Retired Professor, Cornell University
Simon was a guest professor in the communications department and UWF’s first African American instructor. She was a featured presenter for the University’s Inclusion Series Spotlight in 2014, which was developed to build relationships cross-culturally and cross-socially and to profile individuals who set positive examples of leadership, advocacy and activism.
What’s your background before attending UWF?
I grew up in Pensacola and attended public and parochial schools during the era of segregation. I was among a handful of students who helped integrate Pensacola High School in the fall of 1963. In my graduating class of nearly 200 students, I was one of eight African Americans.
You’ve been described as a “trailblazer.” How was that true during your time as a student at UWF?
I attended UWF during a time when there were no African American faculty positions on campus. I co-founded the UWF Black Student Union [now the African American Student Association], serving as vice president during junior year and then president during senior year. I was the first black resident hall adviser, and I worked on staff of The Voyager, UWF’s student newspaper, where I offered an editorial verse to push the idea of hiring a black professor at UWF.
How do you define inclusion?
It is understanding put into practice. Each of us needs to be valued, regarded and respected. We can work to create a relational framework—we are not forcing ourselves into some artificial construct of agreement with all others, but we are seeking to comprehend the experience—the world if you will—of the “other.”