Summer Lopez Colorado
What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?
I think I hit a huge turning point when I took introduction to sociology my second semester at Cornell. It felt like I had finally found my intellectual home to study education and I excelled. I think the exact moment was after one discussion class when my TA came up to me and told me that I did a really great job and that if I was passionate about these issues I should read an article by Claude Steele on stereotype threat. Although this article was technically a psychology article, it was a pivotal moment.
What accomplishments/activities are you most proud of while at Cornell?
I'm very proud to have worked with an organization called REACH (Raising Educational Attainment CHallenge) my first two years. I tutored at Fall Creek Elementary and it was the best thing to be able to leave Cornell's campus to interact with the community, and take a step back to really live in this space. I'm also proud of studying abroad in Australia (it was the first time I was outside the country) and accepting my disability as a part of who I am. My first two years I worked with Cornell Union for Disability Awareness (CUDA) and I had a complicated relationship with my chronic illness. It really wasn't until I joined Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/ Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. and found a group of supportive women of color who were willing to advocate for me and really wanted what was best for me that I realized that I had been trying to hide that part of me and it was painful. With their help, I was able to reach out to my bosses and really engage and discuss what it meant to be disabled in the context of Cornell.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
Performing for "The Vagina Monologues." I remember watching them my first year at Cornell and I never made the time to be in it until my final year, and I couldn't have been happier with the feeling of being on stage and hearing the roar of the first set of laughter. I went up there with my cane and all and I just rocked it. All that stuff about hiding my disability and thinking about my chronic illness as this sad thing was just gone from my head — I was just doing my thing and making people laugh.
How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?
I generally became more interested in disability justice movements and ended up refocusing more of my research on racial/ethnic identity and intersectionality. I realized I was pansexual and I really had to grapple with the beliefs that I held about gender and sexuality that I had been fed all my life. I learned to challenge the belief that I could never be able to do certain things because I was too far behind. I never believed that I would commit myself to becoming Dr. Lopez Colorado, but I'm doing it and I actually believe in the power of my passion and commitment to me actually being able to do so (on my good days).