Mary C. Sullivan Awards

The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program offers two student writing awards, named in honor of the contributions and continued work of Dr. Mary C. Sullivan, Religious Sisters of Mercy.

Dr. Mary Sullivan and 2022 student award winners Jolie Crunelle (left) and Uzoamaka 'Uzo' Ukekwe (right).

Writing Award

The Mary C. Sullivan Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Writing Award recognizes an outstanding essay (typically between 5-10 pages in length) that addresses a topic of importance to women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Topics might include difference, patriarchy, power, politics of representation, bodies, sexual harassment and sexual violence, global women’s health, feminist history, gender identities, sexuality, transgender concerns, critical race and ethnic studies, intersectionality, activism, resistance, social justice movements, disability studies, environmental justice, equity, pay gaps, women in science, women’s art and literary practices, and other topics central to women’s, gender, and sexuality studies’ myriad investigations into the relations between gender, racial, ethnic, sexual, and other identities, power, and their social, cultural, and political experiences and possibilities in different contexts.

Knowledge-Building Award

The Mary C. Sullivan Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Knowledge-Building Award recognizes an outstanding research or community-based knowledge-building project that puts women’s, gender, and sexuality studies methods, knowledges, or lines of critical inquiry into practice (creatively, practically, or analytically) to raise awareness or to work towards increasing equity at RIT or another chosen community.  As part of the submission, students need to provide a written account of their project (approximately 4-5 pages in length) supported with credible sources and using MLA or APA format that explains a) the project’s aims, b) the target audience, c) the methodology used to complete the assignment, and d) a justification for how the project puts women’s, gender, and sexuality studies approaches or concerns to work in a specific context.

Eligibility and Process

  • Open to currently enrolled RIT undergraduate students for work completed in any College of Liberal Arts course or any Women’s and Gender Studies course outside the College of Liberal Arts. The work must have been completed for a course taken in either spring, summer or fall 2023.
  • Administered by the CLA Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program.
  • Annual nomination (by faculty) in Spring semester.
  • Winners are presented their awards at the Henry and Mary Kearse Distinguished Lecture and Student Writing Award Ceremony.
  • Cash prizes are awarded for the best work in each category.
  • Deadline for submission: February 1, 2024.

Submission Guidelines

  • Nominated written essays and/or written accounts of knowledge-building projects from the Women’s and Gender Studies or College of Liberal Arts course must be submitted by the instructor with a brief written rationale for the nomination. Please note that knowledge-building projects must be accompanied by a written account (see the Knowledge-Building Award description for details). Each student nomination material should be submitted as one file
  • Instructors should email to WGSS Director, Silvia Benso (
    1. the nominated student essay or project with accompanying written account (with writers’ names removed from all pages); 
    2. cover sheet indicating the title of the essay or project, the student’s full name, the student’s university I.D. #, and the name and semester of the course for which the work was completed.
    3. brief statement (250 words max.) from the nominating instructor describing why the essay or knowledge-building project was selected for nomination.
  • These materials must be received by 5:00 p.m. on February 1, 2024.
  • Instructors may submit more than one paper and/or project to the competition.

Please specify if the submitted work is being considered for other awards.

Past Award Recipients


Imani de las Casas
“A Blessing in Disguise: ADHD in Everything Everywhere All at Once” written for MLSP/WGST-352 Globalization and Gender through Chinese Cinema (taught by Dr. Yuhan Huang).

Faith Valentine
“Understanding Attitudes Toward Definite Singular They – Transprejudice vs. Prescriptivism” written for PSYC-510 Senior Project (taught by Dr. Alan Smerbeck)


Lexi (Alexa) Gutberlet
“It’s Not the Creation, but the Creator that Does Harm: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and its Monster” written for ENGL/WGST-414 Women and Gender In Media and Literature (taught by Dr. Daniele Pafunda)

Sophie Paige Watkins
“The Language of LGBT Asylum Discrimination: In a Globalized Age” written for INGS-501 Capstone Seminar (taught by Dr. Ray Dongryul Kim)


Jolie Crunelle
“Cultivating Trees and Consciousness: The Success of Environmental Activism in Guatemala when Grown through Feminist Social Justice Theory” written for STSO-220 Environment and Society (taught by Dr. Kristoffer Whitney)

Uzoamaka “Uzo” Ukekwe
“Documentary: Black Women in Computing – A Century of Women Born for Greatness” produced for WGST/HIST-282 Women, Gender, and Computing (taught by Dr. Corinna Schlombs)


Franke Abbey
“What ‘Bloodchild’ Asks of Us” written for ENGL 320 Genre Fiction: Science and Speculative Fiction (taught by Dr. Laura Shackelford).


Lauren Burke
“Maternal Mortality in the United States: A Sociological Perspective” written for SOCI 322 Society, Environment, & Health (taught by Dr. Anthony Jimenez).


Anna Leah Bowman
“Communication Dynamics and Patient Experience” written for UWRT 150 (taught by Luke Daly).

Emily Israel-Paniccia
“Juvenile Sex Offenders” written for WGST/COMM 255 Seminar on Sexual Violence (taught by Stacy DeRooy).


Christine McCullough (Digital Humanities and Social Sciences Major)
“Defining DH: Intersectionality in the Digital Humanities” written for WGST/PHIL 309 Feminist Theory (taught by Evelyn Brister).

Brief Biography of Dr. Mary C. Sullivan, R.S.M.

Mary C. Sullivan, R.S.M., is a Sister of Mercy living in Rochester, New York. She has taught in elementary and secondary schools and colleges. Dr. Sullivan has been a much-esteemed first female Dean of the RIT College of Liberal Arts from 1977-1987, Chair of the Academic Senate, an English Department Chair, and a committed teacher and scholar of language and literature. She received the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1995-6 and received the RITirees Award in 2005 in honor of her exemplary service over her 33 years at RIT. She is Professor Emerita of Literature and Dean Emerita of the RIT College of Liberal Arts. Dr. Sullivan continues to model this impressive combination of scholarship, teaching, writing, leadership, and community activism, which we hope to recognize and promote through the Mary Sullivan Awards for RIT’s students who continue exceptional work along these lines in their College of Liberal Arts coursework.

Dr. Sullivan is the author and editor of the following books: Catherine McAuley and the Tradition of Mercy (University of Notre Dame Press, 1995, 2000); The Friendship of Florence Nightingale and Mary Clare Moore (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999); The Correspondence of Catherine McAuley, 1818-1841 (The Catholic University of America Press, 2012); and A Shining Lamp: The Oral Instructions of Catherine McAuley (The Catholic University of America Press, 2017).

Make a Gift

Make a gift to the Mary C. Sullivan Award fund on the giving page.