Liberal Arts in Action
Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Brenna McCaffrey '14 (Anthropology; Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies)

Brenna McCaffreyPh.D. Student, Cultural Anthropology, The Graduate Center, CUNY; and Anthropology Instructor, Lehman College, CUNY

As a Ph.D. student, I take courses in my field as I work towards my dissertation research project. This includes the development of a research question and methodology, the ability to write successful grant applications, and long-term fieldwork abroad. I study gender, feminist theory and activism, reproduction, and medical anthropology in Ireland, the U.S., and the European Union. As a part of my graduate fellowship, I also teach undergraduate courses in Cultural Anthropology at Lehman College, which require me to distill large amounts of information and make anthropology relevant and interesting to first-year students. Through my networks at CUNY I have also worked on a public/applied anthropology project as a consultant to a major government organization, which required me to work with my colleagues on an ethnographic research team; conduct interviews; transcribe, code, and manage large amounts of qualitative data; and analyze that data to write a report.

Though I entered the discipline of anthropology, my experience at New Paltz in anthropology, WGSS, and the Honors program continually showed me the importance of interdisciplinarity. For example, (though I loathed it at the time) my four-field training in anthropology taught me to think across my field, prepared me to teach undergraduates, and gave me quantitative data analysis skills that have already been valuable in my current research projects. I also valued the flexibility, support, and encouragement I was given when I chose to pursue an Honors research project which spanned questions from both of my fields. As a double major, I did not feel pressure to choose loyalty to one (well, until I had to choose who to walk with at graduation...) and that has already aided me in graduate school as I navigate being a die-hard feminist scholar in a cultural anthropology program. As an educator myself now, I see a liberal arts education as not only helping students find meaningful work in their lives, but also creating politically aware people who understand the vast inequalities of the world we have grown up in. Liberal arts education needs to resist the encroachment of neoliberal attitudes and policies which harm student's learning by both reducing the quality of educational resources, and by insisting that college is just a means to a job.

I had wonderful experiences with all the professors I encountered at SUNY New Paltz. Particularly, Meg Devlin O'Sullivan is an incredible teacher and the kind of mentor that everybody needs.

September 2016


Kathleen O’Keefe ’90 (Women’s Studies)

Kathleen O'KeefeCounsel to the New York State Board of Elections

I studied to be an engineer before I changed my plan, decided to pursue a career in the law, and changed my major to Women’s Studies. The robust interdisciplinary nature of my coursework at New Paltz gave me a great foundation for my law school studies at Rutgers, where many of my peers attended Ivy League colleges.

I am currently Counsel to the New York State Board of Elections, a bipartisan state agency. I am the Democratic counsel and I have a Republican counterpart. The skills I learned while studying various coursework and while interacting with a wide spectrum of individuals at New Paltz prepared me for the day-to-day interactions that I deal with in my current position. Specifically, I am required to reach consensus with my counterpart in order to get anything done. Given our different public policy priorities, particularly in the area of election law, this presents a significant challenge. My experience at New Paltz exposed me to many people and many viewpoints, and I was required to hone my analytical and writing skills in reaching and defending my own conclusions. That is what a lawyer does every day when practicing law.

 April 2016


Crystal Vuole ‘08 (Women’s Studies, Political Science), ‘09g (Humanistic and Multicultural Education)

Crystal VuoleAcademic Program Manager of the Human Services and Sociology programs at Post University in Waterbury

The Women’s Studies program first opened my eyes to women's issues within our society. From my very first women’s studies course, I knew that I wanted to know more about women’s realities, issues, challenges, and about the structures of sexism in society. Inspired by my professors, I, too, wanted to inspire others and educate students on important social justice issues. After receiving my master's in Humanistic and Multicultural Education, I earned a master's in Women's Studies from SUNY Albany and then a master's in Sociology from SUNY Binghamton. I am currently finishing my doctorate in Sociology from SUNY Binghamton. My research, stemming from coursework in my women's studies classes, has focused on gender, women's representations in horror movies, violence against women and more recently social movements.

Responsibilities of my current position include running the Human Services and Sociology programs (both online and at main campus at Post University in Waterbury), developing/revising curriculum, and teaching various sociology courses. Within the university, I am also an associate editor of the John P. Burke's School of Public Service Journal "Digital Life & Learning" and serve as the Chapter Advisor of Tau Upsilon Alpha, National Organization for Human Services Honor Society.

New Paltz and my professors assisted in my development as a student, researcher, and now professor. During my time at New Paltz, I was able to develop my skills in critical thinking, writing, and researching. These skills have been vital tools in both graduate school and as a professional in academia. I also carry the passion and inspiration that I found at New Paltz into my classes and hope that I can pass the same on to my students.

  April 2016