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Art History, Jewish Studies Researchers Take UK Libraries Awards for Undergrad Scholarship

By Whitney Hale

Emily Hedges (far left) and  Hannah Thompson (far right) were joined by faculty sponsor Miriam Kienle, Interim Dean of UK Libraries Deirdre Scaggs and faculty sponsor Janice Fernheimer. Mark Cornelison l UK Photo.

Last night, University of Kentucky Libraries awarded the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Scholarship to art history and visual studies senior Emily Hedges and biology and Lewis Honors College junior Hannah Thompson at the UK Libraries Spring Gala. The awards recognize exceptional, original scholarship and excellent research conducted by UK undergraduates making substantive and creative use of the UK Libraries’ collections, services and resources. 

Emily Hedges, of Paris, Kentucky, was recognized for her research on contemporary American artist Titus Kaphar. In construction of her paper, "Another Fight for Remembrance: Titus Kaphar's Representation of Race in the Past and Present," she used interlibrary loan, citation guides, academic search engines and databases.

Hedges' paper explores Kaphar's work on the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where the artist used his signature whitewashing technique to provide anonymity to the protesters to comment on contemporary media's representation of minorities and capture the collectivity of a movement fighting for justice. By analyzing the visual and contextual components of Kaphar’s practice, in both historical and contemporary subject matter, Hedges argues that Kaphar provides a unique lens with which to examine the complexities of black representation in American history.

Faculty sponsor Miriam Kienle, assistant professor in the School of Art and Visual Studiesin the College of Fine Arts, had nothing but praise for Hedges' work. "I am thoroughly impressed with the level of original research and thoughtful analysis. Throughout the semester, Emily has proven herself to be a committed student, thorough researcher, insightful writer, well-spoken presenter and an intellectually curious person who is engaged both in and outside of the classroom."

Hannah Thompson, of Louisville, Kentucky, was recognized for her research poster and oral history interviews for the Jewish Kentucky Oral History Collection, a collaborative project of the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the Jewish Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Through "Louisville Jewish Hospital’s 'Tikkun Olam': A Case Example of Continuity for American Jewish Hospitals," Thompson explores the impact of the Jewish values of the hospital.

Thompson's study considers Louisville Jewish Hospital as an unusual case example of a Jewish hospital that continues to exist and preserve its Jewish heritage by using Jewish concepts to guide its principles of care, despite a shrinking local Jewish population. To  investigate the way the hospital connects its values to its medical innovations, three original oral history interviews were conducted with leaders of Jewish Hospital to determine how the hospital had impacted the local community by following "tikkun olam" (translated as "repair of the world") in its mission for social justice, advocacy, philanthropy and medical advancement.

Faculty sponsor Janice W. Fernheimer, associate professor of writing, rhetoric, and digital studies, the Zantker Charitable Foundation Professor and director of UK's Interdisciplinary Program in Jewish Studies, was impressed with Thompson's results. "She did an excellent job pursuing a topic she was passionate about and which united her interests in Jewish studies and Jewish Kentucky with her major pursuits in the medical sciences. Over the course of the past two years, Hannah has demonstrated research initiative that is unusual for any undergraduate and even more exceptional for one who is pursuing a project outside of her primary disciplinary training."

In addition to celebrating Hedges and Thompson's research, the UK Libraries Spring Gala included recognition of the recipients of the UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement, the Paul A. Willis Outstanding Faculty Award, and the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Performance winners.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety and the Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for.” We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.