By Fabio Lopez
In just two years as a student, Vanessa Rolle has worked diligently to make FIU a more equitable and diverse university.
Her efforts on campus are now being commemorated with two significant university awards: the MLK Peace Award and the Student Life Award for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
Rolle is currently a graduating senior on the verge of earning a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice. She transferred to FIU two years ago and, within a short time frame, she became the director of Community Service at BSU (Black Student Union) and a senior ambassador for the Office of Social Justice.
These roles, accompanied by her fervent passion for social justice, ultimately garnered the accolades.
“I personally have a strong passion for social justice. I also believe in making sure that everyone has the same opportunities and resources because that's what equity is,” Rolle said. "I am a big advocate for looking out for the first generation of minority students and making sure that they find out about the opportunities and resources that they wouldn't have been afforded as somebody who's a first-gen or a minority.”
Rolle made sure that her beliefs translated into her work with BSU. Last semester, Rolle coordinated events with various communities that resulted in more than 100 care package bags donated to homes in Overtown. They also secured more than 60 pounds of food for the BBC and MMC food pantries.
On an individual level, Rolle coordinated the delivery of about seven boxes, containing over 1,000 menstrual products to The Beauty Initiative Inc. She has also held many presentations for students, faculty, and staff that covered topics such as feminism, diversity in the workplace, and ways in which Panthers can be more inclusive and accepting.
All of this ultimately led to her earning the Student Life Award for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
Prior to this, Rolle also earned the MLK Peace Award, which is given to students who exemplify what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for. The honor was given by FIU's Office of Justice and Inclusion, and her position as ambassador as well as her contributions led her to be recognized in this capacity.
Doing so much, while simultaneously prioritizing school, does have its drawbacks for Rolle, who has had moments of burnout where she struggled to find a balance that allowed her to seek social justice while also handling her personal responsibilities.
“It does feel nice to be recognized because there have been times where I’ve felt burned out from trying to fight for equality, fight for everybody, fight for equity, and making sure that my voice is being heard while trying to amplify the voices of those who cannot speak up for themselves,” Rolle said.
Following her graduation this semester, Rolle plans on getting her master’s degree in Applied Social Science and Criminal Justice at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, where she plans on continuing her grassroots efforts and advocacy.