Hometown Hero

By Leah Aulisio-Sharpe ’22, September 21, 2021
Nia Nunn is named Tompkins Chamber and Tompkins Trust Company’s Community Hero of the Month.

On the Ithaca College campus, Nia Nunn has been an associate professor of education, psychology, and women and gender studies since 2013. However, her impact in the Ithaca community goes back much further than that, and Nunn now “wears multiple headwraps” within the Ithaca community. In recognition of all she does for the community, the Tompkins Chamber and Tompkins Trust Company named Nunn their Community Hero of the Month for August.

“It's truly an honor to be recognized,” Nunn said. “I think of the incredible role models, and the ancestors that have fostered me thus far. I hope to continue honoring these gifts. I hope it encourages folks to cultivate joy in their communities, especially those homegrown.”

As a multifaceted community healer, Nunn credits her Ithaca roots for her ability to be the mother, activist, artist and educator that she is today.

“To have a space, both in childhood and adulthood, that teaches and honors this different level of Black consciousness that we don't often get anywhere else. For me, there's something super, super precious.”

Nia Nunn, associate professor of education, psychology, and women and gender studies

“We learned to love ourselves and our people young,” said Nunn. “To lead young, our mothers and the community mothers were really explicit with us about where we were, the roots and history of our space, and the responsibility we had to ourselves and to one another.”

Nunn serves as the executive director for the Community University Education Program, which her father started in 2002. She is also widely known for her work as president of the board of directors at Southside Community Center, which is the foundation for Ithaca’s Black community. There, Nunn runs multiple programs and initiatives and stokes her passion for curating spaces for young Black girls — Nunn refers to them as Black Girl Alchemists — to explore their gifts as creatives and healers.

“It's town-gown transformative action, that's what this is about. I tell my students all the time how I remember being a little girl and feeling there was nothing cooler than being able to spend time around Ithaca College students. So that connection is really precious.”

Nia Nunn

“To have a space, both in childhood and adulthood, that teaches and honors this different level of Black consciousness that we don't often get anywhere else,” said Nunn. “For me, there's something super, super precious.”

In her position at IC, Nunn emphasizes the power and impact college students have on the Ithaca community. She encourages the students she works with to get involved in programs they feel passionate about off-campus.

“It's town-gown transformative action, that's what this is about,” Nunn said. “I tell my students all the time how I remember being a little girl and feeling there was nothing cooler than being able to spend time around Ithaca College students. So that connection is really precious.”

The work Nunn has done, and the connections she’s established is the very reason why Ithaca is such a special place to her. 

In Her Own Words

Listen to Nia Nunn’s three-part poem: Deep Breath.