Samantha Kunin: FSU’s Most Eligible Bachelorette

“It cemented my belief that collaboration would make our goals a reality, and we were going to do our part.” –Samantha Kunin, 21

In a recent interview, Samantha Kunin reflects on her time dedicated to aiding the refugee and migrant populations in Tallahassee, Florida.

Kunin is senior at the Florida State University. Called ‘Sammie’ by her close friends and family, Kunin grew up in Lakeland Florida and has spent the last few years in Tallahassee pursuing a degree in International Affairs and Economics. In addition to her love for sunbathing on the beach and ice cream, she also has a love for people that has carried her ambitions thus far.  Samantha currently works on campus at the Center for Global Engagement, in addition to being an honors student and a member of the Presidential Scholars Program. Throughout her time at FSU, she has explored her passions through her time spent interning as a legal assistant and interpreter at both the South Texas Family Residential Detention Center in Dilley, Texas and as Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative in Lumpkin, Georgia. Through both of these internships, she was able to discover her passion for public service work by interacting with detainees and asylum seekers, in search of a better quality of life. As a recent manifestation of the work she’s done within the past four years, Kunin was announced as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship and was featured for her accomplishments in Florida State University News earlier this month.

Courtesy of Nick Newman

It is clear that Kunin’s goal is to make a lasting impact, and she does this by starting with one of the places nearest to her heart: Tallahassee. As of 2015, according to the American Immigration Council, there are 4.1 million immigrants in the state of Florida alone– of which a little over a fourth comprise Florida’s labor force. Within that, the city of Tallahassee has the largest refugee population in the entire state. So, in the fall of her junior year alongside classmate, Presidential Scholar and President of the organization Olivia McConnell, they helped establish the Migrant and Refugee Education alliance at FSU. MREA is a student-run organization that began due to the girls’ realization of the larger need in the Tallahassee community for English tutoring for refugee and migrant families following the influx of Syrian and Congolese refugees over recent years. Kunin acts as a Volunteer Coordinator, working one-on-one with families to pair migrant and refugee students ages K-12 with student volunteers from the university. Since their start, they have been able to reach out to over 100 refugee students from over 19 public schools in the area. They hope to help these migrant and refugee families increase their mobility and become more integrated into Tallahassee and increase awareness for the need for this kind of service in the community and on FSU’s campus.

Along with all of this, Kunin still spends her free time out at Lake Talquin with the FSU Rowing Team, an organization that has given her a place to call home over the last 3 years. Kunin is a member of the varsity women’s club program, training throughout the year and traveling to large collegiate competitions throughout the southeast in both the fall and spring semesters. I asked her why, despite her various other involvements that take up the majority of her time, she decides to stay on the team:

“First and foremost, choosing to stay on the team has everything to do with my incredible teammates. I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, but they somehow manage to make me laugh and start my day on such a positive note. Also, to put it simply, I've just always loved 2 things: a challenge and being active. Not knowing anything about the sport coming to FSU, the challenge of integrating rowing into my life has been at times exhausting, but at all times, completely worth it.”

As far as the future, Kunin is currently applying to an assortment of law schools and jobs in search for the next big step in her life with the vision of being able to dedicate her career to helping refugees and other marginalized groups. Among finding her place by exploring new innovative solutions to alleviating humanitarian crises, she says that she would also like to attend at least one Florida State Football game each year. Go ‘Noles!

Courtesy of Liv McConnell​​​