Iris Marion Young Award For Political Engagement
The Young Award for Political Engagement honors Iris Marion Young, a philosopher and social theorist of international renown. Young was a professor in GSPIA 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, active in the Women’s Studies Program as well as within GSPIA. 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 inaugurated the award in 2008 to honor Young’s memory and recognize a member of the Pitt community whose actions have had political impact within the University or beyond. In 2009, GSPIA established the Iris M. Young Lecture in Civic Engagement to mark the event, and Women's Studies added an undergraduate award. A graduate student award was added in 2011.
This Iris Marion Young Award call for nominations is distributed in August and awardees are honored each fall.
A separate award for staff members was created in 2013.
Jessie B. Ramey - 2013 (Faculty)
Jessie B. Ramey, currently an ACLS New Faculty Fellow in Women’s Studies and History at the University of Pittsburgh. Ramey is being honored for her activism on behalf of public education in Western Pennsylvania. She is 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 has twice been 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)
Sherdina D. Harper is being 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.
Carrie R. Leana - 2012
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 her PhD in Organizational Behavior and Business Policy from the University of Houston, and her MBA and BA 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.
Deborah L. Brake - 2011
Deborah Brake is professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, specializing in gender justice, feminist legal theory, and discrimination in institutions (such as sport, the workplace, and schools). Brake earned her JD from Harvard Law School (where she was a member of the Law Review) and her BA in Political Science from Stanford (member of Phi Beta Kappa). As a practicing public interest lawyer, Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, and as a professor, she uses 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).
Gail Austin - 2010
Read Gail Austin's speech
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 has done 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.
Melissa L. Swauger – 2009
Melissa Swauger is currently Assistant Professor of Sociology at Carlow University, having earned a 2008 Ph.D. in Sociology, with a Master’s Women’s Studies Certificate, from the University of Pittsburgh, and an M.A. from Duquesne’s Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy. She has 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 has 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, Women and Girls Foundation, and the Carnegie’s Girls, Math and Science Partnership, she has also volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters programs and organizations for battered women and abused children.
Audrey J. Murrell – 2008
Dr. Audrey J. Murrell is Director of the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership and an Associate Professor of Business Administration. 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, 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 have already earned 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.