WPI Doctoral Fellows

Investing in Emerging Scholars

The goals of the Debra Mesch Doctoral Fellowship for Research on Women’s Philanthropy are to increase research and understanding of gender and philanthropy; to contribute to building the field of study about gender and philanthropy; and to encourage emerging scholars. The fellowship supports a scholar whose primary research focus is in the area of women’s philanthropy or gender differences in philanthropic behavior and giving.

See the list of fellowship recipients below.

Anaïs Faurt

Rutgers University
2022 Fellow

Faurt’s dissertation traces the history of child protection between 1945 and 1989. Drawing on archival research across five countries, her research centers anticolonial uprisings and their repression as pivotal points in the history of child protection. Taking France’s former colonial territories of Algeria, Madagascar, and Vietnam as case studies, she tracks the bitter local, national, and international debates surrounding young victims of state repression: whose children deserved protection, in what form, and from whom? By exploring who counted as a victim of war and whose child was worth “saving,” she accounts for the intersecting role of gender and race as framing devices in who should give and receive aid.

Avenel Rolfsen

Indiana University Bloomington
2021 Fellow

Rolfsen’s dissertation examines the history of philanthropy in Senegal from the late nineteenth century until 1980. Using archival documents and oral history, her research focuses on the humanitarian practices of the French colonial state and NGOS in Senegal, alongside the practices of Muslim Wolof communities. Her research emphasizes the gendered nature of giving in Senegal, given the role of male religious leaders but also because of the association of generosity with women. She shows how philanthropy in Senegal shaped gendered subjects and influenced social organizations. She ultimately challenges notions of who should give and receive aid by emphasizing the long history of Africans as philanthropists.

Heather O’Connor

Philanthropic Studies
2020 Fellow

O’Connor’s research explores the philanthropic motivations and decision-making processes of Catholic women who donate to pro-choice organizations. The project aims to extend research on women’s giving by considering their philanthropic behavior in the contexts of their varied and sometimes-incongruent identities and beliefs. In addition to examining how this potential dissonance may affect philanthropic behavior, O’Connor’s research offers insight into how donors to women’s and girls’ causes may re-prioritize their philanthropic giving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hannah Ontiveros

Duke University
2019 Fellow 

Ontiveros’s dissertation explores American aid to South Korea in the wake of the Korean War, and the ways that American missionary organizations and NGOs created a network of aid to Korea that supported the U.S.’s economic, military, and cultural influence in Asia. Her project showcases Korea as a proving ground for American maternalist foreign policy, rooted in individual Americans’ imagined, often under-informed civic and moral duties to care for and protect Koreans.

Chandra Harris-McCray

Higher Education Leadership & Administration
University of Tennessee Knoxville
2018 Fellow

Harris-McCray’s dissertation, informed by research as well as a decade of personal and professional experience, has led her to the premise that Women of Color, in particular African American women, are often ignored and overlooked for their philanthropic potential. Her research demonstrates that diverse voices are missing from the perspectives of many organizations and agencies.

Harris-McCray is the executive director of development and alumni communications at the University of Tennessee Foundation. She was most recently selected as a participant in “Living Systems Leadership: Cultivating Women’s Leadership,” a weeklong intensive retreat in New Mexico.

Lauren Dula

Public and Nonprofit Management
Indiana University Bloomington
2017 Fellow

Dula’s dissertation explores how the gender composition of grant-making nonprofit boards of directors and executive leadership shape the organization’s performance. The U.S. nonprofit sector has a majority of female identifying employees, however board membership and executive leadership of nonprofit organizations still skews towards men. Social relationships are embedded in organizational operations both internally and externally. However, the impact of gender composition of boards has not been investigated in nonprofit organizations to the same degree as it has for for-profit institutions.

Amanda Koch

Indiana University Bloomington
2016 Fellow

Koch’s research follows the history of the gospel rescue missions and the men and women who ran then from their start in the 1870s through 1980. Her dissertation explores how religious ideas about gender roles, such as the emphasis on women’s submission to men, have shaped women’s responsibilities in philanthropic institutions. Such historical, long-term studies are vital to showing how ordinary women shaped American philanthropy.

Elizabeth Dale

Philanthropic Studies
2015 Fellow

Dale’s dissertation investigates the philanthropic practices of same-sex couples, including their motivations for giving and how couples make philanthropic decisions as part of the household economy. As most existing research has focused almost exclusively on heterosexual couples, Dale’s research contributes new insights into how an under-researched population engages in philanthropy. 

Dale joined the faculty of the Nonprofit Leadership program at Seattle University in January 2016. 

Megan Springate

University of Maryland
2014 Fellow

Springate’s research focused on women’s holiday houses at the turn of the 20th century as an example of the intersection of race, class, and gender in the philanthropic setting. Using archeological, archival, and documentary sources, she examined power, the nature of reform, leisure, and labor in the context of Progressive era philanthropic reform. 

Springate is now a consultant to the National Park Service for the LGBTQ Heritage Initiative. 

Brent Pieper

Higher Education & Student Affairs
Indiana University Bloomington
2012 Fellow

Pieper’s dissertation, “Women in Philanthropy Programs at American Colleges and Universities: Giving Motivations from the Female Participants’ View,” explored the influence of formalized women’s philanthropy programs on women’s philanthropic motivations and giving behavior.                        

Pieper is assistant vice president for advancement at Cleveland State University.

Laura Gee

University of California San Diego
2010 Fellow

Gee’s research involved a series of studies related to volunteering and giving. She examined these questions: How do constraints on work time affect volunteering for all women and men, not just mothers and fathers giving to their children’s schools? Do full-time employed women prefer to fundraise because of superior social networks? Do full-time employed women choose to fundraise because they don’t have the time to volunteer in other capacities, or because their skills are better suited to fundraising rather than volunteering in other ways? 

Gee is now an assistant professor of economics at Tufts University.

Deborah Skolnick Einhorn

Near Eastern and Judaic Studies
Brandeis University
2009 Fellow

Einhorn’s dissertation, “Power of the Purse: Social Change in Jewish Women’s Philanthropy,” explores the diverse ways in which Jewish organizations have adapted to the shifting needs of change-minded women philanthropists. 

Einhorn is an assistant professor and assistant dean for academic development and advising at Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts.