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Posts Tagged ‘Fellowships’

Image courtesy of Barbara Romzek“Be flexible; what works today may not work tomorrow.”

Barbara Romzek believes this motto can apply to anyone’s career and life plans. Certainly, it is one that she herself has lived by. When Romzek received an AAUW American Fellowship in 1978, she had already learned the importance of being open to change. Describing her academic career as an “evolutionary process,” Romzek changed her research focus while she was a student during the Cold War. She switched from a comparative study of the challenges that U.S. and Soviet government employees face in balancing personal lives with public sector jobs to an exclusive focus on government employees in the United States. Concerns about accessing reliable data and being able to have open and honest conversations, given the tense political situation, prompted her to concentrate on the United States.

Romzek credits her AAUW fellowship with allowing her to dedicate a year to writing, which she says made for a better dissertation and ultimately a better job. That extra year became pivotal for her career path. After completing her doctorate, Romzek began teaching at the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs and Administration, an opportunity she sees as being directly tied to her research and fellowship.

Becoming an administrator was not something Romzek had planned. After more than a decade of teaching, she reluctantly accepted her department’s chair position. For years, Romzek’s research had been in public administration, so the new job was almost like field work. It did not take long before Romzek discovered that she found the job intellectually and personally rewarding. From there she continued to rise through university administration. Last summer, she left Kansas to move to Washington, D.C., to be the new dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University.

With all her responsibilities as dean and professor, Romzek still finds time to publish academic articles and contribute to books. Until recently, her writing focused on formal accountability in public administration, which has to do with balancing responsiveness and efficiency while doing your best at work and being a well-rounded person overall — no small task for employees. Lately, Romzek has been writing about informal accountability between government contractors who are not required to work together but should. For example, contractors in social services like foster care and mental health agencies do not have to consult each other, but it is in the best interest of a child in their care that they do communicate. After a career of research and work in public administration, Romzek is still intrigued by the subject and continues to write about it.

According to Romzek, everyone should “develop a plan that allows you go get to the life you want, but be flexible with your goals along the way.” Life is all about hard work, perseverance, direction, and flexibility. The combination has been successful for Romzek. She proves that dedication, passion, and a willingness to adapt make for an impressive path.

Romzek’s American Fellowship was sponsored by the Florence Edna Rowe American Fellowship, an endowment created by AAUW of Texas in 1964.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

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For as long as Dahlia Eissa can remember, she has been a feminist. Growing up in Australia with Egyptian immigrant parents, she was never afraid to ruffle feathers. She began her activism leading Know Your Rights workshops for Muslim women with the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland. Early on, Eissa knew she wanted to work with women in immigrant communities, and she saw law as the natural career choice for her passions. Following 9/11, she established the Arab American Justice Project, a network of pro bono attorneys who advocate for Arab Americans facing discrimination, harassment, and deportation.

Dahlia Eissa

After finishing her undergraduate degree in Australia, Eissa wanted to pursue postgraduate studies in Islamic law and women’s rights. Finding the right program was a challenge. She wanted to study law as a feminist first and as a lawyer second. Her AAUW International Fellowship was the kick-start that made it possible for her to attend Harvard Law School. Without the award, she says, she would not have been able to come to the United States.

Today, Eissa uses her knowledge of law, women’s rights, and Islam to encourage women to broaden their perspectives of what is possible in their lives and identities. She insists that women do not need to be restricted to the binary of Western or Muslim worlds, but rather that women can be true to their Muslim identities and principles while embracing and being embraced by American society.

Eissa has been inspired by the women of the Arab Spring and the women of Egypt in particular. Her academic research has primarily focused on Islamic law and women in Egypt. So when the revolution began last year, Eissa strongly felt that she had to somehow support Egyptian women. She asked herself, How will this new wave of activism play out for women?

When we spoke last week, the first draft of the new Egyptian constitution was being voted on by the country’s Constituent Assembly. Sadly, the new constitution completely leaves out any provisions that guarantee the rights of women and girls. Eissa described the draft as absurd but predictable. As the world watches the women of Egypt, Eissa is focusing on how she can support them from the United States. Working with women activists on the ground, her strategy lies in mobilizing other women to minimize the negative impact of the legislation. The rejection of protections for women and girls could open the door to other dangerous allowances in the law, such as lowering the marriageable age for girls or blocking the recent U.N. resolution that calls for the end of female genital mutilation practices.

Eissa is deeply passionate about women’s rights and gender equality. Even as a teenager, she recognized inequalities between men and women that were supposedly justified on the basis of “biology.” Eissa rejected socially constructed distinctions based on sex and spoke her mind, even when fearful of the backlash that she could face. Being an outsider, she says, is worth the risk in order to pursue what you believe in because, in the end, you’ll find that you aren’t that much of an outsider after all. In a culture that “banks on women being submissive,” Eissa wants women to “be fearless.” Let’s follow Eissa’s powerful example and go out there and ruffle a few feathers.

Eissa’s International Fellowship was sponsored by the Margaret Bigelow Miller International Fellowship, established in 1986, and the Helen B. Taussig International Fellowship, established in 1974.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.

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“I get by with a little help from my friends” is the tune running through our heads as we anticipate posting the list of our 2012–13 AAUW fellowship and grant recipients. These women will receive more than a little help — $4.3 million in funding — from their friends, the thousands of generous AAUW donors who passionately support our prestigious fellowships and grants programs.

AAUW Fellow Naomi Ondrasek

On Friday, April 13, we will announce the new class of AAUW fellows and grantees and welcome them into an extraordinary group of inspiring women. We look forward to meeting them, learning about their careers and experiences, seeing them join this exclusive group, and sharing their stories with you. We know they’ll be excited! As we’ve gotten to know our past recipients, we’ve loved hearing the stories of how honored they felt when they were selected for their AAUW awards.

The University of California, Berkeley, Graduate Division’s website profiled 2011–12 American Fellow Naomi Ondrasek after she received her award. In the interview, she described the morning she found out about her fellowship.

“The night before that date, I didn’t sleep very well,” says Ondrasek, whose dissertation research is on the mouse-like rodent known as the meadow vole. “Like a lot of other graduate students, I was feeling anxious about my funding situation for the upcoming year.” The next morning, she “literally rolled out of bed and walked straight toward the computer. I pulled up the AAUW website, and bam! The recipient list was up.” Although sleepy and reluctant to face the results, “I figured I should treat it like ripping a Band-Aid off — just do it and deal with the emotional consequences later.” She opened the list and “scrolled down for what seemed like forever, didn’t see my name, and felt deflated.”

“Then I realized I was looking under the wrong award, so I scrolled farther down, and there I was!” (At this point, her tale briefly takes on a sitcom aspect.) “I was so excited to tell someone, I ran from the computer, threw open the door to the bedroom, and scared the daylights out of my husband, who had been sound asleep. He sat bolt upright in bed, asking what was wrong and if someone had broken into the house.”

Ondrasek’s story is a great reminder of how important AAUW fellowships and grants are to the recipients. Alumnae of this program have told us that AAUW gave them a chance when they had lost hope in their studies or were not advancing professionally, or that their awards opened academic and occupational doors that they had never expected. We certainly hope that no one is losing sleep over our upcoming announcement, and we look forward to welcoming all awardees into the AAUW family!

To learn more about Ondrasek and her research, read the full blog on UC Berkeley’s website. And don’t forget to check our website for the award-recipient list on April 13!

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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I’ve mentioned before that the stories of AAUW Fellowships and Grants alumnae come to our attention in unique ways. And the news I love the most comes from past fellows who reach out to AAUW to say thank you for the support.

Evelyn Helmick Hively, a member of the 1963 class of the AAUW College Faculty Program, contacted us after she came across her fellowship materials. Hively applied for the program after seeing an ad in the paper and was surprised when AAUW selected her to be a fellow. She e-mailed  us and contemplated whether she had “accomplished some of what was expected by the members of [the] AAUW Selection Committee 50 years ago.”

To fully grasp Hively’s story, I had to explore the extinct College Faculty Program. She was kind enough to send in her fellowship material to provide us with further insight. Through this research, I learned that AAUW developed the College Faculty Program in 1961 in an effort to increase resources for qualified women in higher education. The program sought “mature, female college graduates 35 years of age or older” who were passionate about employment opportunities at colleges or universities. The program was supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and institutions in 11 Southern states that were committed to enrolling and employing women of this age group. The program proved to be popular and received an astounding 1,169 inquiries from applicants in the first six months. To put this in perspective, in 2011–12, AAUW had 900 American Fellowship applicants in a time when far more women have the opportunity to go to college and graduate school.

In September 1962, about 50 women returned to graduate school as the first class of CFP fellows. Surveys of the fellows during this first year and in 1968 showed that many women found that returning to school was difficult. Classes were much harder than they expected or remembered from their undergraduate careers. Some women had to take refresher courses, which delayed their graduation and sometimes even resulted in withdrawal from the program. But the balance between academics and family life proved to be the main difficulty. One woman reported that she “learned to cook dinner with a textbook in hand and buy groceries in the hour’s interval between classes.” Some women found that success truly required the full support of their families. This support was not there for all of the fellows — stereotypes of the domestic woman plagued some of their experiences. Despite the hardships, the 1968 AAUW survey showed that of the 126 women who were awarded fellowships through the CFP, 77 had earned a master’s, and seven had earned doctorates. Many more were still completing their studies.

Where did Hively fall within those statistics? She absolutely met and exceeded the expectations of the AAUW Selection Committee, that’s for sure. She was the first CFP fellow to be hired as a permanent faculty member — she taught women’s studies and literature at the University of Miami. After 13 years at Miami, she was hired as an academic dean at Salem College to create professional goals for women to supplement the liberal arts program. After retiring, she published four books on three woman writers: Willa Cather, Elinor Wylie, and Rosemary Benet. Clearly an accomplished woman, Hively emphasized that the 50th anniversary of the CFP “is a reminder of all that the AAUW award enabled me to do professionally and the great difference it has made in my life. I am very grateful.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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Career Development Grantee Carrie Ellett teaching at Instituto (or ISPEDIBSHA), a multicultural and bilingual school in the Schuar territory in Gualaquiza

This week has been full of news about the Clinton Global Initiative, initiated in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton “to inspire, connect, and empower a community of global leaders to forge solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.” Specifically, the New York Times ran an article about the Teach for All program, modeled after Teach for America and dedicated to an ongoing effort to recruit teachers internationally. Teach for All was founded at the 2007 CGI meeting, a collaboration between Clinton and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

This news has made me consider my role as the new AAUW Fellowships and Grants intern. I’ve known AAUW as a multifaceted organization supporting the further empowerment and education of women in the United States. I now realize that there is also an outstanding global component, as seen by the work of the extraordinary fellows and grantees that I am just getting to know. Education — the cornerstone of AAUW — has opened many doors of opportunity for women, and global education facilitates the growth of women’s empowerment on an international scale.

Career Development Grantee Danna Lomax working with her students at Anacapa Middle School in California

At AAUW, fellows and grantees have a passion for the field of global education with multiple and unique areas of specialization. Many recipients in the 2011–12 class demonstrate the complex nature of this field. Here are a few notable examples:

  • Carrie Ellett has spent a decade promoting gender equality through her nonprofit work. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in international and multicultural education, emphasizing human rights education.
  • After completing her master’s, Fulbright recipient and bilingual educator Danna Lomax hopes to create a curriculum that fosters global youth education. She has been featured in PBS’s Innovation Awards Gallery for her engaging teaching methods.
  • Patience Fielding investigates women who overcame patriarchal barriers to pursue careers in engineering and science fields. Her work focuses on higher education and gender in developing nations.
  • Lifang Wang, who is researching her dissertation in China, is focusing on the barriers faced by rural Chinese women who attend urban Chinese universities. Lifang has previously worked with the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

International Fellow Lifang Wang in rural China

These extraordinary women are impressive for their scholarship as well as their passion for women’s empowerment globally. As I continue my work at AAUW, I look forward to seeing the outstanding work they and all AAUW fellows produce.

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Elyssa Shildneck.

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American Fellow Miriam Matthews (right) with AAUW Laguna Hills (CA) Branch President Patricia Allgeier

There are many rewarding aspects to working in Fellowships and Grants at AAUW, but one in particular is reading about all the amazing accomplishments of our outgoing fellowship and grant recipients in their final reports. Some have graduated and are venturing into the working world; others are finding new inspiration as they make the final push to complete their degrees. All have remarkable stories to tell, which we hope to share in the Following the Fellows blog series in the future.

Here are some interesting numbers from 2010–11 that display the connection between these projects and AAUW’s work.

The number of fellows or grantees who were invited to a branch meeting or event: 120

The number of fellows or grantees who became AAUW members during their grant year: 50

The number of Community Action Grantees who collaborated with AAUW branches: 12

Impressive as these numbers are, they don’t capture the passion of our alumnae’s work or their appreciation for AAUW’s support. Here’s what a few of those fellows and grantees had to say.

“I enjoyed so much being able to see the faces of our sponsors. I have found AAUW’s work so inspiring. I have met wonderful women who dedicate themselves to make this world a better place for women and girls through sponsoring opportunities for a better life.”

—     Maria Guadalupe Bravo Vinaja, International Fellow

“I am honored and grateful to have received an AAUW fellowship. I have met multiple women affiliated with AAUW during this fellowship year, and I have been consistently impressed with their kindness, intellect, and drive.”

—     Miriam Matthews, American Fellow

“I feel a tremendous sense of pride being a part of the AAUW legacy. The importance of what women can contribute to academics remains a guiding issue in the conduct of my research. I believe that being a fellow has validated my current work in the eyes of those who hold academic power and those who take an active interest in women’s issues.”

—     Stefanie Toise, American Fellow

“Knowing that this grant came to me in order to support me as a woman, from other women who have professional degrees and know the value of that, so that I can change my life and my career, means so much to me. I feel encouraged and supported, and this has been very helpful to me as I pursue my degree.”

—     Samantha Ostergaard, Career Development Grantee

“AAUW is a real-life fairy godmother to me. The money was incredibly helpful, but the honor of being chosen gave me confidence I didn’t know I needed. I feel like Cinderella, only instead of giving me clothes, you gave me strength.”

—     Anne Kahle, Career Development Grantee

“This is such an empowering fellowship, and just knowing that there are so many other women who work hard and lead inspiring lives is amazing. I am proud of being awarded this fellowship and will continue to encourage other women to become involved in this association.”

—     Kelley Sullivan, Selected Professions Fellow

This post was written by Laura Blyler and Lesley Perry from AAUW’s Fellowships and Grants Department.

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2003–04 AAUW American Fellow Gwendolyn Pough was drawn to black feminist thought when one of her professors gave her a copy of bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. While working toward her master’s and doctoral degrees in English from Northeastern University and Miami University in Ohio respectively, she sought out texts by women of color that often weren’t included on class syllabuses. She became interested in how black women use language and rhetoric, how they shape cultural spaces, and how they express a feminist consciousness.

These are the major themes of Pough’s 2004 book Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere. She investigated how black women claim the space of hip-hop as a public sphere and use it to promote change in their lives, creating their own brand of hip-hop feminism. She continues her exploration of the ways black women participate in popular culture in her upcoming book Reading, Writing, and Resisting: Black Women’s Book Clubs and the New Black Fiction.

Pough says the AAUW fellowship gave her an invaluable year to do the initial research for Reading, Writing, and Resisting, which is now nearing completion. “Having that time and space to think and read and interview book clubs was definitely significant. Without that year, I would be much further from realizing the book.” She surveyed the members of black women’s book clubs, attended their discussions, and examined not only how they talked about books but also how they undertook literacy outreach. According to Pough, “They don’t just read the books. They see themselves as activists in the way they promote literacy and dispel the myth that black people don’t read.”

Pough’s research did more than add another successful publication to her résumé; it also reminded her of her longtime dream of writing a novel. Inspired by her interactions with other authors at book club events, she started her first romance novel under the pseudonym Gwyneth Bolton and will be publishing her 12th in November. She said that writing fiction and talking with readers revealed new dimensions of her research. “It made me see that my project was about black women and literacy, but it was also kind of an autoethnography.”

In addition to being a prolific writer and theorist, Pough is the chair of the women’s and gender studies program at Syracuse University and an elected officer of the Conference on College Composition and Communication. She looks forward to creating a master’s degree program in women’s and gender studies at Syracuse and contributing new knowledge to the growing body of work on black women’s lives. As a young scholar, I find her advice refreshing. “Sometimes in academia, it can seem as if you can’t chart your own path. Do what you have to do, but make sure you do the things you want to do the way you want to do them.”

This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Melissa Rogers, who bids a fond farewell to AAUW as she returns to the women’s studies program at the University of Maryland to continue her doctoral research on women’s autobiographical writing and print culture.

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