Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski's life objective was to be self-sufficient and intellectually challenged. They firmly believed that people should be Independent, ambitious, and, most importantly, accountable.

Russell worked as a researcher, professor, and businessman. Dorothy was a talented artist and arts patron, and they both believed that education was the key to achieving independence, which they have passed on to others through the Bilinski Educational Foundation.

The Bilinski Educational Foundation has given the sixth contribution of $264,000 to The University of New Mexico to continue to recognize outstanding doctoral students in the humanities. The Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Fellowships have helped more than 50 UNM doctorate students accomplish their dissertations and degrees since 2015.

Eight dissertations are now being written by the 2021-2022 UNM Bilinski Fellows announced recently. The dissertations stand out for their impact on scholarship and community.

The following are the dissertations currently being written by the 2021-2022 UNM Bilinski Fellows:

In her dissertation, Andrea Borunda, English, curates space for mestizaje and the borderlands in the tragicomic plays of William Shakespeare, her scholarly work on racial fluidity, (trans)global identities, and ecocriticism informed by her social advocacy of BlPOC communities.

Rachel Cassidy, History, specializes in Indigenous history and methodologies, urban Native history, memory studies, and oral history, and her dissertation explores the social history of Native residents, Indigenous diplomats, and local tribal nations in Washington D.C. She hopes to make this research accessible by creating an interactive website that shares stories and primary sources with public audiences.

In his dissertation, Mark Cisneros, Spanish and Portuguese, focuses on the use of discourse markers in the academic writing of SSL and SHL learners in advanced, mixed writing courses. His research aims to determine whether SSL and SHL learners benefit from the same or different teaching methods with respect to the acquisition and production of DMs, with the goal of developing and advancing students’ writing skills.

Elspeth Iralu, American Studies, an Indigenous scholar working at the intersection of Indigenous studies, geography, and cultural studies, examines the aerial perspective as a technology of colonial territoriality. In her dissertation, she considers the volume of Indigenous territories above, below, and on the surface of the earth to better understand the volumetric sovereignty of Indigenous nations and challenge new modes of colonial spatial surveillance and control.

Pavlina Kalm, Linguistics, investigates the semantics of verbs that describe various types of social interactions. Her semantic analysis is anchored in the notion of causation and our intuitive understanding of reality through the lens of causal interactions, i.e., who acts on whom. Her dissertation aims to contribute to our understanding of what aspects of verb meaning are grammatically relevant and shed light on the underlying motivations that lead humans to construct language in systematic and predictable ways.

In her dissertation, Mariah Partida, Philosophy, develops a novel conception of vulnerability, one that designates not merely susceptibility to harm, but also openness to unanticipated change and transformation. Conceived in this way, a vulnerability in and of itself is neither good nor bad but fundamentally ambiguous. Drawing on the work of Martin Heidegger, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, Erinn Gilson, and Gilles Deleuze, she argues that vulnerability is not a static property borne by only some individuals, but rather a relational process that is fundamental to the human condition.

Sarah Fairbanks-Ukropen, History, focuses on women and power dynamics in Medieval and Early Modern history, with special attention on the creation of hierarchies that still affect modern society. Her dissertation argues that canonical law, secular legal systems, and popular literature from the Medieval period created power structures that encouraged violence against women in marriage.

In her dissertation, Vicki VanBrocklin, English, creates a ground-breaking category of 19th Century women that includes those who would not or could not access the white middle-class form of womanhood known as True Womanhood, which depended on coloniality and patriarchy to define itself. This new category, Lost Womanhood, reveals that 19th Century women sought and created alternate forms of womanhood and acknowledges the successes of rebellious women. This new category normalizes their so-called unruly behavior when gender and literary studies have framed them as outliers rather than effective changemakers.

The University of New Mexico invites advanced doctoral students in the UNM graduate programs of American Studies, English, Foreign Languages & Literature, History, Linguistics, Philosophy, and Spanish & Portuguese to apply for a Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Fellowship. These newly established fellowships in the College of Arts & Sciences provide valuable financial support for top, meritorious doctoral students with demonstrated financial need who are conducting research for, and/or completing, their doctoral dissertations.

Bilinski Fellowships include a $33,000 stipend for each award period, which is for a year and two months (May 15 to July 15), and a stipend for health insurance. Applicants must be full‐time doctoral students in one of the above programs, having completed all qualifying departmental examinations and course requirements at UNM and advanced to candidacy. Fellowship recipients must commit to defending their dissertations within the term of the award. Fellowship funds will not be awarded if the dissertation has already been substantially completed.

To be awarded a Bilinski Fellowship, and to remain a Bilinski Fellow, and to be eligible to receive fellowship funds, each recipient must meet and agree to ALL of the following:

●      Be a full‐time doctoral student in one of the humanities graduate programs, who has passed all qualifying examinations and course requirements at UNM and advanced to candidacy

●      Maintain good academic standing at all times

●      Have demonstrated exceptional ability and potential in his or her field of study

●      Be a student who needs financial support to complete his or her degree

●      For each semester (including summer periods) in which Fellowship funds are provided, must devote full‐time effort toward dissertation completion

●      Abide by the University of New Mexico Academic Code of Conduct

●      Must be a United States citizen or a Permanent Resident eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship

For additional information, email