Iris Marion Young Award | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

Iris Marion Young Award

Call for Nominations

Do you know someone who is a leader in the struggle to achieve social justice? If so, we want to hear from you. The Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program, with contributions from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and others across the University community, has created the Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement to honor those who work to promote justice in the University, at the local or national level, or across the globe. Like the philosopher and social theorist Iris Young, in whose memory the award is created, the Young Award recognizes that social activism takes many forms. Justice can be pursued in a variety of ways and places—in the classroom and workplace, in organizations, through specific projects, in academic scholarship, in politics and volunteer work. The venue doesn’t matter. The effort and quality of the contribution does. The Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program invites nominations of any members of the Pitt community staff or faculty—who work to promote social justice and democracy. The Program invites undergraduates and graduates to be nominated for the Iris Marion Young Undergraduate and Graduate Awards. Because Young’s vision holds gender equity to be an integral component of social justice, the Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program especially welcomes nominations of individuals whose work explicitly engages issues of gender and sexual orientation.

To nominate a candidate for the Iris Marion Young Award, send an email to Include three things: your name and contact information, the nominee’s name and contactinformation, and a couple of sentences explaining why you are nominating that person. Nominations may also be mailed to the Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program. Our address  is 401 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. You and your nominee will be contacted to follow up on your nomination. A fall deadline is announced each year.


Iris Marion YoungThe Young Award for Political Engagement honors Iris Marion Young, a philosopher and social theorist of international renown.  Young was a professor in GSPIA during the 1990s before taking a position as Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago in 2000.  She died in 2006 of cancer.

At Pitt, Young was a galvanizing presence, active in the Women’s Studies Program as well as within GSPIA. During her time in Pittsburgh, Young volunteered and organized on behalf of peace and social justice, fair labor practices, adult literacy, and children’s rights, among other causes, and she worked to combat hate groups and poverty.

GSPIA and the Women’s Studies Program inaugurated the award in 2008 to honor Young’s memory and recognize a member of the Pitt community whose actions have had political impact within the University or beyond.  In 2009, GSPIA established the Iris M. Young Lecture in Civic Engagement to mark the event, and Women's Studies added an undergraduate award.  A graduate student award was added in 2011. 

Past Award Winners

Jackie Smith -2016 (faculty)

Jackie Smith is professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh and editor of the Open Access Journal of World-Systems Research. Her research addresses relationships between globalization and social movements, and recent books include: Social Movements and World-System Transformation (co-edited with Michael Goodhart, Patrick Manning, and John Markoff), and Social Movements in the World-System: The Politics of Crisis and Transformation (with Dawn Wiest). Smith is co-founder and co-coordinator of the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance, and serves on the national steering committee of the National Human Rights City Network. She is co-founder of the International Network of Scholar-Activists and serves on the Leadership Committee of May First/People Link, a technology and communications rights organization.

Sheila Confer – 2016 (staff)

Sheila Confer is Assistant Director of the Academic Village at Pitt-Greensburg. She also teaches in the Theatre Department. Confer brings social justice education and trainings to the campus community through Pitt-Greensburg’s Academic Village, Allies Network and Committee for Gender Equity, which she chairs. Outside of her work at Pitt, Confer serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors of Blackburn Center, Westmoreland County’s only anti-violence agency. She also works on Blackburn’s Social Transformation Committee and as the liaison for the agency’s ongoing relationship with Pitt-Greensburg. Confer is a 2014 winner of the Chancellor’s Award for Staff for Excellence in Service to the University.

Hanifa Nakiryowa – 2016 (graduate)

Hanifa Nakiryowa is currently a H. J. Heinz fellow with the Global Studies Centre, pursuing a master of International Development-Human Security at GSPIA. She has a certificate in Global Change Leadership from COADY International Institute, Canada and a master’s degree in Economics from University of Nairobi. She has worked as a UNICEF-Uganda program monitoring and evaluation specialist, human rights advocate for Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda and tutor at the Islamic University in Uganda. She founded the Centre for Rehabilitation of Survivors of Acid and burns Violence (CERESAV), the only NGO in Uganda advocating for ZERO tolerance to Acid Attack Violence.

Saskia Berrios-Thomas – 2016 (undergraduate)

Saskia Berrios-Thomas is a senior majoring in social work and minoring in economics. Saskia is deeply committed to working for those affected by sexual violence and child abuse. She has conducted research projects on sexual violence prevention and has published work in undergraduate and professional journals. Saskia is currently an intern at Allegheny County CYF. She is a Pitt sexual assault peer educator and annually volunteers at a Native American emergency foster care home. She volunteers regularly with her therapy dog and also works two part-time jobs. In her free time, Saskia enjoys spending time with her horse, family, and friends.

Robin Clarke - 2015 Faculty Award

Robin Clarke has been highly active in numerous social-engagement movements within the city of Pittsburgh, including the ongoing efforts to preserve affordable rental housing in East Liberty and the fight to salvage UPMC Braddock in 2010. She is the author of the nonfiction book Lines the Quarry (Omnidawn, 2013), which examines aspects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch mine disaster. In addition to teaching in Pitt’s Composition Program, Clark is a member of the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers, which works to organize unions for academic workers in Pittsburgh.

Abigail Yochum 2015 Graduate Award

Abigail Yochum serves as director of development at the Pitt Legal Income Sharing Foundation, vice president of the Pitt Law Democrats, and articles editor for the Pittsburgh Tax Review. Outside of Pitt, she has contributed her legal expertise to the Community Justice Project, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, and Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania. In addition to the Iris Marion Young Award, her other recent honors and distinctions include Pitt’s Judge Harry A. Kramer Scholarship, Dean’s Merit Scholarship, and Public Interest Scholarship. Yochum looks to focus her professional career in the areas of feminist advocacy and reproductive rights.

Marko Gudic 2015 Undergraduate Award

Marko Gudic established Pittsburgh’s Deliberative Community Budget Forums, which works to increase public participation in the city’s annual capital-budget hearings. As a student activist, he cofounded Pitt’s Student Media Collaborative and has been an active member within the University’s chapters of Americans for Informed Democracy and Luso-Brazilian Student Association. Outside of Pitt, he has worked extensively with social-advocacy organizations such as the Thomas Merton Center and Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations. Gudic is passionate about public policy and international development and is committed to a career innovating government through the advancement of democracy and the application of technology.

Irene Frieze - 2014 Faculty Award

Since Irene Frieze arrived in Pittsburgh in 1972 to establish the Women's Studies Program, she has worked consistently on behalf of women and Women's Studies, at Pitt, in the region, and in the field of psychology. Some community projects have included setting up a referral list of feminist therapists, serving as expert witness in sexual harassment cases, and co-coordinating a SW PA conference on the mental health needs of women. She has edited the journal Sex Roles and the Journal of Social Issues — for the latter she initiated issues on "Voices of Poor Women," women and leadership, and prejudice against employed mothers. She has also made Pitt more women-friendly by developing the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Women's Concerns, and the more recent Ad Hoc Committee on Contingent Faculty. She directed the Women's Studies Program 1984-89 and 1993 and continued to be an active member of the steering committee until 2014.

Yumna Rathore - 2014 Graduate Award

Read Yumna's Speech

Yumna Rathore is a recent graduate of the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs (GSPIA) and is currently an International Consultant at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Beijing, China.  She has worked, documented and presented on girls’ education and empowerment in Pakistan and other countries in South Asia. As Co-President of Daya: International Consultants for Peace Initiatives, she organized peace and conflict-resolution workshops in Pittsburgh and launched an internship program in India for students looking to work on gender and religious justice issues. She also co-founded an online theology journal called Fusion for young adults to openly express views on faith. Yumna currently works on poverty reduction and climate change advocacy campaigns in China. Originally from Pakistan, Yumna Rathore has lived, worked, studied, or traveled in twenty countries.

Joseph Thomas - 2014 Undergraduate Award

Joseph Thomas is a founding member of AIDPitt and NoSweat: Pitt Coalition Against Sweatshops, whose successful campaign led to Pitt’s commitment to sell union-made apparel.  His volunteer work has made positive impacts on social, economic, and health issues both locally and abroad, and he has spoken on his experiences for national conferences and small panels.  Joseph Thomas focused his honors level undergraduate work at Pitt in the areas of biology, chemistry, and political science, and won several fellowships for his research on biofilm formation in Mycobacterium smegmatis.

Alicia Williamson - 2013 Graduate Award

Alicia Williamson, currently a Visiting Postdoctoral Lecturer in the English Department, is being honored for her accomplishments as a PhD student.  Williamson was a founding member of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, a grassroots organization begun in 2010 that brings together transit riders, drivers, and supporters.  The group works to stop service cuts and fare hikes and to make public transportation cheaper and better.    She has also been a member of the Thomas Merton Center’s Economic Justice Committee, and she has recently helped to found the Pittsburgh Collaborative for Working Class Studies, an organization that brings together scholars from several Pittsburgh colleges and universities. 

Audrey-Marie H. Winn - 2013 Undergraduate Award

Audrey-Marie H. Winn is a junior majoring in Philosophy, Chinese, and Nonfiction Writing.  She is being honored for activism and service conducted in the Pittsburgh area and China.  She has worked locally as a reading tutor through AmeriCorps VISTA, and as a result of this work, she founded a community service initiative to provide communal bookshelves in low-income Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  She has also worked as a Legal Intake Intern for the ACLU.  Winn extended her work for social justice to a new field this summer when she began compiling statements from migrant workers while living and studying in Chengdu, China.  She presented her research in Mandarin Chinese to students and administrators at Sichuan University, one of the largest employers of migrant workers in central China.   

Natalie (Tasha) L. Kimball - 2012 Graduate Award

Read Tasha's speech

Natalie (Tasha) Kimball is a doctoral candidate in History who has integrated her activites as researcher and activist, first as a bilingual labor organizer and women's health-care advocate in Seattle, then in her work as a student and activist in Pittsburgh and Bolivia.  Beginning in 2003 with a Fulbright grant to study in Bolivia, Tasha focused her research on the gender inequality prevalent in mining communities, addressing domestic violent, the politics of unwanted pregnancy, and women's reproductive rights.  Adept in languages (Spanish, Portuguese, and beginning Quechua), she interviewed women, health care providers, and women's rights activists, and was active in efforts to promote women's reproductive rights.  She received her BA from the University of Washington, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and her MA from the University of Pittsburgh, where she has received travel awards, research and field support, and a Mellon fellowship.

Lauren M. Hasek - 2012 Undergraduate Award

Read Lauren's speech

Lauren M. Hasek is pursuing a BPhil in Political Science, with a double major in Neuroscience, a minor in Chemistry, and a program in Swahili.  A member of the executive board of Student Leaders in International Medicine (SLIM) at Pitt, she also works as a biology tutor with the Academic Resource Center and is a member of the Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC) Honorary Society.  She writes for The Pitt Pulse and serves as a resident assistant, and has participated in research on high-risk obstetric patients in Pittsburgh.  Her participation in the Honors College Brackenridge Research Fellowship program and SLIM led Lauren to investigate HIV education policy effects on preventative infant feeding practices in Lilongwe, Malawi. She is currently developing a new study on socialized healthcare policies with the private clinics and the Malawian Ministry of Gender.

Anne Marie Toccket - 2011 Graduate Award

Read Anne Marie's speech

Anne Marie Toccket is a master’s student in international development at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.  She is a founding member of Awamaki, an NGO dedicated to sustainable development and fair-trade tourism in Peru. Awamaki supports an indigenous weaving community, provides healthcare and educational benefits, and arranges for the women to display their work outside of Peru. Toccket graduated from Penn State in 2006 with a B. A. in Spanish, International Studies and Communication.  In addition to her work in Peru, she served with the Vista program in Puerto Rico. At college, she worked for Voices of Central Pennsylvania, an alternative newspaper, and The Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. One of her reviewer’s wrote lauded her persistent and deep commitment to the cause of women and economic justice.  Her graduate work is deepening her understanding of gender dynamics in economic  processes.

Megan L. Neuf - 2011, Undergraduate Award

Read Megan's speech

Megan Neuf has a long experience of social justice activism for one working on her B.A. in Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh. In high school, she organized a group called ”M-Powerment” to educate young women on pressing social issues, including sexual assault, body image, depression, and stress.  In college, she has been active in Strong Women Strong Girls, the YMCA, and the Fair Trade Movement, and participated in a Leadership and Social Justice Learning Community at Pitt, where she assisted at an elementary school in Cleveland and worked to analyze social issues. She traveled to Ecuador to work with the Rostro de Cristo volunteer project and had an internship working with the Heinz Endowments on youth philanthropy and activism.

Michelle S. McGowan - 2010, Undergraduate Award

Read Michelle's speech

Michelle McGowan received her BA in Social Work in April 2010 from the University of Pittsburgh and plans to pursue a master's in social work.  She has worked locally and abroad to support at-risk women and their reproductive choices.  She began her political activism in high school, taking part in the Million Women March, attending youth leadership conferences, and earning a service learning certificate for work with Easter Seals and Planned Parenthood.  At Pitt, she has participated in Students Taking Action Now in Darfur (STAND), the G20 Resistance Project, and Student Global AIDS day.  She studied and worked in South Africa, receiving a certificate in community development from Stellenbosch University and working with a grassroots organization to aid women at high risk for sexual assault and HIV.  Since 2008, she has interned at the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

Aaron M. Arnold2009, Undergraduate Award

Read Aaron’s speech

Aaron M. Arnold graduated in April 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.A. in Sociology, a minor in Africana Studies, and a certificate in the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Named in 2005 as a Time-Warner/Point Foundation Scholar, he received the Robert W. Avery Award for excellence in undergraduate studies from Sociology and in 2008 was inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership honors society. As a Brackenridge fellow in the Honors College, Aaron carried out a research study on HIV/AIDS educational materials in Lagos, Nigeria. He has interned with Heartland Alliance, a refugee health education program, and, at the University, been a leader of Rainbow Alliance, a GLBTQA student support organization and the Campus Women’s Organization’s production of Vagina Monologues.

Copyright 2014 | Site by Communications Services