This year's Iris Marion Young Awards

Image from the invitation to the awards ceremony


The 2021-22 Awards Ceremony for the Iris Marion Young Awards for Political Engagement will be held Thurs., Nov. 11, 5:00-6:30 pm via Zoom.  Register at

The Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program (GSWS) and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) sponsor each year the Iris Marion Young Awards for Political Engagement to honor those who work to promote justice in the University, at the local or national level, or across the globe. Like the philosopher and social theorist Iris Young, in whose memory the award is created, the Young Award recognizes that social activism takes many forms. Justice can be pursued in a variety of ways and places—in the classroom and workplace, in organizations, through specific projects, in academic scholarship, in politics and volunteer work. The venue doesn’t matter. The effort and quality of the contribution do.

At this year's ceremony, these winners will be honored and will be part of a roundtable discussion with Dr. Sabina Deitrick (GSPIA) about activism and service:

Aparna Ramani - 2021-22 Undergraduate Student Award

Aparna Ramani is an undergraduate healthcare activist pursuing her bachelor’s degree with majors in Natural Sciences and Sociology. She is also pursuing an MPH in Health Policy and Management in the Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s degree program in the Graduate School of Public Health. She was awarded the prestigious Brackenridge Fellowship in 2019 and used this opportunity to conduct mixed-methods research investigating the impact of different insurance coverage policies (fee-for-service versus value-based care) on patients’ roles in shared medical decision-making and their comfort in disclosing to healthcare providers. She has continued her research in healthcare as an Honors Research Fellow contextualizing the experiences of substance-using pregnant womxn. She is currently working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an intern in the food and nutrition security sector.

Nikki Cristobal - 2021-22 Graduate Student Award 

One of her mentors describes Nikki Cristobal as a “woman who has overcome life-threatening odds and extreme challenges and racism to become a scholar-practitioner-political activist par excellence.” Nikki is a scholar from the island of Kaua’i, Hawai’i. She is a few months away from completing her doctorate in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education. With her dissertation that focuses on ‘Ike Kūpuna (the knowledge of elders/ ancestors) and intergenerational cultural resiliency amongst women who are generationally rooted to Kaua‘i island, Nikki’s scholarly work is very much aligned with the work of Dr. Iris Marion Young. Like Young, Nikki critiques colonization and highlights Indigenous Hawaiian women’s unique approach to being civic leaders; like Young, she takes to the streets for causes that matter to her. Nikki has also been recently inducted into the Pacific Business News’ list of “40 under 40” in recognition of the feminist NGO she co-founded to help women and girls.

Laura S. Nelson - 2021-22 Staff Award

Laura Nelson does incredible work at Pitt in and beyond their official position as Assistant Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity.  They are active in the Transgender Working Group, the Pitt Queer Professionals Steering Committee, and the LGBTQIA+ Task Force, and through these roles, they have connected with a multitude of offices and organizations at Pitt to improve working and learning conditions for the LGBTQIA+ community.  Laura has been (and continues to be) active in student-led efforts to launch an LGBTQIA+ center at Pitt and works in many ways to create and publicize resources for trans and nonbinary folks at Pitt. They are also collaborating on a project to raise awareness about the history of queer and trans activism at Pitt. Beyond these ways in which their work impacts Pitt undergraduates, Laura also teaches courses in composition and interdisciplinary research methods at Pitt.  

Sarah Hainer - 2021-22 Faculty Award

Dr. Sarah Hainer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Sarah has worked to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in academic science both within her own department as well as at a national level. Her work touches every rung of the academic ladder. Within her department, she developed a tiered mentoring program for historically excluded undergraduate students, developed a graduate student climate survey, and organized events within the department to promote inclusion, such as developing a DEI book club for departmental members and organizing recognition of Women in Science. More broadly, she has written blog posts on intersectionality and being a woman in the sciences and developed guidelines to help academics reduce bias in five fundamental practices that are hindering inclusivity within academic science. Her colleagues recognize her as an advocate to promote inclusion and attest to her measurable achievements in the DEI space.