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Students awarded scholarship for social justice work

This year’s recipients of an annual scholarship which recognizes Mills College students for their commitment to social justice and community involvement are two women who study different academic disciplines and are passionate about separate issues – yet they are equally active in the community.

The Dr. Laura Nathan Scholarship for Social Justice and Community Service went to junior Rashida Harmon and senior Shoshana Perrey, who will each receive $2,500.

Now in its third year, the scholarship is organized by the Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL), in partnership with Laura Nathan, a former Mills sociology professor. Nathan taught at Mills from 1982 to 2004, and is now a visiting professor at UC Berkeley.

Michaela Daystar, who heads ICL and served as coordinator for the selection committee, announced the winners Nov. 5.

“It was no small challenge selecting from among such a strong and worthy group of students,” she said.

Harmon is a women’s studies major, and Perrey created her own, titled Food Policies, Institutions and Culture.

Daystar said while the two winners pursue different interests, “what they share – and what ultimately led to their selection – was a clear and succinct articulation of how their social justice work relates to and is informed by their academic work at Mills, and significantly a passion for the work they are doing that just jumped off the pages of their essays.”

The two are both transfer students, and also involved in the ICL program – Harmon currently and Perrey in 2008.

“ICL, so far, has completely reignited my sense of purpose in relation to social justice work, and has helped me articulate what I’d like to do next,” Harmon said. She is currently the Features Editor for the campus student news organization The Campanil, and will be interning at National Radio Project next semester.

“I’ve gotten really into journalism and have been experimenting with ways to advocate for social justice issues, while still maintaining my integrity and objectivity,” she said.

Since she was a young teenager, Harmon has been committed to political participation and community involvement, doing everything from working with a local nonprofit to create an empowering publication for middle school girls to playing in an all-female multiracial punk band.

Perrey will be graduating this December. She said she is putting the money toward a research project to continue working with farmers in Madagascar, the country she studied abroad in last spring.

“Receiving this award has been so meaningful to me in showing that food justice and food sovereignty are being recognized more and more as critical contemporary issues for everyone,” Perrey said.

According to Daystar, the scholarship was endowed by an anonymous alumna who studied under Nathan. English Professor Ajuan Mance also served on the selection committee.

The six runner ups, or Dr. Laura Nathan Women of Distinction, were Madeleine Anderson, Martha Benitez, Terrilynn Cantlon, Rebecca Freeman, Kerri Thorp and Belen Trigueros.