The Iris Marion Young Awards for Political Engagement
***The 2020-21 Awards Ceremony for the Iris Marion Young Awards for Political Engagement will be held Wed., Jan. 27, 5-6:30 pm. All members of the Pitt community are welcome to attend. Register for the Zoom event. See profiles of this year's winners below.***
The Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program (GSWS) and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) sponsor each year the Iris Marion Young Awards 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. Contact us at email@example.com to find out about the next award cycle.
The Iris Marion Young Awards for Political Engagement (IMYA) honor Iris Marion Young, pictured at right, a philosopher and social theorist of international renown. Young was a professor in GSPIA and a member of the Women's Studies Program Steering Committee 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. 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 (later GSWS) inaugurated the awards in 2008 to honor Young’s memory by recognizing a member of the Pitt community whose actions have had political impact within the University or beyond. Initially, only one award was presented, then faculty/staff and student awards, and now awards are presented each year to an undergraduate student, a graduate student, a staff member, and a faculty member at Pitt. The annual awards ceremony is an inspiring event in which the recipients talk about their work on behalf of justice.
The Latest Winners
Beatrice Fadrigon - 2020-21 Undergraduate Student Award (co-winner)
Beatrice Fadrigon (Psychology major, Film and Media Studies minor) has a strong record of activism. She is a co-founded of AQUARIUS (the Alliance of Queer and Underrepresented Asians in Recognition of Intersectionality to Uphold Solidarity) and in her leadership role has helped to raise funds for organizations such as SisTersPGH and co-hosted workshops and conferences supporting LGBTQ and Asian students. She has also served on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of Pitt’s Student Government Board, where she has worked on many initiatives including leading the task force working toward an LGBTQIA+ center at Pitt. She has also co-authored scholarship about the use of Information Communication Technologies by Queer People of Color.
Kathryn Fleisher - 2020-21 Undergraduate Student Award (co-winner)
Kathryn Fleisher (majors in Politics-Philosophy and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; Creative Writing minor [nonfiction]) is founder and executive director of Not My Generation, Inc., a nonprofit committed to localized, intersectional gun violence prevention organizing for young adults. She is also national co-chair for the Reform Jewish Movement Gun Violence Prevention Campaign. In recognition of her leadership, she has been named a Harry S. Truman Scholar and a Giffords Courage Fellow.
Kess Ballentine - 2020-21 Graduate Student Award
Kess Ballentine (PhD student, School of Social Work) has pursued feminist, intersectional approaches to social justice through her work as a graduate student. She co-founded the Coalition for Engaged Social Workers as a space for social workers to have critical conversation linking theory, research, policy, and practice. She works on multiple student- and faculty-led efforts in the ongoing movement to dismantle white supremacy and promote anti-racist, inclusive content and pedagogy in social work education. Her dissertation grew out of her experiences as a research assistant on the Pittsburgh Wage Study and focuses on the struggles of working single mothers in the medical field.
Prince Matthews, Sr. - 2020-21 Staff Award
Prince Matthews, Sr. (Academic and Student Services Coordinator, Katz School of Business) is a staff member and a recent GSPIA graduate with a long record of public service, activism, and politically engaged research at Pitt and throughout America. His scholarly work, leadership, and activism focuses on poverty, inequality, injustice, and black mobility. Prince was recently selected by the White House as a 2020-2021 White House Fellowship Regional Finalist and plans to holistically address issues in the black community and low-socioeconomic communities across America.
Gina Garcia - 2020-21 Faculty Award
Dr. Gina Garcia (Associate Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Education Foundations, Organizations, and Policy) is being honored for her scholarship, teaching, and mentorship promoting equity and justice. In her scholarship about Hispanic-serving institutions of higher education, her teaching in courses such as “Politics and History of Higher Education,” and her advising and mentoring of individual students and student organizations, she seeks to make predominantly white spaces open to the shaping influence of minoritized participants and women.
Anaïs Peterson - 2019 Undergraduate Student Award
Anaïs Peterson graduated in 2020 with a major in Urban Studies minors in English Writing (Poetry) and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. She is a core organizer with the Fossil Free Pitt Coalition and played an integral role in organizing the Zero Hour sister march in Pittsburgh in 2018 calling on politicians to enact strong climate policy. Her work on climate advocacy has garnered the attention of Time magazine, WESA, and The Pitt News.
Morgan Overton - 2019 Graduate Student Award
Morgan Overton, who graduated with a Masters of Social Work degree in 2020, was a graduate student in the School of Social Work with a concentration in Community Organization and Social Action. She has been active in political campaigns both at a national and local level beginning with her role as a fellow on former President Obama’s campaign in 2012. She has brought her knowledge of political action to a new group of female political leaders as a Program Associate for the Women and Girl’s Foundation program GirlGov, a civic engagement program for high-school girls.
Ron Idoko - 2019 Staff Award
Ron Idoko is the Diversity and Multi-Cultural Program Manager of Pitt’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Formerly the Director of Alumni Clubs and Councils at the Pitt Alumni Association, he is also an adjunct professor in GSPIA’s Public Service Program and a doctoral student in the School of Education. He is the lead advisor for Pitt Civics, a coalition of students advocating for the creation of a Center for Civic Engagement at the University of Pittsburgh, and an active participant in Pathways to Civic Growth, a working group developing a civic mentoring protocol with the assistance of a Personalized Education Grant awarded by the Provost’s office. He has also been awarded a grant by the Pitt Cyber Institute to fund his dissertation research on the effectiveness of virtual, informal civic learning games in building civic competency.
Jessie Patella-Rey - 2019 Faculty Award
Jessie Patella-Rey is a faculty member in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program. She is also a regular columnist with the Pittsburgh City Paper, and co-host/co-producer of the podcast Peepshow: Your Glance at Sex and Social Justice. Jessie is a co-founder and organizer with SWOP Pittsburgh (the Sex Worker Outreach Project). Her work on the podcast and as a Pittsburgh City Paper columnist elevates the voices of sex workers and increases awareness of injustices with regard to this community.
Marianne Novy - Special Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019
Marianne Novy, Professor Emerita of English and a former Director of Pitt's Women’s Studies Program (now GSWS), was instrumental in creating and implementing the Faculty Diversity Seminar at Pitt in the 1990s. She co-founded the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture and started the Pittsburgh Consortium for Adoption Studies, interdisciplinary organizations active in raising awareness about the rights of parties involved in adoption and the political contexts that impact adoption.
Dighan Kelly - 2018-2019 Undergraduate Student Award
Dighan Kelly began working for NextGen America, registering close to a thousand students to vote and planned and funded various projects with other student groups. She partnered with Pitt Unmuted to approximate the number of students sexually assaulted on Pitt’s campus each year, based on the existing number from a 2015 Pitt News article. In conjunction with this work, she organized an art installation on the William Pitt Union lawn entitled, “My Body Is My Own,” the installation explored rape culture, birth control access, bodily autonomy, and their intersectionality at Pitt through the voices of students. She also served on the local International Women’s Strike chapter’s steering committee and as President of the Planned Parenthood Club on campus.
Medha Kadri - 2018-2019 Graduate Student Award
Medha Kadri started her work as a counselor/mentor for VOICE4Girls, where she was trained to teach a curriculum designed to address issues like child marriage and early pregnancies. She graduated with a master’s in health psychology and worked for a child-rights focused Non-governmental organization called Mamidipudi Venkatarangaiah Foundation (MVF) that primarily rescued bonded child laborers and mainstreamed them back into school education. While at MVF she also trained the staff to implement an activity-based curriculum in various rural areas across South India and conducted an independent research study that aimed at understanding the patterns of student achievement and teacher efficacy at schools.
Crystal McCormick Ware - 2018-2019 Staff Award
Crystal McCormick Ware currently serves as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives at the University Library System (ULS), which is one of the first of its kind in terms of positions at an academic research library. She also serves as a founding member of the Greater Pittsburgh Higher Education Diversity Consortium, a group of Southwestern PA higher education professionals. In her early career at the University of Pittsburgh she directed the Welfare to Work program in the School of Social Work. This program trained life-long welfare recipients with job skills and job placement at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Where clients (mostly women) were able to empower themselves with careers. She also worked at the former School of Information Sciences and the ULS and has focused on diversity initiatives with recruitment, training, and programming.
Kari Kokka - 2018-2019 Faculty Award
Kari Kokka is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. She researches student and teacher perspectives of Social Justice Mathematics. Her most recent publication is titled, “Healing-Informed Social Justice Mathematics: Promoting Students’ Sociopolitical Consciousness and Well-Being in Mathematics Class,” which investigates a sixth-grade mathematics teacher’s mathematics classroom and how she used Social Justice Mathematics tasks. In her own teaching, she incorporates social justice issues into course readings and assignments. She currently serves as the co-chair of the Critical Educators for Social Justice, as a new editorial board member of the Journal of Critical Education Policy Studies and a founding member of the Radical STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Making) Educators.
Sara A. Goodkind – 2017 Faculty Award
Sara A. Goodkind has served as a professor within Pitt’s School of Social Work since 2006. She holds secondary appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program. Goodkind’s research focuses on programs and services for young people, particularly those in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. She is interested in how understandings of gender, race/ethnicity, class, sexuality, and age shape service design and delivery and how these, in turn, affect the mental health and well-being of young people, parents, and staff members. Goodkind earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Amherst College in 1993 as well as her Masters of Social Work and a PhD in Social Work and Sociology from the University of Michigan in 2005.
Shenay D. Jeffrey – 2017 Staff Award
Shenay D. Jeffrey serves as an outreach coordinator for PittServes, a university-wide initiative that connects students with volunteer opportunities. In this role, she works to develop and nurture partnerships with more than 300 community agencies, nonprofits organizations, and regional groups. Jeffrey also was a major organizer and recruiter for prominent Pitt service activities, such as Pitt Make A Difference Day. Outside of Pitt, Jeffrey is the president of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Young Professionals. She also holds leadership positions within the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP), New Voices for Reproductive Justice, and the Pittsburgh Civic Leadership Academy. In 2010, Jeffrey earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Information Management from Pitt and a Masters of Public Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 2016.
Abigail R. Cartus – 2017 Graduate Student Award
Abigail R. Cartus is the cofounder of Pittsburgh Lead Action Now, a citizen-led group working for lead-free drinking water in Pittsburgh. Earlier this year, she worked with a coalition of women and femme activists to organize the Pittsburgh International Women’s Strike/Paro de Mujeres. In addition to Pittsburgh Lead Action Now, Cartus has been a member of Pitt’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee and the Democratic Socialists of America. In 2010, Cartus earned a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Pitt. She earned a Master of Public Health degree in epidemiology from the University of Texas at Austin. Cartus is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in epidemiology and plans to graduate in 2021.
C. Elizabeth Shaaban – 2017 Graduate Student Award
C. Elizabeth Shaaban is the cofounder of Pittsburgh Lead Action Now, a citizen-led group working for a lead-free drinking water in Pittsburgh. She played an integral role in the planning and execution of March for Science Pittsburgh. In addition to Pittsburgh Lead Action Now, Shaaban has ben a member of Pitt’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee, the Pittsburgh chapter of Women in Bio, and a community garden in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, among other organizations. Shaaban earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology as well as a Master of Public Health degree at Pitt. She earned a PhD at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health.
Mary-Katherine Koenig – 2017 Undergraduate Student Award
Mary-Katherine Koenig campaigned for passage of a birth-record modernization bill in her home state of Illinois. She established the “I Am __” Project, a photography series centering on transgender communities in Pittsburgh and Chicago. The series was prominently displayed within the Pitt Program Council Gallery and at the Thomas Merton Center. Koenig has written for the literary journal BlazeVox, The Original Magazine, and The Fourth Wave, an undergraduate intersectional feminist magazine at Pitt. Her photography has been featured in The Pitt News, Hot Metal Bridge Magazine, and NewPeople, Pittsburgh’s peace and social justice activist newspaper. Koenig earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and History.
Jackie Smith – 2016 Faculty Award
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 Award
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 Student Award
Hanifa Nakiryowa was an H. J. Heinz fellow at the Global Studies Center and earned a Masters degree in 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, as a human rights advocate for Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda, and as a 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 Student Award
Saskia Berrios-Thomas earned the award as 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 was an intern at Allegheny County CYF and a Pitt sexual assault peer educator, and she annually volunteers at a Native American emergency foster care home. As a student, she volunteered regularly with her therapy dog and also worked 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 Student Award
When Abigail Yochum won the award, she was serving 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 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, she had been awarded Pitt’s Judge Harry A. Kramer Scholarship, a Dean’s Merit Scholarship, and a Public Interest Scholarship. Yochum planned to focus her professional career in the areas of feminist advocacy and reproductive rights.
Marko Gudic – 2015 Undergraduate Student 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 hoped for a career contributing to innovative 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, and for the latter she initiated issues on "Voices of Poor Women," women and leadership, and prejudice against employed mothers. She 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 Student Award
At the time of winning this award, Yumna Rathore was a recent graduate of the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs (GSPIA) and worked as 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 where young adults can openly express their 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 Student Award
Joseph Thomas was 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 as a student made positive impacts on social, economic, and health issues both locally and abroad, and he has spoken about his experiences at national conferences and as part of local 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.
Jessie B. Ramey – 2013 Faculty Award
Jessie B. Ramey is currently Associate Professor of Gender Studies at Chatham University and Director of Chatham's Women's Institute, and she also chairs the Gender Equity Commission for the City of Pittsburgh. At the time of winning this award, she wass an ACLS New Faculty Fellow in Women’s Studies and History at the University of Pittsburgh. Ramey was honored for her activism on behalf of public education in Western Pennsylvania. She was a founding member of the Pittsburgh Great School Coalition, an organization devoted to improving public schools and public school funding in Western Pennsylvania, and the lead author of the blog with the same goal, Yinzercation. As a result of these efforts, Ramey was twice invited to the White House to meet with President Obama’s senior policy advisors about educational issues. Ramey’s scholarship supports her interest in children’s welfare and opportunities. She is the author of Childcare in Black and White: Working Parents and the History of Orphanages (University of Illinois Press, 2012), which won the Lerner-Scott prize in women’s history from the Organization of American Historians, the Herbert G. Gutman Prize of the Labor and Working-Class History Association, and the John Heinz Award of the National Academy of Social Insurance.
Sherdina D. Harper – 2013 Staff Award
Sherdina D. Harper was honored for her exemplary work as Coordinator of Cross Cultural Programming at Pitt. Harper advises several student organizations at Pitt (Rainbow Alliance, Black Action Society, and Campus Women’s Organization) and provides diversity trainings and workshops, including the Allies Training for staff and faculty about how to support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer) students at Pitt.
Alicia Williamson – 2013 Graduate Student Award
Alicia Williamson was honored for her accomplishments as a PhD student in the Department of English. 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 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 Student Award
When Audrey-Marie H. Winn won this award, she was a junior majoring in Philosophy, Chinese, and Nonfiction Writing. She was honored for activism and service conducted in the Pittsburgh area and China. She 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 also worked as a Legal Intake Intern for the ACLU. Winn extended her work for social justice 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.
Carrie R. Leana – 2012 Faculty Award
Carrie R. Leana is a George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management and Professor of Business Administration, with joint appointments in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, School of Medicine, and Learning, Research and Development Center at the University. She holds a PhD in Organizational Behavior and Business Policy from the University of Houston and earned BA and MBA degrees from Baylor University. She has won numerous awards--for research, academic leadership, teaching, and in 2003, the Chancellor's Award for Distinguished Public Service. She has brought her academic expertise and social engagement to serve the public in an impressive array of activities--as a scholar, writing on Coping with Job Loss (1992) and Relational Wealth (2000), as a consultant and in public testimony on behalf of grassroots organizations, nonprofit groups, and lower level employees faced with the challenges of a shrinking labor economy, and especially in her ten-year commitment to the Three Rivers Community Foundation.
Natalie (Tasha) L. Kimball – 2012 Graduate Student Award
When Natalie (Tasha) Kimball won this award, she was a doctoral candidate in History who 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 violence, the politics of unwanted pregnancy, and women's reproductive rights. Adept in several 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 and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, where she received travel awards, research and field support, and a Mellon fellowship.
Lauren M. Hasek – 2012 Undergraduate Student Award
When she earned this award, Lauren M. Hasek was pursuing a BPhil in Political Science, with a major in Neuroscience, a minor in Chemistry, and additional studies in Swahili. A member of the executive board of Student Leaders in International Medicine (SLIM) at Pitt, she also worked as a biology tutor with the Academic Resource Center and was a member of the Outside the Classroom Curriculum (OCC) Honorary Society. She wrote for The Pitt Pulse and servee as a resident assistant, and she 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. As an undergraduate she also worked on developing a new study on socialized healthcare policies with the private clinics and the Malawian Ministry of Gender.
Deborah Brake – 2011 Faculty Award
Deborah Brake is currently John E. Murray Faculty Scholar and Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh, where she serves as Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development. Her scholarship focuses on gender justice, feminist legal theory, and discrimination in institutions (such as sport, the workplace, and schools). Brake earned her BA in Political Science from Stanford (where she was amember of Phi Beta Kappa) and her JD from Harvard Law School (where she was a member of the Law Review) . As a practicing public interest lawyer, Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, and later as a professor, she hs used scholarship and legal activism to shape the law to respond to gender injustice. “I am interested in what theory can do, and not so much in theory for its own sake,” Brake writes, and her career demonstrates the powerful connections between her scholarship (notable publications include Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women’s Sports Revolution and an influential article on “leveling down”) and more direct legal action (amicus curiae briefs, testimony before congressional committees).
Anne Marie Toccket – 2011 Graduate Student Award
When she earned this award, Anne Marie Toccket was a master’s student in international development at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. She was 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. The selection committee lauded her persistent and deep commitment to the cause of women and economic justice. Her graduate work deepened her understanding of gender dynamics in economic processes.
Megan L. Neuf – 2011 Undergraduate Student Award
When Megan Neuf won the award, she was pursuing a B.A. in Social Work at Pitt and already had a long experience of social justice activism. 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 was active in Strong Women Strong Girls, the YMCA, and the Fair Trade Movement, and snhe 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.
Gail Austin – 2010 Staff Award
Gail Austin has worked for forty years as an advocate for civil rights, human rights, and peace--both at the University and in the community. She received her BA from Pitt in French literature and did graduate work in psychology and anthropology. As a student in the late 1960s, she was inspired by the Civil Rights movement (and by visits to Pitt by such activists as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael). With other activists from Pitt and the community, she helped form the Afro-American Cultural Society to increase the number of black students, staff, and faculty at the University. She has been an advocate and resource for students in her roles as staff member of UCEP (University Challenge for Excellence Program) and more recently as Director of the Academic Resource Center. She served on the Pitt Divestment committee, urging the University to divest its holdings in South Africa. She has also worked in her community to improve social conditions of inner city neighborhoods. She is currently active in Black Voices for Peace and is president of Kente Arts Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to community arts.
Michelle S. McGowan – 2010 Student Award
Michelle McGowan received her BA in Social Work in April 2010 from the University of Pittsburgh and was pursuing a Master's degree in Social Work at the time of winning this award. She 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 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.
Melissa Swauger – 2009 Student Award
Melissa Swauger is currently Associate Professor of Sociology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, having earned an M.A. from Duquesne’s Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy and, in 2008, a Ph.D. in Sociology and a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. At the time of earning this award, she had received grants from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Pittsburgh and Gwen’s Girls for research and curriculum development about career possibilities for at-risk girls. She pursued her commitments to empowering working-class women and girls in both academic and public arenas. Active in numerous community organizations, including the Girls' Coalition of Southwestern PA, the Women and Girls Foundation, and the Carnegie’s Girls, Math and Science Partnership, she also volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters programs and organizations for battered women and abused children.
Aaron M. Arnold – 2009 Student Award
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.
Audrey J. Murrell – 2008 Award
Dr. Audrey J. Murrell is a Professor of Business Administration and currently serves as Acting Dean of Pitt's University Honors College. Murrell came to Pitt in 1987 as a faculty member in the Psychology Department, where she retains an appointment. She has been active in the Women’s Studies Program/GSWS, has been a faculty coordinator for Pitt’s Faculty Diversity Seminar, and has been Chair of the University Senate Anti-Discrimination Committee. Murrell’s institutional leadership and her social activism led her to earn many awards and honors, including the Chancellor’s Distinguished Public and Community Service Award in 1998. She participates in numerous local organizations, including Leadership Pittsburgh, Family Services of Western Pennsylvania, and the Minority Enterprise Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. She is also a former chair of the Gender and Diversity in Organizations Division of the Academy of Management Association.