Fueling the Fire to Fight 

Nomi Small '19

Nomi Small ’19

When she was a sophomore in high school, Nomi Small ’19 kept in touch with New Zealand news and culture by reading an online New Zealand newspaper—a habit she’s continued every day through the years since. Now she’s embarking on a study-abroad semester in New Zealand and keeping close tabs on the news back home as a bill, using research she conducted on hunger and school-lunch policy, is slated to be heard in legislative session.


Sociology, with a creative writing minor.


John Montgomery Scholarship and Public Service Fellowship.

Favorite movie:

Grand Budapest Hotel.

On choosing a major:

After my gap year working with the homeless population in Portland, Oregon, I decided to take a sociology class called Global Urban Poverty. I liked the way that the class taught me to think. I have always found things to be angry about in my sociology classes. That anger has fueled me to dive deeper into my coursework and proved to me that sociology is the lens through which I want to change the world.

Favorite place on campus:

Human Cultures House.

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Pastrami on rye from the KOVE.

Favorite professor:

I really enjoy professors whose courses challenge me to think in new ways, and who I simultaneously click with enough as a person to want to participate in Take a Dickinsonian to Lunch with them.

On studying abroad:

I am studying abroad in New Zealand this spring. I started reading the New Zealand Herald during my sophomore year of high school, and I haven’t stopped reading it since. I’ve hardly done any travel outside of the U.S., so I am really excited to finally go to this country that I’ve read so much about. I also took a Native American Activism course in fall 2017, and I am scheduled to take two classes related to indigenous studies while I am abroad. I am interested in seeing the different government approaches to reconciling with indigenous populations and learning more about the Maori peoples.

Nomi Small ’19 makes a site visit during her summer internship with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. From left: Representative Kyle Hilbert, Senator James Leewright, Oklahoma Food Banks Public Policy Director Effie Craven and Small.

Nomi Small ’19 (far right) makes a site visit during her summer internship with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
Also pictured (from left): Representative Kyle Hilbert, Partner Support Coordinator Caity Lewis, Senator James Leewright and 
Oklahoma Food Banks Public Policy Director Effie Craven.

About my internship:

In summer 2017 I had a public policy internship with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. I set up site visits for state-level legislators to see summer feeding sites, where children under the age of 18 can eat for free over the summer while school is closed. As Oklahoma is one of the hungriest states in our nation, it was powerful to learn about why that is and to watch state legislators on both sides of the aisle come to terms with poverty in Oklahoma.

About my research:

The director of public policy for the Oklahoma Food Banks proposed that I look at lunch-shaming legislation to support Oklahoma state legislators who wanted to create a bill of their own. Lunch shaming is when children at a school that provides free and reduced priced meals is denied a meal because of their inability to pay. Sometimes that results in the meal being thrown out or a child being stamped on the hand for the whole school to see. The other side of the issue is that schools are accruing meal debt and struggling to hold households accountable.

What was intended to be a brief summary turned into a 25-page report comparing contemporary legislation from state legislatures and federal departments throughout the country. The day I left Oklahoma City, the public policy director told me that she was going to share a page of our report on a policy conference call for Feeding America. In January, our report was drafted into a bill that is scheduled to be heard in the upcoming legislative session in February. (Anyone interested in keeping up-to-date can track the bill's progress here.)

Read more Student Snapshots.


Published February 15, 2018