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Students Win Hoopes For Senior Thesis Work

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences awarded 71 seniors the prestigious Hoopes prize for their senior theses with little fanfare or publicity on Friday afternoon.

“A friend of mine wrote me a congratulations note, and I didn’t know what she was talking about,” said Julie D. Rosenberg ’03, who won for her social anthropology thesis on stigmatization in the treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Lima, Peru. “So I went online...and there I was.”

Many recipients said they experienced similar situations. Though several said they received e-mail notification from their senior tutors, most learned of the honor awarded them before receiving an official letter or e-mail.

The lack of formal ceremony does not appear, however, to have detracted from the prizewinners’ excitement.

“I’m just absolutely stunned,” said Meredith L. Schweig ’03, who—along with her thesis adviser, Watts Professor of Music Kay Kaufman Shelemay—won for her project “Made in Taiwan: Hybrid Voices and the Performance of Cultural Plurality in Taiwan’s Popular Music from Teresa Teng to Samingad.”

“I had such an amazing experience doing it, and it’s just really cool that someone can reward you for doing something that you loved doing,” Schweig said.

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The Thomas T. Hoopes Class of 1919 Prizes are cash awards in the amount of $2,500 given each year to undergraduates and their advisers for outstanding scholarly research and writing in the form of a senior thesis. Each of the prize’s recipients was recommended by a Faculty supervisor. Faculty members are typically only allowed to recommend one thesis per year.

The fund’s founder, Thomas T. Hoopes ’19, was himself a devoted scholar.

Hoopes, a historian who specialized in the field of Medieval and modern firearms and weaponry—a subject which he wrote about extensively—served as curator of the City Art Museum in St. Louis for more than 25 years. Hoopes established the prize for the purpose of “recognizing, promoting, encouraging and rewarding excellence.”

Though many of the winners said they set out to write the best thesis they could, few eyed the Hoopes honor with any degree of certainty.

“I wasn’t really expecting it at all—I mean, it’s like expecting to be struck by lightning,” said Alex Ewing, ’03, who won for his history thesis “‘Down in the Flood:’ Labor, Class, Justice and the Tulsa Riot of 1921.”

“A thesis is a funny thing—when you finish it you’re pretty sure that it’s the worst thing ever,” explained Mark W. Kirby ’03, who wrote a history of science thesis on “Harvard’s Simian Seminar; Sociobiology’s Salon Culture.”

“Then a week later you think, ‘Ah, maybe it’s not so bad,’” he added.

Many winners said this weekend that the award had inspired them to continue the work that they started with their theses.

Scott Lee ’03, who wrote his Hoopes-worthy religion and social anthropology thesis on “Contested meanings, Contested Lives: Interpretations of AIDS-Apparent Illness in Western Kenya,” said he ultimately hopes to pursue a career as a doctor in Kenya.

Lee said he found the financial aspect of the prize to be a particularly good incentive.

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