#SkidmoreGives, across campus and the globe
Nov. 30 is Giving Tuesday, an opportunity to showcase the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and our world.
From within Skidmore’s curriculum, through their careers, and in many other ways, Skidmore community members are making an impact. Here are just a few ways that students, alumni, faculty, and staff are giving back and creating a better world and stronger communities.
From left, founding Black Dimensions in Art (BDA) member Gregory Allan Freelon, Associate Professor of Theater Eunice S. Ferreira, founding BDA member and Skidmore trustee Linda Jackson-Chalmers' 73, BDA treasurer Jacqueline Lake-Sample, Miki Conn, and BDA board member Stephen J. Tyson.
Supporting BIPOC voices in the arts
For Associate Professor of Theater Eunice S. Ferreira, theater isn’t something you sit back and watch from afar: It’s an opportunity to address deep-rooted injustices in our society and local community.
Leaning into creativity and with support from the Periclean Faculty Leadership Program for civic engagement in the classroom, Ferreira is teaching Theater for Social Justice and Change and bringing the conversation into the community through partnerships with local groups MLK Saratoga and Black Dimensions in Art (BDA).
“Students are researching and practicing how theater can be applied in a variety of settings to educate, build community, address social justice issues, foster civic engagement, and catalyze social change,” said Ferreira.
Using techniques from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed and other interactive approaches, students are applying their learning to hypothetical case studies and real-life community needs. They’re also partnering with BDA members and Skidmore’s John B. Moore Documentary Studies Collaborative (MDOCS) to facilitate conversations on art and activism in order to archive the legacy of BDA in a documentary film for the group’s 50th anniversary.
Follow her on at Instagram @bipoctheater.
Idalia Sepúlveda, center, participates in an MLK Day event with members of the Skidmore community. (Image: Jesus Pancho Cuahutle)
Leading with heart and by example
Idalia Sepúlveda works as an academic communications coordinator in the Office of Communications and Marketing, but her big and small acts of kindness extend far beyond her official role at the College. Always exhibiting goodwill and showing up in times of need, she’s a humble force that often operates behind the scenes.
“Giving back is engrained in me. My parents migrated to New York from Puerto Rico in the 1960s and worked hard for their family to provide access to my education, etc.,” Sepúlveda said. “They help shared their faith in God and that instilled in me the passion to serve my community. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help make a difference whenever and wherever I can.”
When hurricanes Sandy and Maria hit the New York City area and Puerto Rico, respectively, Sepúlveda engaged the Skidmore community and the nearby Shenendehowa school district in gathering donations and supplies. Years later, her ministry continues to help local and international causes, including aiding in vaccine, food, and supply distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On campus, Sepúlveda is a regular face in the stands, especially for students of color. She makes a point to attend student presentations, performances, and events hosted by student clubs Ujima and Raices. She says it’s about “just being present, listening, and being there for them. It’s so helpful and enriching for me, too.”
And the list goes on — from volunteering for Skidmore Cares and the International Friendship Family Program to advocating for others through the Skidmore Black Faculty and Staff Group.
Retelling the lost stories of Sierra Leoneans
Joseph Kaifala ’08 wants every Sierra Leonean to be heard, especially those who never had a chance to speak.
As the founder and principal of the Center for Memory and Reparations, Kaifala works to promote remembrance and shared narratives about Sierra Leone’s civil war. Kaifala's passion has led to numerous projects, including mapping and protecting mass graves throughout Sierra Leone and facilitating the construction of a civil war memorial.
He's also actively working to shape the future of his country through the Jeneba Project, a nonprofit that advocates for adolescent girls to have equal access to educational opportunities in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Libera.
“Our aim is to improve the lives of children in these countries after a decade of civil war by expanding educational opportunities,” he said.
For his work, Kaifala was recently named a 2021 Ford Global Fellow, the first Sierra Leonean to be so honored. The fellowship will connect him with other globally minded leaders advancing innovative solutions to inequality.
Challenging STEM stereotypes
Lindsey Avery Fitzsimons ’10 wants to inspire current and future generations of scientists to break the “traditional scientist” mold.
Fitzsimons is documenting her personal and professional journey in an unfiltered way through her social media platform @laf_in_the_lab. Authentic and open, she often shares challenges she faces in her career as a Ph.D. candidate, parent, person facing chronic illness, and passionate researcher studying congenital heart disease.
“It’s hard being the only woman, even harder after having my son. People question my career choices,” she said.
But that hasn’t stopped Fitzsimons, who recently launched 33&CKD, a nonprofit aiming to fund innovative biomedical research in nephrology. The name comes from Lindsey’s own experience — she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease at age 33.
She also teaches a course in gross anatomy for first-year medical students at the University of New England, College of Osteopathic Medicine. Being the only female instructor, she worries her students won’t take her seriously. "I try to be professional, encouraging, and empowering,” says Fitzsimons, who is committing to do everything she can for the next generation of scientists.
Whether she is teaching or connecting with young women worldwide on social media, she strives to be a welcoming, supportive, and influential mentor.
Creating a "brave space"
Sophie Cramer '22 wants everyone to have a space where they feel safe, supported, and validated.
As president of the student club H.I.P.S. (Health, Image, Power, and Success), Cramer facilitates discussions around the body, body image, college life, identity, relationships, and how these topics intersect and influence each other.
As a Peer Health Educator, Cramer is also working at a community and systematic level to support student wellness but says the close connections between H.I.P.S. members represent "something special.”
“H.I.P.S. is open to everyone but has an important niche. We intentionally carve out a place for students to feel comfortable discussing body empowerment, acceptance, neutrality, and the challenges they face,” said Cramer. “I like to call our meetings both a safe space and a brave space.’”
In a recent meeting, H.I.P.S. members practiced ways to navigate the holidays and family dynamics, pivot away from judgmental conversations, and communicate boundaries.
If anyone has holiday anxiety, Cramer wants you to know this: “You don’t owe anyone an explanation for what’s happening with or what you choose to do with your body.” And if you are a current student looking for a welcoming and supportive community, connect with H.I.P.S. @healthimagepowersuccess.
Sailing for inclusion
Sten Leinassar ’23 says he “wants every single person in society to be able to enjoy life to the fullest.”
That, in part, is how he found himself interning with the Estonian Association of Disabled Women and working on a project called Special Sailors that focuses on popularizing adaptive sailing for wheelchair users and other para-athletes.
Leinasaar was involved in every aspect of Special Sailors — from supporting programming and operations and helping participants sail, to having long conversations with them as they explored the coastline. Each responsibility, he says, was an opportunity to better understand the challenges of all sailing enthusiasts.
“There is so much work yet to do to make society truly inclusive. I am only starting to see the extent, but I am feeling the gratitude and accomplishment with every smile I see, knowing that I help to put it there,” he said. “It feels good to help.”
This experience was supported by the Skidmore Summer Experience Fund (part of the Zankel Experience Network), which allows students like Leinasaar to participate in meaningful summer career opportunities without the burden of having to support themselves.
Returning to his roots, paying it forward
Justin Adams ’23 wants to bridge the gaps in educational equality and equity by giving back to a program that changed his life.
Boys Hope Girls Hope is an international nonprofit organization that works with young people in need from their critical adolescent years all the way through college and into the launch of their careers.
Adams, a graduate of the program, has continued to support a New York City chapter and recently returned as a mentor.
“Having the opportunity to provide an experience that they may not have otherwise had access to is empowering,” said Adams. “As someone who inhabits a Black and brown body myself, and has been through this program and reaped the benefits of participation … I’m proud to see what we accomplished together."
Adams worked with students on their academics as well as movement and self-development activities to build confidence and model healthy relationships. His experience was also supported by funding from the Summer Experience Fund, part of the Zankel Experience Network.
Fighting for dignity and equality
Fred Braunstein ’08 is using his knowledge as an attorney to ensure transgender and nonbinary people are treated with dignity and equality under the law — in big and small ways.
For example, he has helped dozens of transgender and nonbinary individuals navigate the legal process of changing their names. “The unfortunate truth is that violence is common when trans or nonbinary people encounter a person who doesn’t ‘understand’ their name. I want that to end,” he said.
Braunstein also does pro bono work with Lambda Legal and recently had a precedent-setting win in a civil rights litigation case advocating for an incarcerated transgender woman to receive important medical care.
Braunstein joined that case, and others like it, because he's not afraid to take on a tough issue if civil rights are on the line. “I try to get involved in cases like these because they’re often the ones ignored. It’s hard for a law firm to pursue litigation for someone convicted of a crime. But incarcerated people are people. They still have rights and deserve equality and trans people need that much more support.”
Braunstein encourages students and other Skidmore community members interested in work like his to follow and support the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.
A family of givers
Going above and beyond
Through and through, the Skidmore community is a family of givers, who demonstrate acts of kindness and benevolence, in big ways and small, every day.
Ahead of the Thanksgiving break, Skidmore’s award-winning Dining Services team worked to prepare heat-and-serve turkey and vegetarian dinners, so students on campus could enjoy a holiday meal. Skidmore Campus Safety officers are distributing the meals on Thanksgiving Day.
Caring, connecting, and giving are also at the heart of Skidmore Cares, the annual campus-wide initiative that brings the Skidmore community together to help local agencies and neighbors in need.
Since its launch in 2006, the program has raised over $123,900 for community causes and distributed nearly 60,000 food items, toiletries, and school supplies. This year’s effort kicks off Dec. 6.