Eris T. Sims holds a bachelor of science degree from the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration. Eris is the chief of staff at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), leading the executive office and supporting the president and CEO in the areas of external positioning, executive reporting, and strategy. Prior to serving as chief of staff, Sims joined the NAACP team as senior director of events, where she guided the planning, management, and execution of a variety of NAACP meetings and events, including the national convention and the NAACP Image Awards. Eris’ previous roles include serving as the executive director of The Links, Incorporated and The Links Foundation, Incorporated, an international volunteer service organization, and its philanthropic arm. Before joining The Links, Incorporated, Eris was employed as the associate director of catering at Hyatt Regency Atlanta and as a travel director with Maritz Travel Company in Fenton, Missouri. Eris is a member of The Links, Incorporated, Sephora Equity Advisors, and the Pinterest Advisory Council. She is a former member of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitor’s Bureau Customer Advisory Board, the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners Board of Directors, and the MGM Hotels and Resorts Diversity Advisory Council.
What drew you to a career in social impact?
As a young girl growing up in Mississippi, much of my development was shaped by the stories of the civil rights movement. Throughout my childhood, my parents and grandparents shared stories about activism, and one that always resonated with me was a story that my father shared about his time in school when he was suspended for simply wearing an NAACP pin. Activism runs through my veins. Although I began my career in hospitality within the corporate arena, I always made time for the causes that I was passionate about. It was not until 2005 when I made the decision to fully transition into the world of service, beginning with my role at The Links, Incorporated, one of the largest nationwide organizations of Black women in the country. Fast forward to 2015, when I joined the NAACP, I transitioned to the world of advocacy and activism; this experience has truly been a dream come true for both myself and my family.
What most excites you about your work?
I am most excited about how I get to work on issues that I am passionate about and directly affect my life and the lives of my family, friends, and community. Let’s be clear—advocacy is not just a career; it is a lifestyle. It takes a different type of individual and dedication to do this type of round-the-clock work. However, it is also a version of an extended family as we spend so much time together in order to work toward progress for our community. Having worked at the NAACP for over seven years, I have been in the trenches and have had the privilege of being exposed to the crucial behind-the-scenes work, building relationships with the incredibly talented people who are directly involved in the progress that our communities have long been working toward.
In your career thus far, how have you found mentors and made connections along the way?
No matter what space I have occupied, I have always chosen to show up as my authentic self, and that has afforded me the privilege of having mentors gravitate toward me, rather than having to seek them out. That being said, my experiences within the service and advocacy space—particularly my time working alongside both Margot James Copeland, the 15th National President of The Links, Inc., and former president of the KeyBank Foundation, as well as president and CEO of the NAACP Derrick Johnson—have been instrumental in my trajectory and growth. I encourage my fellow Cornellians to be authentic and seek connections with leaders who can serve as mentors in their respective spaces.
Do you have any piece of advice for Cornellians starting out or transitioning into a career in social impact?
Every life experience and every sacrifice prepares you for the next chapter of greatness. No matter how rough things are now, we must realize that we are being prepared for something greater. Always know that your network of fellow Cornellians is here for you and always available to support the vision you have for your career.
What role has the Cornell network played along your career?
The prestige and recognition associated with a Cornell degree, coupled with the incredibly close bond that I hold with my fellow alumni have opened many doors for me. It is only right that I continue to pay it forward with my continued involvement in the university’s academic offerings. My hope is that the students attending my guest lectures or taking the Business Ethics course that I have had the privilege of being a part of, will have the same level of comfort to connect with me, and use me as a resource as they begin their careers.