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Equality in Education and Health Care

Amy Li
Photo: Larry Canner

For Amy Li, a sophomore majoring in public health studies, her fascinations with equality and policy were apparent as soon as she arrived on campus in August 2022. She promptly became involved in student government, currently serving as secretary of the Student Government Association, and successfully applied as one of only four Sheridan Libraries Special Collections First-Year Fellows.

This academic fellowship introduces students to conducting research based on archival materials, such as rare books and manuscripts available at the Sheridan Libraries. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work in archives, especially just in my freshman year,” says Li.

Finding a starting place

For her research topic, she chose student life and focused on the coeducation debate that dated back to the founding of Johns Hopkins in 1876. Li’s mentor, Katie Carey, the Hodson Curator of the University Archives, introduced her to a 1986 book, Women at the Johns Hopkins University: A History, written by Julia B. Morgan, the very first university archivist at Johns Hopkins. “That book really inspired me, providing a unique perspective on Hopkins that I hadn’t considered before,” says Li.

From that starting point, Li delved into the long discourse among university administrators and their peers throughout higher education in the United States on how to integrate women with historically male-centric institutions. Motivated in part by efforts to expand humanities studies and the overall cultural zeitgeist, the debate culminated in women finally being allowed to attend Johns Hopkins as undergraduates in 1970.

“It was a huge shift in university history,” says Li. Administrators had to consider not only technical reforms, for instance in student housing accommodations and athletic programs, but more profoundly in social reforms, through newly inclusive curricula and campus culture.

Creating new archives

With these findings, Li created an online library archive at Johns Hopkins focused on coeducation and equality in student life, further encompassing women’s health and the experiences of women of color as the coeducation movement swept American universities.

This broader progress toward equality in education that Li studied has dovetailed with her interests in addressing modern disparities in health care. After college, Li accordingly plans to attend medical school and help continue bringing about positive change.

“My experience at Hopkins has inspired me to pursue medicine,” says Li, “but also research and advocacy to make sure all voices are heard in different parts of the community.”