2017 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.

2017 Winners of the CLA Doctoral Dissertation Award

Sandra GiraldoSandra Milena Úsuga Giraldo, originally from Medellín, Colombia, has a B.A. in Teaching Languages from Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana. She received a Masters of Arts and a Ph.D. in Spanish and Latin American Literature from Purdue University. Her dissertation “The Representation of the Invisible: Voices of Resistance and Survival to the Colombian Armed Conflict” examines the cultural production of the city of Medellín in the nineties to argue that the study of testimonial writings and peripheral literature brings new perspectives to the understanding of how people from marginalized urban communities have coped with and resisted violence. Her work makes the case that these testimonials serve as vehicles that bring women’s voices to the forefront, providing strong evidence that they have been resourceful in their capacity for collective organization and as active promoters of peace. Her dissertation elucidates the significance of the voices and perspectives found in diverse kinds of texts: novels, testimonials, peripheral literature and fabric creations. These texts bring to light experiences and points of view by men and women, most of whom are marginalized either by their sex and/or social class and excluded from the writings of official History regarding the tragic events suffered by many Colombians for the past fifty years. Sandra plans to expand her research on the Colombian conflict to analyze other types of cultural production with special attention on the recovery of peripheral literature in the country and continue her investigation of the tremendous resilience of marginalized urban communities. She will incorporate literary works from other countries such as Mexico and Brazil, which have experienced similar situations of sociopolitical violence.

LisaYoung_CLA2017DissertationAwardLisa J. Young - Lisa is a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow in the American Studies program. Her dissertation, Lethal Housing: Reading Restrictive Covenants and Urban Black Women’s Grassroots Health Activism, 1930-1980, is an ecocritical study of the gendered effects of restrictive covenants—deed contracts prohibiting the purchasing, leasing, and occupation of a home based on race, used largely in urban cities during the Great Migration. Her dissertation triangulates literary analysis, archival data from the Black press, and trial transcripts from restrictive covenant court cases, in order to examine Black women writer’s framing of restrictive covenants as environmentally hazardous agents in the lives of urban Black residents. This concerted focus on health by Black writers—many of whom were also journalists—brought about a sustained attention to Black healthcare needs through grassroots activist means.

2017 Finalists for the Doctoral Dissertation Award were recognized with a College of Liberal Arts Certificate of Recognition of Excellence in Doctoral Scholarship

Dissertation_2017_Fahey, JohnJohn E. Fahey received his Ph.D. in History from Purdue University in 2017.  His dissertation, "Bulwark of Empire: Civil-Military Relations in Przemysl, Galicia (1867-1939)," is a city history of a Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish town in modern southeast Poland.  From the 1870s through World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire transformed the city into a modern fortress, which defined local politics, the economy, crime, and social life.  Using archival records from Austria, Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary, John traced the strategic planing, economic investment, and urban politics that resulted in one of the most important fortress complexes in Eastern Europe.  More importantly, he also traced the strong socialist reaction against the Austrian garrison, which culminated in the election of a socialist Jew in 1907 to represent the city in the Imperial Parliament.  Przemysl shows many ways that military spending and the presence of a garrison shapes urban development and sheds light on imperial institutions in the multi-national Austro-Hungarian Empire.  John is continuing his research on East Central Europe and civil-military relations as a visiting assistant professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.  

Matthew A. Schownir -

Diss 2017_Esther TeixeiraEsther Teixeira earned her PhD in Spanish from Purdue University in August 2017. Her dissertation, “A Comparative Study on Prostitution in Latin American Fiction and Testimonies: 1888-2015” examines fictional and testimonial representation of prostitution from late 19th to 21st century. It shows that the writers and feminist scholars studied tend to view prostitution as the ultimate symbol of social chaos and subordination of women. Based on the incorporation of testimonies from female sex workers who advocate for their human and labor rights, this dissertation demonstrates that not all sex workers want to be seen as victims, nor want to be “rescued” by well-intended feminists and intellectuals. Esther’s work has earned her multiple research grants and a position as an Assistant Professor of Spanish at Texas Christian University. Her next project focuses on the study of fictional and testimonial representation of prostitution from a queer and transgender perspective.  




2017 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 2017 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 

Thesis_Ghafoor, MaryamMaryam A. Ghafoor is originally from Ottawa, IL. She earned her Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and English from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana in 2014 and her Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Poetry from Purdue University in 2017. Her autobiographical Master’s Thesis titled “Going Body First” simultaneously explores the grief of losing her father and the sociological and cultural implications of being of two worlds. A first-generation Pakistani American woman, Maryam’s work focuses on microaggressions as well as moments of acceptance, guilt, and disapproval. These moments are centered around her family and members of her rural, mostly white, Midwestern hometown. Her work oscillates around the physical body—decay, beauty, movement, and fear. Her own body serves as the object of racially-charged verbal and physical abuse in the poem entitled “What They Thought When She Told Them.” Maryam currently teaches as a Lecturer of English at Purdue and is continuing to publish and write new poems and creative nonfiction works. 

Distinguished Master's Thesis Award 

2017_Thesis_Lauren HaslemLauren Haslem earned her BA in History Honors from Purdue in 2015 and her MA in History from Purdue in 2017. Her thesis, titled "'Too Hot to Handle': LSD, Medical Activism, and the Spring Grove Studies," draws on the records of the Spring Grove State Hospital and examines psychedelic researchers' efforts to safeguard LSD psychotherapy in the 1960s and 70s. Previously, Lauren worked as a graduate assistant in the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center at Purdue University. There, she processed materials donated to the Psychoactive Substances Research Collection, which houses items related to the history of psychedelic research and its applications for medicine and healing. Lauren is continuing her work on medical history as a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota.


Distinguished Master's Non-Thesis Project Award 

2017_MA_Thesis_E.WulbrechtElizabeth Wulbrecht graduated from Purdue with a Master’s degree in Political Science in May 2017. She also completed her Bachelor’s degree at Purdue, majoring in Political Science and Anthropology. For her non-thesis master’s project, Elizabeth studied Congressional discourse on mental illness using the C-SPAN Archives. She focused on whether Congress Members frame individuals with mental illness as a population in need of treatment or discuss what they perceive to be their dangerousness in the aftermath of mass shootings and other violent events. Elizabeth was able to pursue this project because she received funding as the Political Science C-SPAN fellow in the 2016 academic year. She found that Congress Members frequently emphasize the treatment needs of individuals with mental illness. However, Congress Members often argued that individuals with mental illness should receive treatment to prevent them from becoming dangerous in the future or stop their violent behavior in the present, perpetrating the stereotype that individuals with mental illness are violent and dangerous. She plans on pursuing a Ph.D, in Anthropology, focusing on the intersection of mental health, ritual, and climate change. Elizabeth likes to read science fiction/fantasy and play with her cats Peter, Shiva, and Misty in her spare time. 

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