Four students have achieved distinction as recipients of the Jeanette McVicker Scholarship in Women’s and Gender Studies at the State University of New York at Fredonia for 2022: Haileigh Pawlak, Kristin White, Amber Ambrose and Jessica Keeler.
It was noted that not only do all four students demonstrate noteworthy commitment to employing an intersectional lens in their course work; they also meaningfully explore interdisciplinary connections linking their scholarship with community engagement and activism in their career goals and extracurricular and experiential work.
Judges for this year’s awards included Dr. Carmen Rivera, who is director of Interdisciplinary Studies and professor of Spanish; Dr. Jennifer Hildebrand, who is associate professor of History and coordinator of Ethnic Studies, and Professor of English, Dr. Jeanette McVicker. The scholarship, launched while Dr. McVicker was director of Women’s Studies, was established to recognize and encourage scholarship, and activism informed by scholarly inquiry. It was renamed in her honor after she stepped down from that position by her successor, to recognize McVicker’s contributions to rebuilding the curriculum in women’s and gender studies.
Notable among the recipients this year: three students began their studies in higher education at Jamestown Community College, coming to Fredonia as transfer students. Three of the winners are also non-traditional students, returning to Fredonia after a break in their studies. The judges note that the perseverance and dedication to continuing their education despite challenging personal obstacles makes this group distinctive and truly representative of the values the scholarship celebrates.
All four students excelled in their Women’s and Gender Studies and/or Ethnic Studies course work, and all four are finding meaningful ways to make an impact beyond the classroom.
Pawlak is completing her junior year and will be a fourth-year student in the B.A./M.A. English Education program, with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her exceptional 3.97 GPA and commitment to inclusive, diverse pedagogy were noted by the judges. One of her letter writers suggested that through her work, Pawlak is capable of “chang[ing] conversations and help[ing] us make space for different kinds of feminisms.” As a Resident Assistant, Pawlak frequently sponsors programming for residents focusing on social justice issues, often linking them with literature and writing. She is eager to become a teacher who can, in her words, “guide the development of students’ liberatory consciousnesses – awareness, analysis, action and accountability/allyship.”
White will enter her senior year next year majoring in History with a minor in Multi-Ethnic Studies. Her letter writers praised her for the masterful way she has dedicated herself to academic success after taking some time away from school. They also noted her campus and community service, which centers around the pursuit of equitable opportunities, especially her work as a coordinator with the Cassadaga Job Corps Academy and the Chautauqua County Partners in Kind program.
Ambrose will take her B.A. in English in December 2022 with a minor in Sociology, and plans to continue her education pursuing a master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences at the State University at Buffalo. Her goal, to become a high school librarian, centers on ensuring that her patrons have freedom to access the materials they need to thrive. One of her letter writers indicated that Ambrose will “effectively carry her education in WGST classes into her future career as an advocate for diverse stories that represent the full spectrum of humanity.”
Keeler, who graduated this May with a B.S. in Social Work, plans to continue her studies in the social work field at the master’s level following graduation. Her letter writers emphasized the contributions that she is already making through her work at The Resource Center, praising her particularly for her dedication to providing outreach to the LGBTQ+ community.
Eligibility for this scholarship includes demonstrated academic excellence (minimum 3.0 GPA), relevant course work in WGST and Ethnic Studies, and an indication of the potential to improve the community through scholarship and/or activism emphasizing intersectional, transnational feminist/gender approaches.