Karen Escarcha, an incoming master’s student (MA ’20) at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, was recently awarded a 2019–20 Selected Professions Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
“I was completely shocked when I received the fellowship, but a part of me knew that AAUW’s values aligned so closely with mine that it was a natural fit,” said Escarcha. “This award will help lessen the financial burden of pursuing graduate education – something that is always at the top of my mind as a first-generation student of color.”
Escarcha received her BA in linguistics and psychology from Boston University (’14).
“I was focused on language acquisition research until a social psychology course sparked my interest in income inequality,” said Escarcha. “This led me to the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC) – a nonprofit recognized nationally for its work around youth employment and dropout reengagement.”
For the past five years, Escarcha was a part of the PIC executive team where she gained experience in nonprofit management and education policy. Recently, she helped build a new online application and applicant tracking system for the high school internship program. She also earned a certificate in community leadership and social change from Tufts University/Institute for Nonprofit Practice.
For the 2019-20 academic year, AAUW awarded a total of $4 million through six fellowships and grants programs to 259 scholars, research projects and programs promoting education and equity for women and girls. AAUW is one of the world’s leading supporters of graduate women’s education. Over the past 130 years, it has provided more than $115 million in fellowships, grants, and awards to 13,000 women from more than 145 countries.
Escarcha is eager to start working with faculty and classmates when she starts here in the Fall 2019 semester.
“I want to absorb as much as I can while bringing my own perspective to the curriculum and the work,” added Escarcha. “I stumbled upon design and design thinking when I was researching public policy graduate programs, since then it has clicked that design will allow me to merge my creative and analytical strengths.
“I see design as a vehicle for me to help shape the future in a way that looks, sounds, and feels more diverse and more inclusive.”
That urge to promote equity will be a driving force behind her education here at Carnegie Mellon University.
“Equity to me is about access to opportunity,” said Escarcha. “On an individual level, I’m going to be conscious of taking advantage of all that CMU has to offer and not being afraid to ask for the resources I need. Within the Pittsburgh community, I will seek out organizations that promote equity and diversity and I will bring that agenda forward to design and tech spaces that are lacking it.”