Brienne Colston ’15

Brienne Colston ’15 fun profile pic

My Lawrence experience was shaped by a resilient, vibrant community of Black and Brown changemakers committed to actualizing equity at LU. When I think back to impactful moments in my college years, I see vivid memories of my Freshman Year self, bright-eyed and curious to explore a town completely different from the South Bronx. To share that I wasn’t immediately sold on Appleton, or Lawrence, would be an understatement. My Blackness was magnified in a White school. I can remember classmates asking ignorant questions about my hometown, my background, and my interests. I can remember residents of Appleton shouting racist obscenities at me on my way to Walgreens. I can remember having to order things like hair products and shea butter online as I was unable to find any near campus. My experience was initially shaped by not being able to “fit in” in Appleton, and feeling immense imposter syndrome as a result of it.
Lawrence possesses a unique quality that enables students to uniquely chart their own paths to success. Life, starting with my experiences at Lawrence, has shown me that fitting in isn’t always the goal. At Lawrence I embraced my difference. I can remember joining the Committee on Diversity Affairs in LUCC, and organizing a campus-wide die-in to educate students on mass incarceration and police brutality against Black people. I can remember creating the container for equity and belonging through founding LU’s first women of color student organization, organizing for social justice on campus and in Appleton, and co-founding Sankofa, LU’s only multicultural house. These are just some of the ways I made my LU experience reflective of my integrity and values.
My education at Lawrence propelled me with the audacity to start an organization dedicated to actualizing equity through healing in my hometown of The Bronx. In 2017, just two years after graduating, I formed an LLC called Brown Girl Recovery, a healing justice practice space dedicated to providing community members with safe spaces through the facilitation of innovative social justice programming. BGR was not a new idea to me in 2017 as I utilized the resources that LU provided to pilot the program in my senior year. Five years later, BGR has met its mission and received accolades far beyond the goals I set for myself. My experience at Lawrence taught me to dream big, to not be stopped by one or two people’s opinions, thoughts or behaviors, and to bring my community with me in all endeavors.

Connect with Brienne on LinkedIn.