Posts Tagged ‘grants and awards’

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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Since I started working with the AAUW alumnae initiative in 2008, I have had the pleasure of telling the stories of more than 50 fellowships and grants alumnae who have been doing amazing work since their fellowship year. The exciting part is that, because AAUW has funded more than 10,000 women since the first fellowship in 1888, there are so many more stories yet to be told.

In researching stories, I have called everywhere from Pakistan to Brazil and met women from Moldova to Zimbabwe. I have chatted with a NASA scientist and a United Nations volunteer coordinator. I have heard the stories of women who have surmounted unbelievable hardships to reach their dreams, and I have collected invaluable advice about how they did it. A common theme among the alumnae is that they are looking for ways to give back and to help those who are following in their footsteps.

AAUW Alumnae ExchangeAAUW is proud to present the newest tool for connecting these incredible women: a social networking community called AAUW Alumnae Exchange. This online community is a place for fellowships and grants alumnae to exchange ideas, stories, resources, and more. To stay up to date with AAUW’s fellowships and grant alumnae, stay tuned to http://www.aauw.org/alumnae.

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In March 2009 nine scholars conducting research on India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan spent a day trying to envision a way to demilitarize South Asia and help the region move forward peacefully. The group published a report, Reframing a Regional Approach to South Asia: Demilitarization, Development, and Sustainable Peace, and recommendations to accomplish goals that include setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and Pakistan, curbing arms sales to India, and making economic and development aid the center of U.S. foreign policy in South Asia. Among those nine scholars was Kamala Visweswaran.

Kamala, an associate professor of anthropology and Asian studies at the University of Texas, received an AAUW American Fellowship in 1989. With the support of the fellowship, Kamala was able to focus on completing her dissertation. “I felt incredibly lucky to have enough money to get me through a year so that I could focus on writing the dissertation and nothing else,” she said. Kamala also highlighted the importance of the fellowship coming from AAUW, an organization “that has supported women in their pursuit of higher education.”

Fictions of Feminist Ethnography by Kamala Visweswaran

Fictions of Feminist Ethnography by Kamala Visweswaran

Some of Kamala’s work has explored the intersections between feminist theory and South Asia. In 1994 she published Fictions of Feminist Ethnography, which looks at women anthropologists whose work had been sidelined or ignored, as well as bringing to light women who weren’t anthropologists but wrote novels or memoirs about other places and cultures.

Kamala said, “You can’t understand the history and cultures of South Asia without placing them in the context of women’s struggles for rights.” She added, “You can’t understand the history of feminism without understanding the contributions of women’s movements in one of the world’s most populous regions to feminist organizing.”

Looking ahead, Kamala is currently working on a new book about “genocide consciousness,” examining how “oppressed peoples who have experienced social or political persecution or mass death come to identify their history as one marked by genocide.” She also hopes to become more involved in policy debates on South Asia, particularly on how feminist analysis can be part of foreign policy discussions.

Kamala seems to be moving in the right direction toward reaching her goals, beginning with  through the work she and her colleagues did for the Institute of Public Knowledge at NYU. Drawing on her own experiences, Kamala offered the following advice, “Part of learning any field is becoming proficient in the critiques of it and figuring out a way to apply the critiques so that the field can move forward. Having a larger perspective and thinking not only about how one’s work might advance an individual career but also help move the field in ways that produce better knowledge, can be really sustaining.”

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The issue of health care reform is being debated in living rooms, Congressional offices, and at watercoolers around the country. Currently, both the House and Senate are continuing to seek out a way to meld together all the different versions of the bills into one that might get enough support to pass.

Shevon Harvey, a 1998–99 Career Development Grant Recipient, has her finger on the pulse of the health care debate in the Midwest. She says that in the Midwest there are strong feelings on both sides of the debate but little middle ground. As a public health researcher and University of Illinois professor, Shevon wants to add research to the debate about who is actually using free health care clinics and who is not.

One of the myths swirling around the health care reform debate is that the new health care plan would provide free health care for illegal immigrants. In fact, tensions about this very issue pushed Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) to shout his infamous “You lie!” response during President Obama’s address to Congress in early September.

Shevon Harvey with studentsCurrently, Shevon has seen mainly working people using the free clinic she has been studying in Champaign, Illinois. Sometimes the clinic clients are people who are working two part-time jobs in the service sector. Other times they are underinsured. “My goal is to get the research out there to show the importance of health care reform,” said Shevon.

Before pursuing her master’s degree at Morehouse, Shevon worked as a materials science engineer. Then, in her late 20s, she decided to return to school to focus on public health. She was inspired by her community work with breast cancer survivors and with students. After those experiences, Shevon decided she wanted to see community health from the other side. “I wanted to be part of prevention, rather than the treatment.” In addition to her courses, Shevon was able to apply her knowledge and experience in meaningful ways. Working with two different Morehouse professors, she helped address school safety concerns through community projects developed in response to the tragic shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.

AAUW instilled in Shevon the confidence she needed to pursue higher education. “I would not have thought about going back to school if it wasn’t for the fellowship,” confessed Shevon. She said that before receiving the grant if someone had asked her if she would pursue a doctorate, she would have just laughed. “Because of AAUW, I went through an institution that nurtured me, mentored me, gave me hope, and got me where I am now.”

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0814_2For Casandra Rauser, 2004–05 American Fellow, life is all about the adventure. In 1996, after her second year at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota, she went on a class trip to Costa Rica to study sustainable ecotourism. At the end of the trip, she waved goodbye to her classmates instead of the country. Although Casandra had always been interested in science, the trip tapped into her desire to explore the field more. She left her school in Minnesota and headed to the University of Arizona, which offered a stronger science program and more research opportunities, to complete her undergraduate degree.

0814_1After earning her bachelor’s of science degree, Casandra moved to California to do doctoral research in evolutionary biology at the University of California, Irvine. The AAUW fellowship allowed her to focus on her research and “eased the pain of grad school,” confessed Casandra. After defending her dissertation, Casandra headed back to Costa Rica for four years.

In the international village of Tamarindo, Casandra worked in a surf shop and a preschool before landing a position with a local nature preserve. Although not directly related to evolutionary biology, these first jobs taught her invaluable life skills. While working at the conservancy, Casandra and a colleague developed an environmental education program for the local Costa Rican schools.

Casandra is most proud of the recycling program she helped to establish in Tamarindo. Each month the program set up a recycling center on the beach in the village and collected about a ton of materials. “I almost couldn’t leave Costa Rica because of recycling,” said Casandra. “To start a project and see it through to some level of success, especially a project that was good for the environment and for the society, was very rewarding.”


Image by Bruno Dubreuil Photography © 2008

One key to the success of the recycling project was that it enlisted the help of local sponsors. An environmentally conscious surf group agreed to host a beach cleanup event each recycling day. Another group held a fashion show to raise awareness about recycling in a culture where throwing trash around is commonplace. What started out as a small idea turned into a large event with two international fashion designers, professional models, and far-flung press coverage.


Image by Bruno Dubreuil Photography © 2008

These days, Casandra is back at the University of California working as a research development officer, a position in which she is able to apply many skills she learned through her work in Costa Rica. “Costa Rica was a fantastic growing experience. Now I’m in the perfect place. I love my job!”

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I recently submitted my master’s thesis proposal justifying why I want to conduct a media study with middle school students to the Internal Review Board. In the proposal I talked about the importance of helping youth find their own voices and make those voices heard by a wider audience. As I sit here with my fingers crossed that my media literacy/mini-documentary-making workshop study will be approved, I have come across an inspiring organization: TVbyGIRLS, a 2006–07 Community Action Grant recipient.

The organization’s founder, Barbara Weiner, said the idea for TVbyGIRLS started while she was still working as a producer/director for arts and cultural programming at PBS. As a birthing coach for a friend, Barbara was holding her friend’s newborn baby girl and thinking about how hard it is to grow up as a girl. “The onslaught of expectations and images around us is overwhelming,” she said.

Barbara took her idea of a TV series created by girls about their issues to her boss at PBS. He told her that no one really cares about girls’ issues. So Barbara began looking outside of PBS for a way to make her idea happen. She volunteered at girls’ organizations, brainstormed ideas within her networks, and eventually gathered a group of colleagues to begin developing the organization. In 2001 TVbyGIRLS became incorporated, and in 2003 they received their 501(c)(3) status.

TVbyGIRLS is made up of brief and and in-depth media literacy workshops, as well as a mentoring program, all of which are geared toward girls age 12–18. The organization conducts two to three longer six-week workshops per year and approximately six to eight shorter workshops, while the mentoring program is ongoing. All three components involve helping girls understand media images and messages that influence their daily lives. Participants collaborate on creative projects that encourage the girls to not just learn about these images, but to create their own messages to be disseminated to a wider audience. “We can help girls reach who they really are and make sure it gets out there,” said Barbara.

In traditional media messages about girls, their own dreams, visions, and hopes are often unrepresented. Through TVbyGIRLS participants learn how to use media to tap into the power of emotions to represent themselves as full people rather than as stereotypes.

Barbara said that teaching the girls how to use the equipment is the easy part. “How to access the emotions, how to find universality in images is more difficult and more powerful,” she said.

The AAUW Community Action Grant funded the Seed Project, a year-long collaboration project that had 10 urban girls working with seven girls from rural reservations in Northern Minnesota. The girls would meet once a month to work on a video project about shared experiences.

The Seed Project helped to foster a deeper interest in cultural questions from the girls in the mentoring program. This interest evolved into a cultural exploration called “Undercover,” which examined various religious traditions. A group of seven girls — three Somali Muslims, one Christian, and three Jews — worked together on the project. Each bought a hijab and wore them out to report on the street in order to better understand what it’s like to be veiled. They went on a Shabbat weekend retreat with a local rabbi who helped them through Orthodox Jewish Shabbat traditions. To get an inside look at Christianity, the girls filmed at various baptisms. Lastly, the girls delved into questions about atheism by attending the meetings and a convention of a local atheist group.

Overall, the girls have produced 83 videos and won 23 awards including a 2007 Silver Telly Award for What’s with the Hijab? and Bronze Telly Award for Siblings.

Looking ahead, Barbara has big hopes for the future of TVbyGIRLS. On the local level she wants the girls to feel connected and “responsible for what they make.” The organization is in the process of creating thematic broadcast packages with curricula to be distributed to TV stations and schools.

Barbara doesn’t want TVbyGIRLS to happen just in Minnesota; she envisions the international value of the program. “It’s my hope that one day girls from all over the world can have their voices heard,” said Barbara.

For anyone interested in learning more about TVbyGIRLS or how to get involved with the organization, visit their website at www.tvbygirls.com. As for me, as I continue to wait for the okay on my thesis project, I’m looking forward to the next time I’m in the Midwest for a chance to see TVbyGIRLS in action.

What's with the Hijab Video

What’s with the Hijab

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty

The GameThe Game

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luanaEver wonder how kids whose moms are biologists pass the time? According to Luana Maroja, 2007–08 American Fellow, hiking in the forest collecting animals is how. Although once an avid camper, biker, climber, and kayaker, Luana now takes time to pass on her science knowledge through educational activities with her two daughters. Currently, Luana is living in a small village in Panama near the canal where she sees a wealth of biodiversity. “We have different wild animals at our door every day.”

Luana first became interested in biology while growing up in Rio de Janeiro surrounded by a vanishing tropical rainforest. “I was always concerned with extinction and deforestation and, early in my life, I decided on biology,” she explained. Luana pursued her doctorate at Cornell University with the help of an AAUW fellowship that allowed her to finish her research and write up the findings. At the time, Luana was pregnant with her second daughter and admits that if she had had to teach on top of analyzing data and writing, she never would have finished. “I am really thankful for the AAUW American Fellowship,” Luana said.

After earning her doctorate, Luana and her family moved to England where she planned to study butterflies and the story they can tell about evolution; however, “it was difficult to raise tropical butterflies in the rather ‘untropical’ climate of England.” Now, in a much warmer climate, Luana is studying the wing color patterns of the Heliconius butterflies to understand how evolutionary processes generate diversity.

For women interested in STEM today, Luana highlights the importance of persistence, which she applies to her own goal of returning to the United States to teach. “I persist in the hope of someday having a job where I can contribute to the education of other young people, especially of other Hispanic women who might feel it’s too difficult to follow a career in science.”

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aluminum-bagThis past winter, for 2007–08 Career Development grantee and sculptor Hanna Stevenson, a typical day began at 5:15 a.m. with a breakfast of ice cream and coffee. To protect her body from the cold Alaskan weather and high winds during her work as an apprentice pipefitter, she wore at least four layers of clothes. She filled her pockets with tools of the trade, including channel locks, wrenches, and a small level. The work bus left at 6:40 a.m., heading for the site where the 10–12 crew members were briefed for the day. A typical day, which was spent entirely outside in below freezing weather, was broken up by lunch, two 15-minute breaks, and an occasional drive to the nearest bathroom.

As one of only two women on the team, Hanna found herself taking on some traditional female roles. “I bring four to five bags of food to share every day, I make the coffee, and I clean up the tiny kitchen area in the back of the bus. If I don’t, no one will.” This experience has pushed Hanna to explore the tensions between the genders through art. “My work on the North Slope in the male-dominated oil fields has been a huge learning experience for me.”

larvaeHanna worked in Alaska in 2005–06 as an artist and an apprentice blacksmith before deciding to go back to school to pursue a master of fine arts degree from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. After graduation, Hanna took the apprentice pipefitter position to enhance her work as an artist by exploring new ways to work with metals. Hanna’s MFA art show focused on sculptural objects of bronze, aluminum, and fiberglass under the theme of transformation. This title seems fitting, as it was Hanna’s goal to move to Alaska on her own to pursue an MFA to “get the most out of life as an artist.” The AAUW Career Development Grant helped Hanna in the last year of her master’s program, allowing her to expand her body of work and to use new materials that would have otherwise been too costly.

According to Hanna, her best artwork to date is “Vehicle of Transformation,” a 7-foot-long rideable “larvae” complete with an old-fashioned tractor seat and rubber-coated cast iron wheels. “I wanted to create an object that was interactive and kinetic. This piece embodies a sense of childhood adventure and limitless joy.”

As Hanna continues on her own journey of transformation, she plans to help other girls do the same. “I hope to combine my art background with my position in the trades to encourage young women in Alaska to better themselves and their place in society through education and the skilled trades … or both!”

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Diving into ocean waters to install and retrieve instruments that provide information about water temperature, salinity, currents, and more is only one part of 1998–99 Career Development Grantee Chris Simoniello’s duties as the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) Education and Outreach Coordinator. The goal of the organization is to make science relevant to a wide audience. Chris serves on many committees and councils to connect decision makers, planners, and emergency managers with reliable, up-to-date, and user-friendly information about the Gulf of Mexico. Chris says her position requires dedication, creativity, the ability to play nice with others, a passion for the environment and people, a sense of humor, an interest in learning, and a belief that change can come.

Chris grew up surrounded by nautical history on Staten Island. “My father built beautiful models of famous vessels, I attended the Star of the Sea school, played in the Sailor’s Snug Harbor softball league, and, from the age of 10, biked to the Prince’s Bay Trade Mart with my friend Susan, crab pots tied to our handlebars, in search of unsuspecting Raritan Bay blue crabs,” says Chris. After a brief stint as a pre-law major, a summer course in marine biology got Chris back on track. “It was love at first field trip!” she says.

During her graduate tenure, Chris was awarded an AAUW Career Development Grant that helped her finish her studies in time to accept a position with the Southeast Atlantic Coastal Ocean Observing System (SEACOOS) project. While there, Chris developed and coordinated a four-state education and outreach program. The national attention the project received and the subsequent GCOOS project led NOAA to appoint Chris to serve as a U.S. delegate to the Global Ocean Observing System program in Indonesia, where she spoke at the 4th NOAA-Indonesia Ocean Observations Capacity Building Workshop. “The program develops effective ways to communicate real-time information, particularly time-sensitive information like early warning of tsunamis,” explains Chris.

GCOOS and SEACOOS are part of a larger global system monitoring the “pulse of the Earth.” The Global Earth Observing System of Systems (GEOSS) is a network of content providers that link existing and planned global observation systems, such as an early warning system for wildfires in Africa with the goal of “empowering the international community to protect itself against natural and human-induced disasters, safeguard water resources, manage energy resources, and conserve biodiversity, among other things.” Under GEOSS, the Global Ocean Observing System is the program dedicated to monitoring the world’s oceans.

Through her experiences Chris sees the most important issue in marine science today as too many people and not enough education. “Until humans rethink the way we live, we continue to be the biggest threat to the marine environment. And until adequate funding is given to educate our citizens, the problem will continue to escalate,” says Chris.

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KIPP is a San Francisco Bay area public middle school established in 2003 that boasts the highest performance rate of all middle schools in San Francisco. Programs like Community, Empowerment, Leadership, and Self-Awareness (CELA) have helped KIPP excel. The goal of CELA, a 2006–08 Community Action Grant project, was to give girls “the space to learn about, define, and better themselves through the principles of community, empowerment, leadership, and awareness.”

Chandra Alexandre, program coordinator, explains that the AAUW-funded program was first developed “because of a conviction that girls need their own space to talk about and work through difficult issues.” The program consisted of weekly meetings with discussions about body awareness, self-esteem, gang violence, homelessness, and other relevant social issues. One advantage of the program was that it provided the girls with “another outlet for expression, exploration, and relationship building.”

CELA at a indoor rock climbing event

Indoor rock climbing event

In addition to weekly meetings, over the two-year period the girls attended a film screening, an indoor rock climbing event, and a completion ceremony. Chandra says the rock climbing event was the most influential, because it “took the girls out of the familiar and safe territory and brought them into direct relationship with a new environment and new challenges where they had to learn new skills, confront fears, and apply themselves in order to succeed.”

These meetings and activities were set up to be catalysts for change among the girls and their communities. “We have witnessed and experienced our girls becoming powerful role models and advocates for social change, capable of translating their knowledge about what it means to be a woman in the world and what they care about into personally meaningful action.” Following the completion of the AAUW-grant funded project, the program has continued in a reduced capacity through the help of committed volunteers. Looking ahead, there are currently plans to rejuvenate the program for the 2009–10 school year. “The girls love it and want to continue,” explains Chandra. “We want to help them continue since the benefits have been noticeable and strong.”

The CELA project has helped not only the participating girls but all who were involved. Chandra says working with the program taught her that “just a little support, a little encouragement, and a little teaching around specific issues go a long way toward making a difference.” She says, “I was constantly blown away by the maturity of the girls when given the acknowledgment of their power and abilities. Doing the program reinstilled my belief in the importance of individual contributions, even small ones, to our youth, and particularly our girls.”

For those who are interested in creating a program like CELA, Chandra says, “It is important to build trust through a dedicated curriculum that teaches the importance of ground rules, honesty, confidentiality, and what it means to be a woman in the world.” She advises, “Take theory into practice by letting the girls lead themselves. Trust them!”

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