Undergraduate Alumni Mary Olson was named a 2024 Marshall Scholar

Monday, January 15, 2024

Mary Olson, who graduated from Columbia College’s B.A. in Human Rights in 2021, was recently selected to be a 2024 Marshall Scholar. Read more about her time as a student and her plans for the future.

Please share a bit about yourself and the work that you do
Originally from Minnesota, I graduated from Columbia College in 2021 with a double major in Economics and Human Rights. During my undergraduate studies, I conducted research on menstrual stigma and gender equity with Professor Inga Winkler, then a faculty member at ISHR, and studied the intersections of gender equity and social and economic rights. Through the Economics Department, I worked as a Research Assistant at Columbia’s Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy (ISERP), where I examined the effect of US labor law and judicial rulings on employee outcomes. Before conducting research at Columbia, I interned at Human Rights Watch and the Office of US Senator Amy Klobuchar. Outside of research, I was heavily involved in Columbia’s Amnesty International Chapter as a member of the Refugee and Migrant Rights Taskforce, where she worked on human rights issues relating to migration.
I currently work as a Senior Research Analyst at the Brattle Group, a global economic consulting firm. There, I recently co-authored a report estimating reparations for transatlantic chattel slavery across the Americas for ICJ judge Patrick Robinson. This report considered both economic and non-quantifiable harms of chattel slavery, informed by international law, history, and economics. As a Marshall Scholar, I will pursue two one-year Master's degrees in Economic History and Econometrics and Mathematical Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
What was your research focus during your time at Columbia? What drew you to this particular issue/set of issues?
While at Columbia, I was particularly interested in economic, social, and cultural rights, particularly the impact of stigma on participation in social life. I was drawn to this issue while taking a seminar on Menstruation with Professor Winkler and was fascinated by how ESCR intersected with my economics research on equity.
Which class would you recommend to students interested in the same issues as you?
There are great faculty in the Economics Department who teach fascinating classes on economics and equity. Economics of NYC and Economics of Race are two great examples. One of the great things about the human rights program is its focus on interdisciplinary studies. Find professors whose research you find interesting, and tell them!
Where did you grow up? In which countries and/or cities have you lived?
Excelsior, Minnesota
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
I'm sure not a very unique answer, but every human rights student should read "Savages, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights." Scholars interested in equity should constantly be deconstructing how our unique cultural viewpoint informs how we, in turn, view and judge others. Something I loved about the human rights program at Columbia is that my professors challenged me to defend and deconstruct the mission of human rights, and offered powerful arguments critiquing its institutions.
What are your personal/professional goals? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In the long term, I hope to produce policy-relevant economics research that integrates interdisciplinary methods to examine globalization and technological change, with a focus on equity. My research will focus on the complex relationship between globalization and labor, a key area of concern for workers across high-income countries. Studying in the UK, I plan to build relationships with British and American economists and researchers to create incisive research on the macroeconomic trends influencing microeconomic inequality. I hope that my work in the US and UK will stimulate international dialogue, focused on making economic policy that dissects critical trends impacting the middle class.
What was your favorite spot to study (or spend time) on campus?
Easy answer--Avery!