Published May 17, 2017
Madelaine Britt, who will graduate on Friday with degrees in political science and environmental design, has been honored with a 2017 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence for her academic achievements and commitment to grassroots activism in food security, affordable housing and economic justice.
Britt was a member of an exclusive list of 256 students in the State University of New York system who were 2017 recipients of the award. The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recognizes students who integrate academic excellence with their individual accomplishments in the areas of leadership, athletics, community service, creative and performing arts, campus involvement, or career achievement.
Her scholarly achievements transcend the classroom and involve the practical application of her work to UB’s surrounding University Heights community. She is co-founder of the University Community Laboratory, or CoLab, which provides free, skill-based training classes for University Heights residents. Britt also was a longtime volunteer with the University Heights Tool Library, which advances community-led home and neighborhood improvement efforts.
She also organized a hugely successful volunteer fair while a summer associate for AmeriCorps Vista working at Rochester Cares, a non-profit agency that connects volunteers with agencies that need their help. She also helped start a tenant association while working as an intern for the Southeast Neighborhood Service Center in Rochester. In addition, Britt is a member of the research team for the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab and formally was a UB Student Sustainability Coordinator with Campus Dining and Shops.
Britt recently reflected on the social, political and cultural implications of design and planning:
“Environmental design must be integrated in a political awareness that moves beyond the visual appearance of an area. Without having the understanding of the political implications of a design decision planners will not be able to fully grasp the needs of residents and serve them to the best of their abilities.”
“It was such an honor to be picked as a SUNY Chancellor's Award winner. It could not have been done without the incredible support network I have around me, including Dr. Samina Raja [director of the Food Lab] and Dr. Elizabeth Walsh from the School of Architecture and Planning’s Citizen Planning School.”
She continues, “My years in the School of Architecture and Planning have been defined by the constant support and kindness this department has shown me and it was a true privilege to represent it at the SUNY Chancellor's Ceremony in Albany. I leave UB excited to take my next step in life but also as a proud alum.”
A Western New York Prosperity Fellow, Britt was recognized earlier this year with UB’s first Truman Scholarship as a result of her community engagement and public service. The Truman Scholarship recognizes exemplary individuals and promising change agents in the public sector. The scholarship includes a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school.
Up next for Britt is a move to Washington D.C., where she will continue her work in the policy and community advocacy arena before pursuing graduate studies. As a part of the Truman Summer Institute program, she will be interning with the World Health Organization (WHO) studying social determinants of health this summer. Ultimately, Britt hopes to return to Rochester after completing graduate school to advance equity through planning and policy.
Offering words of advice to her fellow students, Britt says: “[Be] active and be dedicated to bringing your education outside of the classroom. Your scope of understanding will expand and you will become incredibly humbled by the good work of the community leaders around you.”