Leenie Baker Wins Josephine de Karman Fellowship

Issue Date: 
May 2, 2016

Pitt junior Leenie Baker has been awarded a prestigious Josephine de Karman Fellowship for 2016-17. The honor recognizes and supports students of high scholastic achievement. 

Leenie BakerBaker will receive $14,000 in undergraduate support for her independent work in using theater arts and acting to engage in social-justice causes. In particular, she addresses issues of gender expression and female identity through the arts.  It will enable her efforts to choreograph an aerial silk production that explores identity among Chinese women and will support her 12-week summer-intensive experience at The Acting Corps in Los Angeles. 

At Pitt, Baker has three majors: political science, theater arts, and English writing. She also has a minor in Chinese and is seeking a certificate in Asian Studies. She is also a Chancellor’s Scholarship recipient and involved with the University Honors College.

She has performed in six Pitt theater shows, co-staged a musical, and co-written scripts. In the fall, a one-act play she authored will be produced.

For three semesters, Baker has also been a tutor with the University Writing Center, where she will soon launch a Snapchat social media campaign to share writing tips and inform students of the center’s programming. She also works with the School of Education’s Ready to Learn, a tutoring and mentoring program connected to the Center for Urban Education that specifically targets outreach toward high school students. 

Arts and theater and their ability to educate through performance and emotion have been a part of Baker’s life since she was a young girl growing up in Atlanta. Recently, she has been inspired by the musical Hamilton and its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. She believes the Broadway production represents the power of the arts to engender social change. 

The Fellowship Trust was established in 1954 by Theodore Von Karman, world- renowned aeronautics expert and professor and first director of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, in memory of his sister, Josephine, who passed away in 1951.