HLS alumna wins MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship

Rebecca Onie ’03

Rebecca Onie ’03

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced that Rebecca Onie ’03 is one of 24 recipients of the 2009 MacArthur Fellowship, more commonly known as the Macarthur “Genius Award.”

Onie was recognized for her work as executive director of Project Health, a non-profit organization that she co-founded while a sophomore at Harvard College.  Project Health, dedicated to breaking the link between poverty and poor health, places undergraduate volunteers in medical clinics to help medical professionals connect patients and their families to local food and housing.

Onie was the executive director of Project Health from its founding in 1996 until 1999.  She then attended Harvard Law School, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.  Following her graduation from HLS, Onie clerked for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and was an associate at Miner, Barnhill & Galland P.C., where she represented civil rights and employment discrimination plaintiffs, health centers, affordable housing developers, and nonprofits.  She returned to Project Health as executive director in 2006. Watch video of Onie describing her work.

Founded in the Boston Medical Pediatrics Department, Project Health has since expanded to serve families in Baltimore, Md., Chicago, New York City, Providence, RI, and Washington, D.C.  Project Health serves more than 4,000 families annually.

According to the MacArthur Foundation, the MacArthur Fellows program is intended “to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations.” The foundation awards fellowships directly to individuals rather than through institutions. Onie will receive a five-year grant worth $500,000.