Student Story

A Multidisciplinary Education: Irish Immersion, State House Internship, and Reproductive Health Research

Gracyn Delaune ’24 poses with the coastline of Ireland in the background

“My experience abroad helped me gain confidence and realize my personal goals and values, ultimately shaping the decisions I have made for myself post-graduation.”

An interview with Gracyn Delaune ’24

What are the most impactful things you have done over the last four years?

I spent a semester studying abroad in Galway, Ireland. Through this experience, I was able to live like an actual Irish student; I took classes at the University of Galway, where I learned about contemporary social issues that Ireland is facing as well as Irish history. These courses gave me the opportunity to compare and contrast my knowledge and experiences in the United States and in Ireland. I interacted with other Irish, European, and American students whom I never would have been able to meet otherwise. This opportunity was not only impactful for my educational career by exposing me to different kinds of knowledge, but was also super impactful for my personal growth as well. My experience abroad helped me gain confidence and realize my personal goals and values, ultimately shaping the decisions I have made for myself post-graduation.

What motivated you to be a Sociology major?

I was lucky enough to have taken a Sociology class as a senior in high school, and I really appreciated the sociological lens through which to view the world around us. Sociology was something that I could see myself studying and enjoying throughout the course of my college career. When I got to Simmons and took my first sociology classes — “Introduction to Sociology” with Professor Becky Thompson and “Inequalities” with Visiting Professor Heather Mooney — I knew that I had made the right decision. The coursework and professors in the Department of Sociology have been so supportive and amazing!

Did your course of study entail any internships?

Currently, I am a Barbara Lee Intern at the Massachusetts State House through the Barbara Lee Fellowship Program. In this position, I am interning for the office of Representative Lindsay Sabadosa, who represents the First Hampshire district of Massachusetts. Through this internship experience, I have had the opportunity to write testimony for my Representative, learn from different legislative briefing events, help organize a legislative briefing, attend a meeting with the Governor’s office, and more. This internship has been a great way to complete my Simmons Capstone requirement while gaining real-life experience that informs my future career choices. 

Please explain any research project that you pursued at Simmons.

I was lucky enough to be involved in the Undergraduate Research Fellowship and serve as a research fellow for Professor of Public Health Valerie Leiter. In this role, I assisted Professor Leiter with her research project that analyzes the redemptive role that IUDs have played in modern birth control technology. We analyzed the trends of IUD use over time in the United States, from the Dalkon Shield tragedy to 2019, using available data from the National Survey of Family Growth. Using this survey, we performed logistic regressions and descriptive analyses to identify social determinants of IUD use and discontinuation. Through Professor Leiter’s expertise, I learned so much about the research process and the issues that are facing reproductive health today. Through this collaboration, I was able to co-author a paper with Professor Leiter that is currently out for publication, which is an amazing opportunity to have had as an undergraduate student.

What was your favorite course at Simmons and why?

I have taken so many great courses at Simmons, but one in particular that stands out is my freshman year Honors Learning Community. These courses focused on educational inequality, looking specifically at colorblind racism in schools and economic inequality in schooling and creating a multidisciplinary approach to assessing contemporary and historical issues. I really appreciated the expertise that Professor of Education Daren Graves and Associate Professor of Economics Masato Aoki brought to this course. This learning community sharpened my public speaking and writing skills, and also forged connections with my peers in enduring and meaningful ways.

Who was your most inspirational professor or mentor at Simmons and why?

My most inspirational mentor at Simmons is Professor Valerie Leiter. Not only was she a great professor when I took her “Sociology of Food” class — a class that helped me to secure a summer internship with the Minnesota Farmers Union — but she has been a great mentor to me as well. From the minute I contacted her about her research, Professor Leiter encouraged and supported my educational growth, helping me to develop skills and confidence in my research and writing. I am so grateful to have gotten to learn from her!

What is your favorite Simmons memory?

I remember attending a Red Sox game at Fenway Stadium with my friends. As someone who came from halfway across the country to attend school in Boston, I try to never take the city for granted. Living near Fenway is such an amazing experience, and I love being able to get student tickets to the Red Sox games and have a fun afternoon or night with my friends from Simmons while we take a break from academic work to relax and have fun!

How has Simmons taught you to be a leader?

Simmons provides an inclusive space for me to learn to be a leader by being active in my classes and my community. Through coursework, relationships with faculty, and the socially engaged atmosphere, it is easy to get involved and develop your leadership skills as long as you take the initiative.

Tell us about your ensuing master’s program.

In fall 2024, I will begin a Master’s in Public Policy program at King’s College London. This is a one-year program that focuses on the key issues and critical developments within the sector of public policy and embraces a multi-disciplinary approach to policymaking. I was drawn to this program due to the availability of project placements or internships, as well as the speakers that the program regularly invites from UK-based government departments, public sector bodies, NGOs, and policymaking units. I am so excited for the opportunity to study public policy in a different country, benefitting from the diversity of experience that the student body will bring as well as honing my comparative analysis skills when comparing policymaking in the United States and the United Kingdom.

What advice do you have for current and incoming Simmons students?

My biggest piece of advice for current and incoming Simmons students would be to stay connected to your professors. I know that it can be so nerve-wracking to talk to your professors after class or reach out to them about the work that they may be doing outside of the classroom, but Simmons faculty are so invested in each student’s success. And many of them know about opportunities that can help advance us educationally and professionally! Make sure to maintain a positive relationship with professors, and keep them updated about the new things you learn and experience.

Publish Date


Kathryn Dickason