Cristo Rey graduate wins Gates Cambridge scholarship

Mayra Tenorio, Class of 2011 graduate, has won a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge beginning in the fall. One of 36 U.S. recipients and 90 across the globe, she was chosen from a pool of approximately 6,000 applicants. She will head to England in October.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarships are awarded to postgraduate students who exhibit outstanding intellectual ability and leadership potential, and who demonstrate a commitment to improving others’ lives. During the one-year program, Tenorio will receive a MPhil/PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies. Her proposed research is exploring whether, and if so, how, indigenous women belonging to the Xinca ethnic group in Guatemala, are using their bodies to resist gendered violence inside their community. She says: “This research is heavily influenced by my experiences working with women last year as a Watson Fellow, and specifically, my visit with indigenous communities in Canada and Guatemala.”

“After seeing how women’s bodies routinely experience violence, I became interested in understanding how women could reclaim their stolen bodies by placing them at the center of their politics and day-to-day lives,” she adds. “My aim is to explore how women can find home in their bodies again, and do so collectively with other women.”

Her plan is to start her course this upcoming fall, return to Guatemala in the Spring of 2018 to conduct research, and turn in her dissertation at Cambridge in the summer of 2018.

“I will surely be busy, but I can’t wait to go back to school and work on a project that is so dear to my heart and in line with my goals as a future Latina feminist scholar,” says Tenorio.

Her passion was inspired at a young age.

“Women in Mexico and across the border in the U.S raised me,” she says. “From a very young age I saw how gender inequality both limited their lives and increased their susceptibility to violence. Thus, the eradication of gender stratification is the focus of my research and the driving force behind my activism with women and girls.”

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000 by a donation of $210 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge, the largest ever single donation to a UK university. The goal: to create a network of future global leaders. It is awarded to postgraduates who exhibit outstanding intellectual ability and leadership potential, and who demonstrate a commitment to improving others’ lives.

At Swarthmore College Tenorio studied Sociology and Anthropology and completed two research projects trying to understand the inconspicuous ways in which gender inequality persists and adapts. After graduation, she listened to and documented women’s stories of survival and collaborated with female-led grassroots movements in nine countries as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow. Currently, she is a case manager at the F. Gary Graf Center in Waukegan and recently accompanied CRSM students on a cultural exchange program to the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

As an aspiring feminist scholar in the social sciences, Tenorio says her studies will prepare her to engage rigorously with the challenges posed by gender inequality.

“They will further expand my analysis and vision so that my work may expose and create alternative worlds and possibilities for everyone, especially women,” she says. “Women’s stories of resilience and hope affirmed my commitment to produce knowledge that centers the experiences of women of color, and to support efforts that intervene in the normalization of violence against women.”
Tenorio recently was featured in a CRSM Alumni Spotlight. Click here.