At the University of Maine, Claudia Cummings had an engaged undergraduate student experience. As a result, she found her voice that now inspires others. Cummings is the recipient of the 2020 Sharon Barker Student Activism Award for her work to enrich communities through social justice advocacy.
Cummings, a member of the Penobscot Nation from Indian Island in Old Town, found her academic passion in the School of Social Work, where she says professors are compassionate and inviting, and peers truly care about their education and each other.
In particular, professor Robin Russel discussed social work through the lens of politics and policy, and encouraged Cummings to apply to Maine New Leadership. The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center program is designed to prepare young women to seek and hold elected office and leadership roles.
Last October, Cummings ran for a seat on the Indian Island Tribal Council, where she is now the youngest member ever elected and is serving a four-year term.
On campus, Cummings’ involvement included serving as vice president of Yarn Over Orono, a student organization that builds community through fiber arts education. She also represented the Penobscot Nation and UMaine’s Native student population on the Penobscot Language Signage Committee, the group that motivated installation of bilingual campus signage in Penobscot and
Cummings earned her bachelor’s degree in social work last May and is now in the master’s program. She plans to work in Maine to address social justice issues, including substance use disorder and domestic violence.