English Undergraduate Prize and Scholarship Winners (Spring 2021)
Friday, May 7, 2021
Friday, May 7, 2021
Charles Peters Prize Winner:
Meghana Vadassery: The judges selected "Titus, Trump, and Tragedy" as the winner. This paper places Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus in smart, creative conversation with our present moment. The ambitious reading situates the play within a global context as well as trans-historically, exploring connections between Shakespeare's representation of ancient Rome and contemporary New Zealand as well as America. A well researched and impassioned use of Shakespeare to springboard into a consideration of urgent political questions facing us today.
Steinbugler Prize Co-winners:
Isabelle Eastman ('21) The judges selected "'Comfortable Wonderful Mother Creature: An Exploration of Maternal Forces in The Secret Garden." In this wide-ranging and exploratory essay, the author shows how Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel of orphans and surrogates is a study in alternative modes of mothering. The vision of motherhood unearthed here belongs to the outside: with characters that step beyond traditional gender roles; that nurture the animal and plant kingdom as much as their human brethren; and that form familiar ties outside the confines of the nuclear via communal or chosen families. From Dickon's care of animals to Mary's innate understanding of the needs of the neglected garden, motherhood is not restricted to those who have given birth or tend to children. The style of Susan Sowerby's mothering, identified here as "gender-neutral," is recognized as a magnetic force that strengthens the children from afar. The text is full of insights that invite new approaches to this seemingly familiar work of fiction.
Riley Jones ('21) The judges also selected “Heroes of the West: Constructed Masculinity in From Russia With Love and M. Butterfly.” This clear and persuasive essay explores the construction of white masculinity in two spy narratives, focusing on the artifice of character in Ian Fleming’s uberman James Bond and the metanarrative play of David Henry Hwang’s theatrical Gallimard. The author effectively and efficiently shows how these figureheads of masculinity are informed, bolstered, and compromised through their relationships with racialized subordinates. Indeed the texts' colonial and orientalist contexts are shown to inform and justify the construction of such a form of "heroic masculinity." In a similarly relational manner, the piece exemplifies a succinct comparative analysis, using each text to reveal unforeseen aspects of the other.
Sanderson Prize Winner:
Samantha Gallant (’23)'s "An Essay is a Letter is a Poem: A Reflection on Writing at its Roots" is original and timely; the essay/letter/poem pulls back the curtain to show (and while showing to critique) the relationship between student and audience in the act of writing. Witty, inventive, and profound.
Charles Moran Best Text Winner:
Ian Thorp: The judges selected “One! Hundred! Demons! Graphic Reflections” as the best short text written in a junior year writing course. Ian wrote his essay in Janis Greve's "Picture This: Lives in Graphic Form" course from Spring 2020.
1940 Creative Writing Prize Winners:
Sophia Eytel wrote the winning submission for poetry, titled "Arthur Painted." In richly textured poems that are both intimately moving and mythically resonant, Eytel performs a kind of care for the natural world and the world of human connections alike. The thoughtful slowness of “Arthur Painted,” which tries to hold an evening’s unfolding where “off in distance / things are soft and dusted / in undetectable apprehension,” answers the deliberate preparations of “December,” which follows a group of friends as they embark on a journey into the woods among “that fabric of twigs” where “orchestras of lonely leaves and bending evergreens, practiced their rhythm.” With a different pace and force, the chant-like “Devil” tumbles forward relentlessly as it conjures the spirit of an untamed wild. These works show a vivid sensitivity to the language of trees, herbs, flowers, and a treat the written line with its own kind of ecology.
Jacob Abrams wrote the winning submission for fiction, titled "Save Room For Us." This piece skillfully explores the narrator’s search for connectedness with humor, empathy, and honesty. Keenly observed and with a good ear for dialogue, Abrams shows real talent in making their characters come to life.
Jorge Biaggi wrote the honorable mention for fiction, titled "Dream." Biaggi presents a series of quandaries and examinations—the artificial versus the authentic, what we are taught and what we understand to be true—filtered through a tender sense of longing. This was a joy to read.
Celeste M and John F Loughman Memorial Scholarship Winners:
Sydney Burke: Born on the man-made island of Cape Cod, I thought my dreams were too big to be contained. I knew I wanted to tell stories. With an insatiable drive to discover fictional worlds never-before-seen, I was inspired to begin the process of writing a high fantasy, young adult novel—which I hope to develop into a series. With over three hundred pages of narrative, over a hundred notebook pages filled with ideas, and twenty-six original symbols later, I think it’s safe to say I found my path in life. My parents and two brothers have supported me every step of the way, encouraging me to fulfill my dreams. Along with writing, I enjoy reading and watching stories unfold on-screen. I hope to someday work for a publishing company, allowing others’ voices to be heard and enhancing the love of reading around the world.
Emma Paulhus: I am at the end of my sophomore year at UMass Amherst pursuing an English major and hopefully a minor in history. I expect to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in May 2023. I am originally from Rehoboth MA, which is about two hours from UMass Amherst.
Victoria Hodgdon: I’m Victoria Hodgdon, and I’m a rising junior here at UMass Amherst double majoring in English and Legal Studies, with a minor in Political Science. I will be attending law school after I graduate UMass in order to become an international human rights attorney. Additionally, I am the Vice President of the UMass UNICEF club, something I’m incredibly passionate about as this club is really all about advocating for global children’s rights amid crises and humanitarian emergencies.
Mary McGarry Morris and Margaret Chiriaco scholarship Winners:
Allysa Cayabyab (‘23) is an English and Legal Studies double major also pursuing an Education minor, as well as a certificate in the Medical Humanities. She is an editor for Twenty Second Century, a climate change blog at UMass, and is a member of the Student Advisory Board for the English Department. When not in the classroom, Allysa enjoys film photography and finding new bookstores to explore.
Anna Shahbazyan: I am an English and Comparative Literature double major pursuing a certificate in Film Studies. Aside from my academics, I participate heavily in extracurricular activities that align with my interest in publishing. I am a Poetry Editor for Jabberwocky, the English Department’s official undergraduate literary magazine, and a member of the Editorial Board for 22nd Century, a student-run blog that aims to bring awareness to climate change. I also tutor at the Writing Center, where I help students from all disciplines develop their writing skills.
John and Donna Farrelly Scholarship Winner:
Amanda McCombs is an undergraduate student at UMass Amherst in the class of 2022 majoring in Special Education and English, with a minor in Latin Language & Literature. Inspired by her younger brother with ASD, Amanda is studying to become a special educator for students with moderate disabilities in grades 5-12. Amanda is on the executive board of the Humanities and Fine Arts Student Leadership Board, an RSO that plans events and engages students across campus. She is also a member of the UMass women’s table tennis team and works at UMass Disability Services. In her free time, she enjoys reading novels, listening to music, and talking with friends.
General John A and Evangeline W Magginis Scholarship Winners:
My name is Jakob Dupuis. I am from Westfield, MA, and I am currently attending the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in pursuit of my Bachelor’s Degree. I am majoring in English, with a focus in Literature as History, and I am also pursuing an International Relations Certificate, alongside completion of the Commonwealth Honors program. I work at a local electroplating company here in Westfield, and I spend much of my time between there and home, pursuing my degree. I have a strong interest in following current events and national politics, and I like to play the bass guitar and piano when I find the time.
Sam Edge is a junior pursuing specializations in Creative Writing and Literature as History. He spends much of his time either writing in a remote corner of the library or in the Writing Center, where he has worked for the last two years. When he isn’t writing, working, or in class, he’s probably watching a baseball game or hoarding the pancakes in a dining hall.
Frank Prentice Rand Scholarship Winners:
Andrew Curran is a Storyteller inspired by New Orleans, a Matriarchy, and Homosexuality. He dreams of Glitz and Glamour. And with Writing, Filming, Posing, and Designing, Andrew has an arsenal of skills to advance his future. His career goal is to work in publication and be a published author. With a book already written, and in the revision process, he’s building a foundation for his future to rest on. Andrew is currently an English major at UMass Amherst in his junior year.
Cicely Weber: I am a first-generation college student, who is currently a sophomore and I double major in History and English. I currently work in the Financial Aid Office, and I plan to work as a New Student Orientation leader over the summer of 2021. I am the Vice President of Pride Alliance, which is a role I will continue to have in the following year. I am also a Peer Mentor through the Stonewall Center, where I mentor a new student! Along with that, I am also a member of the sorority Tri Sigma (or Sigma Sigma Sigma), as well as a new member of Phi Alpha Theta. Through my studies, I plan to attend law school post-graduation.
W Scott Jeffrey Award Winner:
My name is Syki Barbee and I am a graduating senior, majoring in English with specializations in Professional Writing and Technical Communication and Creative Writing. After graduation I plan on taking a year away from academia, dedicating my time to writing my novel and learning more about graphic design—especially the area of book design. I hope to return to UMass and study for an MFA in Creative Writing.
Chloe Zoukis Ploussios Memorial Scholarship Winner:
Sophia Eytel is an English major in the Commonwealth Honors College pursuing a minor in French and a letter of specialization in Creative Writing. She is also a writing teacher and tutor at a local alternative education school. When she is not writing or working, she can often be found playing music, hiking, or cooking with friends. After graduation, she looks forward to working and traveling before earning a PhD in a yet-to-be-determined subject. Eventually, she hopes to become an English educator.