William O'Brien First-Year Research Prizes
Will O’Brien was a member of the Class of 2006 who was tragically killed in the summer after his first year here at St. Lawrence. Will loved his year at SLU, and thanks to the generosity of his family and their friends, we are able to fund a series of prizes for research done in spring First-Year Seminar courses.
Each year, we select three students whose research in their FYS best reflects exemplary achievement of the goals of the FYS. Those three students will receive cash awards and typically will have the opportunity to present their research to the campus community at the Honors Reception during Laurentian Weekend in the fall of their sophomore year. View this year's schedule. This year, we have also selected four honorable mentions.
Congratulations to the William O'Brien FYS Research Prize winners from the Class of 2025:
First Place: Nicole Franco
"The French Veil Debates & Frameworks of Equality"
FYS - “After the Twin Towers: Twenty Years of “the War on Terror” "
with Howard Eissenstat
Second Place: Ethan Hu
"Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires and the Bamiyan Buddhas"
FYS - “What is History?"
with Judith DeGroat
Third Place: Lannea Zentz
"College Culture: Substance, Sex, and Satisfaction"
FYS – “How to Like It: Happiness in the Modern World”
with Josh Exoo
Honorable Mention: Stella VanGee
"Social Media Use Should be Moderated"
FYS – “Neuroscience of Stress”
with Serge Onyper
Honorable Mention: Etta Leugers
"New Roots: Green Gentrification in Minneapolis"
FYS – “Where are you from?”
with Natalia Singer
Honorable Mention: Samia Krazoun
"Werewolves in the Middle Ages"
FYS – “Magic in the Middle Ages”
with John Payne
Honorable Mention: Madyson McCarthy
"Female Politicians and Public Speaking: Examining the Effectiveness
of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Floor Breaking Speech"
FYS – “Speak Up: Rhetoric & Public Speaking”
with Erika Kissam
First Place: Nicole Franco "The French Veil Debates & Frameworks of Equality"
"My research examined the French veil debates and how they illustrated broader conflicts in feminist discourses. I argued that Islamic feminists represent the notion that equality is contextual, and secular feminists represented an understanding of equality as according to a universal standard. I concluded that neither position can stand entirely on their own; rather, they should borrow from and inform each other."
Second Place: Ethan Hu "Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires and the Bamiyan Buddhas"
“The 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas remains a contentious chapter in the history of Afghan cultural heritage. Yet, considering the perspective of the Taliban remains critical for understanding the cultural tensions that led to the event. In my First-Year Seminar with Dr. Judith DeGroat, I examine the Taliban's rationale for targeting the Bamiyan Buddhas. My research finds that a combination of iconoclastic fervor and cultural conflict inspired the destruction of the statues. The act was, above all, a symbolic reassertion of the Taliban's perception of Afghan culture against international pressures.”
Third Place: Lannea Zentz "College Culture: Substance, Sex, and Satisfaction"
“My FYS was "How to Like It: Happiness", so for my research project my class was told to center our project around some research question or topic pertaining to happiness. I chose my topic, "College Culture: Substance, Sex, & Satisfaction," because it addressed the concept of happiness, and I also felt like it was a very relevant, yet often unmentioned, topic for most college students. Substance use and sexual activity are a common element of human life, both during college and beyond, but they are often presented as "negative" or taboo. I wanted to explore this concept to more fully understand the link between "party culture" and happiness.”
Honorable Mention: Stella VanGee "Social Media Use Should Be Moderated"
“Though initially intimidating, my First-Year Seminar “Neuroscience of Stress” changed my perspective on stress from something inherently negative to something that can help individuals grow and succeed. The course allowed me to examine my own life and taught me how I could work to maximize my well-being through simple measures. When it was time to pick a research topic, I decided to look at how social media presents itself as a harmful source of stress. Choosing this topic seemed beneficial as social media has become a natural part of nearly all college students' lives, including my own. I wanted to learn more about how something I am constantly surrounded by can actually be severely threatening to my mental well-being and overall health. Essentially, I wanted to fully understand why social media use can reach an unhealthy degree, and consequently understand its dangers. Ultimately, through both the course and my research, I realized that taking control of one’s life can be much simpler than one might imagine.”
Honorable Mention: Etta Leugers "New Roots: Green Gentrification in Minneapolis"
“In my First-Year Seminar, "Where are You From?" with Natalia Singer, I was able to turn my passion for bike culture in Minneapolis into an essay that explored the consequences of a commuter path in the heart of the city. By combining creative writing with research, I examined changes in my neighborhood after construction of the Midtown Greenway through demographic data and personal narratives. Despite the path's value in providing a safe commuting route, my paper critiques its role in green gentrification, spurring new development in surrounding neighborhoods at the cost of cultural and economic diversity.”
Honorable Mention: Samia Krazoun "Werewolves in the Middle Ages"
“I was in the First-Year Seminar “Magic in the Middle Ages,” taught by Professor John Payne. It was an enjoyable and fascinating FYS which inspired future interest. For my FYS research project, I sought to define the werewolf in medieval Europe. My research focused on the what, why, and how of the medieval werewolf, mainly in regard to mythology, folklore, and courtly literature. Separating medieval views from modern influences proved to be the greatest challenge of this research project, as there are many misconceptions about the Middle Ages existing today. I’m proud of the improved understanding of the Middle Ages I gained from participating in this FYS.”
Honorable Mention: Madyson McCarthy "Female Politicians and Public Speaking: Examining the Effectiveness of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Floor Breaking Speech"
“My FYS research paper, “Female Politicians and Public Speaking: Examining the Effectiveness of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Floor Breaking Speech,” was developed through combining my passion for feminism with the task of evaluating a speech for effectiveness. This paper analyzes the speech, “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Responds to Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL),” for the many ways she redefines stereotypes and uses public speaking techniques in response to Representative Yoho’s misogynistic comments. Through examining this empowering speech, it is clear that female politicians are not allotted the same luxuries as their male counterparts. They must speak intentionally through the use of general public speaking techniques to be taken more seriously as female politicians and in public speaking contexts.”