For the students who recently received the Calvert Award for Undergraduate Research, it was an honor akin to the Oscars. It was obvious by their glowing faces that the honorees were thrilled to have their research validated and showcased to the university during a special reception that took place in the Lied Library on May 2.
With the support of a generous endowment from Lance and Elena Calvert, the University Libraries Lance and Elena Calvert Award for Undergraduate Research recognizes excellence in undergraduate research projects that incorporate the use of University Libraries' collections and demonstrate sophisticated information literacy skills on the part of the undergraduate researcher. The award review committee considers the product of the research, but focuses on the research process: the demonstration of library research skills, adept use of library resources, and reflection upon the strategies utilized to investigate a research problem.
Up to four awards are given annually in two categories: seniors are eligible for a $1,000 prize; juniors, sophomores, and freshmen are eligible for a prize in the amount of $750. In addition to the cash prize, another bonus for the winners in that their research projects are made permanently available online.
Drumroll please…this year’s award recipients are:
• Maria Jose Flor Agreda
"Governing through Permanent Campaigning: Media Usage and Press Freedom in Ecuador"
Faculty Advisor: John Tuman, Political Science / Honors
• Ryuhei Kawamoto
“The Challenge of Studying Pedophilia"
Faculty Advisor: Candace Griffith, Sociology
• Karissa Dold
“Early Life Stress, Drug Abuse, Exercise Effects on BDNF and Sex-Influenced Exercise Differences"
Faculty Advisor: Laurel Pritchard, Psychology / Honors
• John S. Avant
“Untangling Cultural Differences in Behavioral, Physiological, and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease"
Faculty Advisor: Jefferson Kinney, Psychology
For senior division award winner Karissa Dold, receiving the honor was humbling. “Being a part of the Calvert Award winner family is an extraordinary honor,” she says. “Winning the award gives me the confidence to head into my future knowing I am capable of performing well at a level that might be matched in professional school. Winning also gives me confidence that even in times of strife, such as the difficult research process, I have the personal characteristics and drive to excel and overcome challenges. As a winner, I can pay it forward to my peers that are following in my path. I would like to encourage them to undertake the challenge of a research project because the experience will help them grow as student. It also fosters a bright image of UNLV undergraduates as being high-achieving intellectuals, and that ultimately breeds pride in our school.”
John Avant, who won in the non-senior category, learned about the award from a friend, Paul Kirsch, who had received the honor in 2012. “He invited me to attend last year’s ceremony and I was inspired by the time and dedication shown by the winners. I was impressed and surprised that an undergraduate would go so far as to complete such a project. Until that moment, my perception was that serious and in-depth research didn’t exist and wasn’t something to even consider until grad school.”
Avant continues, “To be honest, this award means so many things to me: an opportunity to really test my academic research skills and my first real test of higher education competition. Knowing there were other applicants who put in just as much or possibly more time was a factor that pushed me to perform at a level I didn’t know I was capable of. I was surprised to learn that I had won, but the announcement also validated that my research mattered and that what I was doing (even as an undergraduate) made a difference.”
The Calvert Award was established in 2006. According to Anne Zald, head of Educational Initiatives at the Libraries and Associate Professor, “When I became chair of the award committee in 2009, the committee members and I worked to establish two 'divisions' of the award—one for freshmen, sophomores and juniors and another for seniors—so that applications from lower-division undergraduates would have a better chance of winning. The committee also put the application and judging process online using the then newly acquired BEPress software used to support DigitalScholarship@UNLV.”
Due to this technology, Calvert Award winners since 2010 have had their projects digitally published through DigitalScholarship@UNLV, the digital repository for UNLV scholarship and research. In addition to making the students' work available to the entire world through web searches such as Google, posting the winning projects to the repository provides the winning students a permanent web address they can use to share their work with graduate schools, potential employers, family, and friends.
Submissions are judged based on how well the entrants demonstrate the following:
- Sophistication, originality and/or unusual depth or breadth in the use of library collections, including, but not limited to, printed resources, databases, primary resources, and materials in all media;
- Exceptional ability to locate, select, evaluate, and synthesize library resources and to use them in the creation of a project in any media that shows; originality and/or has the potential to lead to original research in the future; and
- Evidence of developing an understanding of the processes of research and inquiry.
A panel composed of faculty, librarians, and students judge entries using a rubric describing the criteria named above. Expectations for achievement are commensurate with the applicant's class year and the requirements of the discipline.
Senior Maria José Flor Ágreda learned about the award from her professor, Dr. John Tuman, who served on the committee for her undergraduate honors thesis. “He suggested I submit my thesis, and his assurance that it was a worthy project gave me the confidence to apply,” she says. “My research looks at the issue of press freedoms that are outside the normal convention, so it was reassuring and very inspiring to have been recognized for it. I am now certain that I’m on the right path with my research. The award will surely serve as motivation and inspiration for me to continue with research and academia.”
When winner Ryuhei Kawamoto learned of the award, he thought it might be the best opportunity to enhance his research skills. “My research topic was pedophilia, which people are often afraid to talk about,” he says. “I thought my project was worth applying for the award because, by doing so, the correct information about pedophiles that were examined by professionals could gain public attention and provide an opportunity for people to talk about the issue in public with professional and academic manners.”
“When my research won the award, I was extremely happy that the professors I respect were not biased and could examine my work professionally. It made me respect them even more,” Kawamoto reflects.
To see this years’ project winners, along with the other recipients’ projects since 2010, be sure to visit digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/award.