Helen Rottier – Alumni Spotlight, Class of 2018

Helen Rottier (she/her) is the Program Coordinator for the Disability Cultural Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After graduating from UW-Madison with a BS in Psychology and Certificate in GWS in 2018, Helen began her graduate program in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago. She earned her MS in Disability and Human Development in 2020 and will defend her dissertation and earn her PhD in Disability Studies with an Interdisciplinary Graduate Concentration in GWS in Fall 2024.

How does GWS matter in the day-to-day of your professional life?

Gender and Women’s Studies methods and theories are central to my scholarship and praxis, including the work I do in the Disability Cultural Center. I use intersectional feminism and disability justice to guide my efforts in elevating disability culture on campus and fighting for collective liberation. Using the lenses I gained in my GWS studies, the world comes into focus.

Do you have advice for students who share their interests and may want to pursue a similar graduate degree and/or career?

My advice for students interested in disability studies and GWS is to read, watch, and listen to books, videos, podcasts, and articles by disabled people. We are living in a moment of beautiful, burgeoning disability culture! The Doing Disability Studies shared resource guide from the UW-Madison DCC is a good place to start!

What do you remember fondly from the Department of Gender & Women’s Studies? Favorite class? Instructor?

Dr. Ellen Samuels introduced me to disability studies in my GWS 101 class when I was a freshman, and I am eternally grateful and indebted to her. She modeled disability culture and an ethics of care – for herself, for her students, and for the course content – that has stayed with me ever since. I still think of her fondly when I wear sunglasses indoors to deal with light sensitivity and migraine.

What, if anything, do wish you could tell your undergraduate self?

I would tell my undergraduate self that there is so much life ahead – life that I deserve to live and enjoy. I would also tell myself that it is okay to be disabled and to identify with disability – there is no scarcity of disability identity!