PhD Dissertation Fellowship

The Gender Institute dissertation fellowship supports students engaged in dissertation research related to women, gender, and/or sexuality.

2021-2022 Dissertation Fellow: Alyssa Schwendener

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Alyssa Schwendener, Visual Studies

Dissertation Title: "It's the 90s: Lesbian Chic in Context"

Alyssa Schwendener researches lesbian and queer histories and visual cultures in the United States. Her dissertation returns to an under-theorized moment in the history of lesbian visibility in the US, highlighting the ways in which decade specificity curtails popular and academic approaches to the study of marginalized histories. This focus on temporality is highlighted in the title’s use of the phrase “it’s the 90s,” a phrase used repeatedly in popular media of the decade as shorthand for the yoking of chronological advancement with political and social progress. The dissertation analyzes representations of lesbian identities, cultures, and politics in the early 1990s, taking the lesbian chic trend as a prime site for the study of visibility, respectability politics, and linear narratives of progress.

Past Awardees

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Dana Venerable, Department of English


2020-2021: Dana Venerable PhD Candidate, Department of English

Dana Venerable is a writer, an occasional tap dancer, co-editor of P-QUEUE poetry journal, and an English PhD candidate at UB. Her dissertation explores black performance, dance, notation, social choreography, and sound through their intersections and poetics. Dana is invested in how marginalized communities resist against the archive/record, while (re)inserting themselves within it. She has written for The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, P-QUEUE, VIDA Review, Snail Trail Press and Zoomoozophone Review.

Dana's dissertation is entitled "Collective Composition for Weathering Black Experience: Embodying Signature Moves of 20th and 21st Century Black Performance." The project investigates primarily black women artists/theorists and how they develop maneuvers through signature moves, via a methodology of notation and noticing. It focuses on how their signature moves exist through constant citational practices and bridge literary and performance studies in their emphasis on composition. These moves enact a series of teaching methods that black women devise through praxis.

Advisor: Ariel Nereson, Theatre and Dance

Maryam Muliaee, Media Study

Alexandra Prince, History

Elizabeth Masarik, History

Molly Ranahan, Urban Planning, School of Architecture

Kristina Darling, English 

Averill Earls, History
Lara Iverson, Geography

David Squires, English
Bincy Wilson, Social Work

Leah Benedict, English
Krishni Burns, Classics
Jessica MacNamara, Sociology

C. Michael Hurst, English
Katie Grenell, American Studies

To apply:

The next deadline will be April 19, 2021

**Due to the COVID-19 budget constraints, granting of awards will be as funds are available.

The applicant must:
* be registered as a UB PhD student
* be engaged in dissertation research related to women, gender, and/or sexuality
* have passed their comprehensive examinations
* have exhausted their initial package of support from the home department
* plan to work full-time on researching and writing the dissertation
* be available to participate in a monthly works-in-progress workshop at UB
* if selected, present a portion of their dissertation at a Gender Institute event in 2021-22

Please submit the following materials :
1. application cover sheet, available here
2. a one-paragraph (200-word) synopsis of your dissertation topic
3. a writing sample of 8-10 pages
4. a confidential recommendation letter from your dissertation adviser
5. a curriculum vita, including all funding received as a graduate student
6. a short description of your plans for the fellowship year, including a time-line for completion of your dissertation

Please submit all application materials to the Gender Institute Fellowship Review Committee at, including recommendation letters which should be sent directly by the adviser, with the subject line: PhD Dissertation Fellowship. The fellow will be announced in early May.

* evidence of the dissertation's scholarly quality and significance 
* relevance of the research to expanding our knowledge of women, gender, and/or sexuality
* applicant's academic accomplishments to date and promise of future scholarly productivity

UB International as well as domestic students are invited and encouraged to apply.  The Gender Institute supports UB's nondiscrimination policy that "applies to all persons without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, gender, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation, predisposing genetic characteristics, marital status, veteran status, military status, domestic violence victim status, or ex-offender status."