May 14th, 2013
The West Virginia University Libraries have named Jessica Brielle Kawalek the 2013 Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholar.
“Brie did a tremendous job researching her topic and presenting her findings,” said Keith Garbutt, Dean of the Honors College. “She exemplifies the undergraduates at West Virginia University who are engaged in extraordinary research. We are pleased the Libraries are recognizing her for her 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 an outstanding humanities or social sciences thesis based on research conducted in the WVU Libraries. 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.
Kawalek, the daughter of Don and Janet Kawalek of Bunker Hill, won the award with her paper titled “Psychopathy as a Mediator between Disgust and Violent Behavior.” The thesis examined correlations between psychopathy, disgust sensitivity, and violent behavior.
There’s growing interest in psychopathy, Kawalek explained.
“It’s a construct that people find intriguing but almost a little bit terrifying,” Kawalek said. “Someone high on the scale may not have a conscience. They can commit violent crimes. They’re manipulative. They do what they can to get to the top, be that a serial killer or a CEO.”
However, by studying the disorder, hope exists for those afflicted.
“If we can learn about psychopathy, we can possibly prevent some things from happening,” Kawalek said.
She credits Dr. Natalie Shook and John Terrizzi, a graduate student, for sparking her interest in delving into the topic. They also helped her collect data from human subjects.
The foundation of her work, though, came through hours of shifting through journals and other materials.
“I was constantly using the online databases and coming to the library between classes to see what was previously done in area,” Kawalek said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do my thesis without the library because that’s where I got all of my literature.”
Those long hours paid off for her.
“I’m sure Dr. Munn would be proud of Brie and the level of scholarship she undertook,” said Myra N. Lowe, Interim Dean of the WVU Libraries. “It always excites me when a student starts with a hypothesis, thoroughly researches it, and clearly and concisely presents it in a finished paper.”
After graduating with degrees in psychology and German, Kawalek will spend a year in Germany teaching English on a Fulbright Scholarship. It will be her second trip to Deutschland. She was there for two months last summer.
As for what’s next, she’s keeping her options open.
She has already been accepted in WVU’s Teaching English as a Second Language Program, and she plans to explore opportunities at other schools. A master’s in psychology is also on the horizon. The question is whether she’d pursue it back in the United States or in Germany.
“I’d like to do research, teach, and be a mentor,” Kawalek said. “No matter what I end up doing, it will involve teaching.”