Brianna Brown '20, G'21 always worked odd jobs at the Capital District YMCA throughout high school. The opportunities shaped her perspective and her life goals, and so did the CEO... her dad.
David Brown's first job was cleaning toilets at the YMCA in New Jersey. By the time his daughter started working at the Y, Brown was the first Black president and CEO of the Capital District YMCA. When Brianna Brown '20, G 21 was younger, she used to love seeing her dad on TV or in the newspaper. When she got a bit older, she would roll her eyes. Brianna admits that, as an angsty teenager, she didn't always appreciate her dad's role in the community. That all changed when David's orbit collided with Brianna's college life.
Brianna grew up in Guilderland, but intended to move far, far away for college. She took the obligatory Siena tour though, and fell in love with the college next door. Brianna's always had a big heart, partly her dad's influence and partly her mom's. Leslie Brown is from Nicaragua and grew up with next to nothing. She's now a teacher in the Albany school district, and has always made sure gratitude and compassion were consistent themes in the Brown household.
The Franciscan spirit drew Brianna to Siena, and it's kept her here (which is why she chose to stay at Siena for her MBA). She's served in Mexico and on campus, and she's been involved with mentoring and the Franciscan Center. She's also been the target of racism and microaggressions. That's not something Brianna talks about as often.
Her freshman year roommate told her, "I don't think this is going to work out. I've never experienced diversity before." Brianna changed roommates, but that didn't solve the larger problem. Students of color on campus have described feeling targeted or excluded, intentionally or not. Brianna said she was encouraged when President Chris Gibson announced several initiatives to strengthen the bonds of racial justice. The encouragement swelled into pride when the president reached out to her dad.
President Gibson asked David to lead the College Board of Trustees in a conversation on anti-racism. David is a former Siena trustee and accepted the invitation, though with a slight reservation. He wanted to ensure the voice of the Siena students was reflected in his presentation. He asked his daughter for help, and together they crafted his opening remarks:
"I’m not here today to alienate anyone, in fact my goal here today is to elevate everyone. Talking about Race is hard. Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. It is all so confusing and no one wants to say the wrong thing. But let me tell you what really matters. It matters how some of our students feel. We are going to hear how they feel today."
The conversation was incredibly well received by the entire Board, and Brianna's Siena legacy now extends beyond traditional service. Plus, she has an all-new appreciation for her dad's work. Next, she needs to figure what she wants to do for a living. Something in business, ideally not in a cubicle, and...
"I want to be like my dad, working to improve the lives of the people in the community."
"When my dad spoke to the Siena Trustees, both of my worlds came together. It was really special that President Gibson reached out to my dad, knowing the impact he's had on the community. I realized people really do pay attention to him, just like I always have. Since I was a kid, I've always been ambitious, but my dad has inspired me to harness those skills into something more."
Brianna Brown '20, G '21