Student Spotlight

Black Studies student spotlight: Ellis Mimms

Physics major and Black Studies minor Ellis Mimms ’22 knew he needed to better understand Black history before he came to the University of Oregon.

Mimms moved to the east bay area of California from St. Louis, Missouri when he was young. He developed a love for physics and sports in high school, but recognized that the school curriculum lacked Black history.

“Coming into the University of Oregon, I had it in my mind that I really want to get involved and really want to take a lot of classes centered around Black history,” Mimms said.

He decided to join the Umoja Black Scholars Academic Residential Community (ARC). The ARC was created in 2016 to help black students navigate living and learning at a predominantly white institution. Black students share a space in the residence halls so they learn about black histories and cultures while exploring their identities. The ARC also intends to support black wellness, community-building, and academic success.

Mimms knew that the Umoja ARC was a critical part of his UO experience.

“We had one class each term, and it wasn't necessarily focused on Black history, but it was focused on Black engagement and Black life on campus,” Mimms said. “We learned how to navigate that, which was kind of my first steps to getting towards like that Black history that I was kind of looking for.”

Although his major is demanding, Mimms has committed to taking a Black Studies course every term since his first year at UO. He joined the Black Studies program after it became a minor in 2020.

“I always made sure that I had a black history class or something similar around black culture in my academic life, because it was something I was really passionate.”

Mimms also immersed himself in various black student organizations, which helped solidify his sense of community at UO.

“I get so much energy and so much excitement from just being able to pour into people and help build up a black community on campus,” Mimms said.

Mimms is currently one of the co-directors of the Black Male Alliance, the Student Lead for Leadership and Outreach at the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center, and the Chairman for the Alliance of Black Student Organizations.

Mimms’ community engagement is motivated by a deep commitment to the black community on campus. He is also passionate about increasing black representation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

“As I do my work in my organizations, and at the Black Cultural Center, it's always in the back of my head, how can I essentially tie this to my field,” Mimms said. “Are there things that I can do in physics to get more black males here or are there things that I can do to get more black women to join this?”

Mimms’ successful involvement in student organizations is matched by his academic achievements., Mimms was selected as a Ronald E. McNair scholar for the 2021-22 academic year. The program was developed to increase graduate degree awards for minoritized students. Mimms is also a member of the FIsherGroup Research Team in the Physics department.

Mimms also had the unique opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., in the Fall of 2021 to support fellow classmate Semeredin Kundin ’22 in a discussion panel with former first lady Michelle Obama.

Mimms advice for incoming students, especially those who identify as black, is to accept no limitations.

“The only limits are the ones that you put on yourself. I think that every student, especially every black student, should not be afraid to follow their dreams and chase their dreams and their passions and not feel that they are limited to one field just because that's what everybody else is doing.

I would also tell new students to get engaged and get active in black student groups on campus and just for like resources on campus, because it's going to make your time at the university of Oregon so much easier, so much more enjoyable. You're going to make great friends. You're going to make great connections and great connections that essentially could set you up for opportunities after college and even throughout college. The possibilities are really endless.”