The University of Michigan Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011-2012 MLibrary Undergraduate Research Award. In this second year of the award, the committee received thirty-two applications drawn from a full range of disciplines: humanities, sciences, and social sciences. We selected those projects that best presented the fullest and most innovative use of library resources. Choosing winners was not easy, and the author of each project we read has cause for pride. The applications as a whole testify to the abundance of diligence, intelligence, and originality that exists in the work being done by the University of Michigan's undergraduates, to the richness of the library's resources, and to the commitment of the University's professors and librarians to undergraduate learning. The winning projects of this year's award are extraordinary achievements in themselves, but they are also representative of the vibrant intellectual life at the University of Michigan.
First Prize ($1,000): A. Brad Schwartz - The War of the Worlds Letters: Orson Welles, Fake News, and American Democracy in the Golden Age of Radio
Format: Honors Thesis
Second Prize ($500): Mita Nagarkar - A Life History Analysis of Invasive Behavior in Native and Naturalized Species: Rubus odoratus and Rubus allegheniensis
Format: Honors Thesis
Third Prize ($250): Katy Robinson – History of African-American Celebrity: The Fisk Jubilee Singers
Format: UROP Poster
Honorable Mention ($100 Each):
Format: Honors Thesis
Format: Research Paper
Format: Research Paper
The 2011-1012 awards are supported by donations from Dr. Robert Bartlett, Jillian and John Castrucci, and Dave and Julie Goodrich, with additional employment-related matching contributions.
Summaries of the Winners’ Work:
A.Brad Schwartz - The War of the Worlds Letters: Orson Welles, Fake News, and American Democracy in the Golden Age of Radio
A.Brad Schwartz’s history honors thesis, “The War of the Worlds Letters: Orson Welles, Fake News, and American Democracy in the Golden Age of Radio,” is thoroughly researched and a pleasure to read. This is an impressive thesis, both because it reflects original and wide-ranging research and because it is engagingly written and well argued.
In approaching his topic, he has thought comprehensively, drawing on extensive archival, print, and digital sources to fully contextualize Welles’s broadcast. He offers a persuasive argument that the War of the Worlds broadcast, and its accompanying myth of widespread panic, should be read within a broader historical and political context. As he points out, the narrative of panic has led scholars to overlook the more subtle debate engendered by the broadcast, a debate over censorship and the power of the media to influence its listeners. In his analysis, Brad weaves together an impressive range of sources, moving between a nuanced discussion of the historiography and an in-depth analysis of archival sources, such as the previously unused Richard Wilson-Orson Welles papers in MLibrary’s Special Collections. Even after uncovering a rich archive in the Wilson-Welles papers, Brad broadened his analysis by examining collections at Indiana’s Lilly Library, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and the National Archives. Overall, his thesis opens up a fresh critical understanding of the public response to the War of the Worlds broadcast in important and new ways.
Mita Nagarkar - A Life History Analysis of Invasive Behavior in Native and Naturalized Species: Rubus odoratus and Rubus allegheniensis
The MLibrary Undergraduate Library Research Award Committee is delighted to recognize Mita Nagarkar for her outstanding honors thesis in the Program in the Environment, “A Life History Analysis of Invasive Behavior in Native and Naturalized Species: Rubus odoratus and Rubus allegheniensis in the Nichols Arboretum, Ann Arbor, MI.” Through her investigation of the life history traits of two populations of Rubus plants (raspberry and blackberry species), Ms. Nagarkar conducted original research that shed light on the characteristics of locally invasive species in urban woodland habitats. Her project also led to larger questions regarding ecosystem management, biodiversity, and conservation efforts for disturbed habitats, particularly within the context of climate change.
The committee was struck by the rigor of Ms. Nagarkar’s research process, the level of introspection she shared in her personal essay, and the quality of writing in her thesis. She demonstrated an impressive amount of determination and follow-through in her use of a variety of subject and general article databases, such as ISI Web of Knowledge, JSTOR, and Google Scholar, and in her rich selection of books, government documents, and arboretum websites that were germane to her topic. Her enthusiasm for this project was palpable, and her discussion of research challenges was particularly compelling. When she hit an impasse with regards to her literature review, or confronted challenges in the dynamic environmental conditions of her testing site, she did not halt her inquiry, but instead thought of new and creative ways to address these issues and uncover material that might further enrich her research. In fact, she spent time in three separate libraries and archives in addition to MLibrary- the Nichols Arboretum, the Bentley Historical Library, and the University of Michigan Herbarium- to gain an even broader perspective on her topic. Additionally, she conducted interviews with a range of specialists who could share insight and expertise, including horticulturists, landscape architects, restoration ecologists, and historians.
Katy Robinson – History of African-American Celebrity: The Fisk Jubilee Singers
Katy Robinson’s project, “History of African-American Celebrity: The Fisk Jubilee Singers,” is an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) poster. The committee was impressed by her extensive use of primary sources related to the Fisk Jubilee Singers. In her research, Katy drew on an array of electronic collections and materials, as well as materials in the Clements Library. We were particularly struck by her thoughtful approach to the complexities of database searching. In addition, her poster is well designed in its presentation of images, primary texts, research objectives, methods, and results. She did a fabulous job of articulating the research questions driving her process, as well as the implications of her findings.
Anthony Chase - Divergent Political Dynamics of Islamic Banking in Britain & France
Anthony Chase’s Political Science honors thesis, “Divergent Political Dynamics of Islamic Banking in Britain & France,” was well researched and interesting to read. We found his research journey interesting and were impressed by how, after extensive work in one topic (including a 30 page literature review), he was willing to start over to pursue a topic he felt passionate about. In his well written thesis, he clearly laid out the differences in Islamic banking between the UK and France, explaining the reason for these differences from a variety of angles (political and social philosophy, financial regulations, government support, etc.) He used a wonderful array of resources from scholarly materials in finance and economics, books on Islamic finance and banking and political history to industry trade magazines, government documents, and popular media reports – impressively in three languages.
Jaquelin Elliott’s English 398 paper, “The Leviathan and The Cyborg: The Influence of Moby-Dick in Sci-Fi Horror Films,” was interesting and fun to read. We were impressed by her video montage of film clips to illustrate points about how Moby-Dick and several iconic science fiction horror films share similarities in language and imagery. She did a nice job of expanding on Stephen King’s work to add an additional card to the horror genre tarot card deck concept he outlined. As part of her research, she carefully watched several science fiction horror films and read the screenplays to look for common themes, in addition to reading books on the topic. Finally, we were delighted to hear from her professor that she “generously helped other students identify and find primary and secondary sources … serving [as] a kind of self-appointed student ambassador to the UM Library and its literary research more broadly.”
The MLibrary Undergraduate Library Research Award Committee is pleased to award an Honorable Mention to Bryan LaPointe for his semester-long project, “Why all this Haste?”: The Importance of the Moderates’ Perspective in the American Revolution.” This paper was not only a pleasure to read, but was impressive in its extensive use of primary source material to examine the activities, events, and philosophies associated with colonial moderates during the time of the American Revolution. LaPointe made good use of secondary sources to gather contextual clues and keywords for deep exploration of primary documents from the 18th century, and demonstrated a facility with primary research that challenges even the most sophisticated researcher. In fact, LaPointe went beyond the parameters of the assignment to use additional firsthand correspondence to support his argument, making use of the Library of Congress American Memory Project. He also showed a deft ability to leverage the work done by scholars in the secondary literature, in order to track down additional material in support of his paper, and the committee was impressed by the care and deliberation he employed in order to balance his own point of view with that of the secondary scholarship he consulted. LaPointe displayed an admirable plasticity in his research process, recognizing the meandering nature of scholarly inquiry and the need to remain flexible and open to discovery.