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She wants to change the world, starting at Mason

March 6, 2020   /   by Hannah Harmison

Sophomore Shelby Adams was recognized with a Spirit of King Award for her efforts to make Mason a more inclusive learning environment. Photo by Lathan Goumas/Office of Communications and Marketing.

Sophomore Shelby Adams said she works every day to make George Mason University a more inclusive learning environment.

“I try my very best to be a resource because I care about people and want people to feel like they have a place on this campus and feel as though they are supported,” she said.

But the criminology, law, and society major from Lorton, Virginia, went a step further.

“I am very passionate about social justice and human rights,” she said. “I want to change the world.”

Adams serves in two key leadership roles on campus: chair of the Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Committee in the Student Senate and vice president of Mason’s chapter of the NAACP.

As chair of the Diversity and Multicultural Affairs Committee, Adams leads initiatives to include a more diverse group of registered student organizations (RSO) in committee meetings.

“Shelby has proposed and passed resolutions within Student Government that show appreciation for different cultures. She has strengthened relationships between multicultural RSOs on campus,” said Dominique Dowling, president of Mason’s NAACP chapter and a sophomore integrative studies major.

Adams became vice president of the NAACP last summer in its time of need. The organization was nearly dropped from campus as an RSO when it did not have a faculty advisor. Adams and Dowling stepped up to fill the vacant leadership roles with no faculty guidance.

They approached Philip Wilkerson, creative industry advisor in Mason’s University Career Services, to be the organization’s new advisor.

“They had to save the NAACP [chapter],” Wilkerson said. “The more I saw how much work and care went into it, the more I thought, ‘Let me support them more.’ I’m amazed by them.”

At the recent MLK Evening of Reflection, Mason’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education (ODIME) honored Adams with the student Spirit of King Award, which recognizes a student who has made an exceptional contribution to the development of an inclusive learning environment.

“Receiving this award has proven to me that I am taking the right steps toward the change I want to make,” Adams said.

Wilkerson was recognized as the staff recipient of a Spirit of King Award. ODIME also recognized the Mason NAACP chapter with the Superior Service Award.

Led by Adams and Dowling, the NAACP chapter worked to expand voter registration among students and in Fairfax. It participated in the PERIOD rally to improve access to menstrual hygiene products to those who cannot afford them, and it worked to raise awareness about the stigma and discrimination faced by the transgender community.

“If Shelby gets into politics she’ll be a congresswoman, justice, or district attorney,” Wilkerson said. “I don’t see her doing anything average. She’ll be a leader no matter what she does, and she’ll excel at whatever she does. She can do anything.”

“From the very beginning, my family always taught me how to care for other people,” Adams said. “Creating an inclusive environment for everyone can be hard to accomplish, but I won’t let that stop me from doing my best.”