Students receive University of Notre Dame Library Research Awards

Author: Tara O'Leary

The 2022 University of Notre Dame Library Research Award competition, sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries, resulted in 15 awards being given to students across diverse disciplines. This annual award is earned by undergraduate students who demonstrate excellence in research skills by using a breadth of library resources and services for their course assignments, research projects and creative endeavors.

“Hesburgh Libraries long has fostered academic excellence to advance Notre Dame’s vision for an unsurpassed undergraduate education,” said K. Matthew Dames, the Edward H. Arnold University Librarian. “This year’s awardees demonstrate the impact that mastering library research skills can have on academic and research outcomes.”

Students from across campus were invited to submit a brief essay describing the many ways in which they used library resources for a project or assignment completed during summer 2021, fall 2021 or spring 2022.

Congratulations to the 2022 Library Research Award winners.

Capstone Project or Senior Thesis Award Category

Lra22 Senior Thesis Capstone Award Ngwenya Xolisa

First Place — Xolisa Ngwenya, psychology

Xolisa Ngwenya won first prize for her use of library resources when doing research for her senior thesis, “Understanding The Link Between Parent-Child Relationships and Children’s Conflict Responses: An Emotional Security Mediation Analysis.” She was advised by Kathleen Bergman Miller, assistant research professor in the Department of Psychology.

Ngwenya took a “Data Analysis and Visualization in R for Social Scientists” workshop offered by the Hesburgh Libraries’ Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship (NFCDS) and learned about R studio. Ngwenya also learned how to use library tools and databases to narrow her thesis topic, using advanced search strategies to find gaps in the research literature. “This narrowed my search and allowed me to spend more time writing a quality thesis paper, rather than conducting literature reviews,” said Ngwenya.

Lra22 Senior Thesis Capstone Award Jack Boland

Second Place — Jack Boland, political science

Jack Boland’s essay earned second prize for his use of library resources while conducting research for his senior thesis, “Potawatomi Relations with British and American Governance.” Boland was advised by Brian Collier, faculty and fellow in the Institute for Educational Initiatives and currently director of the American Indian Catholic Schools Network.

As part of his senior thesis class for political science, Boland was encouraged to meet with Mark Robison, the political science librarian. “Meeting with him changed my entire perspective on what was available to me through the Hesburgh Library,” said Boland. “He showed me how to use the political science and social science databases, the Oxford Handbooks and the citation management tools, which changed the way I conducted my research.” Robison’s consultations helped Boland to narrow his interests, discover more materials and better focus his research topic.

Sophomore, Junior or Senior Award Category

Lra22 Sophomorejuniorsenior Award Erin Reilly

First Place — Erin Reilly, history

Sophomore Erin Reilly won first prize for her use of library resources to support her research, “The Lives of Li Si and Wei Qing: Insights into the Qin-Han Dynasties.” She was advised by Liang Cai, associate professor in the Department of History.

Hesburgh Libraries’ primary source materials, digital and online resources, spaces, and NFCDS expertise helped Reilly to gather and record research data about people’s social networks, positions and relationships. NFCDS staff also showed Reilly how to use different tools to better understand her data. “Resources I could access with the help of Hesburgh Libraries greatly helped me perceive information I knew about these historical actors in new and enlightening ways,” she noted.

Lra22 Sophomorejuniorsenior Award Margaret Obrien

Second Place — Maggie O’Brien, political science

Maggie O’Brien, senior, received second prize for her use of library resources to complete her research paper, “La scienza ha una morale: The Importance of Impurity.” She was advised by Charles Leavitt, associate professor in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

O’Brien was inspired by a library session in Rare Books and Special Collections during her Italian Seminar class, which introduced her to extensive Italian-related collections. O’Brien used online resources, primary source materials and library spaces. Tracy Bergstrom, director of specialized services and collections, curator of the Italian Studies and Dante Collection and Italian subject librarian, helped O’Brien search for secondary sources to expand her understanding. “Though there is limited scholarship on Levi’s ‘Il sistema periodico’ specifically, Tracy helped me find several texts on ‘La difesa della razza,’ which helped me to contextualize the origins of the publication,” said O’Brien.

First Year Student Award Category

Lra22 First Year Award Chizoma Duru

First Place — Chizoma Duru, economics

Chizoma Duru won first prize for describing her use of library resources to support her research paper, “Gender War on Politics — Analyzing the Causes and Repercussions of Women’s Involvement in Nigerian Politics.” She was advised by Nicole MacLaughlin, associate teaching professor in the University Writing Program.

During a library instruction session, Duru was introduced to various resources and services, including how to find a subject librarian. Next, she worked with Africana Studies and Education Librarian Leslie Morgan to deepen her understanding of subject-specific materials, publications and databases as well as RefWorks for citation management. “In my extremely helpful conversations with Ms. Morgan, she introduced me to Africa Development Indicators, Ethnic NewsWatch and Encyclopedia of Africa that guided me through my collection of data and statistics,” said Duru.

Lra22 First Year Award Michael Donelan

Second Place — Michael Donelan, history

Michael Donelan received second prize for describing his use of library resources when completing his research paper, “Efficient Force v. the Martial Volume Orthodoxy.” He was advised by doctoral student Benjamin Young in the Department of History.

Donelan began the semester studying in quiet spots and reserving study rooms — habits that improved his productivity when he needed to focus. He soon discovered subject librarians, library search tools, databases and news subscriptions. Donelan said, “With such a variety of services available and with relatively little pre-college research experience, the Library Guides played a pivotal role in my research story.”

Group Project Award

Abigail English, political science and global affairs 

Annemarie Foy, mathematics 

Thanh Nguyen, political science and peace studies 

Adriana Pèrez, political science 

This team of four won honors for demonstrating excellence in the use of library resources and services while conducting research for their paper, “(Un)Sustainable Development? Examining Growth Model Selection in the Workers’ Party and Bolsonaro Presidencies.” Advised by Jazmin Sierra, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science, the assignment was part of a political science seminar course titled Politics of Climate Change.

The students relied heavily on a wide range of Hesburgh Libraries resources. First, they did an extensive literature review using a variety of search tools. They also accessed online databases, the print collection and news sources, relying on the study and collaboration spaces at Hesburgh Library to work together efficiently and effectively.


Digital Scholarship Award Category

The Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship (NFCDS) Award is a specialty category of the Library Research Award. This award recognizes excellence in leveraging digital scholarship resources, tools and methodologies in research and projects. Students can win the NFCDS Award in addition to another category (four students received dual honors this year) or as a stand-alone recognition (three students and one group submission).

Michael Donelan, history

In addition to winning second place in the First Year Student Award Category, Michael Donelan received a NFCDS Award for use of digital scholarship throughout his research process (see awardee profile above).

Chizoma Duru, economics

In addition to taking first place honors in the First Year Student Award Category, Chizoma Duru also earned a NFCDS Award for integrating digital scholarship resources and tools into her research process (see awardee profile above).

Xolisa Ngwenya, psychology

In addition to receiving first place in the Capstone Project or Senior Thesis Award Category, Xolisa Ngwenya was given a NFCDS Award for leveraging digital scholarship resources in her research process (see awardee profile above).

Erin Reilly, history

In addition to winning first place honors in the Sophomore, Junior or Senior Award Category, Erin Reilly earned a NFCDS Award for use of digital scholarship tools throughout her research process (see awardee profile above).

Jackson Oxler, anthropology

Jackson Oxler won a NFCDS Award for his use of digital scholarship resources for his senior thesis, titled “The Biopolitics and Structural Violence of Housing: Tenants’ Rights in New York City.” Advised by Catherine Bolten, associate professor of anthropology and peace studies, Oxler’s research explored governmental policy and power dynamics in New York’s housing industry. With ISLA grant funding, Oxler traveled to New York City to interview housing justice advocates, tenants’ unions and tenants themselves.

“Having collected numerous audio recordings and field data, I turned to the Hesburgh Library [NFCDS] for support in transcribing and analyzing my results,” said Oxler. “I checked out the transcription pedal for multiple weeks to work through each individual interview. The specialized technologies and transcription pedals allowed me to transform audio data into written data — a crucial step towards analysis.”

Angela Taglione, chemical engineering, pre-med

Angela Taglione’s essay earned a NFCDS Award for her use of digital scholarship expertise and tools to complete assignments for a Multimedia Writing and Rhetoric course titled Race and Identity in America. Advised by Zay Dale, doctoral student in the Department of English, Taglione’s first research assignment was a podcast essay on race at Notre Dame — she was tasked to first write an essay and then talk about her research by producing a podcast. “My professor, with the help of NFCDS Assistant Director Julie Vecchio, helped me in the creation of a podcast that was research-based and yet conversational,” said Taglione.

“The library NFCDS resources helped me gain a better understanding on how to approach research projects,” noted Taglione. “I feel more confident using the library resources in the future now that I have been introduced to them and recognize their importance in the research process.”

Austin Wyman, psychology

Austin Wyman received a NFCDS Award for his essay about the use of digital scholarship resources throughout his senior honors thesis study, titled “Relations Among Measures of Personality, Assessment, and Risk Taking (RAMPART).” Wyman’s adviser was Claire Scott-Bacon, doctoral student in the Department of Psychology. NFCDS resources such as workshops and ongoing consulting were foundational in the development of his study’s methodology.

Wyman attended a NFCDS workshop on text mining. “Eric Lease Morgan, who led the workshop, did a fantastic job of explaining the technique to an absolute beginner, even providing a range of application examples in a diversity of fields,” said Wyman. “I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to learn text mining, allowing me to incorporate this new, interdisciplinary technique in my research. The support and guidance of Hesburgh Libraries have transformed me into a stronger psychological investigator.”


Group Award

Caroline Aey, science, pre-professional

Edward Brunicardi, political science

Annemarie Foy, political science, mathematics

Isabelle Grace, economics, philosophy

Jordan Lydon, political science, mathematics

Quinnlan Murray, environmental science, peace studies

Bridget Schippers, economics

Jacob Sherer, political science

The eight members of The Raising the Standard Campaign researched and reported on the history of Notre Dame’s wage structure in their work, “Formal Submission to the University of Notre Dame Recommending Compensation and Labor Policies that Reduce Economic Hardship.” The group was advised by Clark Power, professor in the Program of Liberal Studies and concurrent professor in psychology.

In his letter of recommendation, Power noted that members of this student initiative “worked closely with library faculty and staff to produce a carefully written and thoroughly resourced document, which will continue to serve the Notre Dame community, administrators, staff, faculty, and students to adopt labor practices rooted in Catholic Social Teaching and aimed at making Notre Dame the best workplace in the country.”


For more information on the University of Notre Dame Library Research Award, visit

Originally published by Tara O'Leary at on June 01, 2022.