Career Spotlight - Sofia Lackiram

Photo of Sofia Lackiram
Thursday, December 31, 2020

What is your current role at Yale University?

My current role is Assistant Director of the Afro-American Cultural Center affectionately known as “The House”. I’ve been at Yale since September 23, 2019.

What are your main responsibilities?

  • Daily Operational oversight of the Center and general maintenance
  • Oversee Student leadership Development, All House Residential Student Groups (35+): Student Org Advising and Office Hours, Advisory Board Meetings, Facilitate All Student Org Council Meetings and oversee House Res Group Monthly Newsletters
  • Co-create and Facilitate Intercultural Staff Training with Peer Colleagues from the other 3 cultural centers (La Casa, NACC & AACC)
  • General/Open Advising via Office Hours for all House Community members
  • Directly Supervise the House’s Peer Liaison Team
  • Serve as the AFAM50 Conference Team Chair
  • Directly Supervise all House Staff, both Undergrad & Grad (Student Assistants, Peer Liasions, Graduate Assistant - 27 in total for 20-21 FY): Staff Meetings, All staff semesterly trainings, weekly meetings with staff team groups
  • Execute all student staff hiring annually and manage their student employment portals (timesheets, etc.)
  • Oversee all House Organization’s Budgets and Endowment Fund Applications
  • Supervise all planning, programming, and House efforts for the following:
  1. Student Leadership Development
  2. Wellness
  3. Intercultural & Social Justice
  4. Civic Engagement
  5. New Student Outreach & Programming
  6. Graduate and Professional Student Support
  7. Communications (Yale Connect Page, weekly newsletters, and Social Media Platforms) & Podcast
  8. AfAm House Merchandise
  9. Annual House Traditions and Events: Welcome Back BBQ, Black First Year Student Retreat, Jubilee Ceremony, Family and Friends Weekend, Harvard Yale Weekend/Thanksgiving, Winter Formal, Black History Month, Black Women’s Retreat, Bouchet Ball, Black Graduation

What do you like most about your work?

  • Engagement with and development of the students – they keep me young and on my toes
  • Connecting on a meaningful level, with various members of Black Yale and Black New Haven
  • Being embraced by and surrounded with love from the community at Yale, and specifically from my House Staff Team, and amazing Director, Dean Nelson
  • Motivation and inspiration from the students each and every day - blessed to be chosen to lead this community and guide students along their journeys, on their paths to success
  • This is my dream job – supporting and uplifting the voices, actions, creations, and dreams of Black Folks
  • My relationship with my Director, Dean Nelson

How does your job affect your general lifestyle?

It enhances my lifestyle as a person that is mixed race (identifies as Black-American, Afro-Latinx and Trini-Indian), through access to various experiences, opportunities, networks, etc. I stand taller and with more confidence in who I am and what I have to offer, knowing that I’m supported by my Director. Because of Yale’s benefits, I purchased a home through the homebuyers program to finally be in a position where I plan to and can call the city I work in home

How did you begin your career?

I worked in Student Affairs during undergrad at UMass Lowell in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. I was determined to achieve an entry point into student affairs, so much so that I went to the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) at UMass Lowell, every day until they hired me. I became a Diversity Peer Educator and served as the Co-Social Chair, VP, where I eventually became the President of SISTERS (Sisters of Integrity Striving Towards Empowerment Respect and Success). This was after coaching and mentorship from my director Supervisor and Sister, Sade Jean-Jacques (who now works at QU in Hamden, CT); where I fell in love with Student Affairs and the tireless but rewarding work that goes into the day to day functions of my role in SISTERS and the OMA office (that helped create opportunities, programs and support systems for paths of success for students of color). Post OMA , I worked at Regis College in Human Resources and in the Center for Inclusive Excellence, while getting my masters in organizational and professional communication with my thesis being a qualitative study on the self-care tactics for Black Women in Higher Education. I served as a member of the Bystander Committee Member and as a member of the Conduct Board at Regis College. Prior to Yale/Most recent position/From Regis I went to Dartmouth College working in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership as a Program Coordinator for Community and Leadership Development, specifically supporting Black/African-American and First Generation - Low-Income Undergraduate Student communities on campus. I received Dartmouth’s “Lorna C. Hill ’73 Award” at the 2019 Annual Lorna C. Hill ’73 Graduation Celebration and Kente Stole Ceremony, for excelling in my role, providing support, mentorship, and an invaluable service to the Black Community. I also received Dartmouth’s 2019 “Sacrifice Award”, for inspiring, motivating, and creating a lasting impact on Black students, was nominated for the “Black Lady Genius Award”, at Dartmouth’s Black Legacy Month 2019 recognition ceremony, received the “Award of Excellence” by the Division of Student Affairs at Dartmouth College, for “Winterim” 2018, was nominated for Dartmouth’s 2018 “Anna J. Cooper Award”, for dedication to student success in and out of the classroom, and was nominated for the “Nelson “Nels” Armstrong Award”, for making valuable contributions to the Dartmouth Class of 2018. I served as a member of the Money Matters Barrier Removal Committee at Dartmouth College, as a Council Member for the EmpowHER (women of color) Employee Resource Network at Dartmouth College, and as a Member of the Black Caucus and Latinx Hispanic Council Employee Resource Networks at Dartmouth College.

What steps would you recommend one take to prepare to enter this field?

  • Have critical listening skills
  • Develop strong self-awareness, sense of self, and self-advocacy
  • Be confident because people will try you (including students) but you need to be able to double down on what you believe so you aren’t taken advantage of
  • If you are in a leadership role supporting students, one should (develop the skill and…) be able to advocate confidently on their behalf
  • Stay in tune with and up to date on current Higher Ed trends, specifically for student populations that you support
  • For personal success and balance - Develop and secure folks for your “Personal Advisory Board”: Spiritual, Professional, Physical, Academic, Personal, Wellness and specifically Mental to keep you grounded and in a forward/successful trajectory

What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/this field?

  • Good working relationship with your supervisor and peer colleague teams – Shoutout to Dean Nelson, love you sis!
  • Clear communication
  • Organization
  • Raw leadership
  • Active listening
  • Multi-tasking
  • Flexibility
  • Time management
  • Diverse Leadership style
  • Macro and micro thought processing, planning and execution/approach
  • Positive attitude/Optimism and Joy
  • Genuine care for yourself and others
  • Compassion and empathy

If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same path for yourself? If not, what would you change?

I try not to live with regrets and so for that reason I wouldn’t do anything differently - God lead me to the spaces and places that I learned from and lived through (to better understand myself and my path) for a reason, to get me to where I am now (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, career-wise) and for that I’m forever blessed and grateful. I would potentially change my mindset – meaning to never doubt myself (undergrad and grad school days). I knew who I was then and what I wanted to do, but in the past had allowed outside influences to distract me from the path I knew deep down I wanted to take (student affairs/engagement work).

What does YAAA mean to you and how have you contributed as a member?

I do my best to attend as many events as possible and all steering committee meetings. I actively support their community work events, connect with their partnerships to connect them to the AfAm House and various resources the House has to offer, and contribute towards YAAA’s wellness initiatives. YAAA supports the broader New Haven community in various ways – I specifically am a part of the Fair Haven community and try to bridge those to resources whenever possible, to do my part as an active civically engaged resident. YAAA also means extending my (Yale) family beyond the Cultural Center community by creating genuine relationships with members – Shoutout to Fallon, Cherice, Reese, Marinda, and Chris Brown!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The work of Black Women is often stolen, erased, or not acknowledged. With that said, I’m grateful to be highlighted for this interview, but must state that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for my supervisor, Dean Nelson (the only Black Woman Dean in Yale College and First Director of the House that’s actually from New Haven), and the foresight she saw in me during my interview days, by offering me this role, believing in me, supporting me fully (holistically in all the ways), and challenging me to grow to continue on the path to being all that I can and want to be in life.