Nine students receive University of Notre Dame Library Research Awards

Author: Jenna Mrozinske

Nine students have been named winners of the Hesburgh Libraries’ 2021 University of Notre Dame Library Research Award. This annual award is earned by undergraduate students who demonstrate excellence in research skills by using a breadth of library resources and services for their course assignments, research projects and creative endeavors.

“The Hesburgh Libraries is dedicated to the academic and research success of our students, especially as we learned new ways of working together during the pandemic,” said Edward H. Arnold University Librarian Diane Parr Walker. “This year’s winners demonstrated their commitment to excellence as they integrated library resources into their research and coursework during unusually challenging times.”

Students from every discipline were invited to submit a brief essay describing the many ways in which they used library resources for a project or assignment completed during summer 2020, fall 2020, Winter Session 2020-21 or spring 2021.

Congratulations to the 2021 Library Research Award winners.

Capstone Project or Senior Thesis Award Category

1st Place — Victoria Smith, history and political science

Lra-Victoria Smith

Victoria Smith won first prize for her extensive use of library resources while conducting research for her honors senior thesis, titled “From Assimilation to Integration: The 20th Century Transformation of Red Cloud Indian School.” Advised by Brian Collier, associate professor of the practice, Smith was tasked with compiling a historiography on her chosen topic, which focused on the educational history of the Pine Ridge Lakota.

“When COVID-19 restricted my physical access to the library and its resources, I met with [American History Librarian] Rachel Bohlmann over Zoom to discuss which databases would be of interest to me, given my interest in Native American educational history,” said Smith. Until she could return to campus to access the necessary microfilms, Smith gathered sources from Hesburgh Libraries’ print and digital collections by requesting scans of material through Interlibrary Loan.

“My discussions with Hesburgh staff members helped me realize that the path to successful research is not always linear and that there were a number of avenues I could take to continue my research at home.”

Once she returned to campus, Smith made frequent visits to the Hesburgh Library to transcribe her sources and outline chapters. “The quiet atmosphere of the Reading Rooms helped me to focus deeply on the information I was working through; the ability to reserve a study room allowed me to schedule intentional time to write,” said Smith.

2nd Place — Emily Yeager, international economics

Lra-Emily Yeager

Emily Yeager’s essay earned second prize for her exceptional use of library resources for her senior thesis, titled “Common Currency Zones and Income Levels: The Effects of the Euro on Spanish Incomes.” Advised by Forrest Spence, assistant teaching professor of economics, Yeager analyzed the economic impact of Spain’s currency transition from the peseta to the euro in 2002. “Exploring the effects of this historical Spanish event gave me the opportunity to utilize the diverse resources of Hesburgh Library in order to create an objective analysis of the relationship between income and common currency,” said Yeager.

Yeager used OneSearch to gain a broad range of perspectives, then narrowed her search using JSTOR and Google Scholar. Inexperienced with locating downloadable data, Yeager said, “I would not have been able to discover my data so quickly without the assistance of Economics Librarian, Ben Chiewphasa.” Chiewphasa introduced her to additional search engines, databases, and subject-specific Library Guides.

To analyze her newfound data, Yeager used Stata — a statistical software program. She typically used the library’s Mac stations when working on her datasets, but when she was not able to work in the library, Yeager accessed the program through the virtual computer lab.

“Hesburgh Library responded to the many unintended inconveniences from the COVID pandemic by offering a wide variety of sources and resources for research, accessibility to programs in person and remotely, and the knowledge and expertise of their librarians.”

Sophomore, Junior, or Senior Award Category

1st Place — Brendan McFeely, political science, classics


Sophomore Brendan McFeely won first prize for his effective use of library resources to support his policy memo titled “Foster Kids from Poor Families — Exploring the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.” Advised by Alexander Coccia, adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science, McFeely outlined the assumptions and impact of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, which aimed to prevent foster children from returning to unsafe home environments.

McFeely found research material by leveraging the library’s physical collection, electronic resources, subscriptions and online catalog. He also used the Interlibrary Loan service to acquire material held at the Kresge Law Library. “I also benefited from reserving and using the physical resources in the Hesburgh Library for effective communication and workflow,” said McFeely. The pandemic forced a lot of changes, including in-person meetings. McFeely took advantage of the video conference rooms to meet with his professor without disrupting other students’ work.

“Thanks to the digital resources, library catalog, and ample space in the Hesburgh Library, I was able to craft an effective policy memo discussing the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. I am so grateful for the extensive resources provided by the Hesburgh Library, and the tireless staff and faculty who help maintain it.”

2nd Place — Emee Marjorie Dy, marketing

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Emee Dy, junior, received second prize for her commitment to accessing and using Hesburgh Libraries services and resources to complete her ethnographic essay titled “Filipinos' View of Marriage: Dynamic Yet a Colonial Remnant.” Advised by Eric Haanstad, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, Dy explored the concept of marriage in the Philippines — its history, how it has changed, and its current role in society.

To begin her research, Dy used the Online Chat feature to consult with a library assistant for guidance on preliminary resources. She conducted an extensive search through the ND Catalog, OneSearch and JSTOR to identify scholarly articles. “I then proceeded to spend countless hours in the Library’s Reading Room and the well-loved 10th floor (the view of campus continues to amaze me despite being a junior),” said Dy.

After browsing additional subject-specific databases and finalizing her essay, Dy turned to the Writing Center for help with proofing her essay. Although the pandemic halted in-person appointments, Dy was able to reserve a study room to conduct a remote meeting. The study room also allowed her to focus on completing her paper.

“The Hesburgh Library and branch library resources have allowed me to glean insights on marriage in the Philippines. The breadth of the Library’s resources and staff provided me with great evidence that resulted in a comprehensive ethnographic essay.”

First Year Student Award Category

1st Place — Daniel O’Brien, Program of Liberal Studies

Lra-Daniel O'Brien

Daniel O’Brien won first prize for demonstrating his excellent use of library resources to support his research paper titled “That All Shall Agree: On David Bentley Hart’s Interpretation of Romans 5:18-19” — a specific topic of universalist interpretations of Romans 5:18-19.

After assigning the paper, O’Brien’s adviser, Katie Bugyis, assistant professor in the Program of Liberal Studies, dedicated an entire class period to how to engage with Hesburgh Libraries resources. O’Brien learned how to use OneSearch to locate articles, books, and other material. He was also introduced to Library Guides for theology and religion, along with contact information for subject librarians.

“Remembering my professor’s emphasis on the fantastic helpfulness of the librarians, I decided to reach out to Dr. Alan Krieger, the Theology and Philosophy Librarian. This was perhaps the best decision I made during the course of the semester-long project,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien was offered advice on how to better use the libraries’ online databases and was directed to the theology collection located on the 12th Floor of Hesburgh Library.

“I am not only incredibly grateful to Hesburgh Library for helping me complete this project with a higher level of scholarly engagement, but also for introducing me to the incredible intellectual resources the library has to offer," he said, "which I will certainly treasure for the rest of my time at Notre Dame.”

2nd Place — Anaum Showkat, neuroscience and behavior, pre-health studies

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Anaum Showkat received second prize for her exemplary use of library resources and services while conducting research for her paper “Children Turned Into Brides: A Study of the Prevalence of Child Marriage in Bangladesh.” After Showkat’s project adviser, graduate student Adam Kerker, assigned the paper to her Writing and Rhetoric class, the students were introduced to Africana Studies and Education Librarian Leslie Morgan and East Asian Studies Librarian Hye-jin Juhn.

Showkat was informed of pertinent databases and advanced search engines that helped her narrow down sources. She learned how to find subject-specific Library Guides and how to organize her information. Thanks to the helpfulness of the librarians and her newly developed research skills, Showkat said, “I was able to develop a more focused understanding of what is currently happening in Bangladesh, and what steps could be taken to reduce the rate at which young girls are getting married.”

After countless hours researching and writing in Hesburgh Library, including the reservable study rooms, Showkat was able to successfully incorporate her sources into a cohesive research paper.

“Now that I am aware of the fact that the Hesburgh Library offers a multitude of services, technologies, and spaces that will enable me to further my academic endeavors, I hope to continue taking advantage of this resource in the future.”

Digital Scholarship Award Category

The Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship (NFCDS) Award is a specialty submission category of the Library Research Award. This award recognizes excellence in leveraging digital scholarship resources, tools, and methodologies in research and projects.

Maria Carroll, computer science

Maria Carroll, senior, received an award for her essay about using the Distant Reader technology platform and contributing to a related NFCDS grant-funded High Performance Computing Consortium project titled “Analyzing and enhancing CORD-19 and additional Coronavirus-related data sets."

Carroll was introduced to Distant Reader by Digital Initiatives Librarian Eric Lease Morgan. The software platform, created by Morgan, can ingest multiple text sources as input, perform analysis, and output sets of structured data for further research. “As a computer science major and an avid reader, I was immediately mesmerized by this project and its implications,” said Carroll.

Advised by E-Research Librarian Natalie Meyers, Carroll joined the NFCDS grant team. Hands-on work in team meetings, sprint planning sessions and feature improvement discussions exposed her to aspects of technology development. She also worked to improve the web application and learned how to scale her work to accommodate a data set that was always increasing in size.

“I am incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with this innovative team on such an exciting project,” said Carroll. “I was able to come to a far better understanding of how to work with large datasets to create meaningful user interfaces.”

Charles Hanzel, economics

Lra-Charles Hanzel

Charles Hanzel, senior, received an award for his essay highlighting ways he leveraged digital scholarship resources for his senior thesis, titled “Does Slavery’s Historical Presence Impact Economic Development? Evidence from the Free-Slave State Border.” Advised by Lakshmi Iyer, associate professor of economics, Hanzel studied the long-term economic effects of slavery in the United States.

Hanzel’s use of library resources included an extensive literature review of economic research into the effects of slavery on economic development, both in the United States and around the world. After discovering a gap in the literature, he turned to GIS Librarian Matthew Sisk in the NFCDS to help him conduct further analysis.

“The most difficult piece was calculating the distance from each census block group and census tract to the border. This required the use of ArcGIS, which I had never worked with before. I reached out to Matthew Sisk at the library to discuss the best way to go about making this calculation,” said Hanzel. Sisk coached Hanzel through learning ArcGIS, creating new datasets and selecting appropriate data formats to support a valid analysis.

“The resources I was able to take advantage of through the library were integral to my research project. It is with genuine gratitude that I reflect on the role that the library has played in the development and completion of my senior thesis.”

Tracy Preko, neuroscience and behavior

Tracy Preko, senior, took honors for her essay submission highlighting her use of library resources to complete her senior thesis, titled “Meta-analysis of Valence Effects in Child and Adolescent Autobiographical Memory.”

Advised by Kristin Valentino, the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Associate Professor of Psychology, Preko analyzed child and adolescent autobiographical memory on the Autobiographical Memory Test. According to Valentino, Preko’s “execution of this research project was outstanding,” and, among other noteworthy project qualities, the NFCDS is pleased to highlight her pre-registration of this project on the Open Science Framework.

She was able to search specialty databases through the library. “I had to identify databases of interest, develop and utilize an exclusion criterion, access and evaluate relevant articles, then extract data from the included articles. I had access to articles on sites like WebofScience and PubMed without having to worry about any restrictions or paying for access,” said Preko.

After she screened more than 700 articles, Physical Sciences Librarian Thurston Miller supported Preko with the difficult next steps of extracting data and contacting corresponding authors when more information was required. Miller taught her the process of sifting through irrelevant and inaccurate information to help successfully identify and locate particular authors.

“I appreciated the one-on-one assistance because it made me feel that the library community was there to support my academic development. With the help of librarians like Mr. Miller, I was able to make critical progress on my thesis,” said Preko.

For more information on the University of Notre Dame Library Research Award or to read more about the 2021 winners, visit