Celebrating Student Researchers: Rackoff and Schuchard 2023 Winners

by Shanna Early, Instruction Archivist at Rose Library 

Congratulations to all students who submitted research projects for consideration for the 2023 Schuchard and Rackoff Undergraduate Research Prizes. The work we received reflected the academic excellence of Emory’s undergraduate humanities programs, and The Rose Library is proud to be a part of educating scholars and leaders of the future. Though the judging for this year’s prizes was tight, we are thrilled to announce our 2023 winners.

Schuchard Prize

Endowed by Goodrich C. White Professor Emeritus of English Ronald Schuchard, The Schuchard Prize is awarded annually to the best paper, project, or honor’s thesis using archival research that originated in a class offered by Emory’s Department of English.

Sophia Yoon

The first-place winner of the Schuchard Prize this year is senior Sophia Yoon. Her paper, “’Digging’ Through Archives: Understanding Seamus Heaney’s Vision of Violence in Society, through his Drafts of ‘Strange Fruit,’” was produced for Professor Geraldine Higgins’s Methods of Literary Research course. The judges were impressed by Yoon’s sustained, critical use of manuscript materials and secondary sources to support her conclusions. Of her experience learning in the Rose Library, Yoon writes,

“I was especially interested by the librarians’ process of organizing and sorting the materials in archives, as the Heaney drafts didn’t have dates attached to them. This was important for my project because I wanted to track how the poem had developed over time, and without a clear marker, I wasn’t sure where to start. To help me, I reflected on a question I had asked a librarian about the process of filing and ordering materials in archives during one of my earlier class visits to view the W.B. Yeats archive. She had said that often, they had to use contextual clues and cross-reference with other materials in the archive to create a rough chronology of materials. With this insight provided by the Rose librarian, I could fully explore the historical and cultural contexts behind Heaney’s creative process meaningfully.”

Congratulations Sophia!


Sophie Vo

Senior Sophie Vo, also a student of Professor Higgins, is the runner-up for the Schuchard Prize. Vo’s essay, “’Strange Fruit’: The Cadence of Hope and History,” also focuses on the “Strange Fruit” drafts held in the Rose Library. The judges were impressed by how much Vo’s argument relies on the manuscripts to draw conclusions and the quality of expression in her writing. For Vo, this project took on a personal dimension; she writes,

“To me, this analysis was not only academic, but it was personal. My Vietnamese identity has informed my fascination in the “forgotten” voices of history, as the lived experiences of Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War are often overshadowed by an imperializing, American narrative. Yet, our trauma is relegated to the margins of history. So, my interest in Heaney’s postcolonial poetry, specifically the drafts of “Strange Fruit,” was influenced by my Vietnamese background. In researching these drafts at the Rose Library, I intend to center the narratives of people marginalized by history and discover more about myself.”

Congratulations Sophie!


Natalie Sturza

The judges also elected to award an honorable mention to Natalie Sturza, whose essay is especially impressive for a first-year student. Another student of Professor Higgins, Sturza’s essay, “Becoming the Bog: The Roum Woman’s Deflection of Seamus Heaney’s Attempt to Appropriate and Write Her Story in ‘Strange Fruit,’” may not have taken the top prize, but it demonstrates true promise for a bright future in academic writing. Especially impressive is the care that Sturza takes to zoom in on the smallest details and changes from the manuscripts, creating side-by-side comparisons of how lines were changed from one draft to the next. Of her experience working with the manuscripts, Sturza writes,

“[T]his close read of the drafts was unlike anything I had ever done before. Not only did I determine that one of the drafts was out of order in the sequence of manuscripts after comparing lines and annotations side-by-side, but I also felt as though I was privy to an inside joke with Heaney when I realized that the criticism of “beatification” and “reverence” in the final lines of the published version is a reference to previous drafts, where Heaney had done that (Heaney, Seamus. Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996, 114: “Strange Fruit”). Ultimately, access to the priceless manuscripts in the Rose Library allowed me to glimpse at the writing process and struggles of a poet whose work I have read for years; an exceptional experience.”

Keep it up, Natalie! We hope to see you in the Rose Library this year!

The Alan Rackoff Prize

Emory alum Dr Wayne Rackoff initiated this research prize, named for his late brother who was also an emory alum. This prize is awarded each academic year for the best paper, project, or honor’s thesis using primary source material, excluding work submitted to classes in the Department of English. This year, both our first-place and runner-up winners created research projects using Rose Library materials independently from course requirements. We are especially proud of these students for their initiative and dedication.

Danielle Sherman

The first-place winner of the 2023 Rackoff Prize is sophomore Danielle Sherman. Sherman’s essay, “Between the Lines of Blood and Ink: Stoker’s Letters and the Epistolary Form of Dracula,” makes use of one of the Rose Library’s newer collections, the John Moore Bram Stoker Collection, to examine how Stoker’s own personal correspondence sheds light on the author’s choice to use an epistolary format for his novel. The judges were especially impressed with the originality and potential of Sherman’s approach to the novel. Of her research, Sherman writes,

“It was important to me that I formed conclusions my research led me toward, rather than contriving to use the primary materials to “prove” arguments I already had in mind. For that reason, I did my best to keep an open mind by dismissing any preconceptions I had and focusing on what I could draw from the texts themselves. By thinking of comparisons and commonalities between the scholarship, the novel, and the letters, I arrived at the three points of discussion outlined in my paper. There were other tracks I might have followed, such as the nature of confidentiality within epistolary form, but I felt those would have been more tangential; instead, I fixated on synthesizing the insights Stoker’s letters offered and considering their implications with respect to Dracula and its scholarship.”

Congratulations, Danielle! We look forward to seeing what you do in the future!


Morgan Crosswhite

The runner-up for the Rackoff Prize this year is junior Morgan Crosswhite, whose project “Devotion to Dooley the Skeleton: Emory University’s Lord of Misrule and the Hidden Racist Transcript” takes a hard look at the history of Emory’s unofficial mascot to uncover the racism hidden at its roots. Crosswhite chose to display their project as a well-designed website with a series of essays and images. The judges were especially impressed by Crosswhite’s use of a public medium and careful use of materials to reconstruct the history of Dooley. Of their work in the Rose Library, Crosswhite writes,

“For this project, I based my inquiry around my initial curiosity from the 1924 article and spent the summer investigating Dooley’s historical connection with cadaver theft and racism. In pursuit of this project, I relied heavily on the ROSE Library and its digital collections like the “Oxford College Course Catalogs” and the physical sources found in the archives and accessible through ROSE’s Finding Aids like the “Dooley Collection.” The project I finished let me answer the question of Dooley’s history with medical racism. I was also only able to finish this project because of the support of archival staff like Jacqueline Reed, Dr. Erika Bruchko, and Dr. John Bence whose knowledge of the archives helped me traverse my research. Further, inspired by how archives and libraries share knowledge through source access, I have shared my project many times with the Emory community and beyond and used it to support other archival work like the recent HIST 488RW 1836 Project Walking Tour.”

Congratulations Morgan!