The Graduate School is please to announce the second annual Graduate Student Paper Competition. All students are encouraged to submit papers reflecting original work in their field. Papers will be judged on the basis of quality of writing, originality of the work, and overall contribution to the knowledge base of their field. Winners are chosen at the masters and doctoral level, and the winners will present their research as keynotes. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021
11:20 a.m. – 12.20 p.m.


Winning Paper Abstracts

Rachel Barber
Creative Writing (MFA)
Title of Project : The Zone
Advisor: Paul Lisicky

This paper analyzes segregation and homelessness in the downtown area in Phoenix, Arizona. Through a combination of research and personal narrative, I explore the following questions: 1) How did Phoenix become segregated? 2) How is segregation still enforced today? 3) What is the impact of historical modes of segregation on the homeless services system in modern-day Phoenix? Formatted as a creative nonfiction essay, this project provides an overview of modern racial disparities in the Phoenix homeless services system and the laws and policies that created those disparities. These policies include, but are not limited to redlining, industrial zoning, and modern-day housing prioritization policies. Because I worked as a case manager and supervisor in a shelter in Phoenix for over six years, I use personal narrative from my work environment to support data and government documents demonstrating the racial bias of housing policy. Although Phoenix is the focus of the text, this essay raises broader questions around housing disparities across the United States by incorporating personal narrative and facts related to Newburgh, New York and New Canaan, Connecticut. Both Newburgh and New Canaan are areas where my family has lived that were impacted by racially biased zoning policies. By expanding the scope of the narrative to Newburgh and New Canaan, this essay demonstrates that housing discrimination has been (and continues to be) systemic across the United States. Racially biased housing policy created the racial housing disparities in our country today.


Heather Reel
Childhood Studies (PhD)

Title of Project: The Fultz Quadruplets: Visual Iconography of Black Girls in the Civil Rights Era
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Susan Miller

In 1946, the Pet Evaporated Milk Company agreed to pay all medical, food, and housing expenses for the first known surviving set of African American quadruplets – the newborn Fultz sisters. In exchange, the quads became unofficial brand ambassadors for Pet Milk, appearing in countless print advertisements from infancy through adolescence and helping to grow Pet Milk’s African American consumer base. The Fultzes, like the Canadian Dionne quintuplets and other child multiple “sensations” of the depression and postwar eras, produced a generation of well-wishers who celebrated their every milestone.

Few scholars have examined the national obsession with child multiples in mid-century American nor considered the cultural work this national craze performed toward the formation of ideas about childhood, race, nation, gender, consumption, health and American identity.   Even fewer have examined the Fultz quadruplets unique position as the only set of African Americans in this era of “multiple mania.”   In this paper, I seek to traverse this scholarly void by analyzing the cultural work of the Fultz quadruplets in the civil rights era.  

To answer this question, I turn to newspaper and magazine photo-essays and Pet Evaporated milk ads featuring the Fultz Quads in three widely distributed African American publications (The Chicago Defender, the Los Angeles Sentinel, and Ebony Magazine) between 1946 and 1965.  My analysis takes into consideration the assumptions about Black children’s bodies and lives that are embedded in the textual and visual language of the ads and press coverage of the quads.  I argue that the quads came to represent the health of African America –  of both the physical body and the Black community.   Engaging with medical knowledge regimes to promote and sell their milk products and “teach” parents how to produce ideal children through technologies of food, popular coverage of the quads created a body of consumers who imagined the Black child’s future and imagined themselves as members of a larger network of thriving and healthful Black families. Situating these visual articulations of childhood within the iconography of the civil rights era, I contend that images of the Fultz quads tempered visual violations of Black children’s humanity and helped to shape a counter-narrative about Black childhood as sacred.


Michelle Lyttle Storrod
Childhood Studies (PhD)
Title of Project: Technology-Facilitated Sexual Violence in a Gang Context
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lauren Silver

This qualitative study takes a mixed method approach in exploring technology-facilitated sexual violence (TFSV) in the context of gangs. Drawing from the growing body of literature that combines cyberstalking, coerced sexting, digital teenage dating violence, online sexual harassment and sextortion to comprise TFSV, this study will demonstrate that for the UK gangs studied, TFSV is a characteristic of gang life. The findings presented will illustrate that TFSV in gangs is extensive and varied, incorporating a range of digital abuses and offline contact sexual offenses.  Exploration of the distinctive characteristics of TFSV in gangs with regards to highly gendered practices and criminal exploitation will also be outlined. Recommendations for practitioners, policy makers and researchers on how to better understand and intervene in gang related TFSV will be highlighted.




See past winners: