The Eckles Prize for Freshman Research Excellence, established in 2007, is awarded to students who create, in their freshman year, a research project demonstrating extensive and noteworthy use of the GW Libraries. Freshmen may submit for consideration a research project written for any course taken during that academic year. The first, second, and third-place winners were selected by the Eckles Prize committee, chaired by John Danneker, Director of the Eckles Library on the Mount Vernon campus.
For the 2012-2013 year, the Eckles Prize tied for the largest number of applications. Students submitted papers from diverse subject areas, including literature, pop culture, art, and community service, and from a wide range of courses, including political science, international affairs, and history. “One of the greatest things about the Eckles Prize,” said Danneker, “is the way that submissions originate from many disciplines and viewpoints.”
This year’s winning papers were selected by a committee of teaching faculty and librarians who evaluated the entries using a rubric featured on the Eckles Prize web page. Danneker noted that while the selection committee looked for well-written papers, members also judged applications based on the students’ reflections on their own research processes, as they serve as indications of the students’ growth and development. “Each project submitted must be accompanied by a research reflection essay,” Danneker explained. “The committee is often looking for students whose research reflections and essays show a depth and breadth of both research sources and techniques that lead to a strong final product.”
The 2013 first-place winner of the Eckles Prize was Emma Perloff for her submission, “Hierarchy, Home and Homeland: The Dutch Golden Age in Frans Hals’ Family Group in the Landscape.” She initially chose the topic based on an assignment in her ‘Dutch Painting at the National Gallery of Art’ course, but then found a research area that captured her deeper interest. According to Perloff, “As I began my research, I found that most group portraits of the Dutch Golden Age were of their civic guard, which I was not very interested in. Instead, I decided to focus on family portraits as a way to examine gender roles. When I found Frans Hals’ Family Group in a Landscape, c. 1648, I realized it was the perfect vehicle through which to discuss the hierarchical nature of Dutch society at the time—from gender roles to race relations, and then to the grander paintings of the Dutch Civic Guard.”
For her winning paper, Perloff worked with Professor Rachel Pollack, Adjunct Instructor of Writing, whom she credits for encouraging her to delve further into her topic. “For a while I had no idea how to focus my topic—I thought I had to focus on gender roles OR race relations OR hierarchy in the Civic Guard, and I had no idea how to connect them all!” explained Perloff. “I talked to my professor about it and she helped me realize that I could write my paper in sections that focused on each of those topics, while tying them together with a general theme—hierarchy depicted through gesture.” Once she focused her topic, Perloff says she used Gelman Library’s online databases JStor and Artstor, as well as the National Gallery of Art’s library, to find her sources.
Going forward, Perloff feels that winning the Eckles Prize will guide her in her future research, not only in the way she organizes her writing process but in how she chooses topics. “I think both submitting my research to the Eckles Prize committee and winning the prize has helped me reflect on the work I did, allowing me to learn from my successes and my challenges. It also helped me realize that paintings that are less famous can have a whole lot to say! They can provide interesting insight that we may otherwise miss.”
The second place winner of the 2013 Eckles Prize was William King, who worked with faculty sponsor Abby Wilkerson, Associate Professor of Writing, on his paper, “Of Gangsters and Bakers: Cake Boss, Stereotypes, and the Italian American Identity.” Two students tied for third place: Marissa Young for her project, “Fans and Fanatics of Jane Austen,” and Megan Mattson for her paper entitled, “Do Electoral Systems Affect Female Representation?” Please visit our website to view the papers of all of the 2013 winners.
The Eckles Prize is currently funded through the Eckles Library’s annual fund, but the Library is seeking to establish an endowment for the prize. “We would love the opportunity to hear from folks interested in helping us make the Prize an annual award into perpetuity,” said Danneker. “It’s an opportunity that speaks to the academic legacy of the Mount Vernon campus and the future of GW as a top-tier research institution, since I feel that capabilities in library research and the intelligent use and creation of information is critical to contributions to a well-educated and thoughtful society.” If you would like to learn more about this philanthropic opportunity, please contact us at 202-994-1154.