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Lender Student Fellows Think Globally, Act Locally to Ease Struggles for Underrepresented Population

February 25, 2022

SU News

An interest in social as well as reproductive justice. A desire to deepen connections between a university and the community in which it’s located. Reducing the struggles of female refugees and their children. It’s true the current cohort of Lender Center student fellows bring a variety of interests from a diverse educational background. However, they all have one thing in common: a goal of making the Syracuse community and the world a better place to live.

This past fall, five new student fellows were selected to work with Seyeon Lee, associate professor of environmental and interior design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ (VPA) School of Design. Their two year project involves the Northside Women’s Wellness Center, run by the YMCA and branded as a facility where women from all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages and ethnicities can pursue wellness. Lee’s expertise was sought by local officials to help design the facility and, with her leadership, Lender Center student fellows will help determine if the building matches the needs of the people who use it.

“The core idea of this is: how can we use this space as a hub and connect it with other parts of the community?” says Lee. “There is a ton of community space that is underutilized, a lot of pockets of opportunities that are lost, and that’s where I would look to engage with the students with their different perspectives and backgrounds.”

For their part, Lender Center student fellows are thrilled with the opportunity to work with Lee.

“Dr. Lee is extremely talented and I am so honored to be working very closely with her,” says Roselynne Hodges ’23. “I’m the only VPA design student (my major is environmental and interior design and my minor is architecture) that was selected for this fellowship. I was interested in this opportunity from the beginning because it was a collaboration between students across different colleges at Syracuse. I loved this idea of bringing students with different backgrounds together to make a positive impact on the community that we live in. This project would directly work to try it ease some of these struggles that female refugees and their children face. “

Taylor M. John ’22 typifies the wide range of backgrounds and experiences of Lender student fellows.

Taylor John“I am excited for this fellowship and grateful for the opportunity to serve under Dr. Lee’s guidance,“ says John, a citizenship and civic engagement and international relations major and Chinese language minor. “I chose to apply to this fellowship because of my interest in social justice, wellness, and reproductive justice. I am a full spectrum doula through Sankofa Reproductive Health and Healing Center in Syracuse, so it was only fitting that I apply to join this team to further expand my knowledge of Syracuse and its community. “

But it’s not only expansion of knowledge of Syracuse and Central New York. For Lender student fellows, the focus is also worldwide. Iona Volynets ’23 is a history and international relations major interested in studying how societies vary across the globe and change over time, along with how unjust disparities occur and how they are solved. “I’m honored to be part of the Lender Center project to try to leave a positive impact on Syracuse and to work with some of its vulnerable populations to provide them with the tools they need to be healthy and secure,” says Volynets. “I hope to focus on addressing potential linguistic barriers, expanding green spaces and access to nutritious food, and on the healing power of creative outlets. I cannot wait to embark on this wonderful opportunity and I am so grateful to Dr. Lee and everyone at the Lender Center.”

For Ana Aponte ’24, a communication and rhetorical studies major in VPA, being a Lender student fellow  is an opportunity to deepen the connection between the Syracuse University community and the rest of the city at large.

“Due to my upbringing and the values I was raised with, connecting with those communities is something that I have always valued because it creates an environment where we can all learn from each other’s experiences and needs within the society we live in nowadays,” she says. “The Lender Center for Social Justice is a great opportunity to learn do just this and value humanity even more.”

Student fellows not only come from diverse backgrounds, but also represent young people from undergraduate and graduate programs alike. Aaishanni Agny, a graduate student in the School of Education, is among them.

“In my understanding, local realities, resources, and socio-cultural issues are best known and understood by grassroots community members. I am passionate about making mental health resources accessible to diverse populations and enjoy exploring the role of family systems, culture and identity in the same. I am honored to be able to work with the Lender Center, Dr Lee, and the other fellows in participatory research and dialogue, thereby engaging in work that directly promotes social justice, better public health and emotional resilience,” says Agny.

The Lender Faculty Fellowship supports a two-year research agenda to critically and creatively explore contemporary social issues, develop innovative approaches to these problems, and implement useful and sustainable initiatives. Dr. Lee is the third faculty fellow, following Casarae Lavada Abdul-Ghani and Jonnell Robinson, fellows for the program that was created to critically explore contemporary social issues and develop sustainable solutions to pressing problems. The Lender Center is now seeking its next faculty fellow for the two-year appointment. More information about the fellowship, along with how to apply, can be found on the Lender Center’s website.

By Keith Kobland

Communications and Media Relations Office
200 Eggers Hall