Fourth-Year Student Tapped for Carnegie Endowment Fellowship

April 9, 2024 By Matt Kelly, Matt Kelly,

Kristin O’Donoghue will immerse herself in policy matters at a Washington, D.C., think tank.

O’Donoghue, a fourth-year student double-majoring in political and social thought and history at the University of Virginia, has received a one-year James C. Gaither Junior Fellowship at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she will assist a Carnegie senior scholar in research.

The New York City native and Jefferson Scholar applied to work in the endowment’s Technology and International Affairs program, which focuses on a wide range of issues, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, U.S.-China technology relations and space operations. 

“The Technology and International Affairs program helps governments and industries to reduce large-scale international risks of new technologies, which is a critical endeavor today,” O’Donoghue said. “I'm not sure about the specifics of the projects I’ll be working on yet, but I’ll be a research assistant for a senior fellow in the program and will help with writing op-eds and policy proposals and organizing high-level meetings.”

At UVA, O’Donoghue’s research focus has been on the dangers artificial intelligence pose to women, especially those in the public sphere. 

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“Broadly speaking, I think artificial intelligence will have serious effects on our relationships as human beings,” O’Donoghue said. “While technological innovation solves problems, it usually creates new ones in the process, and we need to seriously consider the harm that artificial intelligence might produce and who will be affected by it.”

O’Donoghue currently works as a research assistant for UVA law professor Danielle Citron, a privacy expert, who she credited with inspiring her to think about the way technology affects relationships and the nature of being human. 

“UVA has instilled in me a commitment to the greater good,”

Through her thesis research, O’Donoghue has examined what she sees as the dangerous effects of gendered disinformation and deepfakes on women, particularly female public figures such as politicians, journalists and celebrities.

“Gendered disinformation is the spread of deceptive information and images against women in politics, following story lines that often draw on misogyny and distrust of women in politics, frequently referring to their sexuality,” O’Donoghue wrote. 

“One tool used in gendered disinformation is the deepfake, and most deepfakes are nonconsensual pornography. A 2023 report from Home Security Heroes (an online security firm) revealed that 98% of the deepfake videos found online are explicitly pornographic. Artificial intelligence has made it remarkably easy and free to produce and consume deepfake pornographic content.”

These deepfakes are created to discredit, intimidate and shame women, O’Donoghue said, deterring them from seeking public office and creating a potential national security threat for officeholders.

Portrait of Professor Kirsten Gelsdorf.

Kirsten Gelsdorf, a professor of practice of public policy and director of global humanitarian policy at UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, said O’Donoghue asks hard questions and takes the time to find nuanced answers. (Photo by Jack Looney)

“Kristin is the incredible kind of student who asks the hard questions and takes the time to find nuanced answers,” said Kirsten Gelsdorf, a professor of practice of public policy and director of global humanitarian policy at UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. “She is deeply curious, exceptionally engaged and so thoughtful. This is why she has inspired me in my classroom, working together on research or just in our long conversations.” 

O’Donoghue has been inspired by attending events hosted by the Miller Center of Public Affairs, the Karsh Institute of Democracy and others at UVA. She said they helped her develop an understanding of the landscape of international affairs today, the United States’ place in the world and its responsibilities abroad.

“UVA has instilled in me a commitment to the greater good,” O’Donoghue said. “In my second year, I read that the purpose of university teaching is ‘the troubling of minds.’ My mind has been troubled by the subjects I’ve been exposed to here, and I will use my education to work on solutions to them.” 

Andrus G. Ashoo, director of the Office of Citizen Scholar Development, said, “The Gaither Fellows program is an opportunity for Kristin to further advance her research abilities by engaging with some of the most pressing questions facing technology and international affairs. While there are positions at other think tanks, Carnegie’s program is known for developing its junior fellows and entrusting them to contribute heavily from the start. To have been selected is a great testament to Kristin’s research experience and her hard work in growing as a communicator. We are very excited for her.”

O’Donoghue has written for the New York Daily News, VPM News, The Florentine and Ms. Magazine, as well as the Cavalier Daily and C-Ville Weekly. She currently co-hosts the “Bipodisan” podcast, which focuses on politics.

A Jefferson Scholar and an Echols Scholar, O’Donoghue is a Lawn resident and a member of the Raven Society. She is co-founder of Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia, a student-run organization dedicated to fighting for equitable state legislation. She has served on the board of the Charlottesville chapter of the National Organization for Women and is on the Karsh Institute’s Student Advisory Council.

“I have been surrounded by goodness and greatness during my four years here and I have become better because I have known good and great people,” she wrote. “Here at UVA, I have explored my curiosities, developed new ones, taken risks and have grown as a result. UVA is such a lively, energetic place. I have been filled with that energy as a student and will carry it with me when I graduate.”

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications