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Congratulations to the Libraries’ Undergraduate Research Award winners for 2016

Thomas Cooper Library


Three students have won University Libraries’ Undergraduate Research Awards for 2015-16. The winning projects were varied and unique: a serious inquiry into Better American Speech Week, an in-depth study of 20th-century composer Igor Stravinsky’s style, and an examination of U.S. Supreme Court remands.

Research conducted by senior Spenser Gilchrist, junior Ian Giocondo, and senior Christopher Santos was selected by a twelve-member review panel made up of Libraries faculty and teaching faculty from across campus. The awards were presented at a ceremony and reception on Tuesday, May 3, 2016 in the Hollings Library on the University of South Carolina campus.

The University Libraries Undergraduate Research Awards reward excellence in undergraduate use of library resources and services, and demonstrates the contribution of the Libraries to student learning. Students are asked to describe their research process as part of the application procedure, and faculty across campus are encouraged to create assignments that engage students in the use of library resources.


First place winner

First place and a $500 prize went to Spenser Gilchrist, a history and Spanish major who submitted her South Carolina Honors College Senior Thesis, “Better American Speech Week:  A Self-Destructive Attempt at Building American Identity Through Spoken Language During WWI and Its Aftermath.”

Photo: Beki Gettys, Associate Dean of the University Libraries, presents the award to Spenser Gilchrist.

“Through my research on Speech Week I learned how invaluable USC’s library resources are,” Gilchrist wrote in her application essay.

“Before committing to writing about Speech Week, I had to make certain I could find enough sources. First, I delved into secondary sources available through USC’s library catalog,” she wrote. Through secondary sources, Gilchrist discovered The English Journal as a primary source. Newspaper accounts and more secondary sources helped deepen her understanding of her topic. As she began writing, she did further research on the backgrounds of Speech Week leaders to explain their differences of opinion. With the exception of a clipping sent to her by a museum archivist in Chicago, Gilchrist conducted all of her research using USC’s library services.

“Thanks to the libraries’ online resources, I was able to study century-old documents with a few clicks of the mouse, and I undoubtedly improved my library science skills through researching Speech Week. Those skills will be invaluable in whichever profession I pursue,” she said.

In her letter recommending Gilchrist, history faculty member Dorothy Pratt commented, “Spenser’s topic, Speech Week, has never been the subject of serious inquiry since its heyday in the 1920s. With that in mind, Spencer has had to be extraordinarily diligent and hardworking, and she has produced an important paper that with a little more polish should be publishable.”


Second place winner

Second place and a $400 prize went to Ian Giocondo, a music major who submitted his Music 455 course paper, “A One-Man Revolution: Stravinsky’s Metamorphoses of Style.”

Photo: Ian Giocondo is congratulated by Associate Professor of Music Julie Hubbert and Head of the Music Library Ana Dubnjakovic.

“I consulted print resources in USC’s Music Library, as well as online resources made available to me by the University Library services,” Giocondo wrote in his essay. “The music library on campus houses a comparatively extensive collection of journal articles and books on Stravinsky: there are nearly forty books on his life and career, ranging from interviews with the composer himself to thorough studies of specific musical works. I used both his primary interviews in books and my own direct observations of his music to piece together much of my argument. I also used several peer-reviewed articles and books to contextualize my findings within the greater framework of his personal life and his formative cultural surroundings.”

Giocondo also used the Libraries’ catalog’s advanced search function to find printed music scores, and he retrieved journal articles from databases with access made possible by the University Libraries.

In her recommendation letter, music faculty member Julie Hubbert, wrote, “Ian wrote a detailed and well–organized ten-page paper that thoughtful considered three of Stravinsky’s pivotal works in detail. His paper reflected a thoughtful review of the literature on Stravinsky and three works he chose to analyze, a thoughtfulness perhaps most artfully presented in his bibliography. His citations, as a colleague of mine noted when I showed him the paper, was more sophisticated than most graduate students’ work. His paper, we both agreed, was really something closer to what a Ph.D. student in music history might write.”


Third place winner

Third place and a $300 prize went to Christopher Santos, a criminal justice major who submitted his Magellan project entitled, “The Impact of Ideology on U.S. Supreme Court Remands and Subsequent Responses by the U.S. Court of Appeals.”

Photo: Christopher Santos displays his award, right. A view of this year's Undergraduate Research Award, below.

“I am hard-pressed to think of another place in which I have spent more time the past three years than Thomas Cooper, but my research experiences from this past semester have only just brought to light the true value of the totality of resources offered by the library,” Santos wrote in his essay.

“One library resource that I had never used prior to this spring semester is the access to Lexis Nexis that is offered through the Libraries’ online resources. Specifically, the Shepardizing tool made available in Lexis Nexis made it possible for me to collect a Supreme Court decision sample of over 400 cases. Access to Lexis Nexis and the Shepardizing tool also allowed me to track every relevant Supreme Court case as it worked through the federal court system. Being able to track the progression of cases through the federal court system allowed me to develop and unique, one-of-a-kind interval-level measure capable of categorizing the considerations of U.S. Courts of Appeals decisions following remand by the Supreme Court. Without access to Lexis Nexis and the Shepardizing tool, the intended goals of my project would have undoubtedly been impossible to accomplish.

The library and its resources played a substantial role in maximizing the quality of my research and lending to my scholarly development,” he wrote. “In conclusion, I would not have been able to accomplish one-tenth of what I have this semester with the tools provided to me by the library.”

In his recommendation letter, political science faculty member Kirk Randazzo wrote, “Without the benefit of USC’s libraries, it is doubtful that Chris would have been able to produce such a high quality research paper. He relied extensively on these resources in three fundamental ways. First, he accessed the vast majority of articles used in his literature review through the libraries’ extensive electronic repository. Second, he examined several books in order to develop a suitable theoretical argument. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Chris relied heavily on, and spent hours using, the library’s LexisNexis Academic Universe access. Without this access, there is no possible way that he could have completed the research project."


For more information about the University Libraries’ Undergraduate Research Award, including past winners, visit