Commencement is a special day for every graduating senior and their family, but particularly so for Chelsea Brown ’23, who was not only selected as a University Scholar, but chosen to represent the group by speaking at Commencement.
“Because Commencement falls on Mother’s Day, I incorporated that theme into my remarks, about how as students, we find maternal figures at the University,” she says.
Each year, 12 seniors are named University Scholars, the highest honor the University bestows to undergraduates. For Brown, the honor signifies that she achieved her goal of getting the most possible out of her college experience. “I don’t think of myself as someone who intentionally sets the bar high, I just want to make the most out of everything I do,” she says.
A native of Miami, Brown came to Syracuse University on a Posse Scholarship. She double majored in television radio and film (TRF) in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and citizenship and civic engagement (CCE) in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, feeding her dual passions for storytelling and community impact.
Through her CCE major, Brown partnered with the La Casita Cultural Center on a project to market the organization to raise awareness of it among students of color. Using her TRF skills, she created an interactive documentary that provided a 360-degree tour, allowing viewers to click and listen to overview information as well as stories from students using the space.
“My greater research project looked at the ways predominantly white institutions support students of color, and comparing institutions, I found that lots of times there are things in place, but students just don’t know about them,” she says.
An Our Time Has Come Scholar, Brown plays tuba and is the tuba leader in the Syracuse University marching band, serves as vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists and spent three years as a peer leader of the First Year Seminar. Her article “To Be Seen and Heard in Newhouse is a Protest of Injustice,” written for The Daily Orange, won the David Ruben First Amendment prize for its defense of the First Amendment and was later used in some classrooms to encourage open dialogue on racial relations on campus.
Brown served as documentary director at the Maxwell School’s Dynamic Sustainability Lab, which conducts research and promotes sustainable practices, and as a research assistant for Code Shift, a collaboratory research organization based at the Newhouse School for communication and data justice. Through Code Shift, Brown co-authored a paper about open dialogue on college campuses that was accepted into the 73rd annual International Communication Association Conference in Toronto, where she presented her work.
She also participated in the Idea Challenge, a collaboration between Code Shift and the iSchool, using AI software to create a comic book on a theme of future justice. Her team’s project used the book banning movement in Florida to create a story about a girl trying to uncover lost history, winning the $1,000 first prize.
Brown also spent a semester studying in Copenhagen as a Gilman Scholar. “I spent time there studying cultural diversity and integration and that’s where I really found my love for immersive story telling.”
After taking a gap year, Brown hopes to pursue a graduate degree in innovative technologies and storytelling. “I’m really thankful to all the professors and mentors I’ve had at Syracuse who have helped me along my way,” she says.