Public Policy Student Wins Women Empowerment Scholarship

Olivia Laramie with students
Olivia Laramie has interned for Pure Water for the World for four years, spending this summer in Honduras working on their Menstrual Hygiene Management program.

Olivia Laramie, a graduate student at the School of Public Policy, is the recipient of the inaugural Carolyn Crowley Meub Women Empowerment Scholarship, given by the nonprofit Pure Water for the World.

Laramie, a student in the Master of Public Policy and Administration program, has interned at Pure Water for the World (PWW) for four years. The organization partners with communities in Central America and the Caribbean to help establish sustainable safe water, hygiene and sanitation programs. The Carolyn Crowley Meub Women Empowerment Scholarship was created in honor of PWW’s recently retired executive director and is awarded annually to a student who is committed to changing the lives of girls and women in developing countries.

“One of the joys I had running Pure Water was mentoring young women like Olivia,” Meub said. Over the years Laramie has volunteered with the organization, Meub has enjoyed hearing about her academic career, her travels, and her professional interests. “I just watched her blossom.”

This summer Laramie’s work took her to Honduras to work on PWW’s Menstrual Hygiene Management program, which focuses on improving school bathroom facilities for girls to make it easier for them to manage their menstrual hygiene and remain in school. Laramie spent a month in the small town of Trojes, where she conducted research to help PWW evaluate the success of the project and determine whether it needs to be modified in any way. “She visited people in Trojes and talked to women about how it impacted their lives,” Meub said. “We’re just thrilled with the quality of her work.”

“I returned home with an expanded understanding of my own privilege in regards to just how easy it is to be a menstruating woman in the United States,” Laramie wrote in a blog post about her experience. “While there are many difficulties with menstruating in the U.S., many of us do not have the added stress of unclean water, toilets that don’t flush, and a lack of access to sanitary pads.” 

Laramie, who received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and anthropology from UMass in 2018, is studying public policy because it brings together her interests in politics, human rights, nonprofit work and social justice. “I have always had an interest in the impact of U.S. foreign policy on the lives of the everyday citizen living in the affected countries,” she said. “As of last few years, my interest has turned directly towards US immigration policy and the human rights violations that are occurring worldwide and within our own country.”

“I’m very honored that Oliva was the first recipient of this scholarship,” Meub said. “She’s the type of woman we want to mentor and offer these opportunities to: people who want to get outside themselves and experience a different way of life.”