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Three Receive Library Scholars Award

Posted by Monte Maxwell.
May 17th, 2012

Three Honors graduates have been named Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars. Abigail Cioffi, Miriah Hamrick, and Jared Jones received the award at a ceremony in the Charles C. Wise Library during Commencement Weekend.

“These students did a tremendous job researching their topics and presenting their findings,” said Keith Garbutt, Dean of the Honors College. “They are excellent examples of the undergraduates at West Virginia University who are engaged in extraordinary research. We are pleased these students are being recognized for their scholarship and hard work.”

The WVU Libraries and the Honors College established the Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars Award in 2009 to honor Dr. Robert F. Munn, Dean of Library Services from 1957-1986.

The award goes to one or more graduating Honors students for outstanding humanities or social sciences research that is done in the WVU Libraries and results in an exceptional thesis. Writing a thesis is a graduation requirement for Honors students. Along with receiving a $1,000 award, the scholar’s name is added to a plaque in the Downtown Campus Library.

Cioffi is the daughter of Edward and Dale Cioffi of Charleston. In writing her thesis, “Dunmore’s War: How Virginia’s West was Won,” she spent a lot of time in the West Virginia & Regional History Collection and the Appalachian Collection.

She enjoyed the research process and was surprised at the amount of primary source material she found. She was especially intrigued by letters penned by General George Washington.

“It was fascinating being able to see history coming to life through primary sources,” she said.

Cioffi graduated in December with a bachelor’s in history and has already begun graduate school, where she is studying public history. She is leaning toward a career in historic preservation and is interested in Main Street programs that work on preserving downtowns.

“When I studied art history, a lot of what I focused on was architecture. I definitely have a passion for that,” Cioffi said.

Hamrick grew up with her father, Bill Hamrick, in Weston and with her mother, Michelle Nutter, in Summersville.

For her thesis, “An Adversary for Mr. Bryan: West Virginia’s Forgotten Contributions to the Antievolution Crusade,” she did the majority of her research in the West Virginia & Regional History Collection.

The thesis delved into happenings on the WVU campus prior to the famous Scopes Monkey Trial. On March 11, 1922, William Jennings Bryan posed a challenge to faculty. He offered a $100 prize to any faculty member who could reconcile his belief in the Bible with his belief in evolutionary theory.

“I don’t think I could have done the project without the West Virginia Collection,” Hamrick said. “That’s part of why I chose to do the project, because I knew there was such a wealth of resources.”

The abundance of available information, though, meant a long process of reading articles, letters, and other materials, and determining what to include in her thesis. On a few occasions, she thought she was close to wrapping her research only to uncover new information.

“Even though there were times I didn’t want to look at another piece of microfilm again, it really kept me engaged the whole time,” Hamrick said. “It almost made me feel like I was a detective.”

She graduated with a double major in history and philosophy and a minor in religious studies. She plans to take time off before beginning graduate school.

Jones is the son of Matthew and Julie Jones of Charleston. His thesis is titled “From Fraud to God: Characterisations of the Scientist in British Literature, 1726-1818. He chose the topic because it enabled him to focus on his interest in science and literature.

“I very much enjoyed doing the research, which was good because I had a lot of it to do. But then it came down to sitting down and writing it,” Jones said.

His greatest challenge was sifting through his research to decide what information to include and how to arrange it. One of his goals is to learn how to pick topics for a project’s particular length, whether it’s a conference presentation, journal article, dissertation, or book.

He graduated with a double major in English and German. This fall, he begins a fellowship at Ohio State University for their MA/PhD program in literature.

“Everyone on the selection committee was impressed with the efforts of these honors graduates,” said Myra N. Lowe, Interim Dean of the WVU Libraries. “Clearly, undergraduates at West Virginia University are engaged in some interesting and important research.”

Dr. Munn began his career at WVU as a librarian in 1952 and advanced to head the Library in 1957. Over the next 30 years, he directed the expansion of the Library from a modest centralized facility into a campus-wide system of Libraries with holdings in excess of a million volumes. During that time, he also served as provost under three presidents.

A scholar and author of numerous articles and several books relating to various topics including West Virginia, Appalachia and the coal industry, Munn was dedicated to promoting scholarship and literature, especially regarding West Virginia-related subjects. In 1981, he founded the WVU Press as a vehicle to publish manuscripts of merit chiefly of state and regional interest.

His contributions extended beyond WVU. Munn had an international reputation in the field of librarianship, served on boards of several leading foundations, and assisted in the establishment of libraries in developing countries around the world.

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