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

Mohazzab Abdullah, Summer 2019

I spent the summer embedded in a community-lead 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 honour-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 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 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.