Women & Gender Studies Institute

Inaugural Brianna O’Connor Hersey Scholarship

On November 28, 2018, WGSI celebrated the life of Brianna O’Connor Hersey, a PhD student in WGSI who died on March 31, 2018, with the awarding of the inaugural Brianna O’Connor Hersey Scholarship. This scholarship will be awarded annually to a WGSI PhD student who has completed their first year of study, was announced that evening in the WGSI Lounge. This award recognizes a student who demonstrates resilience and drive, shows strong communication skills, exemplifies creative thinking and methods, connects large and small scale thinking in their research, as well as engages with local or transnational communities in meaningful ways. We were delighted to award the scholarship to Aarzoo Singh.

Professor Michelle Murphy shared a message behalf of Brianna’s family for the scholarship’s recipient.  “Brianna was passionate about learning, mentoring and teaching and had looked forward to building a career in her field. Unlike many honored by family and friends with the establishment of a memorial scholarship after their death, Brianna was aware of this scholarship and had time to consider and articulate some of the qualities the recipient of this award should possess. Brianna, sadly in absentia, and our family wish you every success in your future studies and look forward to hearing a bit about your work over the coming year. “

Professor Dina Georgis shared some memories about Brianna “Brianna loved attending the research graduate seminars—even when she got really sick, she tried not to miss. Brianna loved big ideas and she never wanted to miss out. For those of you who knew Brianna, you may recall she was often the first person to raise her hand and ask a question during Q and A. More often than not, her question interrogated the researcher’s method. Her determination always tickled me. Brianna had important questions to work out about the dilemmas of how to live well and how to die well. I think she was searching for the best way to do her research — with transparency, respect, and integrity. It is not surprising to me that in the criteria she set up for this scholarship she identified creative methodologies.”

Professor Dina Georgis presented the recipient of this year’s award to WGSI PhD candidate Aarzoo Singh. Aarzoo’s dissertation examines violent colonial histories through their affective legacies. She does this by thinking about the traces of memory, in particular through what she calls movable objects—heirlooms and memorabilia. For Aarzoo these objects uncover the secrets and mysteries of human experience. Their register is emotional and as such there is no straightforward method to make knowledge. Producing this kind of colonial history is an act of imagination –of making meaning from official and unofficial/personal archives. What she offers is an emotional geography of transnational migration and diaspora. She begins with her family’s story of fleeing India during its violent partition—a story that is complicated by religion and identity—and the objects they bring to the diaspora such as jewellery and ID cards and  the objects they leave behind such as her fathers’ turban and gun. Aarzoo’s curiosity about these objects makes her methodology creative and is the inspiration of the project.  Dina acknowledged that it’s a fascinating study and that she is proud to be supervising this project.

The Brianna O’Connor Hersey Scholarship is made possible by donations from family and friends of Brianna and the WGSI community. Continuing donations will help us to extend this scholarship into the future beyond its initial five-year commitment. Please feel welcome to continue donating to the scholarship. The scholarship is a wonderful honour to Brianna’s legacy of scholarship and life.

Donate here.