March 8, 2019 – Updates

The Charles Koch Foundation Celebrates the Excellence of Our Grantees this International Women’s Day


In honor of International Women’s Day, we are proud to highlight the work of our grantees who are making significant contributions in their fields. The stories below represent only a small selection of our grantees and how they are working to meet the challenges of our day.

“I was my father’s daughter in more ways than one—he was a self-made man who had earned his riches living by his own principles and hard work.  And I needed to do the same.”

Dr. Rajshree Agarwal left India and her father’s traditional expectations with two suitcases and a student visa to study economics at the doctoral level. Now director of the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets at the University of Maryland, Agarwal shared with us what inspires her work and how she found her passion in research and economics.

“My religion is very central to who I am, and it is for other people, too. Why should that be shut out of the public space?”

Formerly a corporate litigator in a firm that encouraged pro bono work, Asma Uddin volunteered on cases like that of a Muslim policewoman in Philadelphia who was forbidden to wear a head scarf with her uniform. Today, she is focused on conflicts between religion and law, studying government’s desire to limit free expression of religion in the name of public safety.

The experience of having a parent in prison had a profound impact on Brittany Barnett’s life. While working as a corporate attorney, Barnett was able to obtain freedom for clients who were serving decades in federal prison for nonviolent drug offenses. She is a co-founder of the Buried Alive Project, a non-profit organization working to eliminate life without parole offenses handed down under federal drug laws. Read more about how the Buried Alive Project has effected the lives of Alice Johnson, Sharanda Jones, and Jason Hernandez.

“The success stories give you joy, but it’s the tragic stories that stick in my brain. They make me want to work as hard as possible to reduce the tragedies that people experience.”

Dr. Carrie Pettus-Davis has worked in prisons for almost 20 years, and her experiences as a social worker opened her eyes to how the criminal justice system continues to impact entire families even upon release. In order to help improve recidivism rates and create positive effects for families and communities, Pettus-Davis is leading a ground-breaking study to help former offenders live productive lives.

“Take more risks. Fail often, and fast. Be courageous. Be confident. Find ways to create the greatest value for yourself and others. Be mindful. Practice living in the moment.”

From folding newspapers to developing software, Dr. Kathaleena Edward Monds has learned important lessons about entrepreneurship, innovation, and community. Monds is the founding director of the Center for Educational Opportunity at Albany State University, which is researching ways families can obtain increased access to high-quality K-12 education.

“Our national goal should be leading the world toward a future where all peoples have a say in their government, enjoy a fair standard of living, are subject to and privileged by due process of law, are secure from deliberate violence, and can benefit from these things sustainably.”

Dr. Monica Duffy Toft joined the army when she was 17 and trained in intelligence gathering. Her own military background, and that of her family’s, inspired her to continue to study the impact of conflict worldwide. She is the director of the Center for Strategic Studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and is researching what a long-term foreign policy grand strategy could look like.