The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program is proud to present annual awards to undergraduate and graduate students whose scholarship, activism, art, teaching, and involvement on campus make critical feminist contributions to the WGSS Program and the UConn community at-large. Congratulations to our 2020 award winners!

Feminist Praxis Award: Shamayeta Bhattacharya

Shamayeta Bhattacharya is a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut. Her broad research interest is cultural, gender and medical geography with a focus in GIS. She is presently working on transgender health accessibility and their experience at different activity spaces in Kolkata, India as part of her PH.D. She uses mixed method and spatial statistical approach in her research. Her broader research goal includes empowering the transgender community and articulating about the healthcare needs of the transgender community via her research.

Chase Going Woodhouse Prize: Kathleen Cruz

Kathleen Cruz is a sophomore Marketing major, Digital Marketing and Analytics concentration, and Management / Women Gender Sexuality Studies (WGSS) double minor. In addition, she is the Assistant General Manager of the university’s television station (UCTV), a First Year Experience Mentor for the Business Connections Learning community, an Asian/ Asian American Mentoring Program Mentor, and one of the founding members of Asian Business Society (BLU) and Business Leaders of UConn (BLU). Through her work, she strives to uplift the perspectives of the underrepresented in mainstream, professional settings. In her spare time, Kate enjoys photography and videography. You can find her work at or 

WGSS Excellence Award: Sara Defazio

Sara DeFazio has enthusiastically utilized the Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies curriculum in her prevention and empowerment work at the UConn Women’s Center and as a Residential Assistant. She has facilitated over a hundred consent workshops for first semester students. She also successfully launched and facilitated the new student led support group for victim/survivors of sexual violence known as In-Power. She has demonstrated a clear commitment to gender equity work and looks forward to continuing her education at the New York University Silver School of Social Work.

Kristie Ann Wood Endowment Scholarship: Gabrielle Haynes

Gabrielle Haynes is a double major in psychology and WGSS. College is one of the hardest things she has ever done. After being up for dismissal following her freshman year, she can say she is so blessed to be the first person in her family to graduate with a four-year degree, and on time at that! She wants to thank her family, people from her church, friends and faculty for their help in her journey. She wants to pay special thanks to Dr. Sherry Zane for writing her letters of recommendation for grad school! She wants to also thank the WGSS program. It has shaped the person she is today.  It also informed her about the internship with Planned Parenthood at UConn, which has given her clarity in what she wants to receive her next degree in, a Master of Public Health. She is so excited to further educate herself at UConn and see what this next transition has in store!

Kristie Ann Wood Endowment Scholarship: Emilie Hryszko 

Excellence in Graduate Teaching: Koyel Khan

Koyel Khan is a graduate student in the department of Sociology and teaches in the Women’s, Gender and Sexualities program. Her research focuses on cultural production with an emphasis on gender and sexuality. She is extremely passionate about teaching. Her fervor for social inclusion and social justice motivates her to hone her teaching in a way that ensures an inclusive classroom. She implements practices that maximize learning outcomes and student success. She aims to ensure that her students develop analytical skills, the competence to think critically, and the ability to communicate knowledge coherently.

Gladys Tantaquidgeon Award: Sage Phillips

From Old Town, ME, Sage is a sophomore majoring in Political Science and Human Rights with a minor in Native American & Indigenous Studies. Prior to attending UConn, Sage was among the top Native American and Indigenous students selected to participate in Dartmouth College’s Native American Community program. This program ignited a passion within her and fueled her desire for social justice amongst people of color. As a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation, Sage is now one of a small contingency of Native American students attending UConn. Sage has taken on a major role in helping to expand resources available to Native American students as well as all students of color at UConn. Dedicated to social justice for her people, Sage hopes to one day pursue law school with a concentration in Tribal Law, or work within Tribal Policy focused on issues related but not limited to Education, Culture, and Land. Prior to beginning her work with the Native American Cultural Programs in the fall of 2019, Sage was selected as a UConn delegate to NCORE, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in America’s Higher Education, attending the annual conference in May of 2019 in Portland, Oregon. Sage was recently chosen as a member to UConn President Thomas Katsouleas’ Council on Race and Diversity. Her role on the council is to advocate and represent on behalf of the Native student population as well as to promote and uplift all students of color on campus. Also dedicated to the outside community while working from within, Sage is a member of the Statewide Coalition to Ban the use of Native American Mascots in the State of Connecticut, serving alongside faculty and staff from UConn, the Akomawt Educational Initiative, and Tribal Youth Council leaders from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribal Nations. On campus, a student assistant for the Native American Cultural Programs (NACP), Sage has presented herself among faculty members to initiate conversations fostering discussion around expanding the NACP to become the sixth Cultural Center at UConn. Sage hopes that through navigating the process of expansion and seeking out information to help NACP, her work will serve as a road map for other groups of color who also wish to have a Cultural Center. Rewarded for her work surrounding leadership, Sage was selected as a member of the Leadership Legacy Experience 2020 cohort, recognizing the University’s most exceptional student leaders. Sage works to pay homage to her ancestors and continues to practice the ways of her culture through ceremony and helping to better the environment however she can, all while dedicating her efforts to UConn being at good relation with the land it stands on.

Feminist Arts Award: Angelica Sistrunk    

Angelica Sistrunk is a junior Linguistics/Psychology major and artist. She is currently an intern for UConn’s public interest research group (UConnPIRG), and the Editor in Chief of The Vision, UConn’s Black arts and wellness journal. Her goal is to combine her passion for the arts and psychology by continuing higher education as an Art Therapy graduate student. She hopes to help others start their healing journeys with the power of art. In her spare time, Angelica enjoys creating pieces of work and watching Netflix. You can find her working around campus or at

Excellence in Graduate Teaching:  Ruth Z. Yuste-Alonso

Ruth Z. Yuste-Alonso is a graduate student pursuing a doctoral degree in Spanish Studies in the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages. She currently works as an instructor and teaching assistant for the Department of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages and the Program of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her research focuses on gender analysis of films by contemporary Spanish women directors with an emphasis on the interplay between gender, genre, and gaze. She strongly believes in the transformative power of education and envisions the college classroom as an inclusive collaborative space where instructors and students learn from one another and promote community, creativity, and critical thinking. Passionate about language and visual culture and deeply aware of how media texts shape the ways in which we see and interact with the world, she strives to help students develop their critical eye to become fluent in these modes of seeing and thinking our surroundings, so that they are better equipped to scrutinize and navigate today’s hypermediated society.


Susan Porter Benson Graduate Research Award: Anna Ziering

Anna Ziering is an English PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut with certificates in WGSS and American Studies. Her research interests include deviant erotics, queer temporality, desire studies, and 20th century American literature. Her work has appeared in MELUS and is forthcoming with The Black Scholar. Her dissertation brings queer-of-color critique, Black feminism, and American Studies together in an exploration of how erotics and narrative form might contribute to material resistance to neoliberalism, and a practical study of how they have done so over the past sixty years. She holds a BA from Barnard College (’11), an MFA from Boston University (’15), and an MA from the University of Connecticut (’17). 


Cover Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels