PhD Student Receives the Iris Marion Young Award for Political Engagement

Nikki Cristobal, a PhD in Social Comparative Analysis student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, is one of the University’s 2021-2022 Iris Marion Young Awards for Political Engagement honorees.

The award, sponsored by the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program (GSWS) and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), recognizes and honors students, staff, and faculty at the University of Pittsburgh who work toward promoting justice at local, national, and international levels. The awards were held on Thursday, November 11 via Zoom.

“This recognition helps fuel the continuation of my research and practice with native Hawaiian women,” says Cristobal. “It’s empowering to know that people who are far from the center of my work in my ancestral homelands of Kauai, Hawaii, are paying attention to the strengths of our lands and people.”

Cristobal’s research, which focuses on ‘Ike Kūpuna’ (knowledge of elders and ancestors), critiques colonization and highlights native Hawaiian women’s epistemologies. Putting research into practice, Cristobol founded a nonprofit dedicated to perpetuating native Hawaiian knowledge through public arts and land-based learning.

“What drives my research is my community and profound sense of responsibility to understand what can be done to resist the continued marginalization of our ways of knowing and belonging in this world,” says Cristobal. “My research is a drop of water in the larger wave of change.”

Cristobal credits her experiences at the Pitt School of Education for preparing her to create research.

“As a researcher, scholar, activist, and community leader, learning about functions of our educational and political structures was vital to my development,” says Cristobal. “Seeing  how people from various standpoints react to new knowledge about the systems impacting our lived realities was an even deeper learning experience.”

Cristobal also is grateful for the school’s Center for Urban Education (CUE) for providing her with experiences to practice critical scholarship that actively works toward freedom.

“Scholarship is a relationship and being in spaces such as CUE, where people are living their scholarship,  had an impact on helping me understand the type of research and practice  I want to dedicate my life to,” says Cristobal.

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The PhD in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education is now accepting applications. For information, please contact