Feminist studies Ph.D. student receives American Association of University Women fellowship

Program aims to tackle barriers women face in education

Vivian Underhill in Alaska
Vivian Underhill worked for the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, a small, grassroots environmental nonprofit in Fairbanks, Alaska, that focuses on economic and climate justice in central and northern Alaska.

Vivian Underhill, a Ph.D. student in feminist studies, has been awarded a 2020-21 fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

The fellowships recognize recipients whose academic work and community projects empower women and girls.

Underhill, who received the AAUW's American Fellowship, is pursuing a doctorate in feminist studies with an emphasis on critical race science studies. Her research focuses on intergenerational environmental-justice activism around fracking and groundwater in California’s San Joaquin Valley.

AAUW is one of the world’s oldest leading supporters of graduate women’s education. Since 1888, it has awarded more than $115 million in fellowships, grants and awards to 13,000 recipients from more than 105 countries. 

For the 2020–21 academic year, AAUW awarded a total of $3.5 million through seven fellowships and grants programs to more than 200 scholars and community projects and programs promoting education and equity for women and girls.

"Our fellows and grantees have a long and distinguished history of contributing to their schools, their communities and to society at large,” said Kim Churches, chief executive officer of AAUW. “Even in today’s challenging times, we know that this year’s recipients will continue in that esteemed tradition.”

“AAUW is proud to provide the support they need to excel in their academic work–and to ultimately make the world a better place,” she added.

Underhill was a member of The Humanities Institute’s inaugural cohort of Public Fellows at UCSC for the 2016-17 academic year. That role placed her at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, where she worked on a grassroots campaign for environmental justice in Northern Alaska.

She additionally received a UCSC Social Sciences Research Council fellowship grant through the Humanities Institute in 2018-19 to begin her field work in the San Joaquin Valley—where she interviewed a wide range of people, visited museums and oil fields, and began archival research at the Huntington and Bancroft libraries.