Emily Usher Shrair, a 2004 Weston High School graduate, has been granted an award from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program to pursue a master’s degree in gender and development at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in England. The Fulbright award for study in the United Kingdom is the most competitive of all Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards.
As a student in the Weston school system, Ms. Shrair demonstrated a passion for and commitment to service and anti-poverty work. She was extensively involved in student government and service groups at the middle school and high school, starting a number of initiatives to help raise money for street children in Guatemala, organizing community activities for underprivileged students at the Carver Center in Norwalk, and raising money to send books to schools in the developing world. She received numerous awards for her commitment to service and scholastic achievements.
Since receiving her bachelor of arts degree in international relations and gender studies from Mount Holyoke College in 2008, Ms. Shrair has managed communication and development initiatives at women’s rights-focused NGOs throughout Latin America and the United States. She currently serves as communication manager at the Women’s Refugee Commission, a major international women’s rights organization in New York City.
Ms. Shrair has worked alongside local organizers and leaders on social justice and women’s rights issues throughout the Americas, including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Mexico, and Servicio, Paz y Justicia (SERPAJ) in Argentina. She is bilingual (English and Spanish).
Additionally, she is the founder and CEO of Girl Got Grants (www.girlgotgrants.com), a feminist fund-raising collective, the founder of the nonprofit job site Feminist Job Board, and a prolific writer on issues of feminism and development.
The master’s in gender and development program at Sussex that Ms. Shrair will attend this fall is the oldest and most widely respected program of its kind in the world, she noted. The MA is specifically focused on advanced research, policy and analysis, and brings together scholars, researchers and activists from around the world who have broken through boundaries of gender and class to radically change the way in which development is approached.
At the University of Sussex, Ms. Shrair plans to examine barriers to the participation of socially marginalized women in the process of slum-upgrading, an area of study inspired by her experience as a Davis Projects for Peace grant recipient while studying at Mount Holyoke College.
Joan Cocks, professor of politics at Mount Holyoke, supported Ms. Shrair’s application, writing that Ms. Shrair is “deeply attuned to the complexities of race, religion and culture that complicate struggles to improve women’s situations around the globe.”
While studying at the University of Sussex, Ms. Shrair will volunteer her time and skills at the Brighton Housing Corp., a community-based organization that is tackling issues of homelessness, social marginalization and urban poverty in the United Kingdom. After completing her Fulbright study, she plans to work as an intermediary between grassroots women’s organizations and policy makers in cities throughout the developing world. Ultimately, Ms. Shrair noted, she hopes “to start an international women’s organization that fosters participatory urban policy-making through dialogue between local women, policy makers, donors, and other stakeholders and provides resource sharing and funding opportunities.”