‘Quiet voice’ who’s active in women’s and social justice issues is 2012 Upstander Award winner in College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Abby Barefoot

A May 2012 graduate of Iowa State University who has been active in women’s and gender justice issues is this year’s recipient of the Engel Upstander Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ISU.

Abby Barefoot, who has been active in several Iowa State and Ames-area organizations and events dedicated to social justice, earned degrees in journalism and women’s studies at ISU. She is a 2008 graduate of Dubuque Senior High School.

"I started at ISU as a journalism major, then I took a women’s studies course. It was an eye-opening experience," said Barefoot, who then added women’s studies as a second major.

She had been aware of issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault, she explained, but she was unaware of its prevalence in society. "The more I learned about this, the problems were no longer just statistics, but real faces and people."

The Engel Upstander Award recognizes individuals who choose to take a positive stand on an issue of diversity and tolerance – often in difficult circumstances – and act on behalf of others. The award is inspired by the Upstander Awards by Facing History and Ourselves, a Massachusetts-based educational nonprofit organization.

The award is named for the family of Iowa State alumna Debra J. Engel. She earned a psychology degree in 1973 and a master’s degree in industrial relations in 1976.

Barefoot will receive $1,000 with the Upstander Award.

"Abby is one of the ‘quiet voices’ behind the scenes that combine action with belief," said Joel Geske, associate professor in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication who nominated Barefoot for the award. "Seldom in the spotlight, she works hard behind the scenes to make social justice a reality in our community."

Barefoot has been involved in women’s and gender justice issues throughout her Iowa State career. She has interned at ACCESS, an Ames assault care center where she worked with survivors of domestic violence. She also has volunteered at Iowa State’s Margaret Sloss Women’s Center for three semesters and created the center’s online magazine, published from a feminist perspective that combines women and gender issues with the environment. She also has interned at Youth and Shelter Services in Ames.

In addition, Barefoot was on the public relations committee for two events held at Iowa State, the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference and the Social Justice Summit. She also was active in the 2012 Women’s Leadership Retreat at Iowa State, was a peer mentor for the Writing Gender learning community and was one of the ISU student participants at the second World Conference of Women’s Shelters, held in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.

"Abby is fantastic," said Christiana Langenberg, academic adviser and adjunct senior lecturer in English. "She is conscientious, responsible, intelligent and an all-around nice person to boot. I see Abby continually challenging herself and succeeding at everything she takes on."

Barefoot will spend this summer interning at the Women’s Media Center in Washington, D.C., before attending graduate school at the University of Minnesota, Mankato in gender and women’s studies.