Winners of the 2016 Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research


The Brown University Library is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Undergraduate Prize for Excellence in Library Research. The Committee decided this year to award two prizes, both for projects that coincidentally were done for the same course, Michael Vorenberg’s first-year seminar, “Abraham Lincoln: Historical and Cultural Perspectives” (HIST 0551A).

Rachel Gold ‘19 wrote a paper on “The Education of John Hay,” for which she used a wide variety of contemporary sources, including John Hay’s own letters and papers, archival records, and other students’ diaries to describe John Hay’s experience at Brown and in Providence. She worked her way into these sources by first reading, chronologically, a series of biographies of Hay from 1905 through 2014. The result is an evocative portrait of the Midwesterner who found himself at Brown University in 1855.

Halley McArn ‘19 created a website that explores the issue of presidential pardons, with special reference to pardons issued by Lincoln during the Civil War, as well as a discussion of the issue in the Obama presidency. The website begins with the origins of the presidential pardon, then proceeds to Lincoln’s pardons and the special issues he had to consider, especially in the midst of a war that had torn the country apart. It ends with an overview of the presidential pardon up to and including Obama, with special reference to the context of the War on Drugs and mass incarceration, issues raised by this year’s First Readings choice: Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

The committee judging the awards this year consisted of:

  • Karen Bouchard (Library)
  • Harold J. Cook (History)
  • William S. Monroe (Library)
  • Joseph M. Pucci (Classics)
  • Besenia Rodriguez (Associate Dean of the College)

In partnership with the Office of the Dean of the College, the Brown University Library sponsors the annual Undergraduate Research Prize, awarded each April. The purpose of the prize is to recognize excellence in undergraduate research projects that make creative and extensive use of the Brown University Library’s collections including, but not limited to, print resources, databases, primary resources, and materials in all media. The project may take the form of a traditional paper, a database, a website, or other digital project. Please click here to visit the Prize’s webpage for more information.