Pamela Bozeman-Evans, the director of the University Community Service Center (UCSC) and the resident head of Chamberlin house, answered the question "What matters to me and why" for a group of several dozen students in the South Lounge of the Reynolds Club yesterday. Hers is the fifth talk in a series sponsored by Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.
"What matters to me is wrapped up in who I am as a female, an African-American, and one from a very local, grassroots, political family in Chicago," she told the crowd.
With a style that sent the crowd into frequent bouts of laughter, she narrated life stories that have shaped her worldview, including her well-informed backing of political candidates as an elementary schoolgirl, her foibles and follies agitating for change as head of the Black Student's Union in college, and her experiences with students and service at the University.
"I am most concerned about the human condition, particularly the members of our global family that are forced to live on the fringes of society," Bozeman-Evans said. She is a native Chicagoan from the South Side who attended Kenwood Academy and Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb. After graduation, she returned to work in Chicago in the nonprofit sector. She then came to the University, where she has worked for the past five years.
As a college student at NIU, Bozeman-Evans found herself, as an African-American, in the minority. She became active in promoting change, which sometimes led to trouble. "I was in a race riot; I had a fire bomb thrown at my car...I couldn't order a pizza in my name because I was president of the Black Student Union," she said.
Other incidents were more humorous, such as the time when she protested the lack of minority professors. "When the day came, I was the only one that showed up so I just marched to [the president's] office by myself and knocked on the door and told him I wasn't leaving until he hired more minority professors," she said. "He was a nice man...he had a sleeping bag for me, had dinner for me, and gave me his authorization code so I could use the phone to call my parents and tell them where I was. He said he had to go, but he would meet with me first thing in the morning. I left after a couple hours, because, what's the point?"
She met with him first thing the next morning and laid out her demands. He readily assented, and new minority professors, including a minority dean, were hired shortly thereafter; apparently, recruitment of minority faculty had already been in the works.
"I figure I was probably born too late," she said. "My parents and their generation seemed to have pushed just enough for change that people were already willing to change things when I pushed for them."
Bozeman-Evans brings the energies and experiences of both her college career and a decade of experience as a professional in Chicago to UCSC. The center sponsors and organizes a number of lectures and activities each quarter which are geared toward community service. She also runs the Summerlinks program, which provides College students with summer community service internships. "Service is the rent we pay on living," she remarked at one point during her speech.
A number of those involved in UCSC programs showed up to hear the speech and give their support, including Shawn Lavoie, a second-year in the College and former Summerlinks participant who mentioned that Bozeman-Evans is one of the members of the College community whom he regularly seeks out for conversation. "She's the person that I ask the big 'why' questions...[People] like this are few and far between, and when you find them, you should hold on to them," Lavoie said.