Lender Center Fellowship Offers Students an Opportunity to ‘Work Locally, Think Globally’

Posted on September 7, 2021


About three years ago, Seyeon Lee was invited by CenterState CEO, an economic development organization in Syracuse, to help design a women’s wellness center on the North Side of the city.

Lee, an associate professor of environmental and interior design in the School of Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), met with northside residents to conduct what is known as a design charrette—a wide-ranging discussion to determine if the design of the building matches the needs of the people who are going to use it.

The Northside Women’s Wellness Center, which is run by the Central New York YMCA, opened in the fall of 2020 as “a welcoming and accessible space in the heart of the North Side, where women from all socio-economic backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities can purse wellness,” according to the center’s website.

That was the goal, but is that the reality? Is the center being utilized as intended, and if not, what else can be done to maximize its use? And what lessons from that building can be applied to other spaces in the city that are available to residents but not necessarily accessible?

Those are the questions that will be asked and answered by Lee and a group of Syracuse University students who will be selected to participate in the 2021-23 Lender Center for Social Justice Fellowship. This is the Lender Center’s third fellowship and Lee will follow Casarae Lavada Abdul-Ghani and Jonnell Robinson as faculty fellows for the program that was created to critically explore contemporary social issues and develop sustainable solutions to pressing problems.

“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, who is also the George Miller Quasi Endowed Professor in the School of Design. “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.”

Kendall Phillips, co-director of the Lender Center, says the two-year timetable for the fellowships is to allow for the faculty fellow and student fellows to spend a year identifying a problem and the next year trying to fix it. He said Lee’s project fits nicely with the previous fellowships that focused on justice messages on social media, and designing more equitable food systems.

“This new focus on health and wellness for women demonstrates how widespread issues of social justice are in our contemporary world,” says Phillips, a communication and rhetorical studies professor in VPA. “This new project will explore these issues of global importance here in Syracuse, which is a great example of working locally while thinking globally.”

The fellowship is open to any Syracuse University undergraduate or graduate student who can commit to the two-year project, and selected students will receive a stipend of $500 per year. For interested students, or faculty and staff who know students who are passionate about social justice, more information is available on the Lender Center Fellowship application page. Five students will be chosen, and the application deadline is Oct. 15.

Read the entire article from Syracuse University, here.

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