Sydney Carr, a Ph.D. candidate in the joint public policy and political science doctoral program, is a scholar of race and gender politics, focusing on the representations of Black women political elites and the experiences they face among the American public in news media. As more Black women enter politics, Carr is particularly interested in the circumstances under which they face biases in the public, how those biases emerge in the media, and to what extent media coverage changes or impacts those biases. Connecting to her leadership of SCOR, she studies ways that people from marginalized backgrounds face new challenges.
Tell us about SCOR’s work and membership.
SCOR, which stands for Students of Color of Rackham, is one of three Rackham student organizations. We’re very historical: SCOR was built in an effort to benefit or improve the lives of graduate students of color at U-M. We do a ton of things, including social events, professional-based events, as well as community service. Those are our pillars—leadership, service, community. Students of color face a lot of challenges, and being from marginalized backgrounds adds to other stressors like coursework and finances, especially in an intense space like graduate school. We’re trying to help that. We’re really about giving graduate students of color a place where they can come and feel welcome in the midst of the larger graduate school environment.
SCOR is open to anyone to join. Even though it’s the students of color organization, it’s open to all students. We’re a very open community; we want everyone to feel welcome and participate in our events.
You talked about how SCOR promotes professional and social growth alongside community service. What does it offer in terms of each of these?
In terms of professional development, we do a few things. We hold a social justice symposium every year with a research presentation component. Students can share their work with other members of the community. We also hold an annual professional headshots event, in which we have a professional photographer set up in the Law Quad. People seemed to really appreciate that.
Social events are one of our biggest things. We kick off each year with a welcome back barbecue. Last year, we were able to have that in person at a local park in Ann Arbor; we had food catered and games like cornhole. We also did a lot of virtual events in 2020 and 2021, like movie nights with food delivery from places like Pizza House. Along the same lines, we held a drive-in movie night two years ago. We showed the movie Us, and as people drove up we gave out snack boxes. Most recently, we did a virtual cooking class with a professional cooking company. We shipped boxes of ingredients to everyone participating, and they could follow along with the instructors online. We really pride ourselves on our ability to be creative, and even amid the pandemic to host responsible, socially distanced events that are still fun and engaging.
We’re also really big on community service. In fall 2021, we collected donations from members of our community to go toward a family we adopted—we partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Ypsilanti and raised about $700 for clothes and gifts. We held a wrapping party for members to get everything ready and dropped everything off to them. They really appreciated that. The year before, we did something similar with Ann Arbor public schools, donating gift cards to families in need. Prior to that, we worked in Detroit and put on a Halloween party for girls in a Detroit home. We typically try to plan our community service events around the holidays when folks are really in need, and we’ll continue to do that in the future.
Why is it important to have an organization like SCOR at U-M?
SCOR is the graduate student organization for students of color. We’re invested in graduate students of color. Because they come from marginalized groups, they can struggle with finding community. They moved from their families, this may be their first time in Michigan, and being maybe the only person like you in your classes can be a struggle. SCOR is a place for people to feel welcome and get away from the stressors of grad school.
What drew you to SCOR as a graduate student?
I was told about SCOR by someone in my department. She had been in SCOR for a long time and liked it, and thought I’d be into it. That was in the second year of my program, and I’m in my fourth now. I really enjoyed being part of the community and started helping as an event coordinator. I decided to stick with it and eventually became vice president and now president.
Does SCOR work with our other Rackham student organizations—Graduate Rackham International (GRIN) and Rackham Student Government (RSG)?
Yes, we partner with RSG and GRIN. We love working with them both—they’re fantastic. We all partnered on Fall Welcome to welcome students to campus, as well as on Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week events. We always work on collaborations with them when events warrant it. We usually come out and rally together when one of us takes a stance on something.
What would you like to see SCOR do in the near future?
I think that SCOR has a lot of potential to grow. I want to see more professional development events, because our students seem to particularly appreciate them. I’d also like to figure out ways to better advocate for students of color and get more involved in the social justice side of things. In June 2020, we held a town hall for students to voice their concerns, and I want to make sure we’re reaching them and doing the best we can.
What have been SCOR’s biggest recent accomplishments?
I really think it was our creativeness in the midst of the pandemic. When things began to shut down, we were planning our symposium. We had to learn to be creative, because on one hand we were running a lot of virtual events, but on the other students were feeling isolated. Graduate school can be isolating regardless, and the pandemic added another level to that. We wanted them to feel there was still a community and space for them. Our creativity and resiliency and ability to still build community amidst the pandemic was a huge accomplishment for us.