Skip to main content

2018 Student Awards

2018 CLA Distinguished Dissertation Award 

Winners of the CLA Distinguished Award are chosen from nominations submitted by each department and school in the College of Liberal Arts and reviewed by faculty across the College. The CLA Doctoral Dissertation Awards recognize outstanding scholarship, impact, and innovation. Each award is for $500 and includes an engraved plaque.

Boris Yelin was born in Uzbekistan, lived in Florida and Kentucky, and has also studied, worked, and lived in different countries. During his undergraduate studies at the University of Louisville, he earned a BA with a double major in Political Science and Spanish and a minor in Latin American Studies. He continued to receive an MA and PhD from Purdue in Spanish Linguistics. Due to his childhood as a bilingual speaker of Russian and English and his later studies of various languages and cultures, it is no surprise that he chose to study multilingualism, more specifically Lexical access and cross-linguistic influence in trilingual language switching. His dissertation examined the effect of the relative strengths of a language in a person's mind on the efficiency of word selection when switching between those languages in a string of speech. It also looked at the interaction between the relative strength of the languages and the types of errors in word choice that occurred. This study contributed a novel method of experimentation allowing for various language profiles instead of a all participants speaking the same three languages. Thus, it was possible to generalize the results for any triilingual. Also, the methods of analysis revealed that there is a big difference in whether one considers the language switches as predictable of not predictable by the speaker. Knowing how languages work in the mind, especially in a increasingly globalized, multicultural, multilingual world, is vital. His future work includes analyzing the effect of psychotypology (speakers' attitudes with respect to perceived linguistic similarity) on language switching with the same population. He is currently beginning a position as an Assistant Teaching Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northeastern University in Boston.

Summer Forester received her Ph.D. in Political Science in December 2017. She is a former Fulbright fellow to Jordan and is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Purdue Policy Research Institute. Her dissertation, “Security Threats and The Policy Agenda: Understanding Variation in Women’s Rights in the Middle East,” examines how domestic and international security issues shape policies on violence against women, legislative quotas, and family law in countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Using both large-scale statistical analyses and primary data collected during 18 months of fieldwork in Jordan, her work shows how debates about women’s rights are informed by the security context in which policymakers and activists work. She contends that security threats affect the policy agenda, raising the profile of women’s rights that bolster state’s defense interests. She also shows that security threats constrain the depth and breadth of civil society and affect whether governmental elites will accept feminist policy initiatives. These theoretical and empirical analyses provide a deeper understanding of the politics of women’s rights in the Middle East and can potentially contribute to more effective activist and policy campaigns to advance the status of women in the region and beyond.

2018 CLA Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award

CLA Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award winners are chosen among nominations from each department and interdisciplinary graduate program in the College of Liberal Arts. Each award is for $250 and includes an engraved plaque.

In recognition of the growing diversity of scholarly and creative outputs at the Master’s level within the College of Liberal Arts, the CLA Distinguished Master’s Thesis Awards were expanded in 2018 to include 3 categories of Master’s Projects Awards: Master’s Thesis, Master’s Non-Thesis Project and Master’s Creative Work. The CLA Master’s Project Awards recognize high quality scholarship and/or creative work, contribution to the field and innovative components. Masters Project Award winners are chosen among nominations from each department and interdisciplinary graduate program that were reviewed by faculty across the College. Each award is for $250 and includes an engraved plaque.

Distinguished Master's Creative Work Award 

T.L Baker is originally from Southern California. She earned Bachelor's in English and Philosophy from Central Washington University, and her Master's in Philosophy from Duquesne University in 2015. She makes her debut on the literary scene with her Master of Fine Arts thesis novel, entitled Iron Ribbon, which rides the seam between coming-of-age story and dystopian fairytale. The narrative follows a fallen noblewoman living in a society where the wealthy upper class have retreated to a fabricated Victorian pastime, while the rest of the world struggles to cope with the long term effects of a disastrous war and the rise of a religious oligarchy. The novel works a dark magic on the reader - championing women who hunger for everything, complicating villainous men, and seducing the reader at every turn with a stripped down prose that is raw and lyrical. Iron Ribbon reads like a whip, quick and cutting. T.L has been published in BOMB Magazine, lectured for three years in English at Purdue, and is currently thriving in rich Pacific Northwestern soil and continuing to write.

Distinguished Master's Non-Thesis Award 

Melissa G. Torquato earned her AB in Anthropology and Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology at Bryn Mawr College in 2015 and her MS in Anthropology at Purdue University in 2018. Her Master’s project, titled “Why do we farm?: A comparative assessment of the foraging-farming transition”, examined the effects of climate change on food security and riskmanagement strategies during the prehistoric transition from foraging to farming in the North American Midwest. Additionally, Melissa oversees research conducted in the Laboratory for Computational-Anthropology and Anthroinformatics (LCA). Melissa is continuing her research as a PhD student in the department of anthropology at Purdue University advised by Dr. Erik Otárola-Castillo. For her dissertation, Melissa will continue to ask why humans farm and measure the biological effects of climate change on prehistoric small-scale societies. This research aims to discover food risk-management lessons from the past and disseminate them as successful coping mechanisms to decreased food security and other negative effects of global climate change on today’s food-producers.

Distinguished Master's Thesis Award 

Victoria E. Ruiz is originally from Laredo, TX. She earned her Bachelor’s in English, a professional writing certificate, and minors in business administration and Spanish. During her time at Purdue, Victoria has continued to meld her interests attempting to find ways to integrate theory and application. Her Master’s Thesis titled “Managing Multiplicitous Identities: A Study of Rhetoric, Affect, Autonomy, and Entrepreneurship” sought to bridge the gaps between industry and the academy by highlighting case studies from 1880 to the present. By tracing the work of Dale Carnegie, Brenda Laurel, Andi Zeisler and Roxane Gay, her thesis considered how people negotiate the space between industry and academia. Victoria argued that this negotiation encapsulates finding new paths, struggles, and even new ways of being as people draw performative-linguistic skills from each of their communities; she believes that entrepreneurial identity thusly capitalizes on the power of rhetoric and the embrace of various disciplinary perspectives helps challenge the grand narratives that inform practice. Moving forward, Victoria is continuing her work as a Ph.D. student, Professional Writing Instructor, and Writing Lab Peer Tutor.