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Compassion for Community

Senior scholar combines academic interests with real-world experiences and activism in pursuing goals.

Portrait of Maxwell Student Lia Chabot with Otto
Lia Chabot shares a smile with Otto in November 2019. As a University 100 ambassador, she has given tours of campus to prospective students and shares Otto’s enthusiasm for all things Orange.

Lia Chabot ’21 arrived at Syracuse University with a passion for economics, and she’ll graduate with a wealth of experiences that reflect her academic prowess, compassion and commitment to activism. Whether she’s talking monetary policy, crunching data on rental properties, advocating for sexual safety or sharing her love for London, Chabot brings a refreshing perspective to all she does. In the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, she brought her interests together by combining majors in economics and citizenship and civic engagement with a minor in environment and society. “I found this intersection of my three interests that created a solid niche for me in terms of my learning and hopefully what career future I have,” says Chabot, a Coronat Scholar, member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program and 2021 Student Marshal.

As a high school student in Saratoga Springs, New York, Chabot locked in on economics, crediting one of her teachers for inspiring her interest. “Economics has always clicked for me,” she says. At the Maxwell School, she built upon her knowledge and skills, and enjoyed getting to know her professors and learning about their research. In addition, Chabot cites the Citizenship and Civic Engagement Program for laying the groundwork for two valuable experiences—an internship with the City of Syracuse Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, and a research associate position with the Maxwell X Lab, a Syracuse University-based initiative that uses behavioral science techniques to help the nonprofit and government sectors improve their programs. “Citizenship and civic engagement allowed me to explore my interests in terms of incorporating the environment and also advocacy into a nice little major that I didn’t know about when I applied to Syracuse University,” she says. “And those experiences have really contributed to my career goals and my growing competence and confidence in a professional setting.”

In both endeavors, Chabot dug into a lot of data—collecting, entering and analyzing it. “I love working with data,” she says. In her work for the City of Syracuse in fall 2019, she researched landlords who were evading code violations by selling unfit properties back and forth among themselves like “hot potatoes,” she says. Using code violation information as well as public information available on the internet, Chabot obtained enough evidence for the city to file a case with the state attorney general’s office. “I presented my research to various department heads, and I detailed the different mortgage frauds that I thought landlords were committing,” she says. “Now there’s active litigation going on with it.”

Citizenship and civic engagement allowed me to explore my interests in terms of incorporating the environment and also advocacy into a nice little major that I didn’t know about when I applied to Syracuse University.

—Lia Chabot

Last summer and fall, Chabot continued her work with the city and created a residential vacancy prediction model by gathering information on water assessments, power usage and other factors that would reveal vacant properties. As part of the modeling, she also considered how some policies can adversely affect low-income communities of color and lead to vacancies. Chabot credits Kishi Animashaun Ducre—associate professor of African American studies and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Arts and Sciences—and her course on racial residential segregation in the U.S. for inspiring her to develop the model with the different histories of residential areas in mind. “I researched segregation in Syracuse and used that to inform my data processing,” she says. “My experiences in Dr. Ducre’s classes wholly influenced my work and my community-based engagement.” The project earned Chabot a 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship.

Connecting With the ’Cuse Community

When Chabot visited Syracuse University as part of her college search, it felt like a “natural fit,” she says. “I loved how much Syracuse students love Syracuse, because college is a lifelong decision and, from the very start, I wanted to feel community.” One place she found community was in the Crown Honors program, enjoying personal interactions with faculty, the class sizes and the range of topics—she’s taken seminars on the natural history of Onondaga County, 1960s activism, and quilting for a purpose, in which she created a quilt for the Ronald McDonald House. For her capstone project, she explored how house prices affect fertility rates.

I loved how much Syracuse students love Syracuse, because college is a lifelong decision and, from the very start, I wanted to feel community.

—Lia Chabot

Portrait of Maxwell Student Lia Chabot Visits Two Lights State Park in Maine
Lia Chabot ’21 takes in the coast of Maine during a visit to Two Lights State Park in March. She is a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program and a recipient of the 2021 Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship.

Chabot also served as a teaching assistant for the program’s Honors Orientation Seminar for first-year students. For three consecutive fall semesters, she teamed up with Chris Hanson, associate professor of English, to teach the seminar—an experience she greatly appreciated. Hanson calls Chabot “remarkably altruistic, compassionate and funny” and says she did such an excellent job in their fall 2018 section that he requested her for the ensuing ones. “Lia was instrumental in helping to foster an inclusive and supportive environment in which the new first-year students clearly felt safe and encouraged. In each of these sections, she worked from day one to establish a rapport with the students, and I believe that she continues to stay in contact with them to offer advice and guidance to this day,” he says. “While I always appreciate her dry wit and wry observations when we work together, I am simultaneously grateful for how responsible, genuinely kind and considerate she is. Lia is one of the most thoughtful and conscientious students I have ever encountered. She shows truly exceptional compassion for her classmates and fellow students, and tirelessly strives to make SU a better community for all.”

In spring 2019, Chabot extended her Orange experiences to Syracuse Abroad’s London program, where she immersed herself in theater, lectures and other events. As part of the program, she also participated in a signature seminar on environmental justice in Northern Europe and traveled to Denmark, Norway and Finland, where instructor Becca Farnum introduced students to such topics as eco-tourism while working with the Sámi, Europe’s only recognized Indigenous people.

Although Chabot has done her studies remotely over the past year, she has maintained her connections with the campus community. As a University 100 ambassador, she’s met virtually with prospective and accepted students. Admittedly, she misses giving tours on campus because she likes talking with people—and she knows the impact tours can have on selecting a college. “It was important for me to try to give really good tours, because mine was so good when I was a prospective student,” she says.

Engaged in Activism

Chabot also counts activism as an important part of her life and doesn’t hesitate to take on issues of equity and social justice. Since 2017, she’s been a member of Students Advocating Sexual Safety and Empowerment. She’s served as program chair and treasurer, and currently is president, representing the organization on the Chancellor’s Task Force on Sexual and Relationship Violence. “I’ve been a part of some sort of intersectional feminist group since high school. It was out of my own marginalization,” she says. “Now I’ve educated myself on the marginalization of others and make sure we’re incorporating all of those identities in our conversations. I really enjoyed having this opportunity, because I have been working on making the club more intersectional.”

It was important for me to try to give really good tours, because mine was so good when I was a prospective student.

—Lia Chabot

Amid all of her activities and academic accomplishments, Chabot looks forward to graduating and taking some time to recharge and consider the big picture. “I’m going to nap and read some books for fun,” she says with a smile. Beyond that, work and graduate school look to be in her future. “I just want to create more good in the world,” she says.

Jay Cox

This story was published on .


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