Kate Sim is a junior at Harvard (‘14), with a joint-concentration in Social Studies and Studies of Women, Gender & Sexuality. She was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea.
A school trip to the United States changed Kate’s life. At age eleven, she traveled to Syracuse, NY to study English for six months. The move from a homogeneous Korean society to a suburban American town exposed
her to a culture clash that highlighted both overt and subtle examples of gender discrimination. In Korea, girls weren’t allowed to play sports. Yet in New York, Kate saw girls play kickball during recess, and engage in other activities that were verboten back home in Korea. For example, during “Life Skills” class, Korean girls are mandated to study knitting or cooking, while boys study woodworking. Returning home, she had a difficult adjustment to Korean life, but the hardship motivated Kate to push for a change.
Not yet a teenager, Kate persuaded her parents to move to the United States to ensure better opportunities for herself and her two sisters. With basic English skills, Kate enrolled in an independent boarding school in Claremont, CA. There, female mentors introduced her to feminism. At last, Kate had a language to describe the unjust social, economic, and political constraints that she experienced as a girl. It wasn’t long before Kate became an activist. She served as the president of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles’ Youth United, where she learned not only how to use power tools, but also the devastating impact of substandard housing on families and communities. Kate also acted as a youth leader of Global Citizen Corps, a network of high school students who raised awareness about issues relating to global poverty, such as hunger, health, and education.
Now at Harvard, Kate continues her activism for social justice. She has been volunteering at the Roxbury Youth Initiative program since her first year, teaching social justice-related curriculum to youth in Roxbury. Frustrated by the lack of feminist action on campus in her freshman year, she founded the International Women’s Rights Collective (IWRC). The collective draws upon Kate’s experience as a Korean American immigrant and works to expose international gender expression through consciousness-raising panels, discussions, and reading groups. In 2011, Kate joined the Unite Against the War on Women demonstration in Boston, which raised awareness about legislation that limits women’s access to contraception and abortion. During summer break, Kate interned at the Domestic Violence Project in Los Angeles where she provided legal aid to survivors of partner abuse. From this experience, Kate launched a Harvard campaign to fight rape culture on campus, called Our Harvard Can Do Better. The campaign, which joins increasing campus conversations about sexual assault, exposes the prevalence of sexual violence at Harvard. While the campaign provides more resources for female students, it advocates for reform of the College’s policies and practices regarding sexual assault. With the help of Kate’s work, the issue of sexual assault has garnered national attention and Harvard is revisiting its sexual assault polices. Kate hopes that the campaign can not only make the campus safer, but also encourage the Harvard community to have meaningful interactions uninhibited by gendered expectations.
Today, Kate remains committed to the mission of Our Harvard Can Do Better and plans to spend the summer working on grassroots organizing for reproductive justice. Kate eventually plans to pursue a law degree.