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Empowering Self and Others: Sierra Burris

by Web on June 20, 2017

Sierra Burris credits her time at Millsaps College with instilling confidence and openness to new experiences.

“Millsaps has helped me come out of my shell,” she said, recalling a pivotal moment during her sophomore year when the coordinator for campus life suggested she should seek election to the Student Body Association’s Executive Board.

Burris did just that and got elected.

Members of the College’s student life staff continue to empower her to tackle issues about which she is passionate, said Burris, a junior from Panama City, Fla. Earlier this year, she read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and decided she wanted to plan a Women in Leadership Summit.

She applied for funding and wrote a curriculum for the inaugural summit, which brought together high school and college students to nurture leadership skills and ideals.

“It was amazing for this vision to become a reality,” she said, noting that the Kappa Delta Foundation, SBA, and the Millsaps Program Activities Council funded the summit.

Burris said the sense of community at Millsaps is her favorite part about attending the College.

“I love that I am close with my advisor and all of my professors,” she said. “The small size of Millsaps allows people to form meaningful relationships with one another and that opens up so much support, opportunity, and personal growth.”

Classes contain a small number of students, and professors demand the best from them, she said.

“The classes are engaging so you have to participate,” she said. “By your junior year it is likely at least one professor knows you really well and can tell when you’re not putting forth 100 percent effort. This accountability is what motivates me to do my work when nothing else can.”

A classical studies major with a focus in Latin, Burris said Dr. David Yates, associate professor of classical studies, is one of her favorite professors.

“People often ask me what classes I am in because they always hear engaging discussions and laughter coming from his classrooms,” she said. “Dr. Yates likes to say that he never teaches the same course twice, which I can attest to. Every semester, he experiments with new things to keep his classes challenging and engaging. That being said, he takes student feedback very seriously and will ditch practices if they are not effective for the student. I love knowing that my professor cares about how I learn, not just what I learn.”

Burris has found time to be member of Delta Delta Delta sorority, the Classics Club, a resident assistant, enrollment fellow, and an intern for the College’s campus life staff.

In the summer of 2016, she received a Robinson Fellowship, which provided financial assistance, so she could to study Shakespeare in London with one of her favorite professors, Dr. Anne C. MacMaster, associate professor of English.