UO student wins the university’s first Mitchell Scholarship

EUGENE, Ore. -- (Nov. 21, 2011) –University of Oregon graduate student Katie Dwyer has been awarded a prestigious Mitchell Scholarship, the first for a student from the UO.

Dwyer, a second-year master's student in the UO School of Law's Conflict and Dispute Resolution program, was one of 20 finalists who interviewed in Washington, D.C. last week.

The Mitchell Scholarship, which is offered through the U.S.-Ireland Alliance, is named for former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who was instrumental in the Northern Ireland peace process. The scholarship committee looks for students who demonstrate academic excellence, leadership and community involvement.

Dwyer plans to continue her pursuit of a career in social justice by studying international human rights law as a Mitchell Scholar in Ireland, where she will focus on Cross Border Studies at Queen’s University Belfast and National University of Ireland Galway.

"Ireland is a really exciting opportunity because it's so small and so recently involved in its own conflict that the academic world is closely tied in with policy and with organizations, and they really inform each other," Dwyer said. "That's really exciting to me, that the work that people are doing on the ground is being researched by the academy and informing policy.”

Dwyer graduated magna cum laude from the Robert D. Clark Honors College with degrees in sociology and comparative literature in 2010. She was appointed one of the Phi Beta Kappa Oregon Six -- awarded to students who exhibited excellence in upper-division liberal arts courses with high grade point averages. During her freshmen year, Dwyer took a class through the Inside-Out Program, in which university students go to prisons for classes with inmates.

The Inside-Out Program inspired Dwyer, who wrote her undergraduate thesis on the program and continued to work within the program. She is part of its national steering committee and works regionally to coordinate what classes are being taught. She also assists in teaching classes with new professors, and started a student-run book club for incarcerated youth.

During her time with the Inside-Out Program, Dwyer met her mentor, Associate Geography Professor Shaul Cohen, who encouraged Dwyer to apply to the Mitchell Scholarship.

"She has all these things you can see on paper -- being one of the Oregon Six and valedictory for the Honors College, and all of those hallmarks of excellence that she's accumulated along the way," Cohen said. "When I saw the array of activities that Katie had developed for herself and for others, I saw that the Mitchell Scholarship was really a perfect fit."

Dwyer's other social justice work includes being a graduate teaching fellow for the Savage Committee on international relations and peace, where she works with Sister Helen Prejean during her campus visits, and working as a translator for Volunteers in Medicine, a doctor's office for people without health insurance.

Dwyer is also involved in immigration issues, and has led trips through No More Deaths -- a humanitarian aid organization -- along the U.S.-Mexico border, providing aid to immigrants in need of resources and health care, and acting as a translator.

"What I'm really proud of and feel confident (about) going forward is that I've had these wonderful opportunities and experiences and then have used those to launch leadership opportunities to help other people have similar experiences," Dwyer said.

-- by Rachel Starr, UO media relations intern

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Joe Mosley, UO media relations, 541-346-3606, jmosley@uoregon.edu