2021 Priscilla King Gray Undergraduate Award Recipient: Danielle Grey-Stewart (’21)

Danielle Grey-Stewart (’21|Course 3)

Congratulations to Danielle Grey-Stewart, the 2021 recipient of the undergraduate Priscilla King Gray Award for Public Service! 

Honoring Priscilla King Gray’s contributions to public service at MIT, the award recognizes graduate and undergraduate students who are exceptionally dedicated to community engagement and making positive social and environmental changes at MIT and beyond. To learn more about the award and the nomination process, click here. 

We spoke to Danielle and got insights from her nominators to learn more about how she has made public service an integral part of her MIT education and future career plans.

“The experience [the PKG Center’s Navajo Nation program]  transformed Danielle and her vision for her future. She knew that she loved engineering, but now realized that she needs to apply the knowledge she had to improve equity and access for those less privileged than herself.”

Kimberly Benard, Assistant Dean, Distinguished Fellowships

You were actively involved in the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative Rapid Response Group. What led you to join and how has your work with them impacted your understanding of public service?
I was interested in working with the ESI because I had just written a paper on MIT’s recycling practices as a class final report, and I was eager to learn more about how technical knowledge and policy intersected. The RRG engaged on environmental policy issues where a scientific lens could be helpful. My experience in the group really highlighted how much nuance is required to meld the worlds of engineering, activism, and policy making. Many issues that we highlighted, such as the industrial meat industry, insufficient public transportation infrastructure, and water access across the United States, are oversimplified if analyzed solely in the context of engineering challenges. This experience reaffirmed for me that effective public service requires multidisciplinary collaboration and meaningful community engagement to address many angles of complex issues.

​How do you see the connection between your academic work as an engineer and your drive for social justice and public service?
I believe that this question is one I’ll use my career refining the answer to. Studying engineering has endowed me with an incredible technical toolkit – I have always been fascinated by how diving deeper into materials science has explained the world around me. My love of public service drives me to use this knowledge responsibly and use my platform to make worthwhile positive change. I want more scientists of color to have the opportunity to pursue research that is meaningful to them. I also want discussions of social justice and public service to be more commonplace in an engineering education.

Knowing that you will be continuing your education at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, what aspects of your work with the PKG Center might you carry forward with you?
​The PKG Center always displayed how engineering and public service can thrive together, and there is no doubt in my mind that this model gave me the confidence to believe I can step into new fields as an engineer. In my upcoming studies of the history of technology, I look forward to analyzing how technology has shaped our world, and how we have been disparately shaped by it based on our backgrounds and experiences.

Is there anything we haven’t asked about that you’d like to add about yourself or your work as it relates to public service?
​I just have to give the biggest shout out of all time to Danny Becker – an incredible mentor, friend, and all-around person. Very grateful our paths crossed during my time at MIT!

“Ms. Danielle Grey-Stewart is an extraordinary woman who is a leader, innovator, and humanitarian. It is not enough to push the bounds of science, she wishes to harness that science, combine it with leadership, and improve society.”

Kimberly Benard, Assistant Dean, Distinguished Fellowships

If you missed the 2021 Awards convocation you can watch the recording here!

Tags: Award, PKG Award

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