Brian Sims

Brian Sims: “I’m just an average person, but I’m always thinking about how I can help the world be a little bit better”

Brian Sims’s first year at Lees-McRae was not what he expected.  

When he transferred from Clayton State University to play basketball and run track, he didn’t expect both sports to almost overlap. He didn’t expect the entire basketball team to quarantine multiple times after being exposed to COVID-positive players from other schools. He didn’t expect to participate in classes over Zoom while meals were brought to his door three times a day.  

But despite the challenges of transferring to a new school, participating in multiple sports, and changing majors during a global pandemic, Sims finished his junior year with a 4.0 GPA and national recognition for his athletic and academic performance.  

“I would definitely say my junior year was my best, even with all the work and the papers,” Sims said. "I would say I definitely grew as a person and as a student just because of how our professors went about teaching.” 

Sims was originally a Political Science major and plans to attend law school. Since Lees-McRae doesn’t have a Political Science program, Sims decided to be a History major, which would allow him to keep credits he’d already earned and stay on track academically. The Lees-McRae History program is designed to help students develop the research, critical thinking, and communication skills they need to succeed in a variety of fields, including law.  

“What separates these history courses from others is students being able to talk about things,” Sims said. “In the profession I want to get in, I have to work with many different types of people. Just having those courses where we learn about the history of the country, the history of different genders, sexualities, different races—all those different things—just helps me become a better, well-rounded individual. Because you’re not judging people for who they are, you’re treating everyone the same.” 

Working as a lawyer will allow Sims to, in his words, “help people get out of bad situations or put them in better situations. The classes he took his junior year provided additional perspectives and allowed him to understand more about the mindsets of different groups throughout history.  

“My favorite two classes were African-American History, taught by Megan Tewell, and History of Gender and Sexuality,” Sims said. “I also want to give a shout out to Dr. Huffard for his Civil War class. I’ve learned a lot of things that I thought I knew. You would think that you would already know certain stuff, but even at 21, I’m still learning new things.”  

In addition to better understanding the events of the past, Sims was able to use his coursework to explore how he can make a difference, particularly in his future career. His favorite assignment, he said, was a semester-long research project on any topic of his choice. The goal was to produce a paper that supported his opinions and explained his point of view through facts and data. Sims decided to focus on something he’s passionate about: the exploitation of minimum wage workers.  

“I got a lot of groundbreaking data,” Sims said. “CEOs make about 300 times more than a minimum wage employee.” 

The research and eventual 15-page paper were fueled by Sims’s frustration that people could work full-time jobs and still live under the poverty line.  

“I wanted to talk about it, I wanted to research, because one day I want to change that,” he said.  

Sims’s desire to attend law school and help others was further cemented by his internship with a practicing lawyer—one of his father’s fraternity brothers—over the summer. The man runs his own firm and gets to work with a variety of different cases, meaning Sims got to experience a little bit of criminal law, family law, and personal injury law and get an idea of what he would like to pursue in the future. Sims was able to actually go to court and sit with the attorneys, and the internship reinforced the positive impact he could have on his community and how he could make a difference in people’s lives.  

“The lawyer was telling me that there’s not that many African-American attorneys,” Sims said. “I live in Birmingham. It’s a predominantly Black city, but you don’t have that many Black attorneys. When people see that, when they see these two guys in suits represent someone…that makes people feel good.”  

The information Sims is learning in the History program will be vital as he assists those whose situations might have been influenced by events that happened long before they were born.  

“The beautiful thing about it is all that history, in a sense, still comes to one understanding of how we got here now, and why certain things are so significant now,” he said. “You don’t need to neglect any part of history.”  

For Sims, one of the benefits of getting a college education is the chance to gain a different perspective and to recognize that everyone has their own viewpoint. Coming from Birmingham, he was used to year-round high temperatures and an urban environment and had to adapt to colder winters and new activities, like hiking yoga. The History program is especially well suited to this goal, as the discipline focuses on identifying why people throughout history made the choices they did and how those choices led to certain events. 

Sims will be taking a lighter course load during his senior year, but he still plans to stay busy. Along with competing on both the basketball and track teams, Sims is active in the club W.O.K.E (Wearing Our Kulture Eminently) and has his own graphic design business. He hopes to add to that list this year by joining new clubs, meeting new people, embracing the opportunities provided by the college’s mountain location, and just enjoying this time in his life.  

To other students or prospective students considering a History major, Sims recommends coming with an open mind. “There are a lot of things you might learn that you’ve never known before,” he said. “And a lot of things you might do that you’ve never done before.” 

By Emily WebbNovember 17, 2021