chat loading...
Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Wyndham Robertson Library Undergraduate Research Awards: 2021 Award Winners and Finalists

First Year/Sophomore

 First Year/Sophomore Winner
Interpretresses: Native American Women Translators in Colonial America

by Faith Clarkson

Recommended by Assistant Professor Chris Florio

What about this topic made you want to find out more?

I became interested in the topic of Native American translators when, over the course of the semester, we talked at length about the encounters between colonial settlers and the Native American tribes that already lived there. While many of these encounters were violent, a lot of them also consisted of tense conversations surrounding land rights. It made me wonder how they were able to communicate with one another about such complex topics given the language barrier. I became even more interested in the topic when I learned that it was often Native American women who worked as translators.

What are you most proud of when it comes to this project?

I’m most proud of the way I was able to use the relatively small amount of primary source material available about my subject to shed light on a group of people largely overlooked in historical research. The research portion of this paper was definitely the most difficult, but I think all of the time and effort I put into it really paid off.

Having completed a project like this, if you could advise other students working on a research project, what would you tell them?

My advice to other students is to choose a topic that you have a genuine interest in and you believe you could contribute to the conversation about. I spent a lot of time on the research for this project, and my excitement about the material helped me through the most difficult aspects of the research. I think if you have a real passion for what you are researching, that passion will show through in the final project.  

Judges' Comments:

"By filling historical gaps and giving a voice to the people pushed to the margins, this essay brings into the spotlight three exceptional Native American women translators. The author of the essay took on a challenging topic and produced successfully a well-written and well-articulated text supported by in depth research. Bravo! "

"This author manages to combine solid research with a lively writing style that constantly engages and orients the reader. The topic sentences and transitions are especially impressive, giving the work a cohesion that one does not often see in such a young writer. "

First Year/Sophomore Finalist

 First Year/Sophomore Finalist
The Impact of Patriarchy on Stud Lesbians

by Meilin Miller

Recommended by Professor LeeRay Costa.

What about this topic made you want to find out more?

I was tasked with writing a paper on bell hooks’ book, We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity.  A large part of my decision to select this book in particular was because I’m incredibly interested in gender theory and the way in which masculinity has been constructed in this society. The intersection of how race and gender interact in a society that has been marred by white supremacy  is also incredibly relevant to me. Then, I took it a step further by seeking out a connection to an identity that is personal: lesbianism. This isn’t a 1:1 ratio to my current situation and identity and I didn’t want it to be. Simply, by inviting new perspectives into my proverbial sphere and listening to other marginalized voices, I hoped to develop a more nuanced sense of the community around me and the ways in which myself and my peers continue to be deeply impacted by the effects of white supremacy. Perhaps it is not so wise to become personally involved in formal compositions but that is the way in which things worked out. 

What are you most proud of when it comes to this project?

While I’m not entirely satisfied with the end result, I see improvements in diction and coherence and an overall maturation to how I approach topics critically. 

Having completed a project like this, if you could advise other students working on a research project, what would you tell them?

Utilize all types of evidence and research. Doing a statistically focused project? See if there is anecdotal research that would make your point stronger, and vice versa. The content of the paper doesn’t have to come from databases alone. When researching, don’t be afraid to explore different mediums like video documentaries, webseries, or even social media posts.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your work?

Not particularly, I’ve said my piece.

Judges' Comments:

"This paper takes an assignment to write about bell hooks a step further – applying one of hooks’ theories to the study of Black stud lesbians. It’s a smart paper for anyone to write, and is made even more impressive because it was written for the student’s first year seminar!"

"I have seen a wealth of papers on this topic before, but this author manages to take the same bowling pins and juggle them in a new way. The author’s insights made me recontextualize what I thought I knew about bell hooks’s work and identity."

Junior/Senior

 Junior/Senior Winner
The Creature in The Looking Glass: Miltonic Marriage and The Female Self in Breaking Dawn

by Jay Wright

Recommended by Professor Julie Pfeiffer

What are you most proud of when it comes to this project?

I’m most proud of the number of texts I juggled in this project! Keeping track of a four-book series, two classic novels, and an epic poem—as well as the various scholarly sources I consulted—proved both challenging and incredibly rewarding.  

What about this topic made you want to find out more?

Twilight occupies the bizarre position of being both widely adored and widely derided. While there are valid criticisms of the series, the public seemed less troubled by, say, the saga's queasy racial politics, and more incensed that teenage girls were enjoying a fantasy of being loved and desired. And while it's easy to poke fun at sparkling vampires and khaki skirts, there’s no denying the profound impact that Twilight has had on popular media, fan culture, and feminist thought. Because of this, refusing to take Twilight seriously is a mistake. With my project, I hoped not only to treat Twilight with the serious critical thought it deserves but also to push back against the idea that “chick lit” lacks depth and intertextual richness. 

Having completed a project like this, if you could advise other students working on a research project, what would you tell them?

The best advice I can give is to allow the research to guide your thesis. The fewer pre-conceived ideas you have about what your findings will be, the easier it will be to craft your argument. And stay organized

Judges' Comments:

"In analyzing at great length Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer, the author of this essay produces a masterful and brilliant piece of scholarship thanks to a clear and polished writing style, an innovative these, and meticulous research. A surprising, enlightening, and delightful read!"

"I hate Twilight. There, I said it! But this essay forced me kicking and screaming to see it through a new lens. The author’s insights actually enriched my understanding of classics such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre—a delightful and tasty sundae of analysis with a Milton’s Paradise Lost-cherry-on-top "

Junior/Senior Finalist

What about this topic made you want to find out more?

Fiction plays an important role in my life. I have written six young adult novels and am active in the online book community as a volunteer for YA Pride—an organization dedicated to promoting and uplifting LGBTQIAP+ YA literature. After taking Dr. Tiffany Pempek’s children and media course, I became very interested in media psychology, as it merges my interest in fictional media with my interest in psychology. Given that I am particularly invested in fictional media portraying underrepresented and socially marginalized groups, I am curious about the ways in which feelings of ostracism relate to interactions with media. The study of parasocial relationships and chronic ostracism is relatively new and minimally researched, but it is an important topic deserving of more study. 

What are you most proud of when it comes to this project?

I am most proud of the depth of research I was able to complete in a single semester. Given that my topic has not been widely studied, I had to make many inferences from my literature review instead of relying on past results specific to parasocial relationships and ostracism to formulate my hypotheses. Further, I obtained a much larger sample size than I had expected by advertising my study online. Finally, with the assistance of Dr. Bonnie Bowers, I was able to work through statistical roadblocks concerning distribution skew and non-normality to analyze the results of my study.   

Having completed a project like this, if you could advise other students working on a research project, what would you tell them?

I would advise other students working on a research project to utilize all of the resources at their disposal. The professor overseeing your research may not be a subject-matter expert in your topic of study, but they are an expert in the field you are conducting research within. They know the ins and outs of the research process, and are an invaluable source of knowledge, aid, and support. Fellow student researchers are also a wonderful resource. Having a group of peer researchers provides a sounding-board for research directions, analysis of findings, and clarity of your writing. Finally, the library is a vital resource for student researchers. University librarians are enthusiastic about helping students discover information for their research, and the many databases provided by the library are integral to completing your research.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your work?

Carrying out this study helped me determine that if I pursue a graduate degree in psychology, I will focus my research on media psychology.  

Judges' Comments:

"Skillfully investigating the relationship between several complex subjects, the author offers a clear and thorough explanation of how their study's findings relate to the literature. The research, writing and use of the literature are all impressive: bravo!"

"I kind of thought before reading this essay that people who felt ostracized could receive comfort by identifying with fictional characters. Isn’t that why so many of our heroes are orphans, outcasts, and kids confined to living under a staircase. (I’m looking at you Harry Potter.) The findings, therefore, of this thorough and engaging dance through the data surprised me.  I hope that this author continues in this rich vein of inquiry beyond this project. "

Junior/Senior Finalist

 Junior/Senior Finalist
John Andrew Jackson: Enslaved Resistance, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the Downfall of American Chattel Slavery

by Alexander Ernst

Recommended by Assistant Professor Chris Florio

What about this topic made you want to find out more?

I was initially drawn to this topic because John Andrew Jackson was once owned by my ancestors. He wrote a book about his experiences as a slave. While researching family history, my mother came across his book, and when I talked about the history of slavery class I was taking she sent me a link to an online copy. At first I was simply curious about my own family history, but as I read his book, I became more and more interested in Jackson. He was a compelling author and lived a fascinating life, and his book made me want to learn more about who he was.

What are you most proud of when it comes to this project?

When I talked with my parents about this paper, my mom said she wanted to read it when I was done. I was pretty nervous because my mom used to study history and knows her way around a paper. And, her opinion means a lot to me. As it turned out, she really liked it, and thought I made strong arguments! Making her proud is definitely what I’m proudest of.

Having completed a project like this, if you could advise other students working on a research project, what would you tell them?

The hardest project to complete is one you don’t care about. It’s much easier to do research when you’re invested in the subject you’re researching and actively want to know the answers to questions you’re asking yourself.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your work?

I wouldn’t have been able to write this paper without professor Florio’s help. If you have the chance, take one of his classes. 

Judges' Comments:

"This author’s work impressed me with its meticulous approach to Stowe’s classic, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It managed to find a connection that has the potential to offer up new paths of academic inquiry—not an easy task for a work that turns 170 years old this year! "

"This microhistory so beautifully intertwines narrative and historical analysis that you might forget you’re reading a scholarly essay.”