We sat down with Dean Grimes to learn more about her volunteer work.
How is this recognition meaningful to you?
This is a tremendous honor. I lived most of my life with the idea that you are supposed to serve others or do something to give back. And you don’t do those things thinking that someone is going to recognize you. That’s sort of the whole point—giving back to others in a way that you’re not doing it for yourself, but to basically bless someone else’s life. So this means the world to me that someone would think that the things I do are worth recognizing.
What aspect of your community and public service are you most proud of and why?
Helping young people or children was always part of my early life. Before I was even old enough to work legally, I was helping to take care of younger kids. By the time I got to college, I tutored as part of my work-study, and that felt good to me. About a decade ago, I established a nonprofit that helps the faith community understand and get to the truth of domestic violence. I’m proud of that work and the fact that we have raised money to help people coming out of those situations and have even been recognized for this by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. On the academic side, I’ve enjoyed being a faculty advisor and mentor to my students since my first teaching days. When my students, who are now professionals with their own lives and careers, still keep in touch, that’s a nice reminder that what I did was worth it. My sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, is dedicated to serving the public and community. Whether it is feeding the hungry or raising money for scholarships, those things continue to mean a great deal to me now and in my own personal life.
As dean of Dyson College and the School of Education, what have your observations been regarding the importance of public service at Pace?
One of the nicest things about being at Pace is seeing what people are doing outside of the classroom, and both Dyson and the School of Education (SOE) have tremendous faculty and student involvement in community service. We’re working very hard to make sure that our students have that civic engagement experience. I see faculty involved in a lot of community work as well: artists and writers taking their classes into the community, for example, and making an impact there. So we have a lot of really exciting people in both Dyson and SOE, and I will also say, the Sands College of Performing Arts, because our faculty there are also involved in the larger community. Everybody has their niche and their way to connect. It’s also exciting to see us writing grants to try to connect with our folks in New York City and in our neighborhoods.
Who inspired you to volunteer?
I think because I grew up in a faith community, there was always the assumption that you don’t just sit around, you give. Certainly, my mom and grandmother were always giving. My grandmother was a wonderful cook; my grandparents were immigrants from the Caribbean, and my grandmother would make traditional foods and give them to people at Christmas instead of buying gifts. My mom was a musician and would play in church and for people at their weddings, and my mother’s brother was a social worker, helping people make positive changes in their lives. They weren’t looking for anything in return. So I grew up around that.
Do you have any advice on first steps for those interested in making a positive impact and improving the lives of others?
Follow your heart. What are the things that interest you? What is your passion? Also, what are the things that you see are missing in the world? Sometimes we are looking for other people to fill gaps, but maybe you’re the only one who sees that, right? So start small with the things that you notice are missing. And you don’t have to do this by yourself. Partner with others; they will be happy to have your help, and you can learn from them, too. I attended workshops about domestic violence and human trafficking through Not on My Watch, a training program for faith leaders. It was something I was grateful to be a part of, because I learned a lot about human trafficking, areas where girls were at risk, and how to spot this in our own communities. So begin to think about how you can be a positive impact. There are so many ways you can make a difference.
More Dyson Jefferson Award Winners
Five Dyson students were also named 2022-2023 Pace Bronze Medal Jefferson Award winners, recognized at the university level for their commitment to public and volunteer service.
Julie Bazile ’23, Environmental Studies (PLV)
Bazile assisted in registering more than 100 students to vote through the Center for Community Action and Research (CCAR). Bazile also worked at the Pleasantville Mobile Food Pantry; hosted workshops on social justice; and volunteered for Sean Casey Animal Rescue, Girl Be Heard, and Day One.
Julia Corrado ’23, BA Environmental Studies/ MA Environmental Policy (NYC/PLV)
Corrado lobbied for environmental legislation as an undergraduate with Pace’s Environmental Policy Clinic before continuing to work with the clinic as a graduate fellow. She has also worked to control invasive vegetation with the Prospect Park Alliance, externed at the Hudson Valley office of US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and helped the Waterfront Alliance pass legislation mandating flood disclosure for New York City renters.
Samara Durgadin ’25, Behavioral Neuroscience (NYC)
Vice president of Pace Circle K International (a nonprofit organization focused on service, leadership, and fellowship), Durgadin is also actively involved in service outside of Pace, volunteering weekly in pediatric and geriatric hospice units in New York City and Delaware.
Danielle Harari ’24, Criminal Justice (NYC)
As a UN Millennium Fellow, Harari launched a project on period poverty (an issue regarding menstrual product accessibility), hosting a Social Justice Week event on the topic, helping host a menstrual product drive, and partnering with campus stakeholders for the creation of a QR code that ensures constant access to menstrual products in all campus bathrooms, regardless of gender.
Tasfia Rahim ’23, Economics and Political Science (NYC)
Rahim served as the student projects coordinator for CCAR, advocating for voter rights, immigration rights, and food security. As part of her time as a UN Millennium Fellow, Rahim helped launch Fare Trade in fall 2021, an initiative dedicated to combatting food insecurity on campus. This past year, Rahim helped grow the program, including advocating for a paid staff position and expanding the program to the Pleasantville campus for fall 2023.