Alumni Voices: Ph.D. alumna Dr. Carly Kocurek named Nayar Prize finalist


Hearty congratulations to Dr. Carly Kocurek, who was named a finalist for the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Nayar Prize, an award “established to encourage and challenge Illinois Tech faculty, staff, and students to develop breakthrough, innovative projects that will, within three years, produce meaningful results with a societal impact.”

Dr. Kocurek, along with fellow IIT faculty members Jennifer Miller, Cynthia Hood, and Matt Bauer, proposed to create a videogame designed to foster language development among young children. They were awarded $100,000 to develop their project, a description of which we’ve pasted below:

Inequalities in early childhood language have a lasting impact on individual success, both in academics and careers. These inequalities inflate social welfare costs and slow economic growth. Our goal is to increase language skills necessary for academic success and subsequent economic success. Our innovation would leverage serious game design to produce a research-driven, high-impact interactive game for children aged 24–36 months. Children who use the interactive game will learn more words and be better prepared to succeed in school.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised guidelines on screen use and suggests that media can be used constructively in children after the age of 2. Our game will combine community-based participatory research and cutting-edge understanding of language acquisition and learning. This project draws on perspectives from developmental psychology, linguistics, game design, and computer science, and our team is uniquely poised to combine insights and breakthroughs from a diversity of disciplines. Team members bring with them experience in language learning, serious game development, assessment, and other key areas.

The game will engage both caregivers and children through a playful learning experience that encourages high-quality interaction and engagement. The initial goal is to develop an individual game, but in the long run this will spark widespread development and rigorous testing toward optimizing educational experiences for young children.

Undergrad Research: Molly Mandell Awarded 2015-2016 Rapoport-King Scholarship

SelfPortraitWe are very pleased to announce that UT AMS undergraduate Molly Mandell recently received a Rapoport-King Scholarship from the College of Liberal Arts to support her honors thesis research this school year. A Rapoport-King is a great show of support from the College, and we are very pleased to have Molly represent the great work being done in the department to the wider university community.

If you’d like to learn more about Molly and her research on organic farming in Cuba, check out this interview we did with her last spring.

Announcement: Awards abound in the Department of American Studies

It’s the end of the school year, which also means it’s awards season for our students and faculty. A hearty congratulations to every one of our community members for these honors, all listed below!

(We had so many winners that we had to lump them all into a single post – a testament to the quality of work in our department!)

Dr. Randy Lewis was selected to receive a Raymond Dickson Centennial Endowed Teaching Fellowship in recognition of his exemplary performance and commitment to teaching in American Studies.

Dr. Bob Abzug was selected as a 2015 NACADA Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit recipient.

Dr. Janet Davis won the Silver Spurs Centennial Teaching Fellowship (Spring 2015), the Dads’ Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship (2015-2016), and was selected to serve as a Provost Teaching Fellow (2014-2016), where she is developing a service learning initiative.

Ph.D. candidate Natalie Zelt was honored with an Outstanding Graduate Student award from The John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies for her work with the INGZ Collective.

Undergraduate Molly Mandell was selected for an Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship for the 2015-2016 school year.

Faculty Research: Janet Davis wins Constance Rourke Prize for Best Essay in American Quarterly

Philippine cockfight 1900-02.JPG

Philippine cockfight 1900-02” by US military personnel. – Downloaded from Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

We’re so thrilled to share with y’all the news that Dr. Janet Davis has won the Constance Rourke Prize for the best essay in American Quarterly in 2013 for her piece entitled “Cockfight Nationalism: Bloodsport and the Moral Politics of American Empire and Nation Building.”

Here’s the abstract of her article, which can be found in full here (login necessary):

This essay explores the symbiotic relationship between animal welfare and ideologies of nation building and exceptionalism during a series of struggles over cockfighting in the new US Empire in the early twentieth century. Born out of the shared experience of American overseas expansionism, these clashes erupted in the American Occupied Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, where the battle lines pitting American-sponsored animal protectionists against indigenous cockfight enthusiasts were drawn along competing charges of cruelty and claims of self-determination. I argue that battles over the cockfight were a form of animal nationalism—that is to say, cockfight nationalism. Cockfight enthusiasts and opponents alike mapped gendered, raced, and classed ideologies of nation and sovereignty onto the bodies of fighting cocks to stake their divergent political and cultural claims regarding the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, moral uplift, benevolence, and national belonging.

Congratulations, Janet!