AAUW Change Agents to Watch in 2016

February 05, 2016

AAUW fellows have done some amazing things with their funding over the years. Have you ever wondered how these women started out? Our 2015–16 fellows and grantees are sure to be the world’s next big names in education, human rights, technology, and public health. Here are eight to keep our eyes on in 2016 and beyond — just remember you heard about them here first!

American Fellows

Panel of people sitting at discussion.

AAUW American Fellow Caitlyn Collins sits on a panel discussion.

Caitlyn Collins recently completed her dissertation and co-authored a book! The book, Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor, as well as her dissertation, have been receiving substantial media attention.

Her work has been featured in the Atlantic, Huffington Post live, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s website, and in a National Public Radio piece discussing contemporary parenting practices and the “mommy wars.” Collins’ dissertation research focuses on the role that gender, work, and family dynamics play in the lives of women across four countries (Italy, Sweden, Germany, and the United States). She also examines how different ideals of motherhood, gender, and employment are embedded in policy regimes. She believes that “lessening the work-family conflict faced by working mothers will require both cultural changes in the definition of motherhood and the structural reorganization of work and family.”

Kristin de Nesnera

Kristin de Nesnera has published research on helping middle schoolers get involved with science. She co-authored an article in the December 2015 issue of Science Scope discussing tools to help middle school science teachers support students performing science experiments. De Nesnera wrote the piece following her research as part of a joint National Science Foundation and University of California, Santa Cruz, graduate training program during the 2014–15 school year. She was also awarded a postdoctoral fellowship with the Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory in the biology department at San Francisco State University.

Community Action Grantees

Group of women on stairs holding awards.

Taking the Reins Executive Director Jane Haven, far left, with 2015 TTR graduates.

Taking the Reins (TTR) is helping girls learn life skills and stay in school through horse training. The equestrian program teaches middle and high school girls to care for and ride a horse as well learn leadership and team building skills, at little or no cost. The eight girls pictured have been a part of the program for more than three years, and all eight finished high school and will be the first in their families to attend college. Each of the girls shared that TTR was instrumental in their success inside and outside the classroom.

Group of children presenters in a green classroom.

The Family Service Association of San Antonio Inc.

The Family Service Association of San Antonio Inc. has joined forces with AAUW and with the San Antonio community to launch a summer camp for girls. The group will be designing and creating everything from circuits to computer controlled instruments to their very own shadow puppet show, all with the goal of developing girls’ self-confidence and connecting them with a learning community. According to project director Kimberly Sama, “Our girls are redefining their role and transforming the world of STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts, and math].”

Career Development Grantees

Alexandra Rosas_CDG_2015-16_Portrait

Alexandra Rosas is a video producer who tells the stories of marginalized people through her film. Currently pursuing a master’s degree in communication at Johns Hopkins University, she was recently recognized by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts with both a W3 award and a Davey Award honoring her work on the Volunteers of America’s 2014 annual report, which she filmed, edited, and produced under the guidance of her creative director. This was the first time in the organization’s 120-year history that the annual report had been created entirely in house.

Katie Bierlein_CAG_2015-16_Headshot

Katie Bierlein is making child and maternal health care services around the world more equitable. She serves on the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction’s Young Professional Advisory Board and is consulting with a UNICEF team on developing a web-based platform called the Equitable Impact Sensitive Tool (EQUIST). The tool will help countries around the world identify priority areas in child and maternal health by “[bringing] together a wealth of existing data and tools in order to help policy makers and managers make responsible decisions about how to best invest scarce resources.” Bierlein is also authoring an academic paper, under the supervision of Oxford University’s Divya Rajaraman, that will analyze the results of a qualitative case study on low-income working women in Bangalore, India. The study will explore how these women approach the task of child care and whether there is a correlation between traditional care practices and the health of mother and child.

International Fellows

Group of children listen to a woman reading.

AAUW International Fellow Mahnaz Rezaie gives a poetry reading.

Mahnaz Rezaie protests injustices against Afghan women with her art. Born in Afghanistan and pursing a master’s degree in new media photojournalism, she considers herself a visual artist who “creates art that matters” and she spends much of her time filming documentaries, taking photographs, and writing poems and stories highlighting the lives of Afghan women. Rezaie writes for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and has acted as a digital curator for Of Note magazine, including their special burqa issue. She says her art “is a way to capture terrible odds and discrimination. [It’s] a way to protest against social and cultural injustice.”

Selected Professions Fellows

Portia Strahan_SPF_2015-16_Headshot

Portia Strahan will be building environmentally conscious homes for Navajo families in Utah. This past semester, Strahan and 12 classmates embarked on a new endeavor: designing and building an 800-square-foot classroom structure that is off grid (operating independently of all usual public utility services like water and electricity). It will serve as a prototype to teach future students in the University of Utah’s Design Build Bluff program off-grid strategies that can be easily implemented in future Navajo homes. Strahan and her classmates presented the design concept and construction details to a panel of architects and Design Build Bluff alumni and were rewarded with useful feedback and support to continue the project. They are looking forward to building out the design in spring 2016!

This post was written by AAUW Program Associate Theon Gruber Ford.

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