Celebrating Commencement: there are never too many passions to tackle

One of Emma Towler’s most significant takeaways from being a UF student is that nothing is off the table. Now that Towler is about to be a Gator grad, she can reflect on her journey, which was not as linear as she thought it would be. Although she is a third-generation Gator, she had to pave the way to create her own Gator story.

“Being a student at UF showed how my passions overlap in many ways, and I don’t have to choose just one,” Towler said. 

Towler came into her first year ecstatic to study political science. Since her fourth-grade field trip to the state capital, she’s dreamed of becoming an attorney, and earning a political science degree was the first step. 

Although she was sure about her major, she sought advice about which extracurriculars to mark on her calendar. So, Towler met with Student Activities & Involvement (SAI) to ask about her options. After sharing some of her interests with advisors in SAI, like her love for the performing arts, SAI offered her a list of possible organizations to get involved with. Stomp the Swamp, a tap dancing group, was the first student organization Towler joined. 

Then, first-year Towler began to apply for positions within other student organizations. To her dismay, she was denied by all of them. 

“My biggest challenge when I first started at UF was rejection. In high school, I was very involved. I thought it would be the same in college and that I would instantly find my place on campus,” Towler said. “I knew I had much to offer, but I had to rebuild my confidence.” 

Although feelings of self-doubt crept into her mind, nothing could dull Towler’s enthusiasm to find her place at UF. 

It was during her spring semester when things started to fall into place. She found her community with her first acceptance to the Bob Graham Center for Public Service’s Student Fellowship. 

The center is driven by three central principles: civic engagement, public leadership and public service. Towler resonated strongly with the center’s values and was excited to add the center to her résumé, a document that substantially grew over her years as a Gator.

Towler later interned with the Office of the State Attorney. At UF, she has worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant, was involved in research, held two internships, participated in the Faculty Senate, and was a part of multiple committees and task forces, including the Reitz Union Board of Managers and serving on the Food Services Advisory Committee. 

Towler also worked her way up to multiple leadership positions in two of her favorite organizations on campus, Student Government and Florida Blue Key, to which she spent three years devoting her time.

“I learned the importance of being involved in my community and how to show up and listen to others by being in Student Government,” Towler said. “I advocated for the entire student body and had to make sure I’m considering each individual when making decisions.”

As the Vice Chair of Programming for Nightlife Navigators, an agency within Student Government, Towler focused on student safety. Two safety plans she took great pride in helping create included launching the “kNOw MORE” initiative and planning the “Wait at the Crosswalk with Me” event. The “kNOw MORE” initiative provides one comprehensive site for Gators to connect with helpful resources for individuals impacted by sexual misconduct. 

Another way Towler prioritized Gators affected by sexual misconduct was by providing scrunchies that cover the tops of drinks to prevent spiking. She distributed these scrunchies to students on campus and to bars at Midtown. 

“Student Government gave me a chance to prioritize student’s safety,” Towler said. “We got to remind local bars and current Gators, ‘Hey, we care about safety, and so should you.’” 

UF is consistently working to improve public safety on campus, and multiple projects are in the works to accomplish this goal. For example, the “Wait at the Crosswalk with Me” event was a collaborative effort between Student Government and UF’s Police Department to raise awareness of traffic accidents and show ways to reduce their effect on campus and the surrounding area. 

In addition, Towler spent a summer as a Preview Staffer, a part of the Center for New Student, Parent & Family Programs and the Division of Student Life’s orientation experience, known as Preview. Since 1974, Preview Staffers have served as peer advisors, resources and role models for new Gators and their families. Towler took pride in being a part of the tradition and one of the first welcoming faces new students got to experience upon joining the UF community.

“I learned that how I presented myself would impact how much another person felt welcomed to the university. It taught me to prioritize others’ needs and ask the right questions,” Towler said. “Coming to college can be overwhelming, and I was happy to support new students in such a unique, insightful way.” 

Another one of Towler’s most remarkable experiences at the university was being “a best friend of Alberta,” or in other words, the secret individual who repped the alligator costume. It wasn’t until graduation day, when Towler wore Alberta’s feet across the stage, that the secret was out.

“Our mascots, Albert and Alberta, are core traditions to UF,” Towler said. “I’m such a ‘people person’ and talker, so to be in a role where I couldn’t talk but still engage with others was interesting. It’s rewarding to know I was a part of the magic.”

After many positive experiences, Towler is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. She is excited to take the next step in her career and begin law school at UF’s Levin College of Law in the fall. 

“Engaging all of your passions opens up new opportunities to grow and change,” Towler said. “I’m grateful being a Gator pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me how much I’m capable of.”