Class of 2023 encouraged to ‘build a better world’
Grace Frances Amato ’21, a gender, sexuality and intersectionality studies and Latin American studies double major and Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy scholar from Melrose, Massachusetts, has been awarded the 2021 Anna Lord Strauss Medal.
The award is given annually at Commencement to a graduating senior who has done outstanding work in public or community service, including service to the College. It is presented in honor of Anna Lord Strauss, a remarkable woman who was national president of the League of Women Voters, held five presidential appointments to national and international committees and missions, and served Connecticut College as a trustee for the extraordinary term of 32 years.
A strong leader, engaged scholar and passionate change-maker, Amato was honored for her deep commitment to food justice; racial equity; LGBTQIA+ equity, advocacy and inclusion; gender-based violence prevention; and immigrants’ rights.
As a committed and self-reflexive scholar-activist, Amato created a program of study examining how feminists pursue intersectional solidarity work, which included thesis research into women of color’s efforts in the United States and Puerto Rico to address longstanding injustices related to imperialism, racism and sexism. Her study of the Third World Women’s Alliance in the 1970s and 1980s and the Vieques Women’s Alliance in the 1990s and 2000s emphasizes the potential of intersectional, anti-imperialist feminist activism to challenge state power and address ongoing violence perpetuated against Puerto Ricans.
Within the Holleran Centers’ Program in Community Action, Amato is a leader who took advantage of every opportunity to engage deeply and meaningfully with community partners. As a sophomore, she served at the Janet S. York Correctional Institution in Niantic, tutoring women in math, collaboratively managing a book drive for York’s school library, and co-leading a successful fundraiser for York’s cosmetology program.
At the nexus between scholarship and community action, Amato completed internships with FRESH New London, a local non-profit dedicated to food justice and youth empowerment, and the Immigrant Advocacy and Support Center, a local non-profit immigration-related legal services organization.
Amato’s extensive resume also includes serving as an assistant librarian with the New London Public Library, and as an administrative assistant with Hearing Youth Voices, a New London-based organization that launches campaigns on issues of importance to young people of color. In the fall and winter of 2020, Amato did translation work for a community-based project linking primary and secondary educators with academics and activists in Puerto Rico to foster agency and resilience with young people facing PTSD after environmental disasters.
As a senior, Amato has continued her work with FRESH New London and has served as a Holleran Center Fellow, advising students interested in the Program in Community Action, orienting students to community engagement in New London, working with local organizations to transport food to homebound families, and helping develop strategies for supporting community engagement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On campus, Amato has served as a member of the search committee for the associate dean of institutional equity and compliance; as a writer and managing co-editor for the College Voice; as a leader in sexual violence prevention efforts; as co-chair of PRISM, an LGBTQ affinity group; as a DJ for the College’s radio station, WCNI; and as an avid gardener with the Sprout organic garden collective.
Amato has previously been recognized for her scholarship and activism with a Hunter Grubb Activist Scholarship, a U.S. Department of Education Language Intensive Internship grant, and a Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies Award for Feminist Collective Action.
In a letter nominating Amato, Faculty Director of the Holleran Center Audrey Zakriski; Fuller Matthai Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Intersectionality Studies R. Danielle Egan; and Vandana Shiva Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies Ariella Rotramel wrote Amato “embodies the qualities and values honored by the Anna Lord Strauss Medal and is one of the most deeply, passionately and selflessly engaged students we have ever had the pleasure of working with at Connecticut College.”