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

Barbara Cady ’14 (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Barbara CadyCandidate for Florida House of Representatives

I am currently running for an elected office at the state level representing a diverse district of people from many different cultures. My studies at New Paltz prepared me for this candidacy. I studied cultures and lifestyles from the feminist perspective of various Caribbean populations. Today I am working directly with individuals from these Caribbean populations in an effort to craft legislation that will meet the needs of the community.

My liberal arts degree has benefitted me immensely in my everyday life since I graduated. The WGSS degree drew from many academic disciplines that are directly related to the population of people I work with. I minored in cultural anthropology, and my anthropology classes gave me the skills to be an unbiased participant when evaluating the needs of my constituents. Critical thinking skills and compassion combined make for better policy making in the legislative process. I gained valuable insight from my Liberal Arts experiences

Dr. Ben Junge, Dr. Meg O’Sullivan and Professor Peri Rainbow inspired me most. 

Dr. Junge taught “Gender and Anthropology” and oversaw my independent study.  He directed my writing in a way that allowed me to fully explore the possibilities of our research subject. I took an independent study class with Dr. Junge. He, my research partner, and I went to Chicago to present our research during the American Anthropological Associations annual conference. It was a thrilling experience to be in the presence of so many respected scholars.

Dr. O’Sullivan taught “Women’s History,” “Reproductive Justice,” and the Senior Semniar.  She was an insightful and creative instructor. I enjoyed every class. She inspired her students to really unpack the information and get to the core of the subject matter. We were always digging just a little deeper. Great professor!

Prof. Rainbow taught “Introduction to Lesbian Studies.” She was a tough instructor but I got so much from her style of teaching that may have been a little intimidating to the younger students. I appreciated Prof. Rainbow’s life experience stories along with the projects she gave us during the semester. She was an excellent professor.

I received value from each and every one of my women’s studies professors and classes.

May 2018


Meg Waldron ’09 (Women’s Studies)

Meg WaldronCase Manager at Domestic Violence Shelter

I currently work as a case manager at a domestic violence shelter in upstate New York. I meet with survivors of domestic violence (of any gender or sexuality), assess their needs and then connect them with the appropriate resources and services. This position especially has felt like a natural extension of my experience in the Women's Studies community at New Paltz. I was given such a thorough map of how patriarchy and other societal oppressions function, as well as the tools to confront and counteract them. My Women's Studies coursework was all very trauma-informed as well as trauma informative - this awareness and approach is invaluable in this field.

I was also a campus activist and leader within a student feminist organization on campus while at New Paltz. The organizational, leadership, networking and consciousness-raising work we did during that time prepared me well for the work I do now. As a campus organizer, I practiced assessing the needs of group members and the community at-large, solving problems collaboratively, and then carrying out plans to create personal and political change; it's the same process I use with clients now in my current work.

I am also incredibly grateful for the Black Studies courses I took as part of my major requirements. They gave me the opportunity to start really looking at my various privileges and entitlement - a vital lesson to any student studying oppressions - and the many ways patriarchal and hierarchical structures play out in our culture that extend beyond my own personal experience.

To me a liberal arts education was about following my natural curiosities and passions and allowing them to guide me to an uncharted and authentic place. It was about enjoying the process, using the resources before me (professors, books, peers, clubs, college culture) to answer my own questions; it was a holistic educational experience. It isn't coursework that will drop you into a predictable job to wait for retirement. It's an education that if utilized courageously, can create something entirely new. For me it refers to the uncharted path to the truest place.

My college mentor was Professor Emily Caigan. She was an artist herself, a former actress and voice teacher at NYU. Her specialties at New Paltz were "Feminist Art and Culture" and "Women, Gender and Performance." She taught me about voice - voice as a physical instrument and voice as a metaphor for authentic personal expression. She taught me about the value of art within a community and how it is a vehicle for social change. She always pushed her students to be present and embodied and to make our voices heard. Her classes were an emotional and transformative experience for all who took them.

Following college, I found myself performing slam poetry - writing and then competitively performing my words aloud. My writing was weird, humorous, feminist-informed and an authentic expression of my character. I went on to win many competitions and titles in slam, I wrote two books of poetry and completed one lucrative national tour, performing and selling my books - I even got paid to feature at SUNY New Paltz! That is the kind of feminist art work I never could have foreseen in my future when I started college, and were it not for the lessons I learned from Emily Caigan I'm not sure that I would have believed myself capable. I am forever grateful for the lessons she and my other Women's Studies professors taught me in my time as a student at SUNY New Paltz.

May 2018


 Brenna McCaffrey '14 (Anthropology; Women's, Gender, and 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