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Grad Student Wins National Science Foundation Fellowship

May 1, 2024
Graduate student Shanequewa Love received a three-year National Science Foundation Fellowship to support her research.

Shanequewa Love, a doctoral student at Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, has been awarded the highly selective National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support her work looking at the relationship between Black mothers and the child welfare system.

Read the list of NSF fellows.

“The child welfare system is a critical area where the government has historically and presently overstepped, and we must understand the implications of this,” she wrote in her proposal. “I am particularly interested in how the over-policing of Black communities by child welfare authorities shapes political behavior.”

Love’s work and concern over the child welfare system began before her arrival at Northwestern. A Compton, Calif. native, she worked as a mentor and residential counselor for foster children at the Los Angeles Youth Network (now called Youth Emerging Stronger).

Her journey back to higher education began after a conversation with one of her mentees. Her young charge said, “every day you come into work telling us to go to school and motivating us to want to do better, but you aren’t going to school,’” Love recalled. “It was that conversation–– along with a close friend who I consider an older sister–– that made me consider going back.”

At age 27, as a first-generation college student, Love attended Cerritos Community College before transferring to Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where she majored in African American Studies. There she was part of the McNair Scholars Program which prepares undergraduate students for future graduate work.

During her undergraduate study, Love received several scholarships and fellowships. In 2021, she attended the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute Program at Duke University, an intensive five-week program to introduce underrepresented students to doctoral scholarship in the field of political science.

Though Love was still uncertain about going to graduate school, several mentors, including Stefan Bradley, now the Charles Hamilton Houston 1915 Professor of Black and History at Amherst College, simply told her “You can do this.”


And while school never seemed to be the answer to her concerns for her community, she found a home at the School of Education and Social Policy.

With overlapping interests in policy, sociology, humanities, and political science, she felt the interdisciplinary approach of the Human Development and Social Policy program would let her mix fields and work with the community she cares about.

“This prestigious award is a public signal of what many of us already know: Shanequewa is an amazing scholar and person and well-deserving of this award,” said Love’s advisor, Tabitha Bonilla, a political scientist and associate professor of human development and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy. “Her work will model how to do interdisciplinary research and have an incredible impact on how we understand child welfare policy.”

Bradley, one of her mentors, called her "the most fearless and endeavoring student" he's worked with. "Unlike most of us, she has the courage to try--even when the odds are against her," he said. "Her super powers are her unquenchable thirst for learning and her unrelenting work ethic. Those combined with an abiding love for people and justice make her a winner every day of her life.

"I've been thrilled to be a part of her academic journey and look forward to Ms. Love's star lighting the world," he added.