‘Lift As You Climb’

Starr Sage
Starr Sage (ThreeSixty Journalism/Aaliyah Demry

Starr Sage has many passions in life, but all of them are about leaving the world a better place. From education to public health, diversity and inclusion work, she believes in lifting up the next generation with thoughtfulness and gratitude. 

Professionally, Sage studies the ways women of color face unique barriers in receiving cancer-related care. An associate professor in public health at the University of St. Thomas, Sage understands that Black women face barriers in accessing cancer resources. She is trying to understand if some of those barriers are unique to Minnesota and find ways to eliminate them. She also serves as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion faculty fellow, working to help support those who are interested in developing their intercultural skills. 

Aside from teaching, Sage loves to travel with her family because traveling at a young age shaped her view of the world. Before she was 15, she had already been to Europe through a school exchange program. International traveling experiences like that fundamentally changed her worldview, she said, building her interest in educating others in public health. 

Being a parent of two has shaped her approach to education. “When becoming a parent, it shifts your center because you have these young people who you’re fully responsible for, and they look to you for everything,” she said. 

Her children inspire her to leave the world a better place. She sees diversity and inclusion as critical to that work. 

Sage said she brings a diversity, inclusion and equity lens into all of her work. She believes that in order to be effective, we need to know how to bridge cultural differences. She works to help people push themselves into uncomfortable areas, since she knows that creating inclusives spaces is better for everyone. 

“I recognize that there are other ways to see the world, and I’m constantly trying to understand why others might see the world in a different way than I do,” she said. 

Sage is a member of the Association of Black Women in Higher Education and is currently working to revive the organization’s scholarship program for young Black women. The goal of this project is to financially support women who are working to finish their degrees at universities or colleges in the Twin Cities. 

Sage finds teaching young people to see the world through a public health and equity lens to be a privilege, and she often looks for ways to motivate students. She knows it can be difficult to earn a degree in higher education due to cost, family pressure and other factors. But she urges students to stay on the course, because she believes a degree is worth it in the end. 

“It’s the only investment that can never be taken away from you,” she said. 

The work of supporting the next generation of students takes time, but Sage believes that it’s critical to help others achieve success. 

“Lift as you climb,” she said. 

“As you’re making your way up and achieving your goals, be sure to turn around and help others who are coming along behind you.”