Manhattanville College Presents First Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership

October 01, 2021

Manhattanville College Presents First Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership

Recipient is doctoral student Jennifer Wesolowski whose work focuses on human rights

Presenter giving speech.PURCHASE, NY, October 2021 – Manhattanville College has announced the recipient for its first Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership. Doctoral candidate Jennifer Wesolowski was selected for her work promoting human rights in the field of education.

Wesolowski is the first recipient of the award created last year to honor Manhattanville alumna Ethel Kennedy by recognizing students who have a passion for promoting human rights, particularly in education. She is a student in Manhattanville’s Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership in the School of Education.

“Jennifer’s research focuses on a human rights-related issue,” said Professor Joanne Marien, Ed.D. “Jen’s professional work has consistently reflected the criteria for this award – promotion of equity and justice, and a commitment to people’s right to live freely and justly, with dignity and equality.”

A ceremony to formally present the award was held on September 29 during a virtual event where the college also welcomed new doctoral students. Kerry Kennedy addressed the group as part of the presentation of the award, acknowledging the bright futures of all the doctoral candidates. “You are going to transform the next generation,” said Kennedy.

The trustees of Manhattanville College passed a resolution in February 2020 to award Mrs. Kennedy (Manhattanville Class of 1949) an honorary doctorate of humane letters. She was awarded the degree in May at this year’s commencement ceremony. Kerry Kennedy accepted the degree in her mother’s honor. The Manhattanville College Doctoral Program established the Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership to further honor Mrs. Kennedy. In addition to being the wife of Robert Kennedy Jr., Ethel Kennedy has long been recognized for her work promoting human rights.

Manhattanville College President Michael E. Geisler, Ph.D., said that Mrs. Kennedy – with her dedication to furthering human rights – is a role model for Manhattanville students. In his commencement address, Geisler recognized Mrs. Kennedy’s extraordinary contributions as he introduced Kerry Kennedy who spoke virtually on behalf of her mother.

“Ethel Kennedy is a courageous, extraordinary woman, who has spent most of her life in public service, working to help those in need across this country and around the world,” said Geisler. “She instilled this commitment to public service in all of her children including Kerry who serves as President of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization. While we know that Ethel was inspired by her husband Robert F. Kennedy to become a human rights advocate, we also know that the values instilled in her at Manhattanville College helped shape her commitment to being an ethical and socially-responsible leader in a global community, true to the current mission of the College.”

Wesolowski has demonstrated her passion for advancing human rights through a career focused on service. Wesolowsi serves as District Coordinator of Academic Intervention and 504 Services for the Lindenhurst School District on Long Island. Some of the work cited in her nomination included her leadership on more than 20 domestic and international service trips to improve conditions for economically disadvantaged communities.

“We built a basketball court for an orphanage, we spent days in the town dump where people made homes and ‘neighborhoods’ scavenging for goods to refurbish and resell,” said Wesolowski. “We tutored community kids in the summer and facilitated sports camps for kids who have no access to extracurricular sports. We built sheds … so that families would have somewhere to live that was safe and dry. We fundraised to provide school supplies to rural Mexican one-room schoolhouses. The first year I went, a woman asked me for my sneakers that were on my feet when I was leaving. I gave them to her and every year that we returned, the students and I would bring extras.”

Also cited in her nomination was the creation of a restorative justice re-entry protocol for students returning from suspension, and the development of a social-emotional learning curriculum, among other efforts.

“I have always found tremendous joy and a deep sense of purpose in giving to others through service,” said Wesolowski. “…During my time as a teacher and school administrator, I have been inspired by the multilingual Latinx students and families that I have been able to serve. I was motivated to amplify the voices of Latinx parents in schools because, over the course of my educational career, I have seen how their voices can be marginalized by the educational system. This research study will amplify Latinx parents’ voices to inform educators’ approaches and practices related to engagement of Latinx multilingual learner families at the elementary school level.”


Originally from White Plains, Wesolowski holds a Bachelor of Arts from DePauw University, a Master of Science in Literacy from Butler University, and a Master of Science in Administrative Leadership from the College of Saint Rose.

Wesolowski said, “Receiving this award is an honor. I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue this important work at Manhattanville with the encouragement and support of the staff.”


“We are proud to present this award to Jennifer Wesolowksi whose dissertation helped us to better understand the nature of Latinx parent involvement and the relation to shared values and experiences,” said Renée Gargano, assistant director of the Manhattanville Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership. “Jen’s work reflects Ethel Kennedy’s commitment to equity as well as a passion for and dedication to human rights.”


Wesolowski will receive a $2,000 stipend.


About Manhattanville College Manhattanville College is a small, private liberal arts institution dedicated to academic excellence, purposeful education, and social justice. Located 30 miles from New York City on a 100-acre suburban campus in the heart of bustling Westchester County, Manhattanville enables easy access to robust entertainment offerings, educational resources, and business opportunities for its primarily residential and diverse student body. The College serves more than 1,500 undergraduate students and nearly 1,000 graduate students from more than 44 countries and 33 states. Founded in 1841, the College offers more than 75 undergraduate and graduate areas of study in the arts and sciences, education, business, and creative writing, as well as continuing and executive education programs. Graduate students can choose from over 70 graduate and certificate programs. Extracurricular offerings include more than 45 clubs and 20 NCAA Division III teams. To learn more, visit

Contact: Cara Cea,, 914-323-1278 or 914-906-9680.

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