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Adams shares story at Convocation

August 27, 2015

Dr. Portia Adams didn’t attend Stephens College, but she “had the dream up experience,” she told the Stephens community today.

“My grandfathers were sharecroppers,” she said. “I am the product of their dream. I am my mother’s dream. I am my father’s dream.”

Adams was the keynote speaker at Opening Convocation, a campus-wide gathering that celebrates the start of the academic year.

Adams grew up in a working class family in Peoria, Ill. She was able to attend and graduate from Brandeis University in Massachusetts on a full scholarship, volunteered in Ghana and Kenya and ultimately earned her doctorate and became a social worker.

Now an associate professor of social work at Indiana State University, she was recently named Central Indiana’s Black Social Worker of the Year.

“I like the idea of dream up,” she said, referring to the College’s motto. “It acknowledges the idea that sometimes you’re going to get knocked down; you’re going to meet adversity.”

And adversity happens disproportionately to minority communities, said Adams, who is also an activist and community organizer. She gave students a brief history of government regulations that have systematically oppressed certain groups of people.

While discussing her life’s work, Adams was also quick to share credit. “I did nothing alone,” she said. “I stand on the shoulders of my parents and ancestors and those who have gone before me.”

Adams was one of a string of speakers at Convocation who offered motivation and inspiration to students starting another semester.

“This is a day to pause to welcome and celebrate the opening of our academic year,” said Dr. Suzan Harkness, vice president for academic affairs. “Stephens is a college community, and each one of you is contributing in very special ways.”

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