Published: April 25, 2023
Cora Emslie

Community is everything to Cora Emslie, the School of Education’s outstanding undergraduate student. Emslie grew up in Fort Collins, and she enrolled in CU Boulder specifically for the School of Education’s unique Leadership and Community Engagement major, one of the only degree programs of its kind nationwide that prepares ethical and culturally aware leaders who collaborate with community partners to tackle society’s big challenges. 

Emslie’s peers and instructors in the program selected her for the outstanding graduate honors because of her passion for justice, empathy, reliability and enthusiasm. She has been an outstanding leader through her participation in the programs and the Public Achievement program, a civic engagement program that promotes student voice and transformative change through youth-led community activism projects.

Her youth partners in Public Achievement have taught Emslie so much about leadership and activism. She worked with a team of eighth graders who chose to focus on domestic violence this year—a project that has never been of focus in the CU Boulder Public Achievement (PA) program. Students wanted to bring awareness to domestic violence, and they also found it important to openly discussed the topic at any age so people don't feel alone if they or people that they love experience it. Additionally, Emslie worked with high schoolers, who chose to focus on immigrant rights and voting rights for undocumented immigrants in Lafayette, another novel topic for the PA program. Emslie found the students deeply care about expanding voting rights as they see the power that comes from being able to vote and voice their opinion in the local and the federal government. 

"Working with the students in PA has taught me so much about radical and revolutionary love," she said. "Each week my students teach me how important community is and how much of an impact we can truly make in our communities. If it wasn’t for PA and all the lovely people that I have met through it, I would not be who I am today."

Emslie’s dedication and commitment to social justice is exemplified by her exceptional record of impact. Her peers and faculty noted that she is one of the most hardworking people in the major. Her contributions embody the ethos and values of the major to “nourish and honor the leadership and dignity of those around her such as her peers and the young people she works with.” This work is often behind the scenes: to listen, ask critical questions, connect with others, ensure all voices are heard, and take on often unglamorous tasks. 

One student stated, “Cora embodies patience and wisdom. She has helped me expand my thinking and understanding of the world. Being a witness to her leadership has taught me the value in showing up authentically. I wouldn't be who I am without our friendship because she radiates love, passion, and integrity.”

In her own words

Please tell us a bit about yourself

I grew up in Fort Collins, CO and learned about the leadership program at CU Boulder on my tour of the campus. I immediately was interested after hearing about it and applied to be part of the program at CU. I chose CU for the leadership program and because it was still in state so I would still be close to my family. "

What is one of the lessons from your time at CU Boulder that you’ll carry with you into the next chapter?

The greatest lesson that I’ve learned while here is how valuable and impactful a strong community can be. Throughout my time in college I have been a part of many communities through classes, friend groups and programs that i have worked with. The community that I have found through these programs and the relationships I have fostered because of them have shown me how important finding your own community in college is.”

What does graduating from CU Boulder represent for you and/or your community?

Graduating from CU Boulder represents coming to the next phase in my life. While I don’t know exactly what’s in store, I’m excited to see what comes next!”

What is your best piece of advice for incoming students?

My best piece of advice is to try a lot of new and different things! Being adventurous and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in many different ways is what college is all about and how you’ll find out what your passions and interests are.”

What continues to drive your passion for your work after graduation?

What drives me is community. I have found that the relationships in the communities that I am a part of drive me to show up and do the work that I am passionate about.”

Collage of photos of Cora EmslieCollage of Photos of Cora Emslie