Oladunni, Stanford Selected for 2020 Chester Gillis Award
Each year, the College Academic Council (CAC) recognizes two students who embody the values of a liberal arts education in the Jesuit tradition through the Chester Gillis Award. This year, the honor was awarded to Eliza Oladunni Phillips (C’21) and Amber Stanford (C’21).
Eliza Oladunni Phillips
Phillips is an English major who is passionate about using her writing to amplify narratives at the intersection of race, gender and religion. As a queer Nigerian woman of faith, Phillips said she often found herself feeling isolated by the lack of representation in various art forms.
“I never saw myself reflected in the media or literature I was exposed to growing up,” says Phillips. “My sense of isolation was further heightened by the widespread notion in society that queerness was un-African and un-Christian.”
The English major no longer sees writing just as a way to achieve creative expression, but rather feels it is her responsibility to advocate for underrepresented individuals. Phillips said that Georgetown’s Jesuit values “inspired me to use my writing as a form of activism to challenge the monolithic and often negative portrayals of communities of color that dominate the media.”
In her time on campus, Phillips has become involved in many projects that bring awareness to marginalized groups including writing articles for the Hoya about different aspects of the black community and the media on and off campus, and campaigning for GU272.
Phillips wrote in her application that “the Chester Gillis scholarship would enable me to do more research on reparative justice and on queerness in the Black and faith communities. I would love to then distribute my findings through art exhibitions and dialogues on campus.”
By receiving this award, Phillips can continue to be a person for others.
A double major in theology and government, Stanford studies the intersection of religion, identity and government in the hopes of helping marginalized communities. She is particularly interested in “how religion can be used both as a tool to liberate and empower people, but also as a weapon to further oppress the people it hopes to support.”
On campus, she is involved with ESCAPE and GU Politics, and also serves as a Resident Assistant. In these roles, she has learned the importance of working for others and creating a diverse and inclusive community.
“Georgetown’s Jesuit identity has encouraged me to become a more caring member of the community and work for the good of others,” Stanford says. “I have learned the importance of contemplation in action.”
During her time at Georgetown, she has worked as a research assistant for the Berkley Center and as an Education and Social Justice Fellow with the Center for Social Justice. Stanford spent her junior year as a Figge Fellow with the Catholic Studies Program, researching the role and impact of Black women victims in the Jonestown Massacre.
She hopes to use the Chester Gillis Award to attend academic conferences and stay up to date on the latest research in her field in order to continue to help seek justice and work for her community.
About the Award
The Chester Gillis Award is given in honor of Chester Gillis, Dean of Georgetown College from 2008 to 2017. Each award winner will receive a stipend to cover book expenses, research or other academic pursuits of their choosing. Their name will also be featured on a plaque in the Dean’s Office.
-by Shelby Roller (G’19)