An Advocate for Change
Erin Leitman Scott ’93 (Human Development) has devoted much of her career and volunteer activities to improving the lives and well-being of others, from prosecuting crimes against children to raising awareness about racial disparities in her school district.
When she arrived at the College of Human Ecology, she was in the Design + Environmental Analysis program but switched to Human Development to focus on the ways in which people are impacted by their families, communities, and the world at-large.
After graduation, Leitman Scott attended Albany Law School, concentrating on women's law and criminal law, and was part of the Post-Conviction Remedies Clinic, where she represented incarcerated battered women seeking clemency. After law school, she worked for several years as an assistant district attorney at the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office in the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes Bureau, later moving on to a litigation firm.
“Working at the District Attorney’s Office was the most incredible professional experience I’ve ever had,” Leitman Scott said, “and it directly connected to my Cornell and legal education where I was prepared to pursue a career in social advocacy. Cases were brutal and heart-wrenching, and I was trying in my own way to have an impact on victims’ lives by advocating for them, making the community a safer place, and making sure justice was served.”
From the litigation firm, Leitman Scott then worked for Pfizer, handling cardiovascular clinical trial contracts before becoming Director of Clinical Disclosure. She left Pfizer following the birth of her first son.
Leitman Scott got involved in her children’s school to help develop creative programming to improve and strengthen their educational experience, heading up the school’s cultural arts program. She served on her local parent-teacher executive board, including serving as co-president.
“For the last two years, I've concentrated my efforts on raising awareness of racial inequity in our school district. I have spent many hours talking to community stakeholders about academic structures, social issues affecting students of color, and supporting a culturally responsive approach.”
The police killing of George Floyd and the movement that followed gave the district the impetus to tackle issues of racial disparity in education. Leitman Scott was instrumental in the district’s implementation of its equity and inclusion initiative, which takes a collaborative, intensive, and introspective approach to school data, patterns, and systematic constructs in order to make positive anti-bias changes for the good of students and the greater community.
With her children growing up, Leitman Scott said she is ready to start a new chapter in her professional career and is looking for opportunities to work with institutions and programs to end racial injustice and advocate for marginalized populations in the criminal system.
“There is a lot of work to be done on behalf of the wrongfully convicted. Systems, whether they be criminal, educational, or the like, need to be explored and challenged so that all people have access to equal opportunities and fair treatment in their lives.”
Leitman Scott has been a member of the Cornell Alumni Admissions Ambassador Network (CAAAN) since graduating, interviewing countless prospective students over the last few decades, and gives generously in support of the College of Human Ecology.
“Cornell embraces diversity and encourages its graduates to make the world better. Its courses both stimulated my curiosity and challenged me to meet its rigors. I have always felt honored to be a Cornellian and to carry on its mission,” Leitman Scott said. “I give so that important programs continue and new ones can be created. I give so that people from all backgrounds have the financial opportunity to experience Cornell like I did, so that new leaders will be fostered and make connections with their communities and bring about change.”