Gummo named as 2017 Rhodes Scholar

Queen’s student and advocate to attend Oxford in the fall

Supplied by Claire Gummo

“Policy interests me as a tool for change,” Claire Gummo, ArtSci ’16, said. 

For Gummo, the statement has been backed by extensive experience. A politics major with a minor in gender studies, the last four years have been a practice ground for her experience in shaping policy for the University. Now, she’s been selected alongside 11 students across Canada for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. 

“If there is anything Queen’s has taught me, it is that you never know where your interests and opportunities will take you,” she wrote in an email. Gummo is the fifty-seventh Queen’s student to receive the scholarship. 

The Rhodes scholarship is awarded annually to outstanding students, chosen on the basis of exceptional intellect, character, leadership, and commitment to service — to study at the University of Oxford with their costs covered. 

However, the Rhodes is not the first scholarly achievement for the Calgary-born student. Gummo was the recipient of the Loran scholarship throughout her undergraduate career. 

While at Queen’s, she’s served as a student leader in the implementation team of the The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Working Group at Queen’s, and as a gender consultant for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Her gender-based advocacy started as a volunteer at the Sexual Health Resource Centre in first year. While supporting clients who, after experiencing sexual violence, had to go through the process of assembling a medical evidence kit at Kingston General Hospital, she says her committment to promoting change on campus was solidified.

“Through this process I saw firsthand the harsh reality of sexual violence, and particularly how it impacts Queen’s students,” she said. “This motivated me to become further engaged in the conversation on sexual violence prevention and response that was developing at Queen’s.”

Gummo also led the development and facilitation of the AMS Bystander Intervention Program, which began in the fall of 2015. The program gives Queen’s students and staff the tools to recognize and respond to sexual violence when they see it in public spaces.

“Studies have shown that Bystander Intervention Programming can have a significant impact on prevention and reducing instances of sexual violence,” Gummo said. “For me, if the team has contributed to stopping even one instance of sexual violence, that’s enough.”

This year, over 2,000 students have received Bystander Training, and Queen’s has instituted their new Sexual Violence policy as well as the hiring of a sexual response coordinator. Gummo served on the consultation team for these decisions. 

“I think the latest draft of the policy does a good job of meeting the needs articulated by students, while also complying with provincial legislation,” Gummo said. However, she also reserves opinion for seeing how it operates in practice.

With experience as a policy and advocacy assistant for the Nobel Women’s Initiative, gender consultant for NATO, and a research assistant at the Centre for International and Defence Policy, policy remains Gummo’s chief interest and a door for limitless possibilities.

“Policy helps to frame the conversation and allocate the necessary resources and supports for the important on-the-ground work to be done,” she said. At Oxford, she hopes to pursue an advanced postgraduate research degree in Comparative Social Policy. 

“While policy is just one small part of broader efforts, I do believe it can facilitate meaningful cultural change.” In the future, she hopes to return to Canada to develop public policy “in some form or another.”

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