Tag Archives: social justice

Reprinted from Ezra Magazine, September 2016 Issue

Camille Sims '15 says fate brought her to Cornell. And now it has propelled her to reign as Miss New York and to finish second runner-up in September's Miss America competition.

Camille Sims

Camille Sims '15 visits the College of Human Ecology Sept. 21. Photo: Mark Vorreuter.

As a teen growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee, Sims volunteered with her mother in soup kitchens, joining the fight against hunger and homelessness. One day, while checking out books in an Atlanta public library, a Cornell recruiter approached her and encouraged her to attend an information session for the College of Human Ecology. There she discovered "how the college represents improving the human condition, solving social problems, and using research as a means to create social justice and to help people live better," she says.

"After that, I said, 'Mom, this is it, this is my school! I have to be there!'" Sims recalls.

As a freshman and a Meinig Family Cornell National Scholar, Sims sought out Anthony Burrow, assistant professor of human development, whose research on youth purpose and identity she had been tracking since high school. She took "every class that he offered" and conducted research and an independent study through his Purpose and Identity Processes Laboratory. Her project explored how mass incarceration impairs adolescent transitions into adulthood and sparked her to work with Ultimate Re-entry Opportunity of Tompkins County, which supports former inmates.

Today, she continues her work on reintegration and other social justice issues as a coordinator with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Multicultural Resource Center.

"I wouldn't be doing the work that I am doing now had it not been for the conversations and experiences in Professor Burrow's classes and lab," Sims says.

"Because of her innovative scholarship and passion to contribute to the health of the communities in which she lives, Camille makes a formidable ally to those enduring imprisonment and who will eventually re-enter the community," Burrow says. "Her particular talents are noticeable and effective -- she's the kind of student who demands there always be greater meaning to the assignments in which she engages."

Crowned Miss New York in May, Sims is using her title to raise awareness for her platform, Ensuring Wellness and Fostering Food Justice. Sims was drawn to the cause from her early experiences fighting hunger, as well as her work as a Cornell undergraduate at Ithaca's Southside Community Center, where she has helped low-income families with eating healthfully on a budget. Sims credits Cornell's Public Service Center for matching her with local groups as a freshman and her Human Ecology education with making her more effective as an advocate.

"I took classes in nutrition and health, human development and nearly enough for a minor in policy analysis and management," Sims says. "I've been able to develop an understanding of the food system from all these perspectives and tie that into my Miss America platform."

A jazz singer and songwriter who plans to release her second album this fall, Sims hopes to use her winnings from the Miss New York and Miss America competitions to pay for graduate school, where she plans to continue her research in human development. Ultimately, she hopes to inspire others to engage with their communities and fight for social justice.

"Caring is crucial to moving anything forward," says Sims. "For us to move forward as a society, we must ask questions about the food system and start conversations about inequity. There can't be apathy about inequality and social justice if you want to thrive as a community."

-- Ted Boscia is director of communications and media for the College of Human Ecology.

Camille Sims joins teens building computers on The Ithaca Commons

Sims joins local teens learning how to build computers at an event on the Ithaca Commons hosted by Cornell University and the Southside Community Center during National Week of Making, June 17-23. Photo: provided.


Lance Collins, dean of the College of Engineering, speaks at the second annual Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives Honors Award Ceremony May 1. (Lindsay France/University Photography)


In 1890, ex-slave George Washington Fields became the first African- American to graduate from Cornell Law School. Nearly 125 years later, the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) continues to celebrate diversity at Cornell with a series of awards named after Fields and nine other Cornellian trailblazers.

More than 70 people gathered May 1 for the second annual OADI Honors Awards Ceremony. Student presentations, a dinner reception and musical performances kicked off the event, which highlighted accomplishments and contributions of some of Cornell’s most talented scholars and leaders.

OADI is pronounced “wadi,” which is an Arabic and Swahili word for a cool, protected passage through a desert, often formed by a seasonal river. OADI was formed in 2011 as part of an initiative to provide support and mentorship to Cornell students who come from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

“These services play a crucial role in fulfilling Cornell University’s ‘any person, any study’ motto,” said Carlos Gonzalez, executive director of OADI.

Engineering Dean Lance Collins gave the keynote address for the awards ceremony. The first African-American dean at Cornell, Collins shared his insights on the role of diversity in the three core pillars of academic excellence: scholarship, leadership and community engagement.

Collins encouraged the audience to seek mentors and to mentor others, to lead by inspiring others to take action, and to work for results rather than recognition.

Collins also emphasized the importance of thinking about diversity not only as a social justice issue, but also in terms of the inherent value that it brings to society. “We are a pluralistic society, and there is great power and strength in that,” he said. “Each of you in the audience brings something special and unique and positive, adding to the excellence of this institution.”

OADI presented 10 awards named after some of Cornell’s most inspiring trailblazers that recognized achievement and excellence of scholar-leaders and campus partners. This year’s recipients were:

  • Andrew Martinez '12, assistant dean of students, 626 Center for Intercultural Dialogue – Ryokichi Yatabe Award for Outstanding Alumna/Alumnus Partner.
  • Anthony Burrow, assistant professor, human development – Estevan Fuertes Award for Outstanding OADI Faculty Partner.
  • Angel Keen, assistant director, Diversity Programs in Engineering – Tomás Bautista Mapúa Award for Outstanding OADI Staff Partner.
  • Zarif Islam, M.P.S. candidate – Toni Morrison Award for Outstanding Graduate Mentorship.
  • Scholars Working Ambitiously to Graduate (SWAG) – Club Brasileiro Award for Outstanding Organization.
  • Kemar Prussien '15 – Solomon Cook Award for Engaged Research and Scholarship.
  • Rachel Reindorf '16 – George Washington Fields Award for Professional Development.
  • Andrea Kim '12– Gloria Joseph Award for Opportunity Programs Students.
  • Allison Arteaga '18 – Marvin Jack Award for OADI Emerging Scholar-Leader.
  • Misha Inniss-Thompson '16 – Jerome Holland Award for Outstanding OADI Scholar-Leader.

Thaddeus Talbot '15 was selected as the student speaker for the awards ceremony. Earlier this year, Talbot marched in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery.

“Tonight is all about taking risks and the rewards that follow,” said Talbot.

 Josephine Engreitz ’15 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.