Mary Eileen Gaertner '12, President's Medalist
B.A., sociology/anthropology and international studies
Meg, you have demonstrated a deep commitment to social justice, reducing inequality, and resolving conflicts among people. Simultaneously, you have blazed an intellectual trail in your majors of sociology/anthropology and international studies. One nominator states that after you completed the general education requirements and the requirements for the soc/anth major, you continued to take difficult upper level courses in religion, biology, and philosophy to enhance your understanding of the world. Your achievements and honors in the field of conflict resolution include your selection for the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs—Democracy and Social Change Program; through that program you went to Northern Ireland for a semester to intern with the Belfast City Council's Good Relations Unit. While there, you conducted interviews, analyzed the mission of each organization, and facilitated dialogue between conflicting groups. Your research used an emergent-action research design where what occurred in the field with the groups you were working with would inform what you would do next.
Your commitment to social justice runs throughout your curricular and co-curricular presence on campus and is supported by the many honors you have received. For a few examples, you co-coordinated the Denison Service Orientation for 27 incoming first-year students; served as a site leader for service-oriented alternative winter breaks in St. Louis and Washington, D.C.; organized relief efforts for earthquake victims in Haiti; and helped Denisonians to participate in Amnesty International's Global Write-a-thon to mark International Human Rights Day and demand respect for human rights. Continuing your focus on possibilities for peace, your yearlong senior research examines the post-conflict and post-apartheid issues of Northern Ireland and South Africa and the role of education in peace-building initiatives in these two countries, and tomorrow you will present your work at the North Central Student Sociological Conference in Pittsburgh. You have been president of Denison's Amnesty International and co-president of Elder Council for Denison Religious Understanding; and you have received the Cephus L. Stephens Internship in service of the Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns. If you are still wondering what such a student does in her spare time—well, you may find her singing in the Gospel and Concert choirs, interning for the Admissions Office, participating as a student member of the First Year Studies Review Committee, and acting as moderator for Denison's Sustained Dialogue. And by the accounts of your nominators, you are doing all of this with grace, humility, and friendliness.
For your sustained focus on conflict resolution, mediation, and peace, we are proud to present this 2012 President's Medal to Mary Eileen Gaertner.