The artwork of Hans Baldung Grien, sexual violence against women, and an examination of the ramifications of historical constitutional patriarchy were the topics of the winning research papers in the 2021 Women’s Studies Program Writing Contest. For nearly two decades, this annual competition has awarded students for work that examines gender, sexuality, race, and other diversity-related topics.

The winners, Jillian Hagerty, a psychology major from Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Lauren Mencobello, a senior psychology major and a law and jurisprudence minor from Lewiston, N.Y.; and Ellen Rajnisz, a junior political science and environmental studies double major from Clarence Center, N.Y., will make brief presentations about their work during an online awards ceremony on Wednesday, March 10, from 6-7:15 p.m.

Hagerty won in the first-year student category for her paper “The Artwork of Hans Baldung Grien: Symbolism and 16th-Century Misogynistic Beliefs,” which was written for her 14th-19th Century Art class.

“This was actually Jillian's first art history course, and I was impressed with the amount of analysis and thought that went into her topic,” said professor Marian Granfield. “She included a good balance of academic sources as well as her own assessment of artworks informed by her scholarship. It's such a treat to read a well-written and organized paper, let alone from a first-year student. I hope that Jillian continues her interest in women's studies and art history.”

Mencobello’s paper, “The New Normal: Sexual Violence against Women,” earned her the award in the upper-class student category. She did the research as part of a Women and the Law class. 

“Lauren's paper offers a trenchant critique of systemic failures to address the crisis of sexual violence in the United States, including on college campuses,” said professor Kevin Hinkley. “And yet, her paper also sounds a hopeful note, introducing the stories of survivors of sexual violence who have become advocates for change, giving hope to those who feel like they’re barely holding on anymore. Lauren's powerful and moving work is a model of undergraduate scholarship in the field of women's studies.”

Rajnisz received the award for runner-up in the upper-class student category for her paper “Power Imbalance: Examining Ramifications of Historical Constitutional Patriarchy,” which was also written for the Women and the Law course.

“Ellen's paper traces the evolution of women's rights under the U.S. Constitution, combining incisive analysis of landmark Supreme Court decisions from the 1960s and 1970s, with insights into current litigation in the area of reproductive rights,” said Hinkley. “Ellen's work demonstrates her extraordinary knowledge of constitutional law and her understanding of the intricacies of feminist legal theory.”

For more information about how to attend the awards ceremony, hosted by the Niagara University Women’s Studies Program, please email Dr. Shannon Risk at To learn more about the Niagara University Women’s Studies Program, please visit our website: