The Guttmacher Institute is pleased to announce Shelby Birch as the recipient of the 2020 Cory L. Richards Memorial Scholarship. Ms. Birch, who was chosen from a pool of more than 200 outstanding applicants, will use the scholarship to complete a master’s degree in public policy at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, as well as a certificate in women’s, gender and sexuality studies. 

Ms. Birch has demonstrated a commitment to elevating the experiences of Black women and marginalized communities in her work and studies. Upon completing her degree, Ms. Birch aims to “lobby for advocacy groups centered on Black women, reproductive justice and LGBTQIA+ policies to push political, systemic and sociological boundaries in hopes of educating others on the experiences of Black women and marginalized communities.”

Through her public service, Ms. Birch has impressive experience in the field of reproductive justice. After graduating from the University of Central Florida, Ms. Birch served as an AmeriCorps member in Washington, DC, which she followed by serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Limpopo, South Africa. During her time in the Peace Corps, Ms. Birch was a champion for the Let Girls Learn program, which allowed her to establish a girls’ empowerment program at a local school. She taught from the ZAZI curriculum, a South African gender-based curriculum that facilitates conversations around consent, menstruation, sex and social-emotional learning.

“We are delighted to award this year’s scholarship to Shelby Birch,” said Maureen Burnley, Vice President of Finance and Administration at the Guttmacher Institute, and a member of the scholarship selection committee. “Ms. Birch’s dedication to sexual and reproductive health and rights shines through in her academic pursuits and her volunteer work. She was exuberant to learn of her selection as the 2020 Cory L. Richards Scholar and was quick to credit the girls she worked with in South Africa for bringing her to this moment. Ms. Birch is precisely the kind of person whom Cory Richards sought to support during his career.”

Named in honor of a leading figure in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights whose remarkable career at the Guttmacher Institute spanned nearly four decades, the Cory L. Richards Memorial Scholarship reflects what was for Cory a deep commitment: mentoring and nurturing the professional growth of emerging leaders. The scholarship provides financial support to students seeking advanced degrees in public health or public policy with the intention of devoting their careers to advancing policy related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Each year, one individual is designated as the Cory L. Richards Scholar and awarded a one-time scholarship of $15,000 to support full-time graduate study at an accredited institution in the United States. In keeping with the Institute’s and Cory’s dedication to equalizing opportunity, priority is given to students with demonstrated financial need.

Find out more about past Cory L. Richards Memorial Scholarship recipients.