Colleen Fugate '14 was awarded the 2013 Sherry Matusoff Merfish Award for "commitment to social justice or engaged research on an issue pertaining to women, gender, or sexuality." The award recognized Colleen's exceptional record of research and activism during her time at Rice.
As a SWGS and Sociology double major and PJHC minor, Colleen was dedicated to finding ways to connect her passion for social justice to her interest in research. According to Colleen, "direct community organizing and outreach has helped me to see the complexity of social justice and the uniqueness of each person's particular experience. This type of engagement has impacted my own identity as a feminist and an activist and really caused me to think about how I can bring my own research down from the ivory tower to have an impact on people's lives."
In Houston, Colleen volunteered with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and was a founding member of the student chapter of Planned Parenthood at Rice. Colleen additionally served as Worker's Rights Advocate at Fe y Justicia Worker Center, where she assisted migrant workers who have experienced wage theft. During the CSWGS Seminar and Practicum in the spring of 2013, Colleen drew on her experiences at Fe y Justicia to research the impact of wage theft on transnational families.
In addition to her local activism, Colleen has an impressive record of international service. During the summer and fall of 2011, she worked as a volunteer in Ecuador, advocating for the rights of Colombian refugees. In the summer of 2012, she interned in Guanajuato, Mexico for an organization that assists survivors of sexual and domestic violence and advocates for reproductive rights. In 2013, Colleen completed her PJHC summer service internship at the Taricaya Rescue Center in Puerto Maldonado, Peru where she participated in various environmental conservation projects and had the opportunity to, in her words, "witness the interconnectivity of social justice" issues. To read Colleen's reflections on her experiences at the Taricaya Rescue Center, click here.
After graduating in May 2014, Colleen embarked upon a global journey supported by a Watson Fellowship.
To watch Colleen reflect on her incredible journey during her time at Rice, click here.