Thanks to some great high school teachers who helped her learn about feminism, and her leadership of her school’s Feminist Club, Emily Lauletta ’22 became fascinated with gender and women’s studies (GWS). When she discovered she could actually pursue an undergraduate major in the discipline, she was both overjoyed and pleasantly surprised.
“I was talking to a teacher about my interests and passions and she asked me, ‘What about women’s studies?’, and I said, ‘You can do that?’ That’s how I found out that field was actually a thing. A big reason why Hollins became the only place I wanted to go for college was because it has such a great GWS department. The personalized attention is really special.”
While Lauletta, who hails from the Cleveland, Ohio, area, was certain GWS was what she wanted to study, what she wanted to do with that major is something that has evolved over the course of her Hollins career. “When I came to Hollins I was thinking I’d work in the nonprofit sector,” she said, but Professor of Anthropology and Gender and Women’s Studies LeeRay Costa introduced her to other possibilities. “When I started taking classes in the GWS department,” Lauletta said, “Dr. Costa got me thinking about research and even graduate school. I took her course “Spiritual Activism” and started a research project. She was helpful and encouraging, and my confidence as a researcher grew. I ended up falling in love with gender studies research and now I’m definitely going down that path.”
Ultimately, Lauletta would transform the research project she began in her “Spiritual Activism” class into her senior honors thesis. “I was raised Catholic and when I was confirmed I spent multiple days in a convent,” she recalled. “As I began talking to the nuns, I realized how much they were committed to helping one another and helping their community.” Subsequently, she learned about “Nuns on the Bus,” an advocacy group that tours the country working for justice. “It was very eye-opening for me, and I thought it would be cool to investigate how these women, or at least this specific group of nuns, aligned themselves with spiritual activist values. I liked it and I’m still studying it.”
Lauletta earned the opportunity to showcase her research at some prestigious academic conferences. She was invited to present “‘Radical Feminist Nuns’: Spiritual Activism, Catholicism, and the Power of (Sister)hood” at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association spring 2021 conference, and at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in October 2021. “My first year at Hollins, I went to the national conference in Atlanta with Dr. Costa and several other students, and I got to see all this interesting research. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I would really love to present here one day.’ It was so great that I got to do that during my undergraduate career. It was not something I thought would be possible.”
During January Short Term of her sophomore year, Lauletta interned with the League of Women Voters and has been involved on and off with them ever since. “I worked with them on a two-year study on arming school personnel, and it made me realize I’m interested in a lot of different topics and in working on a team to conduct research projects. It was rewarding to do this particular study with the League and a lot of people who are older than me or just had different experiences or backgrounds. I saw how much research benefits from bringing different perspectives to a project.”
Complementing Lauletta’s GWS major is her minor in social justice. “It’s expanded the horizons of my GWS studies,” she noted. For her social justice capstone, she wrote an assignment that she thought was particularly strong and, working with Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette, converted it into an article for publication. Last fall, her piece “Reimagining the Women’s College: A Critical Analysis of Historically Women’s College Transgender Admission Policies” appeared in sprinkle: an undergraduate journal of feminist and queer studies. “It was really helpful to have something published on my resume, and I think that definitely helped me stand apart from other candidates when I applied to grad school.”
Lauletta was in fact accepted at four graduate schools and this fall will be attending Claremont Graduate University in California, where she will pursue an M.A. in applied gender studies. “The program focuses on taking what you learn in the classroom in regard to feminist theory and applying it to the real world,” she explained. “Instead of a thesis I will do an internship, which I’m excited about. As much as I love research, I think it’s going to be good for me to get out from behind a desk and do some real-world applications.”
After completed her master’s program, Lauletta hopes to get her Ph.D. and looks forward to eventually working at a research institute. Between her master’s and Ph.D., she added that she would like to explore birth work or earn certification as a doula, aspirations inspired by the course “Reproductive Justice” she took with Assistant Professor of Sociology Jennifer Turner.
“I’m very thankful for the Hollins faculty and I cannot say enough nice things about the GWS department,” she said. “I’m the first person in my family to go to graduate school and I do not think that would have been possible without Dr. Costa’s encouragement in particular.”