The American Association of University Women (AAUW) awarded two of its 2020-21 fellowships and grants to scholars at The University of New Mexico.

The following women received the AAUW fellowship and grant:

  • Natasha Ribeiro, a recipient of a Selected Professions Fellowship, is currently pursuing her M.Arch. in Architecture from the UNM School of Architecture and Planning.
  • Velma Begay, a recipient of a Career Development Grant, is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from the UNM School of Education.

These programs aim to tackle the barriers women face in education. Recipients will pursue academic work at UNM and lead innovative community projects to empower women and girls.


“I chose to attend The UNM School of Architecture and Planning because of its strong emphasis on community-driven design and many diverse studio options. After visiting the department during an open house event, I felt welcomed and inspired. I knew I could flourish in that environment, and I can say with certainty that I am,” said Natasha Ribeiro.

Ribeiro plans to join an architecture firm that focuses on civic and community-based projects while combining thoughtful design and sustainability after completing her Masters of Architecture. She aspires to design beautiful spaces that blend with the environment while addressing the needs of people from diverse backgrounds.

“I feel incredibly honored to have been chosen as a recipient of the AAUW Selected Professions Fellowship. The generous funds will enable me to complete a Master of Architecture degree with minimal debt. Consequently, the fellowship will help me to avoid financial dependence on my family, and I will have a more secure financial future,” said Ribeiro.

AAUW is one of the world’s oldest leading supporters of graduate women’s education. Since 1888, it has awarded more than $115 million in fellowships, grants and awards to 13,000 recipients from more than 105 countries.

Selected Professions Fellowships are awarded to women pursuing a master’s or professional degree in a field where women are typically underrepresented. This includes architecture, computer science, engineering, and mathematics. They give priority to students who plan to pursue public interest areas, and who are committed to the advancement of women.

For the 2020–21 academic year, AAUW awarded a total of $3.5 million through seven fellowships and grants programs to more than 200 scholars and community projects and programs promoting education and equity for women and girls.

“Our fellows and grantees have a long and distinguished history of contributing to their schools, their communities, and to society at large,” said Kim Churches, chief executive officer of AAUW. “Even in today’s challenging times, we know that this year’s recipients will continue in that esteemed tradition. AAUW is proud to provide the support they need to excel in their academic work – and to ultimately make the world a better place.”

The biggest barrier in higher education is the cost of tuition. Without receiving the AAUW fellowship, Ribeiro would have been forced to take out an unsustainable amount of student loan debt.

Educational funding is especially important given that women are disproportionately burdened by student debt.  Their ability to pay off that debt is also hampered by a lifelong pay gap that affects women in nearly every profession. The pay gap widens over time and has consequences on all aspects of a woman’s financial life, from paying for an education to saving for a comfortable retirement.  AAUW’s awards help to alleviate the burden of student debt so women can focus on developing their skills and experience.

“The field of architecture is still incredibly male-dominated. Only 1 in 10 senior positions are filled by women in the top 100 architecture firms worldwide. What gave me the confidence to pursue a master of architecture degree was visiting the school of architecture and planning at UNM. I immediately felt welcomed into an inclusive, diverse, and progressive department. It gave me hope for the future of the field,” said Ribeiro.

Applications are currently being accepted for 2021-22 grants and fellowships. Deadlines vary by program. To find out more about this year’s exceptional class of awardees, visit the online directory.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) empowers women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. The nonpartisan, nonprofit organization has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States, as well as 1,000 local branches and more than 800 college and university members.

“When I discovered the fellowship, I felt so narrowly target that it felt empowering just reading the criteria. I quickly realized they were describing me. I also chose to apply because of the organization’s dedication to empowering women through education. AAUW has been advocating and supporting women for more than 100 years,” said Ribeiro.

Since AAUW’s founding in 1881, members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic and political. AAUW’s fellowships and grants have helped scholars and activists overcome barriers to education and advancement for 130 years.

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