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Currents: kyla pillsbury

SGA President Today, Pediatrician Tomorrow

A biology major with minors in Chemistry and Business, Kyla Pillsbury '11 traces her interest in medicine back to her home-schooled elementary years when her favorite topic was health.

“I would finish the health book in a week and then be bored because there was no health for the rest of the year and nothing for me to look forward to,” she says. “And I love working with kids, so pediatrics is my dream.

“My parents owned a funeral home for a long time - they just sold it - so interacting with people who aren't at their best is something I'm really familiar with. Growing up in a funeral service family changes your outlook. I would never want to be in geriatrics, but with pediatrics you get to work on the other end of the spectrum than I'm used to.

“A funeral service is a family affair. My great grandfather, my grandfather, my father and his brothers all were funeral directors, but I don't want to be one. Family-owned businesses are really stressful: there are no set hours, the phone rings all the time, you don't get holidays; you plan a vacation and something happens that's more important. My role included working at calling hours, being a greeter, working at the services, compiling memorial folders, doing transports and filling in wherever needed.

“My parents just sold the business a month ago, though, and it's really strange. Technically I guess they're retired, but not really. They have a motor home and want to travel around here and there for awhile, and perhaps eventually find a place where they'd like to retire. But they can't do nothing; yesterday my mom called and they were just driving around; the options were either drive around or clean the garage, they chose the former! I told her, 'You're ridiculous, do nothing for a day!' They can't handle it though, so I have no doubt they'll get a job somewhere so they have something to do."

For someone juggling as much as Pillsbury does, her advice to her parents to do nothing for a day is amusing.

“It's true,” she laughs. “But, I wouldn't want it any other way because I hate being bored, and there's absolutely no boredom right now."

Pillsbury Rolls Out Hopes for Year as SGA President

Meet Kyla Pillsbury '11 from Littleton, N.H. She's the elected president of the Colby-Sawyer Student Government Association (SGA) for 2009-2010, the resident assistant of Page Hall, a member of the Biology Club, and on the Academic Policy Committee. She's a Biology major with minors in Chemistry and Business taking five courses this semester, and she is a teaching assistant for two sections of general chemistry. She's also employed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, continuing the work she began there this summer as a research intern for cancer behavior research in pediatrics.

Kyla Pillsbury is just a little busy. But she wouldn't have it any other way, and counts boredom among her worst enemies. First-year students met Pillsbury at Convocation on Sept. 4, when she welcomed them in her role as SGA president on behalf of the student body. Though she says writing and delivering the speech was nerve-wracking, and she'd never spoken in front of so many people before, it was a sweet moment of triumph for the soft-spoken, overscheduled junior.

“I commuted 45 minutes each way to a private high school in Vermont where student government was more like a popularity contest,” says Pillsbury. “I had been homeschooled for six years and when I started high school, and no one knew me there for the whole first year. Coming to Colby-Sawyer, I made the decision that I didn't want to be unknown; I wanted to be something different, to have a new experience. I figured everyone starts with a clean slate here, so why not?

“When I sat at my Convocation and heard SGA President Zack Irish speak, I thought: I will be that person someday. I just thought it was so cool that a student could stand up there and be a leader of the college.”

SGA – More Than Three Letters of the Alphabet

Pillsbury served as secretary of SGA last year, and with then-President Nicole Poelaert, Vice President Emily Birkhead and Treasurer Katey Kimball all graduating in May 2009, Pillsbury ran unopposed for the presidency and won.

“It's kind of surreal,” says Pillsbury. “Since freshman year, I'd been saying I wanted to be SGA president eventually, but I assumed it would be my senior year. I never expected to be in this position as a junior, ever.”

Rounding out the current Executive Board are Vice President Aimee Cates, Secretary Rachel Bourne and Nicole Cormier, treasurer. A born list-maker who loves checking off completed tasks, Pillsbury is ready to tackle business remaining from last year, such as installing SmartCard access in local businesses and posting signs about the modified smoking policy passed two years ago (smoking is now prohibited within 20 feet of any building on campus). She's also anxious to commence work on new issues as the student body brings them to the SGA's attention.

First item of new business: making SGA better known. Last year, Pillsbury says, there was an issue with people not knowing what it was or did.

“I really want people to know SGA is not just three letters from the alphabet, it's the Student Government Association! We're really the student voice, so if students have concerns, they should come to us,” says Pillsbury. The executive board hopes that through Vice President Cates's weekly office hours, better bulletin boards, and possibly a blog or Facebook page, the SGA's visibility will grow on campus.

What else is on the list?

“We want to do more for commuter students,” says Pillsbury. “That's a fast-growing population but I don't feel SGA and the college are growing fast enough to support it well. The commuters got a lounge last year in Danforth, but it's just a room with a couple of tables and chairs, a fridge and a microwave, and now it's the Clubs and Organizations' room as well. And the commuter parking lot is up by Main Street, across campus from the lounge. I had one commuter come to me about getting parking closer to the lounge . If they're working there at night, and in the winter, it's a long walk in the dark.”

Another concern Pillsbury has for commuter students is their lack of access to residence halls.

“I'd like to try to get commuters SmartCard access to every building on campus, that's a huge thing. They generally have friends on campus and it's such a hassle to try to visit them if they can't swipe into the building. I think it would be good for commuters to have SmartCards and just shut them off at night. Or, restrict them to Danforth so they can use the commuter lounge. We just don't do a lot with commuter students in general and I think they deserve some focus.”

Jump In, Get Involved

Just as she urged new students in her Convocation speech, Pillsbury would like to see everyone get involved on campus and reach out to others. She hopes that among other activities, students will take an interest in the SGA and let their voices be heard.

“This is a student-run college for real – it's not just something that's said in the advertisements,” says Pillsbury. “But to some extent your happiness does depend on how active you are in the community. If you're sitting in your room and decisions are being made and it's not something you like, then speak up. That's what SGA is for. Anyone can go to the meetings and I'll tell you, if the majority isn't interested in something, it's not going to happen.”
Attendance at the meetings, says Pillsbury, depends on what topics are being discussed. The smoking policy discussions, for example, were well attended, while those on vending machine offerings were quieter.

It's never too late to get involved, Pillsbury says.

“Everyone builds their own little community here and I feel like most people at Colby-Sawyer are open-minded and more than willing to accept people – I've never felt unwelcome here. My freshman roommate never came out of her room at first but by the end of the year she was socializing, so it's never too late. You can always get out there. Everything I do here at Colby-Sawyer makes my experience better, and I wouldn't change it for the world.”

Read Kyla's 2009 Convocation speech here.

-Kate Dunlop Seamans, October 2009