When Empathy Meets Politics

Hi everyone! My name is Yamini Yepuri, I am a rising sophomore, and I intend on majoring in Psychology and minoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women studies.

For my project, I am using the Dick Thornburgh Papers, an archive created through a collaboration between the University Honors College and the Dick Thornburgh Forum for Public Policy and Law that memorializes his life’s work. Dick Thornburgh was a former Governor of Pennsylvania and Attorney General of the United States. He was very successful in governance and justice, but his most influential act was his role in the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a father to a son with disabilities, Thornburgh’s position in passing this legislature is unique. Through my project, I will focus on understanding the impacts of the degree of empathy on political decision making and success on issues regarding diversity, specifically disability issues. Studying the evolution of Thornburgh’s opinions through diaries, speeches, and other sources will allow me to understand what empathy could mean in a larger framework, one that extends to issues like the lack of racial diversity in the US government.

My current professional goal is to attend medical school and become a pediatric psychiatrist. As of now, there is not much Asian, much less South Asian, representation in the field of psychiatry, which is why I am interested in entering this line of work. I am primarily interested in remedying systemic issues in individuals through my work in psychiatry, but I am also passionate about advocacy. The Brackenridge fellowship allows me to compile my interests in psychology, government, and social justice and does not limit me to traditional STEM research.

If successful, this project will allow me to prove the necessity of diversity, whether that be in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religion, etc, in legislative bodies. Although it may seem obvious that diversity in policymakers is correlational to a higher yield of diversity-friendly legislature, it is important to prove such “obvious” correlations to reform the current government.

Lastly, an interesting fact about me is that I have moved back-and-forth between Pittsburgh, PA and Hyderabad, India a grand total of four times. It is kind of odd that I have moved between the two same places multiple times, but it was this experience that sparked my interest in interdisciplinary learning. It was always interesting to see how the same places and people changed over time.

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