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Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library Eckles Library at the Mount Vernon CampusVirginia Science and Technology Campus Library

Celebrating Research Excellence: The Eckles Prize

The Eckles Prize Certificate, 2015The GW Libraries have a strong tradition of bringing people together and elevating the conversation about research and writing by celebrating our students’ intellectual and creative endeavors. The Eckles Prize for Freshman Research Excellence is an example of the proactive role that the GW Libraries play in sustaining and expanding our intellectual partnerships with faculty, students, and staff across the university.

Created in 2007, the Eckles Prize for Freshman Research Excellence recognizes students who produce a research project in their first year of college that demonstrates significant and meaningful use of the libraries’ resources and services. The annual award celebrates students who exhibit an understanding of not only where to find appropriate research materials and scholarship, but also how to use those sources effectively in their writing.

In 2014, we received a record number of Eckles Prize applications (more than 50). Each applicant is supported by a sponsoring faculty member and a completed application includes the final research project in addition to a short reflective essay in which students write about the steps they took to develop their research topic, what research strategies they employed, and how they identified and evaluated the sources that they used. The reflection reveals what each student learned from the overall research process and how the experience helped shape them as a scholar. Winners are selected by a dedicated team of librarians and teaching faculty who spend the summer reading, discussing, and evaluating applications.

“We are consistently impressed by the sophistication of the entries,” said librarian Bill Gillis, who spearheads the Eckles Prize review process. “It is always an honor to recognize students for their accomplishments. Awardees sometimes go on to publish their work in professional journals, which is exciting for them and very meaningful for the faculty and librarians who help them think through the research process.”

Celebration of the Creative Process, 2015During Colonials Weekend this past October, Eckles Library at the Mount Vernon campus hosted Celebrating the Creative Process, a collaborative event to honor the winners of the Eckles Prize and to officially open the annual Women's Leadership Program art show. By combining these two events, our students’ presentations of research, music, and art illuminate and celebrate the recursive relationship between research and creativity.

The event also provides our student researchers with a wonderful opportunity to give a public voice to the work they have done and to share that work with a wider audience. This year’s award winners wrote research papers on how the psychological effects of natural disasters are expressed in social media; the use of Hurricane Sandy by Chris Christie in New Jersey’s 2013 Gubernatorial election; and the application of selectorate theory to the 1976 plane hijacking by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Following the students’ remarks, there was a lively Q&A with a diverse audience of parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and fellow students, faculty, staff, and librarians from across the university.

“We are pleased that the Eckles Prize recognizes the excellent academic research that is being undertaken by first year undergraduates at GW,” said Geneva Henry, University Librarian and Vice Provost for Libraries. “Many of our awardees choose to submit the research papers they write for University Writing 1020 or through the Women’s Leadership Program, both of which actively integrate our librarians and emphasize the complex nuances of the research process. To me, this is a great example of what can result when faculty, librarians, and students collaborate closely in the academic enterprise.”

We invite you to visit the Eckles Prize website for more information and to read winning projects from 2009 to 2014. To learn how to make a gift to support this initiative, please contact the GW Libraries Development Office at 202-994-8928 or gwlibdev@gwu.edu.

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