An introvert is someone who spends a lot of time reflecting inwardly, and because of this tendency, many people think of them as non-participators. But in spite of common misconceptions, there are many people around the world that make a difference while being introverts. Someone at Principia who identifies as an introvert and is still making a difference in the Principia community is the student body president Susie Bonwich. Throughout Bonwich’s time at Principia, she has excelled in obtaining leadership positions. In this interview, Susie discusses becoming a leader while staying true to her inner introvert.
Where did you obtain the urge to take demanding leadership positions?
I think it was being the youngest in my family. It was competitive, and since we were all close in age, it was like we had to prove ourselves, almost. But I’m grateful for that, because it was like I had these sisters—and not sisters who were 20 years older than me…but [ones] I could compete with…because we were all on the same level. Also, my dad [was], in a way, hard to please, so we tried to prove to him we were worthy children. He [was] closed-off, so when we did something that was amazing he would say, “Oh wow,” and we would all get excited.
Did you always feel like you aspired for leadership positions or did you at one point feel like you didn’t have a voice?
I think it was third grade when this urge came to me [and I started] wanting to be a leader. There was this race [to be] third grade representative and I wanted the position, but I didn’t get it. It made me really sad.
Can you explain why you consider yourself an introvert?
I always have been a somewhat outgoing person when I have to be. [But] I consider myself an introvert, I really do… I feel comfortable around my family so I’m always outgoing and talkative with [them]. So I guess I feel like I never really had to think that others wouldn’t understand things about me, because my family knows me and have been with me my entire life. And to be able to express those same emotions with someone I just met might take a while. I can be an extrovert or a good communicator when I have to be. But if you read the definition of an introvert, it’s someone who over-thinks things, [and] lets other people speak before [they] do. I definitely would put myself under that category.
When I went to [Saint Louis University] for a year, there [were] days I would never say a word. I would get back in my car to drive home, but before I would leave I would speak and it would be weird because it would be the first time I spoke the entire day. But I still pushed myself. I got a [leadership] position at SLU; I was the event coordinator for the freshmen… But it was definitely different. Where I feel the most comfortable…[is in] positions where I have a purpose and [am doing] stuff for others…I want to be in those positions. I want to have a purpose.”
Has being at Principia helped you blossom and come to a better understanding of leadership positions?
Well, I don’t think it was just because of Prin. I can’t credit it to just Prin, but school in general, or being in a place that gives you the opportunities that [have] “real world” responsibility. It was…getting my job a Five Guys that…helped me [strengthen] the leadership positions I had at school, because that was like the “real world.” My choices would have impacts on people’s lives and business in the economy.
What made you want to run for student body president?
I think I always wanted to be student body president at Prin. Even when I went to SLU, I was just thinking for some reason I would end up going back to Prin for the position. I was senior class president in high school and I just loved it. We have a say here. People don’t think we do, but we definitely do. Students can talk to all the faculty, administration, and the deans. Students can have real conversations with them and get to know them and get things done. Whereas SLU, you probably wouldn’t meet the president and wouldn’t meet all the deans. It was almost too big. The student body was larger, so you would think…that the students would have a huge impact. But a lot of the student[s], even myself, didn’t know who the student body president was or how the student body government worked.
What advice can you tell students or people in general on how to have a voice and how to take a stand no matter what?
Just do it. You don’t have to be in a position like student body president, student senator, or house president to go do something… At Prin, everyone is so receptive that no one cares if you are in a [leadership] position or not. Maybe a lot of people on campus do not know I am the student body president, and just think I am some random person. I don’t advertise it as much. I don’t want people to think I do things just because of my position… There is so much you can do, and you have such a supportive community that, even if your idea flops, no one will [say], “That sucked.” They would be more like: “They are trying to do something.” You just have to do it because you will regret not doing stuff, whether it is singing at Starbrooks, or just putting yourself out there. If you are shy, don’t do it for the recognition or the perks. Just do it to make others happy. For me, it all started trying to make my parents happy.