University Libraries Award for Undergraduate Research

2009 - 2010 Award Winners

To encourage and recognize a wider span of undergraduate research, this year two tracks were created. Freshmen and sophomores entered the black track while juniors and seniors were in the garnet track.


Laura Musselman  

Laura Musselman 

Top Prize 
Garnet Track
Dancing with the Devil

Musselman, an International Business and Marketing junior, submitted a paper she wrote for Dr. Catherine Keyser’s course Sex and the City: Jazz Age Literature and Gender Roles. In SCHC 452K, Dr. Keyser required students make use of archival materials in addition to literary analysis. The class visited Rare Books & Special Collections to be introduced to a range of resources giving them a taste of the era. Musselman had the germ of an idea for the project early on. In her personal essay she wrote, “I had decided I wanted to focus on a moral viewpoint that would now seem outdated or simply outrageous, since many of the strict moral creeds of the day were too restrictive even for the population of the 20’s to handle. I also wanted to focus on a type of expression of the people that was hindered by these moral beliefs, such as theater, dance, or art.” She chose social dancing and the full extent of her paper developed as she read more and more about the topic.

“Originally, after reading Harvey’s From the Ball Room…to Hell, I believed I would simply be finding information condemning social dances such as the Charleston or Black Bottom. However, as I delved deeper into my resources, I found that many pastors of the day were anti-dancing in general, instead of following Harvey’s stance against only dances that were not “ballroom dances.” There were too many differing reasons why the moralists of the day believed that dancing was the root of all evil, from its neurological control over people’s minds to its sexual nature. I decided instead to focus solely on the sexual nature of dancing, the environment where the dancing took place, and the racial nature of the dancing. This racial component was not added until later, when I found that many works of literature from the day frequently connected the negro race to savagery and primal sexuality and that many of the dances from that day were inspired by African Americans.”

In her personal essay, Musselman acknowledged her own learning about the research process: “I found the research process somewhat difficult because, prior to the project, I already had formed certain ideas of what I thought the paper should say and what the people of the day thought. Then, I would find contradictory information and be set back to page one. I quickly learned that I needed to enter and continue through the research process with an open mind, free of pre-conceived notions.”


Laura Musselman grabs a book

Lauren Koch

Top Prize 
Black Track
Artaud; a Hero to the Unexplored

Koch, a sophomore Theatre major, wrote a paper on a theorist for Dr. Amy Lehman’s class, History of Theatre II. It was the first time she had to use the library’s online resources. Koch didn’t have an idea for her project when her class met with a librarian, but discovered it later when she learned about Antonin Artaud in class. In her letter of support Dr. Lehman wrote Koch’s work shows:

an aptitude for psychological interpretation, an impressive ability to synthesize disparate sources and scholarship on an extremely complex issue. . . She has made very effective use of the library’s scholarly databases to locate key critical interpretations of his work from contemporary theatre scholars (as her research bibliography demonstrates) and she has also made use of Artaud’s own theoretical, autobiographical, and creative work as a basis for her argument regarding his influence on avant garde theatre.
In her personal essay, Koch spoke to the importance of forming her own opinions. “I decided to read Artaud’s essay The Theater and its Double first so that I might encounter his works without someone else’s opinions mixed in. I have found that the writings on Artaud differ greatly in their opinion of him and tend to be pretty strong.” Koch balanced the use of book and academic journal sources. She also commented on the importance of letting her reading inform the development of her research process. “. . . if I could change my process I would have kept my thesis open while exploring what resources were available to me. Keeping options open allows you to experience more sources and create the best thesis possible.””

University Libraries Award for Undergraduate Research

 

Columbia Departments Campus Libraries
Columbia Libraries and Collections