Each year, the Spirit of Emerson Award is presented to community members who best embody what it means to be an Emersonian. New this year, the Robert Colby Kindness Award honors an Emersonian who “exemplify traits of generosity, teamwork, compassion, and ethics.”
The 2020 Spirit of Emerson Award winners are Sivan Amir ’20 and Pedro Noah Espinola ‘21, and the Robert Colby Kindness Award winner is Acacia Santos.
Spirit of Emerson Award
The “Spirit of Emerson,” as defined by the Spirit of Emerson Committee, is a “positive outpouring of the College’s activities, interpersonal relations, creations, diversity, and expression, including the spirit stated in Emerson’s mission statement and President Pelton’s five strategic objectives.”
Anyone in the Emerson community (student, faculty, staff, alumni, etc.) may nominate anyone else within the community, including themselves. The Committee evaluates the nominations based on 10 criteria.
Sivan Amir is a senior completing her BFA in Theatre. She was nominated, according to the Committee, for her extensive involvement in her program, her time as an employee and leader for Emerson Stage, her work with Lyric Stage as an artistic associate and assistant director, and her time with RareWorks, bringing to the forefront productions that have rarely been produced.
She also places emphasis on the quality of her academic work, seeks out advice from classmates, colleagues, and faculty, and isn’t afraid to ask questions in class. According to her nominator/s, Amir “is unassuming, bright, kind, and easy to be around. She is a joy to work with and is wise beyond her years.”
What drives her: “I’m driven towards working in theatre because I ultimately believe in theatre’s power to teach empathy and listening. All of these organizations I have worked with, as well as my classes, have taught me how to be a better leader and how the theatre landscape is changing. I hope to continue working in theatre to ultimately make it more inclusive and continue to tell diverse and unique stories.”
Pedro Noah Espinola is a junior Media Arts Production major, president of Amigos, and a member of Phi Alpha Tau. His nominator/s said Espinola, “along with his E-board, worked tirelessly to transform [Amigos] as a beacon of community for Emerson’s growing Latinx population this semester. Furthermore, he has opened the organization to people who may not be of Latinx origin, but are interested I learning more of Hispanic culture because Noah knows that Emerson College is a center of cultural exchange as much as it is a center of intellectual academia.”
In addition to his leadership skills, he “is the rare person who is always focusing on the advancement of others and the progress of the communities he calls home.” Espinola could not be reached for comment prior to publication.
Robert Colby Kindness Award
The Kindness Award is named for Performing Arts Chair Bob Colby.
“We’d like to name the award now and forever for someone who epitomizes kindness, not with just a warm, fuzzy feeling or a plastic smile or some other surface image of kindness,” Professor Tom Cooper, the originator of the Spirit of Emerson and Kindness awards, said at a January 2020 Faculty Assembly announcing the naming of the award.
The inaugural winner, Acacia Santos, is a residence director (RD) for the Little Building, a former RD for the Colonial Building, and “sunshine personified,” according to her nominator/s. “She started as a graduate assistant and quickly filled an interim RD role last year without question. Now as a full-time RD, she has shown our community what it means to truly care for those you work with.” According to the nomination, Santos takes the time to make every person feel special, respected, and important; she’s the one “at community meetings interacting with every person in the room, taking extra time to get to know their personal stories and build an authentic bond with everyone.”
What drivers her: “Emerson is my group now, my community. If I spread enough love and kindness, if I provide a place for people to feel free and be whomever they are, if I take care of my own, I’m taking care of myself.
“Our students are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the opportunity to engage with. I’m captivated every day by their hopes and dreams and passions… If I can help them in some way, no matter how small, [to] show kindness in a world that hasn’t always been kind to them, then I know I’ve done what I’ve been put here to do. For me, our students often reinforce the idea that this world is worth saving. If I can connect with them, help them grow and develop, provide another point of view in times when they don’t want to see one, challenge them to see beyond themselves, then I think (I hope) when they leave their time with me, they’re better for it. And when they enter the world beyond Emerson, hopefully, they spread the positive change they’re always talking with me about.”
Zenebou Sylla ’22 contributed to this story.