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Honors and Awards


The English Department is pleased to honor the achievements of our students every spring at the annual awards ceremony of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Awards are given in the following categories:


The department honors the top three essays produced by students in each level of composition (ENG 1300, ENG 1301, and ENG 1302), in the sophomore literature surveys, and in upper-division English courses. At the end of each semester, in preparation for the awards, individual faculty select the most meritorious essays from amongst those submitted by students in their classes as part of their regular coursework. These finalist essays are then considered by a committee of English faculty who weigh their outstanding qualities and choose the top three for special honors.

Recent award winners include:

ENG 1300, 2007-2008

First Place: “Inequality in the Schools,” by Sendal Collado (Nominated by Dr. Johanna Schmertz). Sendal’s paper on inequalities in education was well-supported and very smoothly argued. She breaks down the various factors that lead to inequalities in education, such as funding, staffing and resources, particularly at schools in poorer (and less white) areas. She concludes that “although the upbringing of the students plays a role in the educational development process, the schools still must maintain certain standards to allow the students the opportunity to learn and become successful.”

Second Place: “The Worker’s True Value,” by Adgrienna Berry (Nominated by Professor Linda Coblentz). Questioning whether we are our work, Adgrienna Berry engagingly asserts that we are not. In this essay, she argues that, although workers do gain structure from their jobs, their true worth comes from the way they live. In so arguing, she agrees with the major premise of Mike Rose’s The Mind at Work, but dissents from a minor point about work and identity because she wants us all to look beyond blue collars to the whole person. Adgrienna writes, “We are, in ourselves, worth more than what we could make on any job.”

Third Place: “Learning from Previous Mistakes,” by Filiberto Teyuca (Nominated by Professor Fadely). Filiberto Teyuca’s essay demonstrates his ability to analyze four models of ethnic relations as described by George Fredrickson and to defend his position against opposing views. His sustained argument asserts that a cultural pluralism, despite its drawbacks, is by far the only way to foster a just and cohesive society.

ENGL 1301, 2007-2008

First Place: “The Rise in Big Organic and the Path Led to Hidden Farming Practices,” by Angelica Leicht (Nominated by Professor Linda Coblentz). In her essay, Angelica Leicht sets out to trace the causes of the corruption of the idealist practices of the sixties’ organic farming movement. Working from the root causes of profits and food scares, she masterfully traces the effects of corporate takeovers and government regulation that allowed the word organic to be applied to food grown by the same big agribusinesses without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides—mostly—but with the same hiring and working conditions for farm workers and the same feedlots and cramped quarters for animals. Working from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore's Dilemma, Angelica masterfully maintains her indignation at innocent, idealist consumers paying extra for food they think of as ethically grown that differs little from the rest of the food in the supermarket.

Second Place: “Mexican American Youth as a Scapegoat in World War II Los Angeles,” by Stanley Roberts (Nominated by Professor Linda Coblentz). In his examination of the conditions and events in Los Angeles before the Zoot Suit riots of 1943, Stanley Roberts thoughtfully analyzes the case known as the murder at the Sleepy Lagoon, the death of young Jose Diaz, and the mass trial and conviction of a group of youths known to the press as the 38th Street gang. Stanley’s essay identifies the same fears and false patriotism that led to the removal of Japanese Americans as the causes of the arrests and convictions. The press, the prosecution, but mostly the citizens of Los Angeles, argues Stanley, “disregarded facts in a show trial that filled a social need for a local scapegoat.”

Third Place: “The Religion of the Death Penalty,” by Haywood Glover (Nominated by Dr. Cara Murray). In “The Religion of the Death Penalty” Haywood Glover astutely evaluates Sister Helen Prejean’s treatise against the death penalty by indicating the strengths of her work and argues that, ironically, it is when Prejean invokes religious arguments that her argument is at its weakest. Glover’s review of Dead Man Walking is informative, analytical, and wise. More than anything, it is his strong voice and ability to launch a constructive critique that makes his essay stand out.

ENGL 1302, 2007-2008

First Place: “In the Best Interest of the Baby or the Bottom Line?” by Dorian Nodler (Nominated by Dr. Kat McLellan). Dorian’s paper—which analyzes why formula companies and public health officials reach different conclusions about the effect of formula marketing on breastfeeding rates—is a remarkable intellectual investigation. Reading out the methods of multiple statistical studies, Dorian argues that the key difference between the two sides is that each has “different...techniques” with which it “collects data pertaining to the total number of women breastfeeding.” Dorian articulately and logically demonstrates that the sampling techniques, the wording of surveys, and the definition of successful breastfeeding used in formula companies’ studies make their results unreliable. Through her subtle and sophisticated analysis of the available research, Dorian drives home her claim that “as long as formula companies are in the business of making money by means of women being unable to breastfeed,...their results do not belong in this debate.”

Second Place: “Modern Day Slavery: Dehumanization within the Sex Industry,” by David Conner (Nominated by Dr. Nicole LaRose). The most impressive characteristic of David Conner’s thoughtfully researched and passionately argued essay about the international sex trade is a true commitment to human rights, particularly his outrage over the “silent acceptance of female exploitation inside the United States.” David makes his readers aware of the horrific circumstances enslaving far too many young female immigrants, he explores the legal loopholes that permit this profitable industry to continue, and he presents a convincing call to action. By the end of the essay, readers have no choice but to agree with David’s claim that “as human beings we should not allow other humans to be exposed to this type of corruption.”

Third Place: “Battling HIV in Prison Populations,” by Jay Christian (Nominated by Dr. Giuliana Lund). In his highly articulate and well-researched essay, Jay Christian presents a compelling analysis of the health crisis in U.S. prisons. He examines the causes of high HIV transmission rates in penal institutions and reveals the threat that this poses to the general population. He challenges his readers to look past the stigma of incarceration, overcome apathy and denial, and support new prison policies emphasizing testing, counseling, treatment, condom distribution, and post-release programs.

Sophomore Survey, 2007-2008

First Place: “Reconciling Eastern Traditionalism with Western Modernity: An Intercultural Dialogue,” by John Williams (Nominated by Dr. Giuliana Lund). In his persuasive comparative essay on British and Indian literature, John Williams offers a sophisticated analysis of the cultural confrontation between West and East. He shows how modern Indian intellectuals not only challenged the assumption of European superiority that pervaded the British Empire, but also strove to “temper the best qualities of Western scientific modernity and pragmatism with Eastern traditionalism and spirituality.” Like the Indian writers featured in his essay, John Williams’ work validates cross-cultural dialogue and successfully cultivates tolerance.

Second Place: “Dickens’ ‘A Christmas carol’ and the Issue of Poverty: The Inevitable Interaction between Rich and Poor,” by Will Slamp (Nominated by Dr. Caroline Kimberly). In response to a perennial holiday favorite, Will Slamp looks under the surface of this well-known short story to examine Charles Dickens’ unique blend of didacticism and entertainment as a specifically Victorian literary convention. His argument, that “the diversity found in the social landscape of the urban world provides a unique opportunity to discover morality,” is well argued, supported soundly by examples from the primary text and Slamp’s extensive outside research. Moreover, his essay typifies the polished, well-organized, and engaging writing style which he exhibited throughout the semester in all his work.

Third Place: “Supermen: Beyond Mere Mortals—Analyzing the ‘Superman’ Complex,” by Freddie Floyd (Nominated by Dr. Nicole LaRose). By focusing on the cultural importance and philosophical complexity of the superhero, Freddie Floyd conducts an original character analysis of several iconic literary figures: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his creature, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, and Superman. At the heart of Freddie’s argument is an exploration of the “characteristics that embody the ideal man.” His argument wrestles with classical questions about the role of the hero, the relationship between good and evil, the motivation of a higher calling, the construction of masculinity, and the psychological and emotional state of extraordinary individuals.

Upper Division, 2007-2008

First Place: “Hegemony and Commodification in the Walter Reed Yellow Fever Commission,” by Yesenia Ramirez (Nominated by Dr. Aimee Roundtree). Yesenia Ramirez uses Marxist notions of hegemony and commodification to expose the subtle deception perpetrated via research protocols and consent forms by the Walter Reed Yellow Fever Commission over their Cuban test subjects. Her handling of archives from the turn of the 20th century required not only a mastery of rhetorical theory, but also impressive language translation and research skills. Her insightful analysis demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of theory and a genuine, self-driven interest in making a contribution to the study of the rhetoric of medical science.

Second Place: “The Threat of the Outsider: Masculinity and its Countertype,” by Enrique Tamez (Nominated by Dr. Tammis Thomas). Drawing upon George Mosse’s The Image of Man and Johann Winckelmann’s interpretation of Laocoön, Enrique Tamez presents a cogent analysis of the construction of masculinity as a normative ideal that brutally enforces self-regulation and destroys those who are antithetically constructed as asocial or degenerate. Mr. Tamez’s astute examination of the relationship between the masculine ideal and its various countertypes in Robert Musil’s The Confusions of Young Törless includes an analysis of the degradation of the feminine, the effeminate, the homosexual, and the androgynous. Mr. Tamez persuasively and insightfully argues that “any link to the feminine marks a man not only as an outsider but also as a negative influence, which is associated with a lack of control of passions, as well as a general degeneration of the normative moral standard that is championed by the masculine ideal.”

Tied for Third Place: “Sound from the Rear Window,” by Sean Augabright (Nominated by Dr. Johanna Schmertz). In a penetrating, articulate reading of Rear Window, Sean adapts film theorist John Belton’s work on the aesthetics of film sound, explaining how Alfred Hitchcock uses various categories of sound to counter, link, or reinforce the visual image and its spatial dimensions. The advent of sound in film placed it in a supporting yet autonomous relation to the image, such that, as Sean says, sound is “now an element of the film process that can be edited for effect, much the same way the visual montage is constructed. Sound can alter the audience perception, make unnatural realities believable, and expand the scope of the film beyond the visible boundaries of the screen.”

Tied for Third Place: “Behold a Pink Triangle: The Homosexual Muselmann in Auschwitz,” by Jaime Acosta (Nominated by Dr. Tammis Thomas). Utilizing Wolfgang Sofsky’s conceptualization of graduated power in the Nazi death camps, Giorgio Agamben’s theorization of the production of the Muselmann in Auschwitz, and the recent work of German historians, Jaime Acosta argues that “the system of prisoner categorization in the Nazi death camps not only created defenseless homosexual bodies that were open to unlimited heterosexual violence, but also transformed these bodies into nonreactive desexualized objects.” Mr. Acosta’s impressively sophisticated interdisciplinary analysis focuses on Lannon Reed’s Behold a Pale Horse: A Novel of Homosexuals in the Nazi Holocaust.


The Fabian Worsham Creative Writing Award is named for a former University of Houston-Downtown faculty member—a writer whose poems move us most deliberately from the dailiness of things toward the transcendence we seek in art—and is presented annually to an outstanding student poet or writer whose work reflects this trajectory. As a teacher and mentor, Fabian inspired many students. As a poet and author, she honestly and bravely translated her personal life into powerful meditations upon the human condition.

Fabian Worsham Creative Writing Award, 2007-2008

Recent award winners include:

Maritsa Leyva. This year’s winner is Maritsa Leyva, an emerging writer whose own work—following in the tradition exemplified by Fabian Worsham—balances delicacy and strength, and challenges the reader to acknowledge the suffering that infuses beauty. Mari’s experimentation in word choice, form, and genre embody the authentic and generative engagement with language that Creative Writing faculty seek in their students. She writes, “Her dress caught fire first. Then you could scarcely distinguish her skin from the flickering flames. She became the flames.” And so too Mari’s poems, stories, catch fire, clear a space for the world she builds for her readers. She commands a hypnotic lyric voice that understands the incantatory power of language. Half myth, half Sapphic prayer, Mari interweaves the erotic and the numinous, violence and love, in stories that approach the very margins of human experience.


Recent award winners include:

Professional Writing Portfolio Award, 2007-2008

Rhonda Holstien. Rhonda's Professional Writing portfolio shows an impressive range of knowledge and skills. But what's most impressive about Rhonda is her approach to every new documentation project: she quickly identifies the possibilities for the project (including a few not even the instructor has considered!) and enthusiastically works to bring the best one to fruition. She seems to instinctively know what readers need and expect from their documents. As a technical writer, she's a natural!


Recent award winners include:

English Major Portfolio Award, 2007-2008

Jaime Acosta. Jaime Acosta’s portfolio stands out among the many accomplished portfolios reviewed this year by the English Curriculum Committee because it so impressively articulates and documents his intellectual growth as an English major. It clearly attests to his independent initiative, commitment to sustained research, sophisticated analysis of complex texts, and polished writing. Beyond showing a facility for interpreting texts, the essays included in the portfolio display sensitivity to historical and cultural contexts, engagement with ethical issues, and employment of diverse literary and political theories. In the reflective essay that frames the portfolio, Acosta provides insight into his writings that reveals the portfolio to be much more than the sum of its parts. The reflective essay underlines the unity of purpose in all his work and traces the path that led him from a Holocaust Studies class to further coursework on representations of race, deviance, and violence, to a directed study that culminated in a remarkable paper presented at UHD’s Gender Outlaws Conference. This paper, on the stigmatization and brutalization of homosexuals in Nazi concentration camps, exemplifies Acosta’s intellectual depth and testifies to his promise as a future scholar.

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Last updated or reviewed on 6/14/10

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