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The Graduate School announces social justice mini grant awardees

Twelve student organizations and individuals awarded grants of $2,500

The Graduate School at Northwestern has awarded 12 student organizations and individuals Social Justice Mini Grants. The Graduate School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion launched the mini-grant program to provide individual graduate students or graduate student affinity groups one-time grants of up to $2,500.

Damon Williams, associate dean for diversity and inclusion at The Graduate School, explained how this program will assist The Graduate School with continuing to create an environment of inclusive excellence for the graduate community by supporting graduate programs, faculty and students to work on a sense of belonging and sustainability. 

“Our students are social justice champions. They know what areas need improvement or cultivation,” Williams said. “We want to listen and learn from our students and empower them with resources and funding to be partners in this work.”

The impetus behind the mini grants comes from a sustained push from graduate students to improve The Graduate School's focus on justice, equity, inclusion and belonging. Williams heard feedback from faculty and students who wanted to get involved and make an impact, especially in their specific disciplines or within their research interests. 

“There’s a lot that The Graduate School and our senior leaders can do to cultivate diversity, equity and inclusion within our community, but I am excited to see how our students and faculty will enhance the social justice momentum within our campus community,” Williams said.

Dean Kelly Mayo echoed this commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in his August message to The Graduate School community.

“Longstanding issues of inequity and social injustice won’t simply vanish at the start of a new academic year," Mayo said. "The Graduate School remains committed to fostering a welcoming environment and being an impetus for progress and change.”

Grantees were selected based on their ability to demonstrate commitment to civic engagement, social justice and community service, as well as the impact and feasibility of the proposal. Williams said there was intentionality in the selection process to ensure a diverse group of topics across identities and disciplines.

The mini grants also help fund student projects that impact the local community and reflect the principles of social justice, community building, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability. One of the individual recipients, Gervais Marsh, a Ph.D. candidate in performance studies, will use the grant to support the wellness, culture and action component of the Chicago Freedom School (CFS). The Chicago Freedom School provides training and education for young people and adult allies to create a more just world. Marsh will develop a study group series that focuses on the relationship between Black feminisms and the organizing work led by CFS youth.

“Spaces of study are critical for organizers to come together to share experiences and reflections on their work,” Marsh said. “It is an opportunity to learn and grow together, developing skills and approaches to issues of racial capitalism, environmental inequity and the abolition of policing and the prison industrial complex that can be implemented in the community organizing that CFS does in Chicago.”

Some of the themes of Marsh’s work will include: the politics of care, responses to policing, dynamics of positionality and queer and trans people of color in community activism. Marsh has been a board member for the CFS for one year and believes they are doing critical work in Chicago, while also providing a model for youth organizing and community engagement nationally.

“I am glad Northwestern has made these social justice grants available and hope it is a sign of an ongoing commitment to interrogate the University’s role in oppressive power structures and support community-centered projects,” Marsh said. 

In addition to the mini grants, The Graduate School has launched several initiatives to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion practices within the graduate student community. One such program is the “Let’s Talk Diversity” series. Launched in the fall of 2020 by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, this series provides a safe space for students, staff, postdocs and faculty to engage in dialogue on issues facing the community. 

Grant recipients and their projects

Abhijit Roy, communication sciences and disorders
This project is a study to understand the effect of current hearing aid software on languages other than English.

Bambang Trihadmojo, sociology
This research project promotes equal rights and equitable opportunities for transgender people in Indonesia to access public services, including state IDs, healthcare and emergency aid.

Erique Zhang, media, technology and society
This project is an anthology by transgender women and femmes of color discussing their resistance, resilience and worldbuilding entitled: Paradise on the Margins: Lessons and Dreams from Trans Women of Color.

Gervais Marsh, performance studies
This project is a Black feminist study series and organizing group with the Chicago Freedom School. 

Jordan Daley, social psychology
This project will conduct two related studies that will complement previous work suggesting the race of a source can influence elaboration and persuasion. 

Margaret Butler, anthropology
This qualitative study hopes to better understand how police violence impacts the health of Black birthing parents.

Tawny Spinelli, clinical psychology
This project explores implicit bias as it relates to termination of parental rights (TPR) by asking participants to make decisions about TPR for parents with various characteristics and attributes.

Black Graduate Artist Group
Black Graduate Artists Group will produce the work of writers, directors, actors and designers about Northwestern's Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community.

Comunidad Latinx (CLX)
CLX will establish a mentorship program between Northwestern Latinx graduate and undergraduate students to provide support for Latinx students as they navigate their college careers.

Disability Advocacy Coalition in Medicine (DAC Med)
DAC Med will facilitate their first national conference, a student-led and student-focused conference entitled Advancing Disability Equity in Healthcare.

Queer Pride Graduate Student Association (QPGSA)
QPGSA will utilize the grant in support of their annual LGBTQIA+ academic conference, Queertopia.

Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (NU-SACNAS)
NU-SACNAS and IBiS Student Organization will organize an event consisting of diversity, equity and inclusion training.