Yale Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Volume 3, Issue 2
spring 2013
Editor, Geetanjali Singh Chanda
Managing Editors, Linda Hase & Craig Canfield
Layout Design, Nick Appleby

Alum Spotlight: Rhiana Gunn-Wright


I still remember the day that I decided to declare my double major in African American Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.  A few people had tried to dissuade me from combining the two, and I was nervous that this meeting would be the final, definitive “no.” But when I told Maria Trumpler about my plans—including my desire to pursue a joint concentration on black women and black feminism—she just said, “That sounds great. Let’s see how we can make that happen.” I finally had a yes, and it was a yes that changed my scholarship and my life.

As the Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellow at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, my work is more quantitative and policy-oriented than any of the academic work that I undertook in WGSS. But the skills that I learned in WGSS—how to think intersectionally, how to be both rigorous and relevant, how to research from a place of integrity and with a heart for justice—continue to animate my work. In addition, the knowledge base that I built through my senior essay, particularly about U.S. welfare policy and teen pregnancy, have informed both my current research on higher education for low-income mothers and the study on cash transfer systems that I will undertake as a Rhodes Scholar this coming fall.

Being a student of WGSS taught me how to use research to interrogate and challenge injustice—including those I perpetuated. It’s been an arduous process at times, but it has also inspired the work that I have done so far.  I would never have even applied for a Rhodes Scholarship if it had not been for my experiences in WGSS. And as I embark on this next leg of my life, working to develop intersectional anti-poverty policies, I know that these experiences will continue to challenge me to design the most inclusive, humane programs and legislation that I can. Because, ultimately, I just want to design something that gives everyone a chance to experience some of the radical kindness that I experienced in WGSS. Everyone deserves a little bit of yes.

Rhiana Gunn-Wright received her B.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and African American Studies from Yale University in 2011.
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