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Up Close with Student Winners: May 2018

Award Winners May 2018

In this issue, we're excited to spotlight the winners of the Winter 2018 Boothe Prize and Lunsford Awards. We'll be honoring them, with this year's other winners, at our Awards Ceremonies this Tuesday (May 15) and Wednesday (May 16).

Roxy Bonafont: Boothe Prize Winner (Winter 2018)

Roxy Bonafont

Our winter Boothe Prize winner, Roxy Bonafont, wrote her prize-winning essay, "Push Factors: The Complicity of Traditional News Organizations in the Age of Ambient Media," for Chris Kamrath's PWR 1 course last winter.  Chris had this to say about Roxy's essay:

In her essay, “Push Factors: the Complicity of Traditional News Organizations in the Age of Ambient Journalism,” Roxy Bonafont questions one of the most successful innovations in the journalism industry and a central part of this news stream: push notifications. She argues that each of these notifications reduces complex journalism to a few short sentences (less that 140 characters) and turns readers into passive consumers of news. Roxy’s carefully argued essay models the engagement that she asks of journalists and citizens: her essay will challenge you to think before reflexively checking these alerts and challenges journalists to re-think how they interrupt your day.

Roxy's research topic resonate with her own academic and professional interests.  Originally from Austin, Texas, Roxy plans to be an English major and wants to pursue a career in journalism after she graduates.  She's already pursuing her interests in journalism, writing for the campus publication Stanford Politics. You can read some of her articles here.

In a reflection on her PWR experience, Roxy speaks to how the strategies she developed in the class and the emphasis on the recursiveness of the writing process will benefit her in the future:

PWR has successfully broken my bad habit of writing essays the night before they're due, by training me to appreciate the writing process as a necessarily extended exploration of my thoughts, argument, organization, and style. Learning to interrogate my work in this manner and taking the time to hold myself to a higher standard have been immensely valuable experiences that I will continually revisit throughout my academic and professional careers.

Roxy's essay will be available online here in mid-June 2018.

Rishabh Kapoor: Boothe Prize Honorable Mention (Winter 2018)

Rishabh Kapoor

A student in Lisa Swan's winter PWR 1 course, Rishabh Kapoor wrote his essay -- "'For My Old Kentucky Home, Far Away': A Case for the Psycho-Sociological Dimension of Rural Brain Drain" -- on a topic of personal importance to him: Kentucky. In her reflection on Rishabh's essay, Lisa notes the power of this connection and how Rishabh's "story" influenced the project:

Rishabh’s essay beautifully shows how you can tell a story in an RBA. His narrative organizational structure weaves personal reflections growing up in Kentucky with the scholarly research on rural out migration. It shows that academic writing does not have to be objective and aloof—it can include our students’ stories.

Rishabh finds similar connections between his personal story and his future aspirations when writing about his academic plans: 

Born and raised in Frankfort, Kentucky, I grew up with a sense of awe for the natural world—from the gushing creeks that crisscrossed my neighborhood to the corals in my saltwater aquarium. This fascination, coupled with my exposure to medicine as a patient of a neuromuscular disorder, sparked my passion for biology. Though I have wide-ranging interests, I hope to pursue a career in biological research, contributing both to the advancement of basic science and its application to bettering lives.

He selected Lisa's PWR class ("Unequal by Design? The Rhetoric of Race, Class, and Education") because of its emphasis on education, a topic of great interest to him.  He writes,

With my passion for learning also comes a passion for helping others learn. Growing up, I often reflected on the impediments to learning in our educational system and dedicated myself to facilitating others’ educational success. I remain firm in my belief in the importance of a high-quality, equitable education for all and hope to continue helping others realize the joy of learning throughout my career.

In his final comments on his PWR 1 experience, Rishabh offered this reflection, once again emphasizing the power of integrating the personal with the academic:

In PWR 1, I learned to make sense of the seemingly bewildering array of arguments and counterarguments on a scholarly topic. Developing a clear understanding of the current research landscape allowed me to then position myself within that landscape—in a way that remained true to the spirit of empirical research, while not diminishing the significance of my own perspective. 

You can read Rishabh 's essay here in mid-June 2018.

Isabelle Carpenter: Lunsford Award Winner (Winter 2018)

Isabelle Carpenter

As with many of our award-winning students, Isabelle drew inspiration for her project from her own life experience.  As she writes,

I am originally from Austin, Texas and went to boarding school in New Hampshire (St. Paul's) but took a gap year after high school to work and travel abroad. During that time, I lived in Rabat, Morocco working for AMPF (a Planned Parenthood equivalent). My time in Morocco inspired me to learn Arabic and sparked an interest in gender in the Middle East and Arab world. I continued my pursuit of this passion last summer, working at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy researching and publishing 9 policy briefs on issues facing Syrian women as part of a project titled Syria's Women: Policies and Perspectives.

Her PWR 2 presentation, "Gender and Language in Multilingual Morocco," builds directly from these interests and experiences.  Her instructor,  Jennifer Johnson, had this to say about Isabelle's project:

Isabelle entered the research conversation through a complex post-modern methodological critique; this required deep engagement in a scholarly conversation around language and gender in Morocco vis-à-vis Moroccan scholars, and demanded a broader understanding of the post-modern turn in sociolinguistics research.  What I appreciated most about  Isabelle's research is that she maintains scholarly rigor while also seeing her positionality as shaping her researcher stance. Her experience living and working in Morocco offered thoughtful and vivid insight into the complex ways Moroccan women use language (particularly code-switching) to assert and negotiate identities.

Isabelle hopes to continue her study of the interface between gender and the Arabic language during her upcoming study abroad in fall quarter, when she'll be studying at the American University of Beruit.  She is an International Relations major, minoring in History and Middle Eastern Literature, Languages, and Cultures.  Outside the classroom, she is a member of and varsity player on the Stanford Polo Club and a member of the Pi Beta Phi Sorority.

In reflecting on her PWR 2 experience, Isabelle writes,

As an ESF alum, I was not sure what I was getting into with PWR and somewhat scoffed at the idea of taking 10 weeks to produce a 10 page paper. However, during my time with Dr. Johnson, I realized what a gift it is to have so much time to delve into a single topic and the freedom it gave me to experiment. It was this very freedom and flexibility that allowed me to find the theoretical framework with which I ultimately constructed my argument.

You can watch Isabelle's presentation -- which is particularly noteworthy for its excellence in situated research stance and sophisticated theoretical framing and definition of terms -- here.

Swetha Revanur: Lunsford Award Winner (Winter 2018)

​​​​​​​Swetha Revanur

Swetha Revanur won the Lunsford Award for her presentation, "Using AI to Help End Sex Trafficking," which she composed for Ruth Starkman's PWR 2 this winter.   She entered Ruth's class already excited for the topic and to write on a passion of hers: AI Activism.  As Ruth notes, PWR gave her the opportunity to dive deeply into this ongoing interest:

Swetha Revanur arrived in my PWR 2 passionate about an AI activism project she had built in her machine learning course the previous quarter. This algorithm has done nothing less than help bring down the notorious sex-trafficking site, Backpage. Ms. Renavur was already a brilliant, riveting, passionate speaker when she arrived in my course and was seeking an opportunity to communicate her work to a larger public. I'm so glad PWR offered her that chance to so lucidly and passionately articulate her work. I'm thrilled but not at all surprised she won. It's been a joy and honor to be her teacher.

You can see Swetha's commitment to this project when she herself writes about it as well:

Growing up in the Silicon Valley, I’ve found that data and technology can play a pivotal role in ventures that improve the quality of life for people around the world. Data can help us unravel disease pathogenesis in one context and tackle sex trafficking in another. Data is a curious beast that encapsulates both a problem and its solution; I focus on taming and harnessing it to address interdisciplinary questions here at Stanford.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Swetha plans to study computer science at Stanford, with a concentration in artificial intelligence. She's already conduct research in bioformatics and robotics in the past and will be joining Amazon this summer to work on a new project that they're inaugurating.

When asked to reflect on how PWR 2 contributed to her ongoing development as a writer and science communicator, Swetha had the following to say:

PWR 2 was an excellent experience for me to be able to bridge my interests in AI and rhetorical analysis, all while communicating my progress to a diverse group with varying levels of expertise. A lot of these transferrable skills have already proven to be handy, as I’m co-teaching a class this quarter on AI for Social Good. I’m very grateful to my teacher, Ruth Starkman, and the PWR community for facilitating an engaging and instructive course!

You can watch Swetha's award-winning presentation -- which is particularly noteworthy for its polished delivery and excellence in action-research and applied scholarship on a timely topic -- here.

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