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Saint Mary's College looks to combat sexual violence

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — One college campus is looking usher in a new era of leaders by turning its students into women of action.

Saint Mary’s College President Jan Cervelli talked to ABC 57 News for the first time since taking office two summers ago.

“I see a new South Bend. I see energy and inclusiveness. I see a progressive nature and optimism about the future,” she said. “But also a certain practicality of ‘we can get this done’ and ‘we can make this a wonderful place’ and that’s the kind of spirit I want to see and do see in our students.”

All roads led Saint Mary’s 12th president back home in the summer of 2016.

20 months into the role, South Bend native Jan Cervelli has found her footing in cultivating the next generation of leaders on campus.

“I want to be able to connect that from our students who come from all over to this community in the hopes that they’re going to stay and they’re going to make a difference here,” said Cervelli. “We see that this campus has activated itself, the administration was activated, I’m activated everyday by the leadership of our students in addressing straight on, these issues.”

Issues like like tackling sexual assault and harassment on campus, in the workplace and beyond.

According to the college, one in 10 women experience sexual assault on the campus, much lower than the national average of one in five women.

“As far as I’m concerned its one too many,” said Cervelli.

Just before she arrived, the former administration commissioned a task force on sexual violence.

It yielded eight recommendations including more training, accountability, ongoing support and research through bi-yearly surveys.

And President Cervelli says she wants to take that initiative even further.

“We know who, we know where is another piece we want to pay more attention to and a little more on the why, and i think we can target our efforts even more,” said Cervelli.

The campus will hold sexual harassment workshops in the fall.

There are also three scheduled lunch-and-learn workplace harassment workshops happening on campus in March, April and June.

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