Following the recent arrival of several new professors to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, a new fellowship will allow the program to bring in a student from another university every other year to conduct research at Yale.
Emma Heaney, a doctoral student in comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine, is the first recipient of the new Sarah Pettit Graduate Fellowship. Pettit ’88, a senior editor at Newsweek and founder of Out Magazine, died in 2003. The winner of the fellowship — for which applications were due in April — receives $20,000 for the one-year fellowship in New Haven.
Rachel Pepper, a coordinator for women’s and gender studies at Yale, said the fellowship will honor the legacy of Pettit, who died of complications from lymphoma.
“The Sarah Pettit Fellowship was created by an act of love,” she said. “It’s all donations from friends and family.”
Pepper said Heaney, who was chosen from a competitive pool of applicants, has so far made the most of the opportunities given to her at the University. Heaney’s research at Yale will focus on women and literature, in particular the connection between female sexuality and continental Fascism.
“I think Emma’s a fantastic choice,” Pepper said. “She’s been making full use of Yale’s resources that are offered to her. Everyone is quite pleased with her.”
But Larry Kramer ’57, gay rights activist and namesake of the now-defunct Larry Kramer Initiative for lesbian and gay studies, said he thinks the fellowship should have a different focus.
“I personally wish it were more oriented to history,” he said. “We have too much gender studies and not enough gay history.”
Kramer said he also found the limitations of the fellowship — that the recipient must be a graduate student and attend a university other than Yale — to be unnecessary and peculiar.
Professors said the fellowship will help the University expand the research opportunities available in gay and lesbian studies. The program has already seen growth over the past year. This semester, George Chauncey, an eminent scholar of gay history, arrived at Yale, and Trumpler was named the first special adviser to the administration on LGBTQ issues.
Margaret Homans, the director of undergraduate studies for the women’s and gender studies major, said the fellowship will enable the broadening of discussion concerning gender issues at Yale.
“Those who hold the fellowship will bring to various Yale venues their advanced knowledge about gender and sexuality,” Homans said. “This cannot help but enhance the quality of the discussion in classes, at lectures and when faculty meet to plan curricula.”
Maria Trumpler, a women’s and gender studies professor who will become the program’s DUS next semester, said the fellowship will help remedy the University’s lack of a graduate program in this field.
“Because there is not currently a graduate program in gender or sexuality studies at Yale, we are trying to make sure we have that crucial component by offering a graduate certificate to Yale grad students in other departments and creating an intellectual community for them,” Trumpler said.
There will be a celebration today in New York City for Pettit’s family and friends to meet Heaney and to discuss the fellowship.