2023 Recipients: Kristen Kelley and Holly Yanacek


Kristen Kelley is an Assistant Professor who teaches in both the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program. She coordinates Multilingual Student Services and Academic Peer Coaching in the Learning Centers. Her interests include justice work at the local and state levels, and working with colleagues to shepherd a Queer Studies minor from an idea to a formal proposal to enrolling students.

Kristen plans to use the MCGE Professional Development Grant to support her summer work organizing a Queer Resistance Teach-In for the fall. This award will pay for quality childcare, allowing Kristen to plan and garner support for this critical cultural event which aims to educate on the historical view of intersectional queer resistance in an effort to understand the experiences of LGBTQ+ people today as part of a larger history, and the idea that our own stories are also important to record.



Holly Yanacek is an Associate Professor of German. Her research focuses on 19th- to 21st-century Germanophone literature and culture, emotion studies, narrative theory, gender studies, care ethics and posthumanism. Fellowships from Fulbright and the German Academic Exchange Service have supported her research. Holly co-edited the interdisciplinary volume Animals, Machines, and AI (DeGruyter, 2021), which examines the affective relationships between humans and non-human animals, robots and machines in modern German cultural history, and the collaborative book Keywords for Today (Oxford UP, 2018). She is completing a monograph on the renegotiation of social and moral emotions in fin-de-siècle German literature and an English translation of “Ich bin dein Mensch” (2019), a novella by award-winning German author Emma Braslavsky, whose work inspired Maria Schrader’s 2021 film Ich bin dein Mensch (I’m Your Man).

The MCGE Professional Development award will support Holly’s work for a new project on care and resistance in prize-winning Swiss author Yael Inokai's novel Ein simpler Eingriff (A Simple Procedure, 2022). Specifically, the grant will help fund her upcoming research trip to Berlin and her travel to the German Studies Association Conference 2023 in Montreal. Through her work on Inokai’s novel, Holly seeks to make a theoretical contribution at the intersection of feminist care ethics, queer theory, emotion studies and literary plant studies. The paper that she will present in Montreal is part of a conference panel that she organized on the topic “Care and Resistance in Contemporary Germanophone Literature and Culture,” which explores care in relation to various forms of resistance from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives.

2021 Recipient: Siân White


Siân White is an Associate Professor of English. She specializes in British and Irish modernism, and its intersections with narrative theory, Irish studies, and gender studies. She is the co-editor of The Edinburgh Companion to Irish Modernism (2021) and her most recent publications have addressed how contemporary Irish women writers use experimental narrative form to critique orthodoxies and abuses of gendered power.

She will use the MCGE Professional Development grant to support her attendance at the Modern Language Association Conference 2022 in Washington D.C., where she will present a paper about how Virginia Woolf uses paradox to resist masculinist postures of mastery and authority based in knowing resolution. That paper draws on material from her book, tentatively titled Modernist Intimacies in British and Irish Twentieth-Century Fiction, which traces surprising intimacies that surface in midcentury fiction back to new forms of intimacy conceived and conveyed in the experimental narratives of high modernists James Joyce and Virginia Woolf.

2019 Recipient: Caroline Lubert


Caroline Lubert is a Professor of Mathematics. Her research is in the field of aeroacoustics – jet noise modeling. The specific application of interest is rocket launch noise – we are interested in the vibroacoustic profile generated by a rocket at liftoff, since this can significantly damage the launch vehicle and/or its payload. This project is carried out in conjunction with two Virginia partners: NASA Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS).  In order to facilitate this research, in 2003 she and some research students designed and built an Anechoic Chamber, or soundproof room -- JMU’s Aeroacoustics Lab. Since then, she has used the lab to offer research experiences to a large number of students. Many of these students have been female; such students are traditionally vastly under-represented in STEM disciplines. She will use the MGCE professional development funds to continue to support student research activities in the lab by buying computer programs, and by providing funding for equipment and lab supplies.  She will also use the award to send her students to local conferences and to fund visits to the launch pad at WFF and Northrup Grumman. It will also allow her to send some of her students to local schools to provide female role models as part of STEM outreach. I am particularly hopeful that higher visibility for JMU students with our research partners (NASA WFF and NGIS, for example) will lead to possible internships for my research students, particularly the female students who are generally much less inclined to push themselves forward in applying for such opportunities.

2018 Recipients: Suzanne Fielderlein and Emily Westkaemper


Suzanne Fiederlein is the Associate Director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery. The MCGE professional development funds will enhance her ability to serve as a resource for the Peer Leader Program at Harrisonburg High School regarding the college application process for students who have come to the US as refugees. Specifically, she seeks to increase her knowledge of the process for developing successful college applications and applying for financial aid for this particular under-represented group. This funding will support time to gather information and organize it so that is it easy to update and for students to use; the funding also will support a visit to JMU for students to speak with admissions staff and financial aid counselors.

Update on progress so far: Working with the CISR graduate assistant, Suzanne is finalizing the content of a packet of materials to distribute to the students in the Peer Leader Program (PLP). She also arranged to have a group from the PLP attend the College Access Day organized by the Scholars’ Latino Initiative and JMU Professor-in-Residence, Carlos Aleman, on November 3 where the students met with officials from the JMU admissions and financial aid offices, as well as JMU faculty from different departments. The day included lunch in D-Hall and discussion of student life at JMU. Since the PLP students were included in the existing College Access Day program, their lunch did not have to come out of the award funds. She will use the funds budgeted for the campus meal either to arrange a follow-up visit to campus or to provide additional resources to the PLP students.



Emily Westkaemper is an Associate Professor of History. She used the Madison Caucus for Gender Equality professional development grant to support archival research at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. This research will be central to Dr. Westkaemper’s book project “Career Women: Image and Reality in U.S. Popular Culture, 1940–2000,” which will analyze mass media portrayals of women employed in business and professions. The book will consider how department store executives, radio and television writers, newspaper and magazine columnists, and advertising women, often marginalized in their respective industries, deployed popular media strategically to encourage and celebrate women’s employment. Simultaneously, negative stereotypes about ambitious career women also circulated in U.S. popular culture, with businesswomen frequently serving as villains in romantic plotlines of radio soap operas, television, and Hollywood film. By analyzing the variety of depictions of women in business and professions, this research considers the role of mass media in defining gender roles and shaping public interpretations of twentieth-century feminism.


 2017 Recipients: Lucy Malenke and Kathleen Sensabaugh

Lucy Malenke Lucy Bryan Malenke is a faculty member in the University Writing Center and the College of Health and Behavioral Studies. She will use the MCGE professional development grant to help bring to JMU representatives of the international nonprofit Narrative 4, whose mission is to foster “empathy by breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes through the exchange of stories across the world.” Narrative 4’s representatives will conduct a certification workshop for 30-50 faculty, staff, students, and Harrisonburg community members who want to become “story exchange” facilitators. Story exchanges bring together people with different experiences, beliefs, perspectives, and worldviews; individuals exchange personal stories in pairs, then return to the larger group and share their partners’ stories in first-person. Lucy hopes this facilitator training will allow JMU and broader Harrisonburg to become sites where story exchanges regularly take place, helping to bridge differences, enhance inclusivity, and encourage healing and human connection.


Kathleen SensabaughKathleen “Katie” Sensabaugh is a Coordinator in the Office for Student Accountability and Restorative Practices and also teaches adjunct in the Department of Justice Studies. She earned a BA in Political Science and Justice Studies at JMU, and received an MPhil from the University of Cape Town in South Africa in Justice in Transformation and Conflict Resolution.

Ms. Sensabaugh will use her award to attend the 2017  Pennsylvania Conference for Women in Philadelphia, PA. This conference is designed to engage in issues at the intersections of womanhood and professional life including topics relating to professional leadership, gender equity, and gender advocacy. In addition, Ms. Sensabaugh will be using the fund to provide an opportunity for a local high school student to participate in the Young Women’s Program part of the conference.

2016 Recipients: Christine Robinson and Twylla Kirchen

Christine RobinsonChristine Robinson is a Professor in the Department of Justice Studies where she teaches in the core curriculum and in the Social Justice track (Track C) in the Justice Studies major. Her courses include: JUST 200: Introduction to Justice Studies; JUST 223: Social Justice Interventions & Policies; JUST 357: Environmental Justice; and JUST 400: Senior Seminar in Justice Studies. Her research interests include sexual orientation and social policy; social control; liberation movements and counter movements; and environmental justice.

Dr. Robinson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Salisbury State University, a Master of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Memphis, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Kansas.

Dr. Robinson will use her award to continue her research on a long-term project which will include to purchasing some data (including print materials and audio recordings) and transcribing audio materials for data analysis. She will also use a portion of the award money to defray the expenses of gathering additional data.


Twylla KirchenTwylla Kirchen is an Assistant Professor in the Occupational Therapy Program, which is part of the Health Services Department.  She earned a BA in Psychology from the University of Nevada-Reno, an MS in Occupational Therapy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a Ph.D. in Occupational Therapy from Texas Woman’s University. 

Dr. Kirchen will use her award to provide an honorarium to Dr. Amy Lamb, the president-elect of the American Occupational Therapy Association, to talk to her students about the gender wage gap during a Maymester class they take called Administration for Occupational Therapists.  She notes that female occupational therapists earn 87 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make.  Gender discrimination is not the sole factor driving the gap in pay, according to Kirchen.  Female occupational therapists are less likely to accept leadership positions due to the fact that they may have the responsibility of caring for children or aging parents.  Ninety-five percent of the students in the JMU Occupational Therapy Program are females. To date, the gender wage gap is not addressed in any aspect of the curriculum.

2015 Recipients: Jenny Toth and Emily Westkamper

Jenny TothJenny Toth works at James Madison University as a Consultant in the Human Resources department. In this role, she provides support and customer service for employee development, assists with policy interpretation, facilitates training workshops and consults with employees on compensation/salary studies. She also serves as the Title IX Officer for staff. In this role, Ms. Toth tracks and monitors reports of sex discrimination, ensures that the university responds promptly and effectively to each report, conducts investigations of sex discrimination and sexual harassment, and provides information on all options for complaint resolution. She is an active member of several committees: Rewards and Recognition Task Force (Chair), Title IX Training for Faculty and Staff, Work-Life Balance Task Force, and the Safe Zone Network for LGBT Faculty and Staff.

Ms. Toth earned her Bachelor of Business Administration from JMU and is on track to complete a M.S. Ed. in Adult Education and Human Resource Development from JMU in May 2015.

Ms. Toth will use her award to attend the Association of Title IX Administrators Civil Rights Investigator Training & Certification Course. The course will be held at Case Western Reserve University on July 27-28, 2015.  The two-day course will cover a broad range of topics such as: case law, the intersection of Title VII and Title IX in investigations, due process, standard of proof, the Civil Rights Investigation and Grievance Model, and interview skills and techniques. 


Emily WestkaemperEmily Westkaemper is an Assistant Professor of History at JMU. Her teaching interests include U.S. History and more specifically Women in U.S. History. 

Dr. Westkaemper earned a BA in History from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers University. After earning her Ph.D., Dr. Westkaemper was a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Franklin & Marshall College before coming to JMU in 2010. 

Dr. Westkaemper will use her award to support the indexing of her manuscript,  Martha Washington Shopped Here: Women’s History in Popular Culture, 1910-1976. This book assesses the radio dramas, advertisements, comic books, films, and consumer products that shaped twentieth-century Americans’ assumptions about history. Depictions of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries pervaded twentieth-century American media, often prescribing domestic roles for women but ultimately encouraging women’s public participation. Using archival research, Dr. Westkaemper’s study broadens the definition of women’s social activism to include the work of activists, intellectuals, and corporations creating popular historical narratives in the decades before the development of women’s studies and women’s history as academic disciplines. 

2014 Recipients: Zanetta Ford, Elizabeth Hoover and Renee Staton


Zanetta Ford works at James Madison University as the Director of Membership & Volunteer Services at WMRA & WEMC Radio Network, where her focus is sustaining the vitality of the organization. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor with JMU’s Department of Social Work. She currently teaches Grant Writing for Agencies. Outside of work, Zanetta continues her dedication to philanthropy by volunteering in her community. She has served on the Policy Council for Hope Community Services Head Start, as well as the Monticello Area Community Action Agency Head Start. She currently volunteers with the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council as a member of both the Board of Directors and the Board Development Committee.

Ms. Ford earned her Master of Business Administration from Walden University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Old Dominion University, and an Associates degree with a concentration in Web and Graphic Design from ECPI Technical College. She is also a graduate of the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University, and holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management & Fundraising from the University of Richmond’s School of Continuing Studies: Institute on Philanthropy. She lives with her family in Harrisonburg, VA.

Ms. Ford will use her award to attend the Public Media Development & Marketing Conference in Denver, CO in July 2014. At this conference, Zanetta will meet and network with public broadcasting professionals around the country to share ideas related to public radio funding and fundraising.


elizabeth_hoover Elizabeth Hoover is the Assistant Director of the Furious Flower Poetry Center and teaches Introduction to Creative Writing (Poetry.) She is a feminist writer who enjoys working on projects with conceptual or research elements. Her poetry has received a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Award and a Split This Rock Poetry of Provocation and Witness Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in  Los Angeles Review, PANK, and  Poetry Northwest. After receiving her MFA in Creative Writing from Indiana University in 2009, she worked as a freelance journalist and book critic, contributing to such publications as the Minneapolis  Star-TribuneParis ReviewCarnegie, and  Sampsionia Way. Her essay "Phantom Language," which examines the role of spectatorship in violence, is a finalist for the Diana Woods Memorial Award. Other projects include a biography of the poet Robert Hayden and a book-length series of poems set in a fantastical archive that offer poetry as an alternative form of truth-telling when the historical record is plagued by gaps and inaccuracies.   

Ms. Hoover will use her award to consult with the poet, Catherine Bowman, on the completion of Ms. Hoover’s manuscript,  The Enterprise of Seeing. Ms. Hoover ultimately hopes her writing will begin and help continue conversations regarding gender climate on campuses, the silencing of woman writers and the nature of sexual violence.


renee-statonRenee Staton is Professor in the Department of Graduate Psychology’s Counseling Programs. She teaches multicultural counseling, supervision and consultation, advanced development psychology, and school counseling. Her recent research interests include gender issues in counseling, particularly gender expression and affirmative counseling practice with young people, and her recent service includes the exploration of mindfulness in K-12 settings. She is a licensed professional counselor specializing in girls’ and women’s concerns and work with families and has experience working with clients with a wide range of needs and from diverse backgrounds. She has also served as president of the Virginia Association for Counselor Education and Supervision and the Virginia Counselors Association, which recently awarded her the Van Hoose Award for Career Service. She has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of Virginia.


2013 Recipients: Jessica Davidson and Erica Bleeg

jessica-davidson Jessica Davidson is an Associate Professor of History, and Coordinator for the Women's and Gender Studies minor. Her teaching interests include Twentieth century Spain; women’s history, and comparative history. Her research focuses on Twentieth-century Spanish political, social, and women's history, women in right-wing politics, and Catholicism in twentieth-century Spain. Reflecting these interests she has recently published “Women, Fascism and Work in Francoist Spain: The Law for Political, Professional and Labour Rights,” Gender and History, July 2011. Her recent focus is gender, sexuality, and historical memory of the Franco dictatorship through film.

Based on Dr. Davidson's paper “Reliving the Franco Dictatorship: Gender and the Orphanage in Recent Spanish Film” delivered at the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies (ASPHS) conference, she will continue to research and analyze a set of Spanish films that speak to gender and historical memory during the Franco regime. In the first decade of the 21st century, three films appeared in Spain that overtly played out the role of childhood and gender, in the context of an orphanage, or boarding school, during the Franco regime. The Devil’s Backbone, directed by Guillermo del Toro and produced by Pedro Almodovar’s company, came out in 2001,  Bad Education debuted in 2004, and  The Orphanage directed by Juan Antonio Bayona in 2007. The three films are not the same but clearly grapple with the role of memory, youth, and orphanages. The first two films most overtly deal with the Franco dictatorship.

erica_bleeg Erica Katherine Bleeg is an Assistant Professor with a dual appointment in the Department of English and Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies. She teaches creative writing workshops in literary nonfiction. Her recent research has led to two courses that examine how we inherited the foods we eat today and how that food arrives on our plates. Her own nonfiction has been published in  The North American ReviewThe Missouri ReviewThe Wilson Quarterly, and Gastronomica. She is the recipient of The Missouri Review’s Editors’ Prize, a Pushcart nomination, and The University of Chicago’s Ruth Murray Prize. After graduating magna cum laude from JMU in 1996, she volunteered full-time at a maternity clinic for low-income women in Yakima, Washington, followed by two years of Peace Corps service in Benin, West Africa. She has an M.A. in Humanities from the University of Chicago and an M.F.A. in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa.

The Madison Caucus for Gender Equality's Professional Development Award will help fund her book project, THE WATER THAT RUNS AND RUNS, a coming-of-age memoir that follows Bleeg on her search for strong women in Benin, West Africa. Before arriving in Benin, Bleeg feared that middle-class American preoccupations with status and material acquisition had compromised women’s strengths. She didn’t think she’d had the role modeling she needed to be healthy, so she sought out work with a Beninois midwife so she could witness what she thought was the strongest act on earth, giving birth, and soon learned just how isolating that experience can be. The book explores what it means to be a strong woman in Benin and the United States, the limitations of viewing a woman’s value through strength alone, and the ways gender inequality plays out in women’s economic, physical, and mental well-being.

2012 Recipient: Milla Sue Wisecarver

wisecarver-milla-sueMilla Sue Wisecarver is Assistant Director of Athletics Communications at James Madison University, where she currently handles athletics communications for four sports teams (women's basketball, men's and women's soccer, women's lacrosse).  She has worked in public relations for JMU since 1975, when she was assistant director of then-Madison College's Public and Sports Information Office. During her tenure at JMU, she has worked in some respect with every intercollegiate sport program offered by the University, and she also worked with academic and alumni public relations from 1975-92. Wisecarver also has experience working in media operations for six international events, including the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. She is a 1975 magna cum laude of JMU with a B.A. in communications and social sciences.

The Madison Caucus for Gender Equality's Professional Development Award was used to fund Wisecarver's participation in a Landmark Education training program titled "Living Powerfully: A Life that Defies the Predictable". Wisecarver is using the training from this program to strengthen her abilities to be effective in the workplace and act as a mentor to the college-aged women who work in paid positions, practica and internships in JMU Athletics Communications. The training in the Landmark Education program is being used to empower both female salaried employees as well as student workers so that these women can have an effective influence in the male-dominated field of university athletics public relations.

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