Joanna Buoniconti, class of 21, is one of 10 graduating seniors who will be honored as 21st Century Leaders for their “exemplary achievement, initiative and leadership” Friday, May 14, at undergraduate commencement ceremonies.
Joanna, who is from West Springfield, is a Commonwealth Honors College student earning dual degrees in journalism and English. She worked as managing editor of Amherst Wire, where she reported on the pandemic, started a creative writing section and weekly poetry column, wrote a regular book column and helped manage social media.
She achieved all of this, as she says, “without setting a wheel” on campus. With fragile health due to spinal muscular atrophy, Joanna attended all her classes via Zoom. She found ways to be a key contributor to class discussions and garnered respect from her professors for her hard work, talent and sensitive critiques of her classmates’ work. During this pandemic year, she advised other students on how to make the most of distance learning.
Off-campus, she interned at the Daily Hampshire Gazette where she now writes a monthly op-ed column on disability advocacy issues. She plans to pursue work in journalism or book publishing.
In her nominating letter for Joanna, Prof. Karen List wrote: “She opens our minds to broader possibilities for making the world more diverse, equitable and inclusive, and she’s a role model herself—a true leader in every sense of the word.”