USC Libraries Award Prizes to Top Student Papers

Posted by Tyson Gaskill

Winners of the USC Libraries Research Award

USC Libraries Research Award winners at the April 24, 2018, reception. Photo: Anne-Marie Maxwell

At the end of the spring 2018 semester, the USC Libraries honored the most exceptional student research completed at USC in a for-credit class or through independent study during the previous calendar year.

Papers on never-seen MGM musicals, the role of globalization in the rise of the NBA, and Icelandic landscapes by the British artist William Morris, were among the seven winners at this year’s annual USC Libraries Research Award. Submitters may use either primary source materials held by the university’s Special Collections or the reference and research resources of the USC Libraries.

Tying for first prize in the graduate category were Emily Rauber Rodriguez for “Hidden Follies: The Lost Labor Behind Arthur Freed’s Unmade MGM Musicals” and Michael Turcios for “Debates and Questions for Studying Black Murals: The Case of Noni Olabisi’s To Protect and Serve (1996).”

Rodriguez worked closely with Cinematic Arts Library staff to explore the scripts, internal studio memos, correspondence, production reports, budgets, legal contracts, and newspaper and magazine articles of the unproduced musicals of Arthur Freed (widely known for such popular films as Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, and Meet Me in St. Louis). Turcios researched flyers, correspondence, brochures, postcards, books, and digitized slides from the Robin J. Dunitz archive in the USC Architecture and Fine Arts Library to explore issues of preservation and scholarly production related to murals produced in Los Angeles after the 1992 riots, focusing in particular on a 1996 mural in South Los Angeles by Noni Olabisi.

Five undergraduate students earned prizes for their research and thesis papers. Anna Lipscomb plumbed the depths of the book stacks in Doheny and VKC Libraries to find the information she needed to write about “China’s Regional Identity Crises: Exploring Identity in Xinjiang and Taiwan’s Relations with Beijing.” Matthew Simon worked with faculty in the VKC Library to comb through specialized databases that addressed his subject matter: “Global Evolution: How Globalization shaped the National Basketball Association into an International Power.” Jacob Lokshin, a second lieutenant in the US Air Force working toward a PhD in international relations, used nearly every resource available to him, including books, magazines, journals, and subscription databases in writing his 130-page, extensively footnoted thesis paper on US–Afghan policy during the Carter Administration. Former Special Collections student worker Alison Smith paid tribute to the patience of library faculty members who assisted her research, and sheepishly admitted to denuding the stacks of Doheny Library in writing about William Morris’s Icelandic landscapes. Finally, Rebecca Breitstein,’s Spanish-language paper “La Ventana a la Cultura: El Papel del Idioma en la Educación Primaria” benefitted greatly from research skills provided by USC Libraries’ Head of Information Literacy Elizabeth Galoozis.

The awards, which began as a Dean’s Challenge Grant, are now partially funded courtesy Adam Matthew Primary Sources for Teaching and Research.

Two juries divided the work of scoring the dozens of papers submitted. Members of the juries included USC Libraries faculty members Rebecca Corbett, Elizabeth Galoozis, Karin Huebner, Kevin Klipfel, Sue Luftschein, Danielle Mihram, Suzi Noruschat, Shalini Ramachandran, and Eimmy Solis; Professor Andrea Parra in the Dornsife College’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese; and two winners from the previous year, José Alaras and Darshana Mini.