Graduate Students


Women's and Gender Studies Master's Students

MA in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


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Amber Villanueva

Derek Whitt

Derek Whitt has a BA in English from the University of Texas-P.A. (2011.)  At the root 
of Derek's interests is the influence of faith values and beliefs of evangelical Christianity on the ‘making of’ girlhood/womanhood. His research at Brandeis has focused on faith-based “sexual responsibility” literature and the connections between religiosity and violence against women. Most recently he has found himself taking a more philosophical approach to questioning social presence generally, exploring the ways in which gender and race influence a person’s ability to, in effect, achieve varied degrees of ‘qualified’ personhood.


Joint MA in Anthropology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Jessica Bray

Jessica Bray received her BA in Middle East/South Asia Studies & Religious Studies with Minor in Sexuality from the University of California, Davis.  Jessica's research interests include Post-colonialism, transition, religion, queer theory, sexuality, feminist anthropology, India.  Her senior honors thesis was titled The Politics of Demystifying Identity: South Asian American Queer Women’s Education.  She will focus her masters research on transnational relationships within South Asian courtesan culture.

Zhiduo Cheng

Zhiduo Cheng received his BA in Law from Shantou University in China. Zhiduo sees himself as an anthropological researcher focusing on everyday practice of LGBT people in post-reform China. Zhiduo theorizes everyday practice of LGBT people as active resistance and rebelliousness of “common heroes” against the dominant discursive construction of sexuality and normativity in the post-socialist China. He wants to continue his research about “queer China”, and to expand this research to the extent that encompasses the idea of gendered world and the taken-for-granted assumptions of gender and sexuality.

Jara Connell

Jara Connell graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BS in Anthropology and a BA in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.  Her capstone paper was titled, "Capitalist Infiltration of the U.S. Prison System: How For-Profit Aspects of the PIC Interfere with Law and Justice" and her research interests include marginalized communities, intersectional feminism, the prison industrial complex, immigration, indigenous rights, human rights and social justice, and feminist anthropology.

Patrick S K Harhai

Patrick S K Harhai graduated from Portland State University, where his studies centralized within Anthropology, Queer Studies, and Spanish. His honors thesis was titled, 'Traversing the United States-Mexico Border: Gender and Kinship in Migrant Families'. His interests primarily concern performance/theatricality, queer studies, linguistic hierarchies, social justice, and transnationalism; Latin America and contemporary United States. He is thrilled to be a part of both the department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the department of Anthropology at Brandeis University. In his free time he loves traveling, cycling, and being outdoors.

Claire Hautot

Claire Hautot  received her B.A. in Religious Studies from Rhodes College with minors in Anthropology and Sociology.  Claire wrote a research fellowship paper titled "A Spectrum of Appropriateness: Sex Education in Religiously Affiliated High Schools", which examined attitudes and approaches to sex education in private high schools in Memphis, TN. Some of Claire's research interests include the role of women in evangelical religious movements in the American South and faith-based medicine.

Paige Henderson

Paige Henderson received her B.A. in Anthropology/Global & International Studies from the University of Kansas.  Asan undergraduate, Paige's involvement and academic interests have been very diverse.  She conducted research in Jocotan, Guatemala on health and sanitation in indigenous communities, lived in South India and worked with Hyderabadi NGO "Voice 4 Girls" to promote education for women, and was selected to speak before congress in D.C. about diversity in higher education as a McNair Scholar.  At Brandeis, Paige's research interests include contemporary India, sexualized violence, radicalism, and agency. 

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Renée Robinson has a B.A. in Anthropology with minors in Women's and Gender Studies and Sociology (University of West Florida, 2012). Renée's interests include performance, identity, feminist anthropology, cyberculture, and ethnomusicology. She is currently researching gender and sexual expression in popular music.

Leah Wasil

Leah Wasil holds a BA in Anthropology from Central Washington University with a minor in Pacific/East Asian Studies. At Brandeis, she hopes to explore the contemporary practice of archaeology in Japan and East Asia. She is interested in gender politics and the weight of Japanese Imperial history, and how academic and contract archaeology in East Asia may be understood as a complex political process that ideologically organizes connections among different East Asian national communities and structures internal relations of gender and ethnicity.


Joint Master of English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Margot Kotler
Michael Mirer
Courtney Parker

Joint Master of History and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Cassandra Berman Cassandra Berman is a PhD student in the Department of History where she studies women, gender, and labor in early America.  She received an MA in history and a Master of Library Science from the University of Maryland and a BA in history and religious studies from Macalester College.  Cassandra is the recipient of the 2013-2014 Chris Lerman Prize for Essays on Extraordinary Women.







Joint Master of Near Eastern Judaic Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Celene Lizzio

Celene Ayat Lizzio is pursuing a PhD in Arab and Islamic Civilizations at Brandeis University. She has written over twenty articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries exploring Muslim family law, Muslim feminist theology and women’s religious leadership, among other topics. Ms. Lizzio is a Faculty Associate at the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations at Merrimack College, and she also lecturers on Islam, gender, and interreligious studies at Episcopal Divinity School. Ms. Lizzio holds a Master's of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and a bachelor’s from Princeton University with highest honors in Near Eastern Studies.

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Isabelle Daugherty

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Leonie Wirtgen 



Joint Master of Public Policy and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

usen castle Malcolm Joyles
Jessica Thiesen Jessica Thiesen has a BA in political science (Roosevelt University). Jessica’s research interests include the relationships between gender, race, and social welfare policy as well as the exploration of how trans* and other non-binary identified individuals exist within policy. Jessica’s undergraduate thesis explored the historical and theoretical relationship between poor women of color and various welfare programs. 













Joint MA in Sociology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Stephanie Bonvissuto

Stephanie Bonvissuto has a B.A. in Women’s Studies and a B.A. in Sociology (University of Massachusetts Boston, 2013). Stephanie’s focus is on the intersection of gender, body, and sexuality (especially when complicated by race, religion and class), and accesses to their socially constructed identities. Her undergraduate Women’s Studies Honors Thesis examined management of gender identity by transsexuals from within an arrested gender transition.

Jax Gonzalez Jax Gonzalez graduated from Arizona State University in 2014 with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Sociology and Women’s and Gender studies. Her undergraduate thesis focused on elementary health education, and how neo-liberal politics have affected educator’s ability to teach the subject successfully.  Her graduate research will explore how menstruation effects queer lives, and the role of alternative menstrual products and menstrual “outing” within them.  Together with Stephanie Robinson-Cestaro, she founded the Menstrual Activist Research Collective (M.A.R.C) and had developed a series of workshops and literature on menstrual activism for faculty, students and activists. Check out their work (and get involved) at menarchists.wordpress.com.