Breaking Down Barriers, Building Up Bridges

Sydni Harmon ’17
Acceptance to a prestigious undergraduate fellows program marks the beginning of a career in higher education for Sydni Harmon ’17.

If Sydni Harmon ’17 sees an issue, she cannot sit back and be passive about it. She believes that everyone needs a support system, and building that support system is a task she is willing to take on.

“I am striving to push my peers that are also part of the under-represented community to push past these obstacles that we are all facing. Being a young black woman has influenced me to take on the role of helping and assisting other minorities in the future with their decisions and plans,” says Harmon, a psychology major from Toledo.

Harmon will have some solid background to support her in her goal. She has been accepted to an undergraduate fellow program run by NASPA, a leading national association for student affairs professionals. Harmon, who is interested in pursuing a profession in higher education, said, “Seeing how students transform themselves in the college setting into leaders and develop their professional skills—it is really something I would like to help them do in the future.”

“Being a young black woman has influenced me to take on the role of helping and assisting other minorities in the future with their decisions and plans.”

Harmon’s mentor is Erik Farley ’03, associate dean of students and director of Multicultural Student Affairs, who encouraged her to apply to the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program. He describes Harmon as someone who both breaks down barriers and builds up bridges.

“Sydni helps make the process of developing cross-cultural competence in our students possible due to her excellent attention to detail and ingenuity,” Farley said. “Her thoughtful questions not only assist our faculty, staff and students with expressing and exploring culture and identity, but challenge us to critically analyze and intellectually explore what might be unfamiliar territory.”

Moving out of her comfort zone to get a different perspective on her views is an experience that Harmon herself values. A course in Queer Studies is one way she pursued a broader outlook.

“I didn’t know what the content was going to be about—but the different intersectionalities really interested me; the ways that different backgrounds can have such an influence on the choices people make about themselves,” she said.

Harmon was a member of the varsity women’s basketball team during her first year at Denison, but she made the difficult decision to take time off from being a student-athlete.

“I developed myself as a leader through sports, but I wanted to figure out how I could take that leadership and put it in other aspects of life, like getting involved with other organizations—and in life in general.”

Both Harmon’s parents are higher education administration professionals. Her mother is the Dean at Norfolk State University in Virginia and her father is an associate vice president at Iowa State University. Both Harmon and her mother will be attending a conference in the spring put on by NASPA.

Harmon is looking forward to the meeting. “This is exciting for me because I am going to interact with people who are in the position I want to be in,” she said. “It is an opportunity to really get a head start on what I want to do with my career, to get hands on experience in higher education and student affairs.”

    March 4, 2015