Women's & Gender Studies Caucus

The NeMLA Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus welcomes members interested in feminist scholarship, women’s and gender studies, and the status of women in the profession at all stages of their careers. The Caucus organizes panels, promotes publication, and fosters the establishment of networks linking senior and junior faculty including graduate students.

Election for Women's and Gender Studies Caucus Open Positions (Extended Deadline Aug 1)

We encourage all of you to vote for our next WGSC Caucus Secretary and WGS NeMLA Board Representative by the newest extended deadline, August 17, 2018.

Secretary is a rolling position, and duties include:

  • recording all minutes of WGSC meetings and submitting them for approval
  • corresponding with all current members about upcoming elections; creating and holding online elections via Survey Monkey
  • acting as a liaison between the Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus and the webmaster to maintain accurate and up-to-date caucus information on the website
  • selecting, designing, submitting, and overseeing the coordination of the caucus-sponsored panel for the next convention
  • and supporting the Vice President with the mentorship program
  • drafting pre and post convention newsletters

Board Representative is a three-year position, and duties include:

  • working closely with other board members to support the NeMLA executive
  • serving as the direct liaison between the WGS caucus and the NeMLA board
  • overseeing the convention program in the area of WGS and works with other area directors to ensure that the program is balanced and meets the membership’s needs; this involves vetting the WGS panel proposals in early April/May of each year, adding board-sponsored panels in areas that require it, liaising with area chairs as required during the time leading up the convention
  • preparing the WGSC flyer for the convention that lists area sessions and events of interest to the WGSC membership
  • participates in two board meetings a year: one in the fall and the other at the convention before it official starts
  • prepares a board report for each board meeting, in consultation with the WGS Caucus president, and also writes an additional caucus report in the late spring if required
  • serves on the WGS Caucus Essay Prize Award committee, reading and ranking submissions, and on any ad-hoc board committees as desired/needed

Candidates' bios and statements are below. Vote here. If you have any questions, please email wgsnemla@gmail.com.

Board Representative Bios/Statements

Kathryn Bastin

My name is Kathryn Bastin and I am an emerging scholar of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French literature and culture. I completed my Ph.D. in 2016, and since then I have been a Visiting Lecturer of French and this past year served as the Acting Director of French Language Instruction at Indiana University-Bloomington. This fall, I am excited to be a Visiting Assistant Professor of French at Eckerd College. My scholarly interests include animal studies, early modern women’s writing, the culture of birth, maternity, and mothering in Old Regime France, and teaching French language and culture. I attended my first NeMLA in Pittsburgh this past year and I was delighted to take part in the Women and Gender Studies Caucus. I am proposing my candidacy for the WGSC Board Representative because I felt energized to attend WGSC’s events this past spring and the work that WGSC does is so vital. I would be happy to bring my sharp administrative skills and warm presence to the WGSC as its Board Representative for the next three years. 

Elizabeth O’Connor

Elizabeth O’Connor is an Assistant Professor of English at Washington College, in Chestertown, Maryland where she teaches classes in modernism, twentieth century British literature, postcolonial literature, and journalism. She has published essays on Pamela Colman Smith, Kate O’Brien, Jean Rhys, Ford Madox Ford, and fin de siècle little magazines. Her current book project centers on Colman Smith, an early twentieth century artist, writer, editor, and folklorist, who was connected with several different strands of modernism before falling into obscurity after World War I. O’Connor previously served as secretary, vice president, and president of the Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus and would like to serve as Board Representative in order to continue to help this wonderful community of scholars continue to thrive and grow.

Meghan K. Riley

I am a PhD candidate in English Language and Literature at the University of Waterloo, with a demonstrated history of working on projects related to WGS. My dissertation examines how the speculative fiction of Octavia E. Butler, Larissa Lai, and Nnedi Okorafor (among others) can serve as a postcolonial, intersectional feminist pedagogy. I also recently designed a workshop on incorporating WGS across the curriculum for graduate students, postdocs, and faculty at the University of Waterloo.

In terms of broader communications and liaison experience, I have served as a communications assistant for a local non-profit. I also was a liaison between the University of Waterloo’s English department Graduate Student Association and the university wide GSA (2016-2017), as well as between the English GSA and the Association for Canadian College and University Teachers of English (2015-2016). In these roles, I distributed important and time sensitive information, including surveys and CFP/funding deadlines. Additionally, I served as a judge for the Speculative Literature Foundation Diverse Writers and Diverse Worlds grants (2015).

Due to my range of experience, I am confident that I am well prepared to liaise between the WGS Caucus and NeMLA board, write the board meeting reports and design the WGSC flyer, and serve on the Essay Prize Award committee.

Moreover, the nature of the position means that I will have the opportunity to learn as much as I can contribute. I would be honored to serve as the NeMLA WGS Caucus Board Representative. Thank you for your consideration.

Michelle M. Tokarczyk

My involvement with the NeMLA Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus and with NeMLA itself goes back 20 years. I served as secretary, treasurer, vice president, and president of the Women’s Caucus. Later, I became Vice President and then President of NEMLA. For the past few years I have been a mentor to graduate students and early-career academics  Now I welcome the opportunity to again take a leadership role in Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus by serving as Board Representative.

The Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus has been extremely effective on several levels. It continually sponsors panels and other venues on timely and stimulating scholarship. It also provides avenues through which members can address pedagogical concerns and professional issues, such as “Teaching Feminism in the Age of Trump,” a roundtable that I chaired. Finally, it gives members the opportunity to connect through its various sponsored events.

To build on this excellent foundation, as representative to the Board I will work with the Women’s and Gender Caucus officers to determine how we might meet the needs of members—especially junior faculty, graduate students, and contingent faculty. It is also crucial that the Caucus and NeMLA itself make the convention as affordable as possible. There are undoubtedly issues of which I am unaware. As caucus representative, I will stay attuned to the concerns of both the Women’s and Gender Caucus officers and NEMLA Board members, and to those of the membership itself.

As a professor of English and affiliate of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Goucher College, I have published widely on women’s literature and issues. Publications include the co-edited anthology Working-Class Women in the Academy; Class Definitions: On the Lives and Writings of Maxine Hong Kingston, Dorothy Allison, and Sandra Cisneros; and articles on women writers of the Great Depression and labor poets.  I am committed to academic feminism in its many manifestations and committed to NeMLA’s Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus.

Secretary Bios/Statements

Ashley Byczkowski

My name is Ashley Byczkowski. I am a PhD Candidate in French Literature at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.

My research focuses on a fundamental relationship in Women and Gender Studies: the mother-daughter relationship. My dissertation examines the narrative representations of mother-daughter relationships in novels written by prominent female authors such as Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, Marie Chauvet and Marie-Célie Agnant. My academic journey to arrive at this topic was always from a WGS perspective; starting with the differences between French and American Feminisms and then passing onto Feminist Psychoanalysis and Narrative Theory, I found myself consistently drawn to what Adrienne Rich calls “the great untold story” (1987): the mother-daughter relationship. I have also incorporated WGS topics in my intermediate level French classes by pushing my students to think about gender roles while reading 19th century French women authors and by hosting a Feminist Panel to broaden students’ experiences with WGS questions.

Last year I served as the President of the Romance Languages and Literatures Graduate Student Association, during which I was the chief organizer of our GSA Conference whose theme addressed important WGS questions, such as gender performativity and the violence of norms. My involvement with NeMLA began last year when I served as the Graduate Awards Fellow. Through this, I experienced the potential an organization like NeMLA has in the world of the humanities, and I am striving to continue my involvement by serving a second year as a NeMLA Graduate Fellow and running for WGSC Secretary.

I believe that I would serve the WGSC well as Secretary due to my initiatives to make WGS topics more present in my department and to my intimate understanding of and experience with NeMLA. Thank you for your consideration!

Tracee Howell

Hi everyone! My name is Tracee Howell, and I’m running for Secretary.  At this point in my faculty career, frankly, I am itching to join a network of scholars and teachers dedicated to WGS issues, especially within academia, and I’d love to bring my administrative experience to bear in serving our Caucus.

I’m an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, a regional campus, where I teach courses in literature, composition, and gender/sexuality/women’s studies. I also direct our composition program and our writing center, overseeing curricula as well as part-time instructors and writing consultants.  Like my current gig, my entire career path has been a bit unusual. I began in university administration while still a grad student, adjuncted for several years, then landed in another administrative role—one in which I also served as our campus Affirmative Action and Title IX Officer, before being recruited into the tenure-stream faculty in 2015.

As a founding member of our campus GSWS Administrative Council, which brought to life and administers our new interdisciplinary minor in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, I’ve just taught Intro to GSWS this past fall. As of this spring, I’m faculty advisor to a brand new student group on campus—the Gender Equity Club—begun by several Intro GSWS students as a way of continuing our course discussions.  (Yay!)

A proud alumna of a women’s college (Bryn Mawr, ’92) as well as of NeMLA’s host institution, the University at Buffalo (PhD 2001), my disciplinary background is formally grounded in feminist & literary theory and 19th/20th C. American literature.  You can read my piece on Alan Moore’s wonderful comic Promethea here. My current research involves recovering the early 20th century fiction of American novelist, playwright and screenwriter Vera Caspary, but I’ve also got projects cooking that focus on writing centers, on professionalization, and on the rhetorics of Title IX policies.

I really appreciate your consideration. Thank you for taking the time to get to know me, and all the best for the summer!

Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus Best Essay Award (Deadline September 15)

The NeMLA Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus invites submissions for the “Best Essay in Women’s and Gender Studies Award.” The award is given for a paper presented at any session of the previous two NeMLA conventions using women and/or gender-centered approaches. This essay may not be submitted to another contest for the duration of the award’s deliberation. The winning paper will be considered for publication in Modern Language Studies.

If you presented at either the 2017 or 2018 convention on a women's and gender studies topic, please consider revising your presentation and submitting it for the annual Caucus Essay Award. If you chaired a panel, please be sure to remind your panelists to submit for this award.

Email entries to Laura Hartmann-Villalta, President, NeMLA Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus at wgsnemla@gmail.com by September 15, 2018, with “NeMLA WGSC Essay Award Submission” in the subject line.

Criteria for all Caucus Essay Awards

Criteria for all Caucus Essay Awards: Submitted essays should be between 7,000 and 9,000 words (there is a 10,000 word limit, notes and works cited included). Unrevised paper presentations are not accepted and will be returned. The author’s name, address, and academic affiliation should appear only on a separate cover sheet (as essays undergo a blind review).  If this information appears elsewhere, the submission will be disqualified. Please note that only English submissions will be considered.  Decisions will be communicated to submitters in early winter 2019.

Each caucus prize offers a $100 cash award. Prize-winning essays will automatically be considered for publication by Modern Language Studies. All essays are subject to MLS’s double-blind review.

WGS Mentorship Program (Applications accepted starting October 1)

The NeMLA WGS Caucus operates an interdisciplinary mentoring program, which pairs senior faculty mentors with junior faculty and doctoral students. The application process for mentees will open on October 1, 2018, and close in November 15, 2018. To access the application, please click here. For more information or to volunteer to serve as a mentor please contact us at wgsnemla@gmail.com.

Business Meeting

At its annual meeting held at the NeMLA Convention hotel site, the Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus takes nominations for new officers and invites suggestions for speakers and topics for future NeMLA Conferences.

Caucus-sponsored Speakers


You can join the NeMLA Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus by indicating your interest on the registration form when you join NeMLA or renew your NeMLA membership.

  • Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus Membership: $20
  • Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus Membership (graduate student and part-time): $10

Joint memberships are also available. Add $5.00 to the higher paying member’s dues.

Officer Descriptions and Duties

Duties for the Secretary position 

  • recording all minutes of WGSC meetings and submitting them for approval 
  • corresponding with all current members about upcoming elections; creating and holding online elections via survey monkey 
  • acting as a liaison between the Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus and the webmaster to maintain accurate and up-to-date caucus information on the website 
  • selecting, designing, submitting, and overseeing the coordination of the caucus-sponsored panel for the next convention 
  • and supporting the Vice President with the WGS Mentorship Program 
  • drafting pre and post convention newsletters 

Duties for the Board Representative position 

This is a three-year position. The Board rep acts as the liaison between the Caucus and the Board, and NeMLA's administrative staff when required. The Board rep works closely with the other Board members to ensure that the Caucus and the organization as a whole both contribute to and benefit from the other's strengths. As a member of the NeMLA board, the Board Representative 

  • manages WGS Caucus panels including overseeing approval and rejection of all panels, publicizing the CFP for panels and then for papers and informing chairs of important information 
  • attends the Fall and Spring meetings of the NeMLA Board, and prepares the Caucus Board Reports for these meetings
  • contacts nemlaweb@gmail.com for website changes related to the CFP and NeMLA Board related information, and as needed
  • provides information for the caucus newsletters and for Modern Language Studies, NeMLA's peer reviewed journal 
  • provides the materials for the caucus table at the convention 
  • has opportunities to read for the Book Prize and the Summer Fellowships 
  • is part of NeMLA decision-making

Duties for the Social Media Representative position

This is a yearly position, volunteered for at the spring convention business meeting. Duties are primarily overseeing the caucus Facebook page, which will include adding a few WGS Caucus announcements throughout the year and approving caucus members’ posts to the page. 

Current Officers


Margarita Vargas
University at Buffalo
Romance Languages and Literatures

Areas of Interest: 20th and 21 century Spanish-American theatre, Mexican theatre and film; Feminist Theory

Vice President

Laura Hartmann-Villalta
Georgetown University

Editorial assistant for DHCommons Journal

Areas of interest: 20th century American and British literature, visual studies, and gender studiesSecretary


Sarah Goldbort
University at Buffalo

Areas of interest: rape culture, British nationalism and theories of the nation, history of the book studies, and the Long Eighteenth Century.

Past President

Tara Harney-Mahajan
University of Connecticut
English Department; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 

Editor, LIT: Literature Interpretation Theory

Areas of Interest: Irish literature, South Asian English literature, and World literature; Women’s Writing; Postcolonial , Queer, and Feminist Theory

Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus Representative to NeMLA

Rachel N. Spear
Francis Marion University
English Department

Areas of Interest: Therapeutics of Writing, Autobiographical Studies, Trauma Studies/Theory, Composition Studies, and Pedagogical Studies

Women’s and Gender Studies Caucus Media Representative

Holly Morgan, Lecturer
Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario
Department of Women’s Studies

Areas of interest: South Asian Studies, Women's Writing, Postcolonial Literature, Diaspora Studies, Fat Studies, Girl Studies, Constructions of maternity and the female body in literature

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