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WGS Department awards Cray title of distinguished senior

The University of Maine Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGS) has chosen to recognize graduating student Taylor Cray as their Distinguished Senior for 2020.

Cray is graduating from UMaine with a Bachelor of Arts in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and a Bachelor of Science in political science. Cray has also completed minors in Spanish and legal studies.

In addition to keeping herself busy with her coursework the past four years, Cray has been an active member of the UMaine community. She currently stands as UMaine’s vice president of student organizations and is a distinguished member of All Maine Women.

The All Maine Women Society is a significant part of the work Cray has been involved with on campus. The society represents the top 1% of women and nonbinary students each year. The student organization works to uphold UMaine’s traditions, invoke community outreach, raise awareness about important issues on and off campus and act as campus role models.

Alex Bromley, a graduating food science and human nutrition student, shared her experience working with Cray, and the impact she has left on the UMaine community. Bromley and Cray met at the end of their third year when they were selected to become a part of the Class of 2020’s All Maine Women society.

“Before [joining the All Maine Women], I had heard of her name here and there, but I never had the opportunity to meet her or get to know her. Now, I am very thankful that our paths have crossed, thanks to All Maine Women, because she is such a ray of sunshine that brightens anyone’s day no matter what,” Bromely said.

Sophia Palangas, a graduating communication sciences and disorders student, has had a very similar relationship with Cray during her time with the All Maine Women. Cray and Palangas also met their third year, however, Palangas said how she noticed Taylor’s impact on the UMaine community before ever meeting her. Palangas knew of Cray from her campaign for a position in student government, and thought that it was really cool to see a woman running to represent students in a field of mostly male representatives. Now the two women stand as co-vice presidents of All Maine Women. The two are also members of the Alternative Breaks club on campus and had been planning on attending a service trip together during the spring 2020 semester. However, due to COVID-19, the trip was canceled.

Many of her peers have recognized Cray’s academic achievements, as well as her passionate and inclusive leadership skills.

“Taylor’s leadership is defined by her ability to lead with a voice of reason and ability to make all feel welcome,” Palangas noted. “I think her biggest impact was helping to increase student participation in voting and her involvement in student government as vice president of student organizations. She is a role model for fellow students and leads the way for females students interested in poli[tical] sci[ence] which is super important. [She is] always willing to help others and speak up for what is right.”

Lauren Ryan, a member of the UMaine Honors College and a biomedical engineering student, shared that her experience working with Cray has had a positive impact on her time at UMaine. She and Cray met through UMaine’s Student Government approximately a year ago.

“Taylor is the definition of a strong, fierce woman. Everything she does pushes the organizations and individuals she advocates for forward, whether through her work as vice president of student organizations for UMSG, the Feminist Collective, All Maine Women, or for voter rights. Her broad set of experiences coupled with her own personal empathy, compassion, and integrity means that she leaves everything she touches better than she found it,” Ryan said.

Ryan noted that the UMaine community saw these leadership skills a few weeks ago, as the community searched for ways to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As any senior in college would, Taylor took a few days to mourn the loss of the experiences she’d been waiting years to have, but then she started to organize,” Ryan said. “She took steps to put together a volunteer-based childcare service for members of the greater Orono community who were struggling when schools were closed, and assembled a list of college students who were able to help out within a few days. She is constantly thinking about how she can help others and make our community and society better for those who live in it, and I think that’s a great testament to her character.”

Cray is the recipient of the Leadership Torch Award, which was awarded by the Mabel Wadsworth Center, as well as the Sharon Barker Student Activism Award.

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