News Release: People, Student Life, University News

May 11,  2009

Scholar-Activist and Campus Leader Receives $20,000 McMullan Award

During her four years at Emory University, senior Monique Dorsainvil has put theory into action and dedicated herself to cultivating positive social change both on campus and beyond.  

These attributes led to her winning the 2009 Lucius Lamar McMullan Award, one of Emory's highest student honors which also comes with $20,000 — no strings attached. Dorsainvil was cited by several nominators, representing a cross section of peers, staff and faculty, for her service, ethical leadership and academic rigor that have defined her career at Emory.

“I am extremely grateful, thankful and humbled all in the same breath,” says Dorsainvil, a women’s studies major and global health minor, and a member of the Emory Scholars program.

The Lucius Lamar McMullan Award, endowed by Emory alumnus William L. Matheson in honor of his uncle, is given to a graduating senior who exhibits "outstanding citizenship, exceptional leadership and potential for service to his or her community, the nation and the world." The donor's intention is to allow a student to do something he or she wouldn't otherwise be able to do.

Dorsainvil is donating a portion of the award to the Tiana Angelique Notice Foundation, an organization founded by Sasha Smith, assistant director of The Center for Women at Emory, after the murder of her younger sister this past Valentine’s Day. The namesake foundation seeks to prevent domestic and intimate partner violence by providing educational resources on the cycle of violence, the importance of self-worth and self-empowerment.

“Domestic violence is something that is not talked about or acted upon enough in this country, and has serious and dangerous implications for women and men on a daily basis,” Dorsainvil says.

In addition to saving up for graduate school, she also plans to start college savings accounts for her two younger brothers. “I believe that education is one of the most liberating and enabling gifts that can be given,” says Dorsainvil. “With the education I have, I really feel like I can do anything now.”

During her time at Emory, Dorsainvil seized opportunities to travel and do research through a variety of programs. As Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, she spent a summer in Thailand to work with and study the transgender Kathoey culture. As a sophomore, she traveled to Pune, India, to volunteer with the Ashraya Initiative for Children (founded by 2007 Emory alumna Elizabeth Sholtys) as an artist-in-residence teaching children in the home about photography. She’s also traveled with the Emory Development Institute to Tanzania and Ethiopia as an intern. And last summer, she traveled with her thesis advisor to Haiti, the home country of her maternal grandparents.

“Emory really throws you in there and gives you mind-blowing opportunities. I’ve done things here I never dreamed of,” she says.

This past semester, she worked in the office of Georgia Rep. Stacey Abrams as a legislative aide, which gave her an up-close look at the day-to-day operations of local state government. Next year, she plans to apply for joint degree JD/ PhD programs in women's studies and law, with a focus on public interest. “I have many passions including human rights, women's rights, children's rights, photography and international travel. Currently I’m focusing my energy on government and political advocacy,” she says.

For the past four years, she has served as a student programmer at Emory’s Center for Women, and co-founded Feminists in Action, the only student-led women’s advocacy organization on Emory’s campus. She served as a student representative on the President’s Commission on the Status of Women as well.

“This volunteer position has helped to reinforce my belief that community service reflects and influences greater social change, a perspective that can also be applied to initiatives outside of national borders,” says Dorsainvil, who also received Emory’s Unsung Heroine Award earlier this year. The honor is given for extraordinary dedication to issues that affect women at Emory and in the larger community, and for serving as a role model and mentor for girls and women.

Since her freshman year, she also has been a researcher, community dialogue leader and steering committee member in Emory’s Transforming Community Project (TCP), a study of the history of race at Emory and current issues surrounding it.

“TCP has been extremely important to me as it gives students, faculty and staff the opportunity to discuss the complex history of race at Emory, in the South and in the United States, and have conversations that are necessary but not might occur in any other context,” Dorsainvil says.  

Dorsainvil is the daughter of MarieClaude Dorsainvil of Los Angeles and a graduate of the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West in Montezuma, N.M.

Originally posted May 8, 2009


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