Competing Against the Elite

Two from OWU recognized at honor society conference

20140327-PhiAlphaThetaOhio Wesleyan seniors Megan Buys and Stephanie Toole have earned both well-deserved recognition for their academic accomplishments and great honor for their papers, which recently were presented at the Phi Alpha Theta regional conference at Ohio Northern University.

Competing against graduate and undergraduate students from private and public universities in Ohio and surrounding states proved not to be at all daunting for Buys and Toole–for their papers were recognized as the best in their respective categories of Irish History and Feminine Identities.

Toole, a history major from North Olmsted, Ohio, titled her paper “Shun Him in the Streets: Charles Stuart Parnell, Reform and Nonviolence.” She became interested in Irish History after studying abroad at the University College Cork in Cork City, Ireland.

“Charles Stewart Parnell is an especially important figure in Irish politics, and he sat at Member of Parliament for Cork City during a majority of his political career,” says Toole, who decided to write her senior thesis for the history department about Parnell. “My paper examines the tactics Parnell used to achieve his goals of land reform benefiting the Irish tenantry and Home Rule for Ireland.”

She explains that his methods including speeches and manifestos were interpreted by other politicians and the public as either constitutional or radical, based on whether these individuals were Parnell’s supporters or opponents. During a period of notable media attention, The Times series about “Parnellism and Crime” posed a great threat to Parnell’s reputation. Says Toole, “In my paper, I discuss the reasons why The Times series and resulting Special Commission appointed to investigate the charges printed against Parnell, were unsuccessful in destroying his power and character.”

Moving on from Ireland to the U.K., Buys’s paper, entitled “Jane Austen: The Heroine’s Place in a Socially Constructed Feminine Ideal,” written by the history and psychology double major and English minor from the Republic of South Africa, incorporates a feminine ideal, constructed by Mrs. Sarah Ellis, to analyze Jane Austen, through her letters and characters in her books to, as Buys adds, “come to a conclusion about if she was the embodiment of a popular feminine ideal of the time.” Buys explains that the roots of her paper were grounded both in the historical sense and the literary analysis allowing Buys to draw upon her history major and English minor.

“I conclude that, while she was not Ellis’s ideal woman, Austen presented herself in a way that was true to her, enabling others to do the same.” Commenting on both papers, history professor Richard Spall, who also is editor of The Historian, mentions how proud his department is of all its majors and minors.

“We are especially proud of those who presented papers at the Phi Alpha Theta regional. Megan and Stephanie were competing against students from a great many other institutions, including graduate students. Being recognized in this way is quite a coup for them and an honor for OWU as well.”

About Phi Alpha Theta: One of the oldest and most prestigious history honor societies in the nation with more than 900 chapters nationwide, Phi Alpha Theta not only recognizes student academic performance, but it also holds 35 regionals across the country; publishes a respected scholarly journal, the Book Review section of which is produced on OWU’s campus; makes numerous academic awards for published works of professors and students; and gives substantial scholarships. This year, more than $35,000 worth of awards and grants are being awarded to OWU students.

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