The Eckles Freshman Research Prize, started in 2007, is awarded to first-year students who create a research project that demonstrates extensive and noteworthy use of resources found in the George Washington University Libraries. Students may submit research projects based on papers written for any course taken during freshman year – not just GW’s first-year writing course (UW1020). The first, second, and third-place winners are determined by the evaluation and selection committee, chaired by Eckles Librarian William Gillis since 2009.
Of the 2012 applicants, Gillis commented, “We had a strong pool of applicants whose topics varied widely. In addition to our winning papers about the Occupy Movement, weapons bans, and media coverage of foreign conflicts, students submitted critical analyses about Harry Potter, Dutch painting, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, alternative medicine, graffiti in DC's Brentwood neighborhood, homeless LGBT youth, and more.” The winning papers were selected by teaching faculty and librarians who determined the recipients by using an evaluation rubric found on the Eckles Prize web page. Criteria used to assess student projects include ability to frame and investigate a research topic, the analysis of information to develop an argument, as well as a student’s aptitude for establishing and appropriately addressing an audience. For the 2012 prize, most applicants submitted papers written for UW1020, but Honors papers were also considered, as were applications from political science, such as Emily Schirvar’s second-place piece.
The 2012 first-place winner was Rebecca Levy, for her paper entitled, "We Will Demand Nothing: The Revolutionary Potential of Occupy." As a returning adult student, she chose her topic based on her years of involvement in sub- and counter-cultural activities. She noted, “Going back to school has allowed me abundant research resources and afforded me the opportunity to hone my analysis. Thus, I had the opportunity to investigate the inchoate movement from an academic perspective—in addition to as a peripheral participant and a native to the DC area.”
Levy worked closely with UW professor Randi Kristensen as well as Professor Rachel Riedner and Gelman librarian Dolsy Smith. After narrowing her focus of the Occupy movement, she followed news coverage, including a livestream from McPherson Square. She said that her biggest challenges in conducting her research were choosing one of many rapidly developing current events and finding scholarly material on the Occupy movement, which was difficult due to its newness. On winning the prize, Levy said, “As an adult student whose interests have, at times, strayed quite far from the walls of academia, I was not certain I would belong at a college. Winning the Eckles prize assuaged those doubts. It was a tremendous honor.”
This year’s second place winner was Emily Schirvar for her paper, "Network Centrality and Weapon Advocacy," and the third place winner was Brianna Gurciullo, who wrote "Filling the Gap, Exposing Truth, and Strengthening Democracy."
The application deadline for the 2013 Eckles Prize for Freshman Research is May 15, 2013. Applications must be submitted electronically by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The first place winner will receive a $500 gift card. To learn more about how to support this program, please contact the GW Libraries Office of Development at email@example.com or 202-994-8928. To make an immediate impact, please make a gift online at http://go.gwu.edu/gwlibraries.