Whether she’s organizing events for the Resource Center or playing UNO with her housemates, Briana Rodriguez Castillo ’23 finds joy in bringing people together. Through her senior thesis, centered around contemporary gun legislation and documentary work, Rodriguez Castillo strives to empower and provide service to marginalized communities. Rodriguez Castillo took time out of her busy schedule, in between finalizing her thesis and reviewing budgets for the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), to talk with The Argus about her past four years at Wesleyan.
The Argus: Why do you think you were nominated to be a WesCeleb?
Briana Rodriguez Castillo: If I’m being honest, I was pretty surprised that I got nominated because I sort of consider myself to be a wallflower. I run a lot of events in different spaces. I devote most of my time to being an intern at the Resource Center, and we run so many events there, like probably 10 per semester. It’s ridiculous. The next one that I’m going to be running is the First Generation Low-Income (FGLI) student excursion to Six Flags in a few weeks. I really manifested that. I’m proud of that one.
A: What drew you to the College of Social Studies (CSS) and government majors and the Human Rights Advocacy minor?
BRC: I came to Wesleyan because of the CSS major. It’s kind of known as the law school pipeline, and I originally wanted to be a lawyer. I like my majors because I really enjoy writing and learning about philosophy and social theory. The Human Rights Advocacy minor is definitely my favorite. It’s quite new, and my class is part of the pilot program. Through the minor, I was able to travel to Bolivia with one of my professors and do fieldwork. I really enjoyed the hands-on experience.
A: What was your experience like traveling to Bolivia?
BRC: As part of the minor, I was required to go to a different country and do fieldwork. I worked on making a documentary following the massacre that happened in Bolivia a few years ago. I’m not going to lie, since I was part of the pilot program, it was quite chaotic. I got maybe two hours of sleep on the flight to Bolivia. When I got there, it was all go, go, go.
A: What’s your thesis about?
BRC: I can’t really put it into a sentence, but the short answer is that it’s about mental illness and guns. In a more existential way, my thesis is about looking at how terms that carry a lot of historical weight are used in contemporary legislation and how they affect power dynamics, racial hierarchy, and communities that have been historically marginalized.
A: You’re very involved with the WSA on campus. Can you tell me a little about your experience with the WSA?
BRC: Well, I’ve been on the WSA for four years, and I’ve been on the Student Budget Committee (SBC) for three years. I think the SBC is the best committee on the WSA, and every single person on the SBC is my best friend. We take an active role in looking at all the budget requests that come in every single week, and then the seven of us vote on whether we want to approve or deny the request.
A: That sounds like a pretty big time commitment.
BRC: Oh yeah, it definitely is, but I think I’ve gotten used to it. Looking back, I’ve never had a free Sunday or Monday afternoon. The WSA meetings take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, and the SBC meetings are 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Monday.
A: We’ve been talking about academics a lot. What are some things you like to do in your free time?
BRC: I’ve really come into myself this past year. One of my close friends started this tradition at the beginning of the year—she invites a bunch of people to her dorm and we just have fun together. It’s super wholesome.
Senior year has really been the best. I just lucked out with my house and my roommates. My roommates and I have literally spent hours together singing High School Musical and randomly doing puzzles. We’re going to do a road trip this summer to see each other again, and they’re all invited to my wedding.
A: That’s exciting. When are you getting married?
BRC: July 23. He’s my high school sweetheart. We’ve been dating for the last four years, and we got engaged this past summer.
A: Congratulations. What are your plans beyond Wesleyan?
BRC: It sounds really bad because people expect you to have your life planned out, but I don’t really know. I’ve started to believe that the world is my oyster and that I can do whatever I want. I’m almost sure that I’m going to go back to college. I’m probably going to get a Master’s. Maybe I’ll get a Ph.D. Maybe I’ll go to law school. I know for sure that I want my job to be a space where I can help people and build a community.
A: That’s a great answer. Do you have any advice that you would give your freshman self?
BRC: I mean, I could give myself this advice as much as I want, but I doubt my former self would take it because I’m just such a stubborn person. I would tell myself that every situation that I’m in will pass. People say that it’s important to be present, but I feel like it can be kind of dangerous to be too present. Especially if you’re a person whose emotions are really strong, sometimes it can just feel overwhelming. I would tell myself to recognize that things do change. I feel like everything is worth it as long as you have friends, a community, and people that you love.
I’m not gonna lie, half of my time here was kind of terrible, but I can’t bring myself to regret coming here. To wish it away would be wishing away all my current relationships and all the people that I love. I just can’t bring myself to do that.
A: That’s another amazing response. Do you have any final comments you would like to share?
BRC: My last bit of advice or whatever, if anyone cares to hear, is that you have agency. You can do whatever you want in whatever space—and that’s not neglecting the systemic issues we have to overcome—but you can be in any space and still have the power to make it better.
Lyah Muktavaram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.