For our final pioneer of policy and peace, we want to look at a woman on the rise in the nuclear nonproliferation field. Lovely Umayam, project manager at the Stimson Center and founder of the website Bombshelltoe, has been in the field of nuclear policy for many years now-- and we have a feeling she’s well on her way to making history.
Umayam has had a passion for nuclear policy since she was young. She grew up in both the Philippines and California, “two richly multicultural cities that deeply informed her personality and her outlook on intersectionality.” Prior to going to college, Umayam joined the creative writing program WriteGirl, where she worked with a mentor and had her poetry published. She was even able to present her poem “The Debt” at the Shriver Report. In 2010, she graduated from Reed College where she wrote her thesis on small arms and light weapons exports in the global south. After graduating she had a residency at the Tsinghua University in Beijing where she studied China’s nuclear history and the formulation of its no-first-use policy.
After her time in China, Umayam held multiple positions focusing on foreign policy. In 2012 she held a consultancy for the Permanent Mission of Chile in Vienna, Austria and supported its participation at the 2012 Preparatory Committee for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference. After moving to Washington D. C., she served as a Program Manager at the Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control within the U.S. Department of Energy - National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), where she implemented nuclear safeguards projects in Southeast Asia and Latin America.
Umayam also engaged her creative talents as a guest columnist for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. She addressed gender inequality in international relations in her piece entitled “Women’s Work,” where she argued that because of women’s history forging a “human connection” with nuclear weapons they need to be credited for and vocal about issues related to nuclear policy. Currently working as Project Manager at The Stimson Center, she has continued to focus on innovative ways to promote nuclear nonproliferation.
One of Lovely Umayam’s most prominent innovations concerning nuclear policy was Bombshelltoe, the online platform she founded in 2013. The goal of the website was to “highlight the human side of nuclear policy in order to resonate with people who currently feel disengaged.” The website houses collections of writings concerning nuclear issues as well as a current project focusing on Navajo nuclear histories. Bombshelltoe garnered heaps of praise and was the first-prize winner of the U.S. Department of State’s 2013 “Innovation in Arms Control Challenge” and has been featured in SxSW Interactive, FastCompany, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientist, and the U.S. Department of State’s Generation Prague Conference. This endeavor epitomizes how Umayam understands the value of intersectionality within nuclear policy. There is a human side to all of this technology and political jargon, and people should be encouraged to engage in these discussions in creative ways.
Umayam is clearly passionate about nuclear policy. From her college senior thesis, to her creation of Bombshelltoe, Umayam is making a name for herself. Just over a year ago she got the opportunity to share her progress on nuclear issues at PopTech. Her presentation entitled “Reshaping our Nuclear Narratives,” aims to “introduce unfamiliar or forgotten images of the nuclear dilemma with a goal of shifting the dialogue from fear to one of inspiration, curiosity, resilience and creation.” This forward thinking is exactly what the nuclear community needs. As she has said herself, she is a “big believer in raising public awareness through the power of narrative”-- and we can’t wait to see what she creates next.