“The guiding ethos of my life is hope.”
By talking to Laura Joseph for just a few minutes, the above statement proves to be true for her life. Without hope, one could never be as energetic and positive as Laura. Her qualities radiate, as though it’s her full-time job to brighten other people’s days. “I have a never ending supply of energy,” Laura grins, “my friends call me the energizer bunny!” Laura’s energy has been put to use during her four years at UNH.
One could say that Laura was destined to become a Wildcat and achieve great things, for her connection to UNH and the Create Your Own Story program is truly unique. Both her brother & sister are UNH alums, and both were recipients of this award! Her journey began back in 2002, when her brother, Mark, began his freshman year. She recalls visiting on several family weekends and other events, always admiring the campus’s beauty. During her trip for Mark’s graduation in 2006, Laura attended a brunch hosted at the Waysmeet Center of the United Campus Ministry, honoring graduates who were involved with the center. During the day, Laura remembers getting a “feeling,” telling her that UNH was the place for her.
When Laura finally arrived on campus, her sister, Elizabeth, was a senior and coordinated the monthly community dinners at Waysmeet (which Mark had helped start when he was a student!). The dinners are cooperatively put on with the Organic Gardening Club, which provides all the food. Laura, happy to share a homemade meal, always helped out by cooking and serving, engaging the students, and doing whatever needed to be done. Once Elizabeth graduated, it was a unanimous vote from the club that Laura took over as Coordinator. Although she was only a sophomore, Laura knew the role well and it quickly became second nature. A twinkle in her eye appears when she thinks of the many meals she has helped create, “I’m in my element here.”
Laura seems to be in her element when she is involved, committed, and engaged. She is a double major in Anthropology and Women’s Studies, with a minor in Spanish. Laura attributes this combination to her early exposure. A class on cultural anthropology with Joe Lugalla, “blew her mind,” and she just had to know more. Her Women’s Studies 401 class helped connect many Anthropological theories to her feminist beliefs, so this was a natural pairing. Laura had been taking Spanish in high school and received extra support and practice through her Peruvian neighbor at home, so adding it on as a minor made sense. Her studies have led her back to Waysmeet.
She is currently an Intern coordinating not only the dinners, but organizing volunteers and operating the local food pantry, Cornucopia. Through the Waysmeet Student Association, Laura acts as a liaison – collaborating with other offices to plan events. Laura loves her internship, and in an almost confessional tone, admits that she doesn’t need to do it (she had already been a T.A. in three classes). She simply wanted to help out of her deep commitment to the work Waysmeet does.
Before she leaves, Laura hopes to create a coalition for local food pantries, connected to share resources and begin a series of dinners designed around food pantry patrons. “If I want something to happen, I feel I have the privilege to be able to get it done,” she states matter-of-factly.
When talking about who has impacted her on campus, Laura immediately smiles widely and says Larry Brickner-Wood and Julie Tracy have been inspirations from the beginning. “When I think of social justice, these are people I want to emulate. They give all of themselves to what they believe in. I want to put the best of myself into everything I can,” she is reminded of her quote earlier, “They give me hope.” Her sister Elizabeth, who spent so much time doing the same work as Laura, is also a source of strength and hope. They are close in age, and from the time she was little, Laura strived to be like her. However, in her college essay, Laura made a point to state that she is paving her own path with Elizabeth as a guide.
Laura thrives on being busy. On top of all her work at Waysmeet, Laura manages several other roles on campus. She holds down a job at the library, volunteers as an Admissions Representative, she has been a PROVES orientation leader for 3 years, and is the head of Ecological Advocates student organization, which runs the month-long Energy Challenge and other environmental initiatives throughout the year. Despite her “energizer bunny” abilities, she recognizes that there have been times when she has been over-committed. When pondering what to say to new students, she takes time. Laura offers sound advice to challenge oneself in every way and to pick a passion to focus on, while supporting other causes. “They have to find an inner source of inspiration,” she says.
Inspiration for Laura comes through all the things she is a part of, and most of all, through her hope that the world really can become a better place. Above her bed at home she keeps a list of “life dreams,” and plans to accomplish a few of them upon graduating in May. Whether it is volunteering in Honduras, working on an organic farm, teaching English abroad, or helping care for women & children, Laura will figure out a way to achieve her dreams. As long as she is serving others in some way, Laura feels fulfilled. “I would rather serve people in order to serve myself.”