Programs and Activities: Advocacy Director, Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color (QTBIPOCA); Former Vice President, Senate of College Councils; Student Organizer, Texas Students for DEI; Former Director, Women’s Resource Agency; Research Assistant, Gxnecologx Justice lab
Meet Sameeha Rizvi, a senior majoring in public health and social work who is passionate about making the campus a welcoming place where all Longhorns can flourish. We caught up with her to learn more about her advocacy work and how she plans to continue moving the needle of progress forward in her future career.
How are you helping to make UT Austin a more welcoming place?
In my current role as advocacy director for QTBIPOCA, I had the fortunate experience of planning the BLOQ Party for incoming and returning students and allies. It was a rewarding experience planning this event, themed “Our Existence is the Resistance,” for our students during a time when queer and trans folks are not necessarily accepted in our society and are facing increasing discrimination. This was our way of showing them that they’re able to come to UT and feel like it’s their home.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
During my time in the Senate of College Councils, one of my biggest accomplishments was working to make that space, which is predominately white, into one that is more inclusive and welcoming of students of different backgrounds. One of my projects was working with student parents to recognize their accommodations in the syllabus, which was really empowering to experience. Although I’m not a student parent, getting to work with this community and bringing their concerns to the forefront was very important to me.
I’m also proud of my work with QTBIPOCA, which allowed me to create a community for marginalized students. These communities are so important for students who, like myself, hold different identities. When I first came to UT as a freshman, I knew I had to find a community, so I got involved in various identity-based organizations and Student Governing Organizations, which helped me channel my emotions and advocate for change.
What does it mean to you to be honored with the Heman Sweatt Legacy Award?
I’m incredibly honored to earn an award named after Heman Sweatt. Through learning about the legacy of Heman Sweatt, you come to understand that the fight for equality and inclusion on this campus was not an easy one, and it took years and years of fighting for students of color to be able to come to this campus and get a quality education. He taught me that persistence is the key to advocacy.
What’s your best piece of advice for new and returning Longhorns?
My best advice would be to find a community that will hold you up during times when you really need the support. Surround yourself with people who know your hardships and care for you when you’re struggling. Being a part of so many different communities, like the Multicultural Engagement Center and Student Governing Organizations, has been incredibly helpful. I’m a firm believer that leaders cannot do their work alone. Heman Sweatt wasn’t in this fight alone; he had communities and organizations helping him. So, that’s something I keep in mind when I’m doing this work.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I’m going to take a gap year or two. I haven’t really decided how long just yet, but I do know that I want to eventually go to grad school and get my master’s in either social work, education policy or law school. In the meantime, I want to continue working in the field of social justice.
Reporting by Abbie Bard