By Caroline Dobuzinskis
IWPR is pleased to announce that Rhiana Gunn-Wright, the Mariam K. Chamberlain fellow at IWPR since September 2011, has been named a 2013 Rhodes Scholar. These illustrious scholarships are awarded not only for academic excellence, but also for character, commitment to service, and potential for leadership. Starting at Oxford University in October 2013, Gunn-Wright plans to study comparative social policy. In the future, she aims to improve social welfare policies and hopes to find a position in government. “I want to create and design policies related to issues of poverty, welfare, and urban violence,” said Gunn-Wright.
Gunn-Wright graduated from Yale University magna cum laude with a double major in African American studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality studies. She was first encouraged to apply for the Rhodes Scholarship at the end of her junior year by her academic advisor. But when she graduated she chose not to apply, instead looking to gain some experience outside of higher education.
Ultimately, she was inspired to apply for the scholarship after learning that people she admired, who were as dedicated to public service as she, were Rhodes Scholars. For example, after reading that Newark Mayor Cory Booker had run into a burning building to save a woman in a fire, she found out that he himself was a Rhodes Scholar. Another one of her heroes, television anchor Rachel Maddow, also has the honor. “I thought maybe this [scholarship] could help me to do the work that I want to do,” said Gunn-Wright.
While at IWPR, Gunn-Wright has contributed to several research projects including the Student Parent Success Initiative and work on paid sick days. Gunn-Wright will leave IWPR with many valuable lessons as she takes the first steps toward what promises to be a very successful career in policy. “IWPR inspired me a lot,” said Gunn-Wright. “It was the first time I had seen the way policy gets made, hands on. More than anything I saw the effect of laws that really take into account people’s well being, and how trying to address their needs really does impact their lives.”
In her research, Gunn-Wright will continue to take a gendered perspective. “The research that I intend to do is going to look at welfare from an intersectional perspective, how welfare policies are designed to meet the needs of people who are at the intersections of multiple identities of the disadvantaged.”
“Gender will always be in my analysis,” said Gunn-Wright.
Watch an interview with Rhiana Gunn-Wright on ABC7 News Chicago.