The Year in WGSS Achievement

The year 2020 has been a challenging time for all of us, in which we must rely on virtual communication to keep connected. This has not stopped the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from doing what we often do every spring semester, in which we honor the achievements of our WGSS students and the class of 2020. Below is a list of our student award recipients, our WGSS interns and their mentors, and the Teaching Collective for 2019-2020. A special congratulations to the Class of 2020! 

The Teaching Collective on Zoom (2020)
The Teaching Collective on Zoom (2020)
Student Awards
Outstanding Graduate Student Award - Jessina Emmert and Shelby Mack
Jessina Emmert

Jessina Emmert and Shelby Mack are this year’s recipients of the OUTSTANDING GRADUATE STUDENT AWARD. The WGSS Awards Committee started this award in 2003 to recognize an outstanding WGSS MA student who has demonstrated academic excellence and made important contributions to the University and larger communities.  

Shelby Mack
Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Award - Chloe Ross
Chloe Ross WGSS Award recipient

Chloe Ross is the recipient of the WOMEN'S, GENDER & SEXUALITY STUDIES (WGSS) AWARD. Started in 1986 this award recognizes an outstanding WGSS major or minor who has demonstrated an excellent academic record in WGSS and other course work. The time, energy, and money of the many people who support the University at Albany's WGSS Department through fundraising events and alumnae activities allow us to grant the award every year

LGBTQ Studies Award - Kyle Arnold
Kyle Arnold

Kyle Arnold is the recipient of the LGBTQ Studies Award. At the suggestion of the WGSS Awards Committee, Vivien Ng initiated this award through her endowment in 2019.  This award recognizes a major or minor who has demonstrated excellence in their research/creative projects in LGBTQ Studies.  

Candace J. Groudine PhD 1998 Scholarship - Sarah Valdez
Sarah Valdez

Sarah Valdez is the recipient of the CANDACE J. GROUDINE PhD 1998 SCHOLARSHIP. This scholarship recognizes both academic achievement and community service that promotes social justice. It is given annually and funded by an endowment established by University at Albany alumna Candace A. Groudine, PhD To qualify for this scholarship the student must have a GPA of 3.5 or above, must have junior or senior standing, and must demonstrate financial need. 

Stoneman-Van Vranken Scholarship Award - Afua Sarfo
Afua Sarfo

Afua Sarfo is the recipient of the STONEMAN-VAN VRANKEN SCHOLARSHIP AWARD. This scholarship is given annually in honor of the late Kate Stoneman, a student and teacher at the Albany State Normal School and the first woman admitted to the Bar in New York State, and the late Harriet Lewis Van Vranken, a graduate of Albany Teacher’s College and Albany’s first African American teacher.  The award goes to a WGSS outstanding undergraduate student in recognition of their contributions to the University and larger communities, dedication to feminist principles, and commitment to social justice issues. 

Arlene E. Ray Memorial Scholarship Award - Mahalia Cummings

Mahalia Cummings is the recipient of the ARLENE E. RAY MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP AWARD. This special scholarship was founded in 1994 to serve as a living memory of Joan Schulz’s younger and only sister, Arlene Ray. Arlene’s strength, intelligence, and great courage were an inspiration to all those around her. She would be proud to know she inspired this scholarship and proud to be associated with its recipients. The award goes to an outstanding WGSS undergraduate to recognize their academic achievement and significant contributions to the University and larger communities, and their dedication to feminist principles. 

2020 Interns

Every year we recognize WGSS majors who completed an Internship in our local community as part of their requirements for graduation and community engagement. Below are the names of our interns, the organizations where they worked, and the mentors who supervised their internship. 

Damilola Adesanya, Liberty Partnerships Rising Star Program, Mentor: Nelia Quezada  
Emma Collins, Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center, Mentor: Valerie Wasilewski 
Bianca De Leon, Alliance for Positive Health, Mentors: Shane Roberts and Michael Kennedy 
Anna Grzybala, Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center, Mentor: Valerie Wasilewski 
Marah Helalat, NYS Division of Human Rights, Mentor: Helen Torres Ramos 
Neil McKinley, The Legal Project, Mentor: Katie Weinberg 
Johanna Panetta, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, Mentor: Brittni Gulotti  
Sabrina Peralta, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center & Women’s Center, Mentor: Courtney D’Allaird 
Geysha Sanchez, Initiatives for Women Fund, Mentor: Carol Anne Germain  
Aliya Sider, Center for Women in Government & Civil Society, Mentors: Dina Refki and Bilge Avci 

Valerie Wasilewski

Congratulations to Valerie Wasilewskiwho was selected as Mentor of the Year! Valerie is the Volunteer Coordinator with Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center (CVSVC) and Family Advocate with the Albany County Child Advocacy Center. Her responsibilities include prevention education, crime victim advocacy, facilitating volunteer training and overseeing Certified Rape Crisis Advocates on the Sexual Assault Hotline.  Prior to being hired by CVSVC she was a volunteer and hotline supervisor for five years and recipient of the 2017 Volunteer of the Year award. Valerie’s passion and dedication for advocacy is born out of the belief that no one should have to experience crisis and trauma alone. 

Teaching Collective 2019-2021

Teaching Collective 2020

Each year, students apply to be part of the Teaching Collective, the longest running peer-teaching program dedicated to feminist pedagogy, which began in 1977. Students in the collective co-facilitate sections of Introduction to Feminisms (AWSS 101) and engage in egalitarian learning, where peer teachers and students learn side by side. This year’s collective members were especially challenged to keep to the principles of feminist pedagogy when classes moved online. We especially salute this year’s Teaching Collective for achieving peer teaching during a time of crisis:

Suzana Balkissoon 
Elyssa Bourne   
Katherine Espita 
Samantha Foreman   
Aleena Khan 
Erika Lopez   
Zachary Malave  
Jocelynn Marmejos 
Megan Martinez   
Phylea Scott  
Olivia Thibault  
Kendra Valallen

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to our Class of 2020! 


Natalia Amezquita  
Libranece Ayala 
Bianca De Leon 
RJ Evans 
Amily Gomez Lopez 
Marah Helalat 
Breana Lynch 
Johanna Panetta 
Sabrina Peralta 
Hannah Riegel 
Aliya Sider 


Keziah Abigail 
Jessina Emmert 
Tarana Jafarova 
Georgia Johnson 
Shelby Mack