her fellow students, it’s the following: “Be you. You are enough. With time, you will find those people as quirky and weird you and they will validate how awesome you are.”
And the best piece of advice she’s ever received is to breathe.
“Whether it means taking it all in, stepping back, or reevaluating, sometimes I need to be reminded that I’m human,” she says.
If by “human” she means super woman, then we guess she’s right. Look out for her name—we are convinced you’ll see it again someday.