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Rutgers Graduates Who Are Making A Difference

Debarati Sen GSNB’06, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at American University, is continuing a personal and professional journey that she began as a doctoral candidate at Rutgers, studying the effects of the fair trade movement on women farmers and tea workers in Darjeeling, India. Sen’s groundbreaking work in Darjeeling is illuminating the ways in which women in developing economies can benefit from the burgeoning fair trade movement, as well as the difficulties they’ve had in accessing some of the movement’s resources.

As a graduate student at Rutgers, Nathalie Margi GSNB’09 interned at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and helped bring about landmark changes in the United Nations’ approach to women’s rights. With a master’s in women’s and gender studies, she continues with her work at the center as a program assistant. Last year, through the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, she worked on issues of gender and governance. And, in 2008, she participated in a Lebanese refugee camp to work with the Collective for Research and Training on Development, a grassroots women’s organization aimed at empowering women in the developing world.

A three-term mayor of Highland Park, Meryl Frank LC’81 has worked to secure women’s rights nationally and internationally. In 2009, she was appointed the U.S. representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Earlier, her advocacy helped pass the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law in 1993, and the 1989 New Jersey Family Leave Act. She has also served as Democratic co-chair of the Bipartisan Commission on the Appointment of Women.

Natalie Jesionka DC’07, GSN’09 is the executive director of the Prizm Project, an organization she cofounded in a Rutgers dorm room in 2004 when she realized, she says, “that young women needed a space to talk about human rights and dialogue about projects and social action on their own terms.” In its first year, the project sponsored a small retreat on the Rutgers campus; five years later, Prizm is part of the Student World Assembly, with 90-plus international chapters. Its programs have allowed women to address issues ranging from genital mutilation to childbirth to the challenge of finding economic outlets for homemade goods. Now teaching at the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies at Rutgers–Newark, Jesionka will soon embark on a yearlong project conducting photography workshops in Thailand.