By Katie Kierce | Associate Editor 

Marrissa Ballard waits patiently for me at her desk in Salve Regina University’s Writing Center while I print my materials for our meeting. Once I mentioned that I was struggling to come up with essay ideas for our Horror and Gender class, she invited me to make an appointment with her and said she would be happy to help with any part of the writing process. “On my way upstairs now,” I text her as I climb up to the second floor, knowing I’m running a little late and feeling grateful for her patience.

Ballard, a senior communications major, serves as the head writing consultant at Salve’s Writing Center inside the Academic Center for Excellence. Along with this position, she is also co-editor in chief of Salve’s Mosaic Student Newspaper, managing editor of The Willow Literary Magazine, production manager for Salve Studios’s recent film Triangulum, and a member of the Pell Honors Program. On the academic side, Ballard has changed her major more than once during her time at Salve, and her multifaceted skill set and wide array of interests have led her to minor in Film, Literature, and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.

This schedule keeps her busy, and this can often lead to laundry strewn across her floor and sleeping with homework on one side of her king sized bed off campus. “My room is where it shows that I spend every day running around,” she says, “And when I do come home, I just throw stuff and leave again, so it gets messy very quickly.”

Rather than returning to her home in Middletown during her free time throughout the day, Ballard is most likely to be found in McKillop Library either studying or meeting up with peers. According to Ballard, spending hours in the library is nothing new to her. Growing up, she would stay at her town library until 8 or 9 o’clock at night, waiting for her mom to get out of work. Her love of books and writing grew there, and she even cites her feminist beliefs as dating back to when she would read the Nancy Drew series.

Aside from reading, Ballard entertains a unique variety of interests. In particular, gaming has been a huge piece of her, stemming from childhood years. “All my birthdays were marked with getting the new console or handheld in the house,” Ballard says, “But now I play more PC games.” She also cites film as one of her favorite mediums, and thanks to this semester’s Horror and Gender class, she has a newfound enjoyment for the horror genre. 

On graduation day, Ballard will be able to celebrate one of her biggest achievements yet—being named a co-valedictorian of Salve Regina University’s class of 2017. This title affirms for her that the constant hard work is paying off, and although some would be exhausted, Ballard describes genuinely enjoying the learning process. On completing her heavy workload, Ballard says, “My homework never really feels like weight, it feels like tasks, and I just get them done.” She credits using a system of lists, time tables, and other organizational tools with keeping herself constantly on track.

As for what motivates her to take her studies so seriously, Ballard says she has seen her mother work hard to provide her with a quality education, and she refuses to take this opportunity for granted. “Her dedication and sense of selflessness is something I hope to model,” Ballard says. 

Despite being an only child raised by an independent single mother, Ballard has always had plenty of family around her. She grew up sharing a house in East Providence with her mother, aunt, grandfather, and cousins, with some of them also living in the house directly next door to her. Coming from a close-knit Portuguese family, Ballard thinks of her cousins as her siblings. She distinctly recalls not wanting to hold her younger cousin hours after he was born, thinking that he looked more like an alien than a tiny human. However, she now fondly recalls babysitting him over the years, and still remains close with him and his older brother.

In terms of role models and relationships here at Salve, Ballard says that she aspires to be a combination of Dr. Ramsey, Dr. Harrington-Lueker, and Dr. Madeleine Esch, the three professors of the communications department. In particular, she admires the way they run their classrooms and form close ties with students. Her friendship with sociology professor Todd Mele is yet another connection she cherishes, describing their weekly tea sessions as something that has provided her with both a friend and a mentor.

In addition to her classes, she recently completed a year-long internship at Day One, Rhode Island’s agency for sexual assault advocacy and prevention. With this, she has worked on Day One’s 24-hour help line, written the organization’s press releases and official responses, and offered in person support to survivors in the hospital setting. This year Ballard has also been able to organize campus events at Salve incorporating Day One, including discussion panels on sexual violence and the school’s overall sexual climate.

With her graduation from Salve just around the corner, Ballard believes the school’s potential lies with incorporating the mercy mission in the classroom. Describing herself as ignorant when she first started at Salve, she says that many of her classes have opened her eyes to matters of gender and sexuality, racial oppression, and the intersectionality of these issues. Before Salve, Ballard recalls identifying with feminist ideology, but says she did not realize this until her education gave her the words to describe it.

On what she has personally accomplished during her time here, Ballard says, “I hope that as a student leader in the positions I’ve had, I’ve hosted events where students learned things. And I hope also that I’ve been a good support for the students I’ve gotten close to, because I think those connections are more lasting.” 

Ballard remains torn on where she envisions her future career path heading. With her love for writing, she envisions herself creating both fiction and nonfiction works. Another goal is to eventually write a memoir, which would be comedic but also challenge her to reveal a more personal side of herself. Her time with Day One has given her an interest in working with survivors of sexual violence, but she ultimately sees herself returning to the classroom environment to teach gender and media studies, hoping to open more students eyes the way she has seen her own open throughout her college years.

For now, “Graduation feels like it doesn’t exist,” Ballard says, “But it’s also hurdling towards me very quickly.” She plans on freelancing for a food and lifestyle magazine where she has previously interned, but isn’t stressing too hard over finding a full-time job, since she is hoping to soon move out to the West Coast for a creative job in social justice-related field. After a semester abroad in England, Ballard affirms she caught the travel bug, and hopes for a career that allows her travel time. On where she ultimately ends up, Ballard says, “I’m open to whatever career takes off.

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