Dawkins-Law is a member of the Real Silent Sam Coalition and actively speaks out against the Silent Sam monument. She said she helped organize the recent University Day protests.
“I just sit there as an act of resistance,” she said. “I’m going to sit here at this monument, and I’m glad that I’m sitting here because the people who dedicated it wouldn’t want me sitting here, and I am going to reclaim this space as my own. This is my university, too.”
Dawkins-Law is pursuing a doctorate in education at UNC and was the 2014-15 president of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation.
Current GPSF president, Brandon Linz, worked as her vice president last year.
“She’s very much a freight train. Once she sets her mind to it, she’s going to get it done in one way or another,” Linz said.
Dawkins-Law said her mother’s decision to send her to private school made her want to pursue a degree in education.
“Realizing that a public school teacher would not send her own child to a public school that she attended ... It really made me wonder about inequality,” she said.
She said when she arrived at UNC, she met students with different levels of preparation for college, which was another factor in her decision to pursue education.
As an undergraduate student, Dawkins-Law participated in a program called Gold-N-Love that allowed her to mentor children in the Chapel Hill-Durham area.
“When I heard their stories and their backgrounds, and started connecting the dots, it was like, all these things that I care so deeply about are things that have to be advocated for,” Dawkins-Law said.
Student Body President Houston Summers has worked with Dawkins-Law in student government and considers her a friend.
“She’s given me some wonderful perspective that I never would have considered,” he said.
Dawkins-Law currently serves on the Student Advisory Committee to the Chancellor.
“I think she’s driving change in a good way,” Summers said.
Dana Thompson Dorsey, Dawkins-Law’s graduate advisor, said over the past three years, Shelby has become part of her family.
“I’ve come to care about her a great deal,” Thompson Dorsey said. “And I’m very impressed with her dedication to equity, justice and advocacy, and fighting for the underdogs and fighting for what is right.”