Commencement 2019: Women’s studies program gives graduating senior new life mission

Media Contact: Tony LaRoche, 401-874-4894 |
Eneida Bennett.
Eneida Bennett. Photo by Walter Vinci

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 1, 2019 – When Eneida Bennett graduates from the University of Rhode Island on May 19, she will be leaving with a new mission as an advocate for women.

Bennett, of Cranston, Rhode Island, who is earning a bachelor’s degree in human studies, says her courses in Women and Gender Studies has made her take a closer look at how women fare in the workplace and in education, facing far more obstacles than their male counterparts.

And as a paralegal in a Providence law firm, Bennett has knowledge of the legal system that would be an asset in helping women through complicated issues.

“I want to find a way to make a positive impact on issues that women face every day,” she says.

Before returning to school at URI’s Feinstein Providence campus, Bennett was perfectly happy working as a paralegal since receiving her associate’s degree in 2001.

“I didn’t feel like I needed another degree at that point,” said Bennett.

That all changed in 2013 when Bennett, who was engaged to be married the following year, had a conversation with her future mother-in-law, who convinced her to continue her studies and get a bachelor’s degree.

“My husband and I weren’t planning on having children, so my mother-in-law said, ‘Let your degree be your baby,’” she said.

That comment made Bennett think seriously about her future.

She enrolled in evening classes in the Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies program at the Feinstein Providence campus, which was just a short walk from the law office where she worked.

Even then, she found herself doubting whether she would finish the program.

It wasn’t until her adviser urged her to try Gender and Women’s Studies courses, which gave her a new sense of purpose, and a renewed interest in completing her degree.

“Those classes opened my eyes to better understand how we as women have been, and continue to be, oppressed. I knew then that I wanted to help women who had been exploited,” she said. “Hoping that I could make a difference in some way awakened a need in me.”

Bennett said she wants to explore social services and community organizations where she can volunteer to help women, and also hopes to serve on boards that will further the cause.

But first, she said, she owes her mother-in-law a big “thank you” for giving her that push to earn her degree, and to her husband and family for their support in the journey that led to her calling.