Iris Marion Young Awards honor political engagement

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.

The awards are presented annually by the Gender, Sexuality, & Women’s Studies Program and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs to honor the memory of philosopher and social theorist Iris Young — a professor in GSPIA and a member of the Women's Studies Program Steering Committee during the 1990s before taking a position as professor of political science at the University of Chicago in 2000.  She died in 2006 of cancer.

Nominations are invited in the early fall each year for staff, faculty, graduate student, and undergraduate student members of the Pitt community who are currently affiliated with Pitt or were affiliated in the previous year. 

This year’s winners were honored at a ceremony on Nov. 17.

The 2022-23 honorees:​

Greer Donley — Faculty Award co-winner

Donley, John E. Murray Faculty Scholar and associate professor of law at the School of Law, is a tireless advocate for reproductive rights. Over the past year, she has used her voice and skills to mitigate the damage caused by the demise of Roe V. Wade. In multiple op-eds in the New York Times and other venues, she has used her legal expertise to educate the public about the steps their public officials could take to help protect reproductive healthcare. She worked with federal and state officials to help formulate reproductive policy in the wake of Roe, and her contributions led to the formulation of the first abortion-shield law in the country. This model became the basis for similar legislation in six states and protective executive orders issued by at least ten governors around the country. 

Müge Kökten Finkel — Faculty Award co-winner

Both inside and outside of the University of Pittsburgh, Finkel has been a champion for the equality of women and girls. An assistant professor of international development at GSPIA, Finkel convenes the Gender Equality in Public Administration working group as well as the Gender Inequality Research Lab. Through the two working groups, FInkel leads a team of volunteer researchers documenting global gender inequality in public institutions, and documents gender inequality in public policy. Together, this work has led to significant changes in how U.N. member nations report their data, to offer more information about the global status of women and girls. Finkel has served on the boards of three Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organizations focused on gender equality: the Women and Girls Foundation, Global Switchboard, and Open Field.  She is also an active member of the GSWS Steering Committee. 

Carrie Benson — Staff Award 

Benson joined Pitt’s Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in 2015, where she has been determinedly working to make the University a safer place for women and transgender students. As a Title IX specialist and then a leader of the University’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Office, Benson has advocated for victims of sexual abuse and has developed trainings to help reduce sexual violence on campus. As an ADL trainer, she has facilitated dialogues around issues of bias, discrimination, privilege, and stereotypes with student groups around campus. And finally, since 2020, Benson has chaired the Transgender Working group, which helped foster gender-inclusive facilities and policies throughout the University. 

Yasmeen Gauri — Undergraduate Student Award

Gauri is a gender activist and Honors College student pursuing majors in psychology and religious studies, the pre-medicine track, and chemistry and studio arts minors. She is co-director of the Pitt Chapter of Strong Women Strong Girls, a national nonprofit organization that combines the power of mentoring relationships with a research-based curriculum built around relying on strong female role models to bolster the confidence and skills of girls and gender non-conforming individuals. She has worked with elementary school students experiencing violence and marginalization, including community trauma, mental illness, and socio-economic deprivation. Her work has also promoted LGBTQ+ sex education in Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania public school system generally. She has assisted Pitt faculty with research on methods of collecting data on patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity, and on youth violence and mental health. She has interned at health clinics servicing vulnerable populations in Guatemala and in Pittsburgh. Her goal is to become a psychiatrist working on mental health issues in disadvantaged communities, either domestically or internationally.

Courtney Colligan — Graduate Student Award

Colligan is a recent Ph.D. graduate from Pitt’s Theatre and Performance Studies department and recipient of a doctoral certificate in Gender Studies and Women’s Studies. She serves as the executive director of the Unit Literacy Group, an education-based recovery program that seeks to create a safe space for participants to use reading and writing to achieve academic and recovery goals. In addition to this, she volunteers with the CourtWatch program, attending hearings and tracking outcomes in order to make visible what is happening in our court systems. Here at Pitt, Colligan has worked with Archives and Special Collections to co-found the Archive Theatre Project and helped to produce a digital archive of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre.