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2019 Student Awards

2019 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.

Jennifer Sdunzik received a BA and MA in American Studies as well as a BA in Spanish from the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin in Germany. She received a PhD in American Studies from Purdue University. Her dissertation, “Mapping Whiteness: Uncovering the Legacy of All-White Towns in Indiana,” addresses the construction of whites-only communities in Indiana to illustrate how the histories of people and migration pathways contribute to our contemporary understanding of race and place in the U.S. Midwest. It presents a counter-narrative to the Great Migration scholarship, which focuses on the points of departure, such as the traditional Jim Crow South, and the points of destination, the urban North. Jennifer examined how the influx of black Americans into historically “white spaces” during the Great Migration elicited violence from residents to keep their towns segregated.

Jennifer used a combination of archival, geospatial (GIS), and ethnographic research methods to understand the legacies of longstanding exclusionary attitudes and policies in a white-majority Indiana county. She also employed surveys and semi-structured interviews to assess opportunities and challenges of integrating newcomers with different ethnocultural backgrounds than the dominant white culture in the small-town Midwest. She argues that building racial and ethnic understanding, reconciliation, and collaboration in racially homogeneous small-town settings requires uncovering and contending with the obscured legacies of exclusionary policies and practices towards minority migrant settlement and integration. Jennifer's future work includes contextualizing the conjunctive rise of xenophobic nativism and extremist populism in response to multiethnic and multiracial immigration and integration. She employs “Contested Belonging” as a theoretical framework to explore polity debates concerning which residents can and cannot claim a locale as home. Jennifer is currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Evaluation Learning and Research Center at Purdue.

Heather Cann received her Ph.D. in Political Science in Spring 2019, and has previously earned a BES in Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. She is currently a visiting assistant professor with the Department of Earth and Environment at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her dissertation, “Beyond the Climate Science Wars: Elite Framing and Climate Change Policy Conflict” investigates how the climate crisis is talked about, or “framed”, politically. Conventional and scholarly wisdom has said that framing climate change in terms of scientific certainty (or uncertainty) was the best strategy for promoting (or opposing) climate change policies.

In her work, Heather asks how important such science frames remain today within climate change discourse, compared to other types of frames that highlight the winners and losers under different climate change policies. Using content analysis of two leading climate change advocacy groups as well as an in-depth case study of a climate policy process in Illinois, she finds that science frames are becoming less important as the climate debate shifts toward frames that stress economic and other benefits or threats from specific climate policies. Scholarly pursuits could focus less on finding the “right” types of frames, but rather, the frames that are the most appropriate for a specific audience, and a particular situation – and in doing so, move past engagement with the climate science “wars.”

2019 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 

I-Lun Huang is a Taiwanese digital artist/Photographer, born in 1993. She received her MFA in 2019 from Purdue University. I-Lun is most known for work focusing on the concepts of personal identity, contemporary feminism, and Asian culture. She addresses these concepts through the work of digital photography and processes, performance, and graphic design. Through her career as a photographer, she has received awards from International Photography Awards (USA), Le Prix de la Photographic Paris (Paris) and Shin Kong Mitsukoshi International Photography Contest (Taiwan).

Distinguished Master's Non-Thesis Award 

Alison Kirkham is originally from Birmingham, Alabama, where she earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Birmingham-Southern College. After working as a dog trainer (and later, researching the human-animal bond), Alison knew she wanted to dedicate her life to understanding the many ways in which humans and animals interact. Her Master's project, titled "'That's Disgusting': Perceptions of Arthropods and the Categorization of Insects as (In)edible in the United States", allowed Alison to examine human emotions toward arthropods as living beings, as well as food. This research has enabled Alison to secure a position as Head of Research and Marketing at the Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch -- an edible insect farm and food company in Denver, Colorado.

Distinguished Master's Thesis Award 

Youngeun Nam studies gender and culture in the department of Sociology. Her master’s thesis examined the processes in which some Kenyan women become activists to discontinue female genital cutting (FGC). Her current research includes exploring working mothers’ child care management options focusing on grandmother care in South Korea. Before joining Purdue, Youngeun produced a documentary film on FGC as an assistant director. The film, titled “Where am I?” was based in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia. It was featured at the Busan International Film Festival, one of the top five film festivals in the world. She received her B.A. in Mass Communications and Sociology at Sogang University in South Korea.