Dr. Cavener is a social justice advocate whose passion is racial and gender justice. For over a decade, she has been organizing around the world. From the Congo to Chile, she has partnered with communities to form coalitions and mobilize toward equity. She strategized empowerment with orphans in the Congo and Rwanda, volunteered with a Youth Planned Parenthood in Zambia, and collaborated with Chilean women to educate their communities about gender justice. In North Texas, Dr. Cavener conducted listening sessions with over 300 religious congregations to foster collaboration for justice work. She was a community organizer for PICO, an organization that pushes for legislation to support racial and economic equality. She led youth and young adult civil rights bus tours on an annual basis for five years. For nine years, Dr. Cavener worked with African refugee students to establish mentoring, tutoring, and social-emotional wellbeing. She taught self-defense to Latina and Black girls in Tarrant County schools. She has been invited to give multiple talks about racial and gender justice to nonprofits, schools, and churches. Dr. Cavener also served as a Diversity and Inclusion consultant at Girls Inc. of Tarrant County. These experiences instilled a passion to take an intersectional approach to disrupting systems of oppression. Her research agenda and teaching are rooted in this advocacy work.
Learning & Teaching
- Issues in Feminism: Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies
- White Feminism to ‘Karen’ Memes: Unpacking the Gendered Construction of Whiteness
- W101: First-Year Writing Workshop
- Texts, Trends and Issues in WGS: Critical Race Feminism
- Gender and Social Change: Introduction to Multicultural Women’s and Gender Studies
- Womanist Spiritual Activism: Social Justice Theories for Wellness and Holistic Transformation
- Women and Western Religions: Social Justice Perspectives on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Her dissertation, "Escaping Culpability: An Intersectional Feminist Analysis of Gendered Whiteness," examined various manifestations of white women's enactments of whiteness. Dr. Cavener conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 participants living in Texas ranging from 20 to 70 years old, revealing how their internalized beliefs and biases affect a range of behaviors from their interactions with BIPOC to their voting patterns. Her findings suggest several possibilities for future research that include exploring various iterations of gendered whiteness.
White women as white supremacist political actors: From the suffragists to the Karens. In J. Gray & L. Francis (Eds.), Feminists Talk Whiteness. Taylor & Francis. (Under review)
Shapeshifting of African refugee girls: A call for transformation. Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 16(2). (under review)
(2022). United by white supremacy: Women’s contributions to a ‘whites only’ citizenship across the generations. Journal of American Studies in Italy, 6, 79-103.
(2022). Confronting the whiteness in Black girls’ criminalization. The Activist History Review.
- Lucille J. Jarisch Scholarship Award, Texas Woman’s University, 2021-2022
- Graduate Student Research Grant, Texas Woman’s University, 2021.
- General Commission on Religion and Race Grant, 2013-2018.
- Dean’s Honor Scholarship, Southern Methodist University, 2009-2011