Feb. 28, 2013
Beck honored for Brooklyn service projects
Sam Beck, senior lecturer and director of the College of Human Ecology's Urban Semester Program, received the 2013 Daisy Lopez Leadership Award from Churches United for Fair Housing (CUFFH) in Brooklyn, N.Y., Feb. 20.
The award honors Beck's work with community partners to improve the lives of low- and middle-income families in Brooklyn, many of whom have lost their homes or face displacement as the borough gentrifies. In the past decade, the borough's residential property values - particularly those of North Brooklyn - have exploded.
The grassroots CUFFH advocates for affordable housing in North Brooklyn and its mission has grown to include job training, youth development, education, health care and related issues. Beck has served on the CUFFH board since 2007.
A social and cultural anthropologist, Beck leads Urban Semester students in a variety of engaged learning projects to benefit Brooklyn residents. Working with CUFFH leaders, they analyzed 2010 Census data to document the redistribution of racial groups, identifying where Latino, white and Asian populations are clustering as a result of gentrification. Cornell students have also helped extend CUFFH's reach, producing videos about the organization and uncovering churches and neighborhood groups in North Brooklyn to join its cause.
In addition to his work with CUFFH, Beck serves on the board of Re-Connect, a Brooklyn nonprofit that cultivates educational, economic and civic engagement opportunities for unemployed young men. He helped form the Los Sures Museum, which documents the decades-long redevelopment of Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood by community leaders. Beck and Cornell students curated its first photographic exhibit in 2012.
"Because the Urban Semester has made a long-term commitment to North Brooklyn, the community understands the work students carry out at CUFFH and other organizations, and we are not seen as outsiders dropping into their community to do our work and leaving," Beck said. "We are there semester after semester. They see us as allies in their work. It is a unique privilege for the university and students to be able to contribute to the improvement of people's lives in this way."
Urban Semester, open to all Cornell juniors and seniors, is a year-round immersion program through which undergraduates study and pursue professional internships and service projects in New York City.
Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.