Courtesy of Cornell University

Sherell Farmer '22, this year's Newman Fellow, fosters a deep passion for social justice and community service in Ithaca.

March 25, 2021

Sherell Farmer ’22 Awarded Distinguished Newman Civic Fellowship for Community Engagement

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Earlier this month, President Martha Pollack selected Sherell Farmer ’22 for Cornell’s 2021-22 Newman Civic Fellowship, which rewards students involved in social justice and community service by providing funding to an organization/nonprofit of the fellow’s choosing.

A total of 212 students have been chosen from campuses across the country to participate in the program, which supports students with a commitment to community and problem solving. The Fellowship includes a national convention of all Fellows, virtual events, leadership development with an assigned mentor and the opportunity to engage and form connections with other participants. 

Fellows are nominated by the president of their respective universities at Campus Compact member colleges. Campus Compact is a cohort of universities around the nation dedicated to “civic education and community development.” 

As Cornell’s representative, Farmer will receive a stipend, an award for her chosen community partner and funding for travel to Campus Compact conventions with the goal of allowing her to continue and enhance her community service work.

Majoring in industrial and labor relations and minoring in inequality studies, law and society and history, Farmer has dedicated much of her time at Cornell to social justice and community service. 

“I’m hoping we can create sustainable change at Cornell, and I’m hoping that Newman and talking with the other fellows can help me figure out how to get that going here,” Farmer said. 

Last summer, she co-founded the organization Cornell Students 4 Black Lives in an effort to amplify the Black Lives Matter movement on campus. The organization has since raised over $110,000 to combat anti-Black racism locally and nationally. 

Before her sophomore year, Farmer served as a High Road Fellow with ILR and the Buffalo Co-Lab, where she spent a summer researching economic challenges in Buffalo. Throughout the pandemic, she has coordinated and improved a free legal clinic at the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen, a local Christian ministry dedicated to reducing community food instability

Farmer went on to choose Loaves and Fishes, as her community partner to receive funding.

Mike Bishop, Cornell’s fellowship advisor and director for student leadership at the office of engagement initiatives, who first met Farmer during her time as a High Road Fellow, expressed that she was a perfect fit for the Newman Fellowship.

“What really struck me was her ability to work with community, to listen to community and not just be a lone individual leader, but to work collectively and collaboratively,” Bishop said. “And that’s really what the Newman Civic Fellowship is all about.”

During the summer of 2020, Farmer also participated in the Cornell Defender Program, a new program dedicated to expanding local community access to legal advice and aid. Through the program she met Michaela Rossettie Azemi, director of pro bono services & externships at the law school, who encouraged her to apply for the Newman Fellowship

“I think the world of Sherell,” Azemi said. “I think she’s a go-getter, somebody who cares a lot about social justice issues and I’ve had the good fortune of being able to see her work in action in a couple different ways.”

Going forward, Farmer is interested in learning about the work that the other Newman fellows are doing in their communities. 

“I want to learn lessons that I can bring back to Cornell on how to activate the next group of activists here,” she said.