Michael Dively '61 Summer Opportunity Grant Program

The Michael Dively '61 Summer Opportunity Grant was established to provide Williams students with exploratory experiences that shift their world views. Specifically, this grant will finance projects which provide students with an opportunity to engage with a broad range of issues related to gender, sexuality, and its intersections. Opportunities may encompass a variety of outlets, including (but not limited to) internships, summer courses, art projects, community service endeavors, research, conference attendance, etc., which place a specific focus on LGBTQI+ experiences, issues, and expressions.

The Davis Center provides oversight for the selection process, which involves the collection and review of all applications. Upon selection, awards are administered through the Davis Center.

Past Dively Grant Testimonials

Hannah Moore, Summer 2020

In the summer of 2019, I started doing in-depth research on sex education and creating a resource filled with information about comprehensive and inclusive sex ed topics. This summer, I was able to continue this project and transform my research into a presentation we can use to teach parents sex ed. The hope with this presentation is that parents can learn about the basics of comprehensive sex education, start having those discussions with their own children (because the schools certainly aren’t), and potentially start trying to get sex ed curricula changed in their school districts. I narrowed down my research into a reasonable length and built a Prezi. I also filmed and edited pre-recorded “episodes” that to be available online. We ran two live webinars, so parents were able to view the presentations and get their questions answered live, as well as provide live feedback. Additionally, I developed an additional resource guide where parents can find more information on any of the topics covered in the presentation. I also included sources that parents could have their children read, articles that discuss ways of bringing up the topics to kids of various ages, and advice about finding their own resources that are inclusive and accurate if they want to learn even more. The Prezi I created starts with an introduction to Michigan sex ed requirements, which are scarily lacking. We cover youth health indicators from the CDC’s YRBSS, which show how at risk some of our youth in Michigan are (including a map showing that over 20% of high school students in Michigan have seriously contemplated attempting suicide). We then cover a lot of topics divided into four “episodes.”
My work could have a lot of impact on the LGBTQI+ community in my hometown. In Michigan (and in many other states, as well), schools aren’t required to teach about LGBTQI+ identity. The counties that the OutCenter serves are pretty rural and conservative, so there isn’t much education about anything related to sex ed. Being able to provide this information to parents will a) help parents start thinking more inclusively and creating safer spaces for their children or any LGBTQ+ folx in their lives, and b) help parents have these conversations with their kids. If young people can’t get sex education at school, it’s incredibly important that they learn it from someone else they trust. Learning about comprehensive sex ed can also help young people in so many ways. Not only can they learn about LGBTQI+ identities, which may prevent them from feeling quite so isolated or reduce their anxiety about their sexuality/gender, but they can also get information about everything ranging from safer sex to mental health. This acts as a knowledge base they can use to make healthy decisions for the rest of their lives. We’re also hoping that this presentation will motivate parents to start the arduous process of getting the sex-ed curriculum changed in their school districts. That could have an even larger impact on all of the young people in our community, as it would mean that all of the kids we serve would potentially be getting access to this information. In terms of the Williams LGBTQI+ community, I’m currently involved with both Sexpo and Sexual Wellbeing and Joy planning. Both of these groups work to provide information on sexual health and sexuality to people on the Williams campus. The work I did this summer has made me even more prepared to help provide this info for anyone at Williams. 

Mohazzab Abdullah, Summer 2019

I spent the summer embedded in a community-led and staffed trans-NGO in Karachi, Pakistan, learning about the indigenous 'Khwaja Sira' community, as well as hoping to invest my funds and time into a project for structural change. One of these was to bring back to Williams a number of handicrafts from a community artist, purchased at twice the market price, and then additionally sending another $145 back to her in profits from a raffle I ran (over 5 times the market price). Secondly, together with the NGO and a non-profit addiction rehabilitation center, I established the contractual groundwork and have already fundraised $1500 locally for the first all-trans drug rehabilitation ward of Pakistan. A third related project revolves around a transman I befriended while working with GIA (Gender Interactive Alliance) for whom I ended up serving as a de-facto asylum caseworker, also funding his ticket to Nepal and his first 6 months of rent. He is on the run from the threat of a forced marriage to a man or an honor-killing from his politically powerful family in Islamabad. I have recently also launched a GoFundMe for him to urgently raise funds for the remainder of his stay in Nepal while his asylum application to Canada is processed.

Melvin Lewis, Summer 2019

I was lucky to receive the Dively Grant for the summer of 2019 to fund my internship with the Transgender Law Center. I had previously volunteered for this organization. Working with their Prison Mail Response Program, I responded to letters from incarcerated trans people and sent them appropriate resources. As a full-time intern this summer, I ran the Prison Mail Response Program: contacting and following up with volunteers, as well as checking and finalizing their work. The Transgender Law Center has extensive records of policies concerning incarcerated trans people in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and every state correctional department. However, all of this information was compiled in 2016. I was in charge of updating all of these records, which involved research and sending countless Freedom of Information Act requests. It was heartening to see how many correctional departments had improved their policies in the last three years. My third major project was responding to submissions to the Transgender Law Center's online Legal Helpline and updating the relevant laws and trans resources in the Helpline informational database on every US state. A million thanks to Michael Dively for this generous grant, allowing me to pursue meaningful, rewarding work this summer. It was incredible to be a part of a workplace where everyone was trans or non-binary and to watch these passionate people try to change the world. Despite the often depressing news and letters we received, I finished my internship feeling hopeful about the state of my community. I still don't know what I want to do after graduating. This summer, however, reminded me how I would love to work in the non-profit sector and continue working in trans advocacy in some capacity.

Paula Natalia Mejia, Summer 2019

At the end of my junior spring in 2016, I took a personal leave from the College. I decided to use the opportunity to connect, not only with my family but also with my homeland, and I found a job in Barrancabermeja, Colombia teaching as a primary school English teacher. During my time there, the Colombian Department of Education was trying to pass guidelines for the rights of transgender students in public and private grade schools in response to Segio Urrego’s suicide in 2014, following persecution from his private school for his sexual identity. As part of Professor Gregory Mitchell’s Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies senior seminar in spring 2018, I interviewed three queer-identified Colombians via Skype on their perspectives of living in Colombia with a queer identity. Due to my personal connection to the subject, I continued wanting to pursue this project. The Dively Grant that I received for the summer of 2019 allowed me to continue this project and make further contacts in Colombia to continue this research. The Dively Grant allowed me to revisit this project, edit my writing, and think more deeply about the directions I want this work to grow in. I began thinking about the political-economic factors that affect queer identity categories and experiences, such as the ongoing civil conflict with the FARC, the search by people and the government for reconciliation and peace, and the influx of Venezuelan immigrants over the past couple of years. In the future, I would like to continue to do research that in ethnographic in nature, as most ethnographies require contact with one’s respondents for many years.