In a year where emotion, tension, and negativity was high, a Sigma Alpha Epsilon alumnus from the University of Missouri-Kansas City is not backing down from trying to make the world a better place.
Sam Lim, a member who graduated in 2018 with a degree in Languages & Literatures, was confirmed to two appointments for the City of Salem, Mass. Lim serves as the youngest member of both the Mayor’s Cultural Council and No Place For Hate Committee, named to the positions in June of 2020.
This isn’t the first time Lim has worked in leadership roles. As an undergraduate, Lim served as Eminent Herald, a Senior Standards & Ethics Board Member and most notably as the inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Chair.
“I was really proud of that role at the time,” Lim said.
Lim made an impact not just within the chapter but within the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Greek community. Lim was elected as President and Expansion Liaison of the Interfraternity Council, leading the University’s successful open expansion in 2018. Lim also held two additional Vice Presidencies.
Lim’s leadership secured a number of University awards for both the chapter and council, including the 2017 Outstanding Junior of the Year, 2018 Outstanding Senior of the Year, and the 2019 Outstanding Alum of the Year Pride Award.
Lim became known to be the first openly LGBTQ+ Interfraternity Council President at Missouri-Kansas City.
“People don’t know that SAE’s like myself exist. A queer, Chinese, Jewish guy from Syracuse, N.Y. is an SAE and I’m proud to be an SAE,” Lim said.
Lim’s fraternity career has been dedicated to diversity and inclusion development, not only as their chapter’s inaugural chapter Diversity & Inclusion Chairman, but through consultation and diversity education workshops to fraternity & sorority chapters and councils.
“Where ever I go, I’m really involved in public service to community and government. I just believe that it’s really crucial to be giving back,” Lim said. “Obviously government has a responsibility to take care of its citizens but we also have an obligation to put in energy to create the community we want to see. I think that’s at the heart of being an SAE.”
After graduating, Lim moved to Atlanta and became a high school teacher in a Title I school. If you’re unfamiliar with this type of school, a significant amount of students enrolled are homeless and 100 percent of the students are on free or reduced lunches.
“It’s a whole different ballgame in teaching when you’re working with Title I populations,” Lim said. “Because there’s so much trauma that the students have faced and so many struggles but that shouldn’t limit their opportunities. My students were some of the brightest students in the world, but the community didn’t know it yet because they weren’t really given the opportunity to showcase that.”
While working there, Lim’s teachings helped raise test scores for many kids, sending them down a better path.
Lim eventually decided to get a master’s degree in higher education, and eventually accepted an offer from Salem State University and is currently pursuing an M.Ed. in Higher Education in Student Affairs.
Today, Lim is entering the second semester as a Graduate Retention Fellow in the Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy, and Diversity (LEAD) Office at Salem State, serving as an Advisor to the Greek Council, Advisor to all chapter social and academic chairs, and Staff Coordinator over Men’s Recruitment.
Additionally, Lim is a National Educational Program Facilitator and Founding President of the Greater North Shore Area Alumni Association of SAE.
“When you go for big opportunities early on in your life, every stage of the game, you know, I’ve sort of been in that position,” Lim said. “I joined the board of directors of Atlanta Pride at 23 years old. The youngest to do it. That was more than a million-dollar non-profit and that was the oldest organization serving the LGBTQ population in the southeast.”
“I was appointed the inaugural diversity and inclusion officer for the organization [Atlanta Pride], the senior diversity officer [in other words]. That was a huge historical moment for me, for the organization. But I was 23, right? And that sort of mind-boggling of like, ‘Are you ready to take on this leadership? Are you intimidated? Will the community accept you?’ And I think that once the people in the room see that you have something to offer, your actions speak louder than your words.”
With experience in civic engagement, leadership and work within multiple non-profits, Lim decided to make a run for the cultural council for the City of Salem early last year. Being the youngest to ever earn the position was intimidating at first, but Lim’s background and success thus far proved how deserving they were of the position.
“Some of the folks sit on these committees have been elected to city council before,” Lim said. “Some of the attendees are current city councilors. People who work for major corporations. It doesn’t necessarily help that I’m the youngest but I think I add a lot of perspective and diverse thinking to that. But when they see that I’ve had past experiences and their assumptions are wrong about me, they’re usually welcoming to that type of feedback and constructive criticism.”
Salem is already a very diverse population and friendly to all types of people. The Human Rights Campaign gave Salem a perfect score on its LGBTQ+ inclusion index. Lim says there’s still work to do.
“When you talk to a lot of citizens on the ground, which I think is the most important job of anyone who serves the public, really getting to know constituents, you hear that those policies, although they’re overarching in legal issues in inclusion, they miss the mark for the day-to-day experiences of people,” Lim said. “How are we creating a culture day-to-day where everyone feels valued, welcomed and included and more importantly seen, right?”
Lim believes the city has a long way to go in terms of getting past the surface level of policies and checkboxes in order to bring the community together.
“I love the vision of our mayor. I fully support our mayor. I fully support our city council and all the other public servants that are on these committees,” Lim said. “But we do have work to do in terms of doing a better job of talking to our constituents and saying ‘What do you want from us? It’s my job to serve you.’”
Lim says it’s a unique position because they servce on two different committees.
“Not a lot of people do that,” Lim said. “For example with the No Place For Hate Committee, we can do all these things and talk about diversity and inclusion and see goals we want to have happen for the city but then because I’m on the Cultural Council I can then say, ‘Well, I’m going to be really intentional of the artists I’m bringing in to give these grants to build art work for our community to ensure it’s culturally relevant.’ So I sort of feel empowered in that way that I can talk a lot of theory but I can also have the opportunity to make action by dispersing these grants. It’s set up in a way that if you take full advantage of the opportunities, every citizen can be influential in decision making.”
Lim’s experiences can be used as a great example for upcoming graduates and younger undergrads in SAE and believes no one should have to wait their turn to create success at a young age.
“That’s where I challenge brothers to speak up and throw their name in the hat,” Lim said. “When I was 23 and became the Senior Diversity Officer for Atlanta Pride it didn’t happen by accident. It didn’t happen because I sat around and kept my mouth shut and waited. It happened because I spoke up and challenged a lot of people. It’s because there was work to be done.”
There’s no telling Lim’s effect on The City of Salem yet, but history shows the work to be done is likely to be finished.