Selected Brace Fellows Will Explore Gender Globally

Next year, seven students will devote hours to research gender issues spanning the globe, from Zimbabwe and India to Andover, MA. The Brace Center for Gender Studies named MJ Engel ’13, Kai Kornegay ’14, Tyler Olkowski ’13, Jing Qu ’13, Madeline Silva ’13, Annika Neklason ’13 and Rachel Murree ’14 the Brace Student Fellows for the 2012-2013 school year. The students will work over the summer with their respective faculty advisors and Diane Moore, Director of the Brace Center, to shape their projects, which they will present to the Andover community over the course of the next year. Engel will focus on redefining the term “women empowerment.” Her project is an expansion of a English 200 research paper she wrote last year about the role of women in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe. “What I found was that when those women were more educated, they found themselves in this weird limbo phase where they couldn’t fully appreciate the opportunities of the Western world because no one would accept them, and they couldn’t really go back to their villages because they were kind of an anomaly and no one really saw them as part of their culture anymore,” said Engel. With Flavia Vidal, Instructor in English, as her faculty advisor, Engel will concentrate on the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that declare education and economic development essential for women to achieve positions of power. To supplement her research, Engel will contact non-profit organizations in Rhode Island and Chicago that work towards economic empowerment. Kornegay’s project, inspired by a student diversity leadership conference she attended in Philadelphia last December, will explore the intersections of race, sexual orientation and gender. She will be advised by Christopher Jones, Instructor in History. “There is a group of people who are very marginalized in this country and around the world… I want to [explore] in depth about how [LGBT women of color] been excluded from feminist movements and how they feel alienated within LGBT spaces or their own communities of color,” said Kornegay. Kornegay plans to interview Spectra Asala, an LGBT rights activist who spoke at the interscholastic Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) “Crossing Boundaries” Conference at Andover this February, and Krys Freeman ’03, the founder of an LGBT social networking site. Murree and Neklason will collaborate on a joint project examining 1973 merger between Phillips Academy and Abbot Academy. According to Neklason, she and Murree are interested in studying the distinct personality and identity of Abbot Academy before the merger. “A big part of what we’re looking at is where Abbot went. Andover’s main campus is still on Academy Hill, the school is still called Phillips Academy, the seal and motto are still the same, but [Murree and I] couldn’t imagine that Abbot just disappeared into Phillips,” wrote Neklason in an e-mail to The Phillipian. Working with Thomas Hodgson, Instructor in Religion and Philosophy, the pair will explore the Andover archives, old articles from The Phillipian and a book written by Kathleen Dalton, Instructor in History, on the subject. Olkowski will explore the role of women in American politics, focusing on two case studies, Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the 2008 presidential election and Nancy Pelosi’s experience in the 2010 congressional election. In addition to working with his faculty advisor, Richard Gorham, Olkowski’s house counselor in Andover Cottage, Olkowski plans to speak with Edward Rotundo, Instructor in History and Social Science, who is currently writing a book on gender in politics. Olkowski is also in touch with professors at the Yale Political Institute and American University. “I got interested in this topic when I was working in Washington, DC, last year and I noticed how there were different leadership traits that were expected out of women that were condemned by men,” said Olkowski. Silva decided to study the increasing female drop-out rates at Indian public schools, after returning last summer from Niswarth, an annual Andover service-learning program in India. Working with Raj Mundra, Instructor in Biology and Director of Niswarth, Silva will add to her personal experience in India by reading articles, journals and books on the subject. “India has a pretty big problem getting kids into school and then keeping them in elementary school. There’s a lot of people [working to solve this problem] in different non-profit organizations, governmental organizations, corporate foundations. My paper will focus on these different methods of getting girls into schools and keeping them in schools,” said Silva. Qu will trace the role of women in newspaper and magazine journalism from the 1970s to the present-day. She was initially interested in the topic because of her work as Director of Production for The Phillipian and will be advised by Susan Greenberg, Instructor in English and faculty advisor to The Phillipian. Qu said, “In 1970, 46 women sued their employer, ‘Newsweek,’ for sexual discrimination. The statuses of women in the workplace then versus their statuses now shows that great strides have been made for gender equality in the world of journalism. It will be interesting to see how female journalists were able to use newspapers as a platform for their cause.” She plans to contact “The Chicago Tribune,” “The Chicago Sun-Times,” “The Daily Herald” and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University as part of her research. According to Moore, there were a record number of applicants for the fellowship this year. “We were thrilled to get such high quality applications, but it did make the decision-making process challenging for us. We’re very excited about the Fellows selected, but could have easily had another slate of really qualified students,” said Moore.