Alumnae/i Feature

Taking Initiative: Gina Patterson '06 on Giving and Leadership at Boston Medical Center

Gina Patterson ’06 knows how to best support underprivileged communities. As Boston Opportunity System (BOS) Collaborative Director at the Boston Medical Center, she leads and manages the distribution of funds from the JPMorgan Chase AdvancingCities Challenge grant awarded in October of 2020.

“We’ve invested most of the funds into community-based organizations focused on housing and economic mobility,” says Patterson. “Our approach is based on the idea of equity. We have neighborhoods in the city of Boston that have been generationally disadvantaged and disinvested in.”

Patterson is keen to invest in those communities by bolstering the work of existing non-profits. “Community-based organizations have years of experience in housing and economic mobility.” She also aims to establish career pathways, offer opportunities for job training, and make Boston affordable to a wide range of people.

Patterson points to a variety of Simmons experiences that fostered her leadership skills. “In my classes, extracurricular activities, and student jobs in alumni affairs or the admissions office — all of those experiences prepared me to be a leader, to take initiative.”

While an undergraduate majoring in biopsychology and women's studies, Patterson became president of the Black Student Organization and the Multicultural Chair for the Student Government Association.

... all of those experiences prepared me to be a leader, to take initiative.

That isn’t to say that leadership came naturally. “I wasn’t involved in leading any student organizations in high school. It took me some time to get my feet anchored and get into Simmons life. I had joined the Black Student Organization as a first-year. The Director of Multicultural Affairs at the time supported me, pushing me into the role of Multicultural Chair — she saw something in me.”

And Patterson sees something special in Simmons. “Simmons gives you confidence that you can accomplish your goals — you can shatter glass ceilings. There is so much preparation that Simmons gives you to be able to handle yourself as a leader. Aside from studies, being in such a small community provided the support I needed to develop the skills that I had within myself.”

Among others, she cites Associate Professor Leanne Doherty, Professor Janie Ward, and Professor Jyoti Puri as having contributed significantly to her growth. “Professor of Practice Gary Bailey was great in helping to shape Black students at Simmons.”

And her leadership roles at Simmons continue — Patterson is currently Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on the Alumnae Association Executive Board. “We are focused on how we make that bridge between the University and alumnae/i. We also support President Wooten and align our goals with her DEI Council.”

The Board is collaborating internally to create a mentoring program for BIPOC students and looking to promote connections between alumnae/i. “For Black History Month, we did a career panel with the African American Alumni Association. The alumnae/i loved it, so we’re thinking about offering a few more panels.”

Patterson also serves on the 2020-2021 Dean's Advisory Council of the College of Social Sciences, Policy, and Practice. She is eager to encourage current students to take advantage of the resources Simmons offers, including the expansive alumnae/i network.

“I was required to do a year-long internship for my biopsychology major during my senior year, and it was a critical point in the trajectory of my career,” she says. “I also studied for a month in South Africa while at Simmons, then came back and published a book, Women to Women: Young Americans in South Africa, on our experiences. Our world has changed so quickly — it's so important to continue to look for opportunities to build new skills. Even remotely, there are so many opportunities.”

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