February 8, 2021

Columbia's Office of University Life recently announced the inaugural recipients of its new Racial Justice Mini-Grants, awarded to projects that meet one or more of the following goals:

  • Provide opportunities, such as workshops or training, to understand and unlearn racism and anti-Black racism, effectively act or advocate to address racism, and understand the intersectional dynamics of oppression.
  • Broaden the conversation on antiracism. One example would be hosting a panel discussion to highlight new or rising voices on this topic.
  • Strengthen our campus culture of inclusion and belonging. An example would be a social media campaign or peer mentorship program.

Congratulations to the multiple SIPA students among the grantees! Read about them and their projects below, and learn about all the projects at the Office of University Life.

The Intersections of Blackness: An Anti-Racism Project

Project Details: This program series, comprising virtual, interactive workshops, is a collaboration between Rho Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. The project's purpose is to engage Columbia students in conversation and action around Black issues and the long-term effects of anti-Black racism both in our own communities and across the diaspora. In centering the Black experience through interactive virtual workshops, roundtables and crash courses, Columbia students will gain a profound understanding of the structural and interpersonal racism facing Black students on a daily basis and will come to deeply understand the pervasive nature of anti-Blackness. Importantly, this project aims to equip all students with a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted nature of Blackness, and the many intersections where Blackness is marginalized and oppressed, to better understand how to facilitate anti-racism on campus and in their respective fields.

Series guests range from Columbia faculty (specifically from the African-American and African Studies departments), alumni, authors, student activists, and local New York racial justice organization representatives (No New Jails, Innocence Project, the Audre Lorde Project, etc.).

The series will take place from February-April 2021. They will be free to anyone who wishes to join, and will not be limited to Columbia Students. Please check back for event details.

Grantees: Travis Nelson MPA ’22 is also completing his undergraduate degree in political science at Columbia. He currently serves as the vice president of Eta “The Jewel” Chapter as well as the 60th eastern region assistant vice president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Born and raised in Hempstead, New York, he is the proud product of a single-parent household and the Hempstead Union Free School District. Travis is an avid community advocate, focused on fostering civic engagement, civil and political rights, social justice through policy and government at every level in New York.

Lexi Young is studying sociology and human rights with a specialization in African American studies at Columbia. She is vice president of Rho chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Originally from Queens and raised in Atlanta, she is a proud Jamaican. Lexi believes deeply in the necessity of Black liberation and is committed to understanding the depth of inequity and anti-Blackness characterizing this country's written and unwritten laws. In her academic and professional lives, Lexi has focused on service that supports the needs and interests of Black students and community members, recognizing the intrinsic value of active, meaningful community engagement.

SPEAK UP: Addressing Race and Racism in the Classroom

Project Details: This project’s primary goal is to facilitate conversations on anti-racism at the School of International and Public Affairs by providing opportunities for students and faculty to understand how issues of race and anti-Black racism can be prevalent in both policy development and the classroom.

Event Details: Two-part, 90-minute workshops this spring will be led by selected experts in the field of international and public affairs.

The events will be free to anyone who wishes to join, and will not be limited to Columbia students. Please check back for event details.

Grantees: Zachey Kliger MPA ’22 is concentrating in Urban and Social Policy with a specialization in Technology, Media, and Communications. Prior to SIPA, Zach worked as a market research analyst at a reputation insights company and as a digital marketing consultant. In 2019, he joined Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for president, an experience that affirmed a desire to work in public policy. He is focused on contributing to policies that reduce wealth inequality and promote social mobility.

Chris Tingley MPA ’22 is a graduate research assistant at Columbia’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Prior to SIPA, Chris worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa (HIV/AIDS Outreach ’14-’16). Chris serves on the board of directors of TurnOut, a nonprofit organization focused on LGBTQ+ volunteerism. After SIPA, Chris hopes to advance disaster response policy that centers marginalized communities to address disproportionate impacts of climate change.

Vincent Tang MPA-DP ’22 is a student in Development Practice studying Gender and Public Policy, with an overall focus on social and financial inclusion. Prior to SIPA, Vincent served in the Peace Corps as business development specialist, working with local NGOs in western Ukraine on diversity and inclusion initiatives. Vincent serves as the treasurer for RISE: the working group on Race, Income, Solidarity, and Economics; the president for CERV: Community Engagement and Recruiting Volunteers; and is an intern at the Opportunity Network, a NYC nonprofit organization focused on addressing the inequitable structures of access, college opportunity, and professional mobility.

Sameea Butt MPA ’22 is a SIPA student concentrating in Urban and Social Policy, with a specialization in DAQA and Management. She comes to SIPA with a background in education counseling and workforce development. Prior to SIPA, Sameea worked in nonprofit organizations focused on workforce development in San Francisco and New York City, as well as for EducationUSA Pakistan with the U.S. Department of State. Sameea hopes to spend her time at SIPA continuing to learn about equity in the classroom and workforce, and make the American labor market more equitable.

Gabrielle Hayes MPA-DP ’21 is an MPA-DP candidate with an unofficial concentration in urban agriculture and food sovereignty. A farmer by training and at heart (not by family ties), she has worked on farms in Massachusetts and throughout New York City. Prior to coming to SIPA, she managed an urban agriculture & food justice training program for high school students in community gardens in under-resourced NYC neighborhoods. At SIPA she continues to focus on solutions and policies that will make our global food system more sustainable.

Leselle Vincent MPA-DP ’22 is pursuing her MPA in Development Practice with a specialization in International Organizations. Her goal is to contribute to global sustainable development and environmental resilience for vulnerable communities to increase meaningful representation globally. Leselle worked at the Basel Convention Regional Centre for the Caribbean based in her home country, Trinidad and Tobago. She also worked as a research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta. Leselle serves as a general steering committee member on the working group on Race, Income, Solidarity, and Economics (RISE). She is also co-academic chair in the SIPA Student Association (SIPASA), and a member of the Diversity Committee.