Shaneya Simmelkjaer

SUNY Cortland

I am nominating Shaneya N. Simmelkjaer to be SUNY Cortland’s Newman Civic Fellow. Ms. Simmelkjaer is a triple major in Criminology, Political Science, and African American Studies. Her accomplishments show her to be a champion for social justice.

Ms. Simmelkjaer has taken the initiative to organize and conduct activities through which she nurtures other students’ understanding of, and participation in, social justice issues. For example, as a teaching assistant for a first-year-experience class (COR 101), she applied her skills as a Peer Diversity Workshop-Certified trainer to facilitate lessons that helped students appreciate respect for other people’s experiences.

As Vice President of the Black Student Union, Ms. Simmelkjaer strengthened cultural competence at SUNY Cortland by organizing two town-hall meetings, a Microaggression workshop, and a series of meetings at which the participants explored ways of dealing with racism.

Ms. Simmelkjaer personifies the best in SUNY Cortland students: She demonstrates initiative, empathy, and collaboration as she works to strengthen social justice in the US. She will represent our college and the Newman Civic Fellowship admirably. I whole-heartedly nominate Sheneya Simmelkjaer to be SUNY Cortland’s Newman Civic Fellow for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Dr. Erik Bitterbaum
SUNY Cortland

Personal Statement

Throughout my college career, I have committed myself to increasing awareness of the socio-political issues that plague society, especially towards racial justice. As an African-American woman from a lower income family, I have experienced systemic oppression because of my race, class, and gender affiliations. Coming from the Bronx, New York, I have witnessed struggles such as extreme poverty and institutionalized racism that impede the progression of people of color. My knowledge of these issues has increased at SUNY Cortland through courses that expose the historical circumstances surrounding systemic oppression. Nevertheless, my activism was sparked by my experiences with day-to-day microaggressive encounters and feeling excluded in the classroom because I was one of the few or only students of color present. I learned that my experiences are not unique, as they are commonplace for students of color who attend predominantly white institutions. I joined the Black Student Union as Secretary, now I am Vice President. This organization helps me improve the experiences of students and faculty of color at the institution. Moving towards a truly inclusive society entails advocacy for dissolving racial justice issues and educating others about them, which is the ultimate goal of my civic engagement endeavors.

Shaneya Simmelkjaer
Criminology, Political Science, and African American Studies with a concentration in Sociological, Political, and Community Development: Class of 2021
written 2020

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