Making Her Mark


By Alexis Reder ’20

An open position on the University’s Board of Trustees, created by the 2019 graduation of the student trustee, cried out for someone who would use his or her voice to spur change.

That’s when Thalita Neves ’21, a vocal student government officer, accepted the challenge and was elected to serve as the lone student representative. Neves is a full voting member of the board, serving through the 2020 academic year.

In the first generation of a Brazilian family to be born in the United States, Neves has worked diligently as a University student, aware of the great opportunity she was gifted. She’s majoring in criminal justice and communication, with a concentration in public relations. She has served as vice president of finance for the Student Government Association and president of Westfield State’s chapter of Lambda Sigma National Honor Society for second-year students. She also completed a mentorship for the University’s Honors Program, of which she’s a member.

Neves is also a campus tour guide and an advisor to the University’s chapter of the Lambda Sigma National Honor Society. She has received several scholarships, including one from the Westfield State University Foundation.

Neves chose Westfield State in part for its criminal justice major. “I fell in love with the campus,” she says. “One of my tour guides was a criminal justice major, and he spoke about how amazing the department was. That guide really advocated for criminal justice for me.”

When initially elected a trustee, Neves was hesitant to accept but ultimately decided the learning experience and new relationships she would develop offered a significant opportunity. “I am proud of myself,” she says. “Having immigrant parents made me realize that sometimes I have to work twice as hard to get half the distance. My work ethic got me to where I am today as a student trustee, and it’s a really big deal for my family.”

In 2018, Neves was the student representative on the Westfield State Foundation’s board of directors. Still, the trustee role was intimidating at first. “Then, the scary and mysterious part about it went away, and I was just another person at the table,” she says. “I have met so many amazing people along the way, and I am very fortunate for the connections I’m making.”

As student trustee, Neves’s primary focus is campus culture, as she aims to close the gap between campus community members. “I hope to stimulate an inclusive environment and bring us closer together,” she says.

“That’s the goal of my position, and that should be the goal for everyone—to make the campus feel more like a community.”

Driven to help others, she hopes to become a volunteer for the city of Westfield, at a woman’s shelter, for instance. She’s pursuing a career with the FBI, where she hopes to gain experience through an internship.


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