Kelly Walsh, MS, is a 2018 graduate of the MS Program in Interdisciplinary Studies of Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice

Thesis Committee:

  • Abigail Abrash Walton, PhD, Thesis Adviser
  • Susan Hawes, PhD, Committee Member
  • Dottie R. Morris, PhD, Committee Member

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Systems of privilege and oppression operate throughout the United States and beyond, and affect all individuals in different ways and to varying degrees. The privilege (unearned access or advantages) experienced by one group of people is inherently linked to the oppression (systemic injustices or barriers) endured by another. Further, individuals can -- and most do -- experience both privilege and oppression in different aspects of their identity. Individuals experiencing oppression have long worked against the systems that harm them. Of interest in this exploration is the engagement of those who benefit from privilege. This study used an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis framework to examine what entices a person who is not directly affected by a systemic oppression to work towards its elimination.

This study considered what motivates, supports, and sustains individuals in this work by drawing on semi-structured interviews with nine Advantaged Group Members engaged in anti-oppression activism. Furthermore, it investigated advocates’ origin stories, relationships with target group members, and mistakes made along the way, and interrogated the concepts of allyship and solidarity. Considerations of the commonalities and differences shared by activists working across different types of oppression, including racism, homelessness, incarceration, homophobia, colonialism, and more, were taken into account in this exploration. This study also examined the larger issue of how these lessons can be leveraged to encourage more people who experience privilege to join in their efforts by examining the ways in which Advantaged Group Members participate in this work.


Kelly Walsh


ORCID Scholar ID# 000-0002-4684-7798

Kelly was born and raised in New York and has been working in the nonprofit and social justice fields for 15 years. She has a background in program implementation, facilitation, systems thinking, and staff development. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Mary Washington College, a Masters of Arts in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice from Antioch University New England, and is a graduate of the Snelling Center for Government's Vermont Leadership Institute. Kelly serves as Operations Director for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) in Nashville, TN. She is passionate about working in accountable relationships with those who are directly impacted to challenge systems that threaten our communities.