A Remarkable Student Achiever Leaves UAlbany a Lasting Gift

A young woman stands on a large wooden deck with a field, lake and mountains behind her
Simone Hassan-Bey, in Gwangju, South Korea.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 7, 2021) — Given the number of accolades Simone Hassan-Bey has received over the past four years, it’s unlikely that she would be soon forgotten at the University at Albany. But taking command in launching a scholarship for UAlbany students as she was departing would seem to have secured her legend.

Hassan-Bey, an Honors College student who graduated in May with a degree in Business Administration and minor in Korean Studies, launched the Yoonhee Yoshi Kim Memorial Scholarship in her senior year. In honor of Kim, a 2016 graduate who was a three-time recipient of the University’s Spellman Achievement Award but who succumbed to cancer in 2020, it awards $250 each to five UAlbany students who, like Kim, exhibit resilience and service to Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities.

“I wrote the proposal, got the funding, the blessing from the Kim family, wrote the questions, the rubric for grading, did all the marketing jazz too,” she said. “It was tough, but luckily I had people that supported the vision.”

An ad for a memorial scholarship in the name of Yoonhee Yoshi Kim, who is shown in a round photo
An ad last spring for the Yoohnee Yoshi Kim Memorial Scholarship, launched by then senior Simone Hassan-Bey.
A Passion for Korea

Hassan-Bey returned three weeks ago from more than two months in South Korea, where she studied the Korean language through a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) — part of a U.S. effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages, so that they can make greater contributions to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.  

Her stay in South Korea was her second, with a passion to learn of the Korean culture, language and education system going back to her senior year in high school. “One very late night during a school break I was binge-watching documentaries and came across a few based on Korean culture,” she remembers. “As a result of my binge, months later I came across a YouTube video about high school students being able to study abroad in Korea for free.”

The program was through a U.S. State Department Scholarship known as National Security Language for Youth (NSLI-Y) to study critical languages for a summer or academic year. Accepted to UAlbany in 2016, she took a gap year with the NSLI-Y program before entering UAlbany in Fall 2017. 

What she did in the next four years is reflected by a partial list of her awards:

  • Presidential Leadership - Ada Craig Walker and Purple & Gold ALANNA scholarship awards
  • Dr. Seth Spellman Jr. Award for QTPOC Distinguished Leadership
  • Spellman Academic Achievement Award
  • Dreamer Achiever Award
  • National Coalition of 100 Black Women Recognition Award
  • World of East Asia Speech Contest, 2019: First Place for Advanced Korean

Hassan-Bey became president of UAlbany’s Pride Alliance in 2020-21 and led the group to five Purple and Gold awards, including Student Group of the Year. She even found time to be a student assistant from February of 2019 to May 2020.

Outside the University, this past spring she co-founded Rooted Uprising, a social and environmental justice collective aiming to engage, elevate, and empower community.

A History of Advocacy

Raised up and down the East Coast from Georgia to New York and Connecticut, Hassan-Bey said she “was quite known for being outspoken in high school on some of the issues our school was facing in terms of administrative issues that trickled down to affect the students. I wrote a what some would call a ‘fiery’ letter my junior year and placed it in every teacher and administrator's mailbox at the school, and the contents of it had people talking for months.”

She said her advocacy “gave me a seat at the table to start making things happen” including the reinstituting of college trips for the first time in years. She decided on two trips — one to Hunter College (CUNY), the other to UAlbany.

“I decided to apply to SUNY Albany because I was undecided on what my major would be, and the campus seemed to have a lot of options . . . and it was one of the only schools in New York outside of the private sector that offered Korean to an advanced level which is how I ended up applying to the University as my first choice.”

Her current plans include helping the current Pride Alliance president, Ivan Daquial, move forward with the Yoonhee Yoshi Kim Memorial Scholarship, “hopefully expanding the range of scholarships offered and the amount awarded too. The scholarship is something I'm very passionate about. something I'm hoping to continue to do for years to come.”

She is starting to apply for fellowships and careers in what she calls “the social impact space — “thankfully, I've been spending quite a bit of time there already, but I've got some more adulting to do!”