Effron Center Class Day celebrates seniors across disciplines

Written by
Sarah Malone, Effron Center for the Study of America
May 26, 2022

Students and families joined faculty and staff in the Effron Center for the Study of America on May 23 for the center’s Class Day celebration, honoring seniors receiving certificates in American studies, Asian American studies and Latino studies, and recipients of prizes across the disciplines that connect in the Effron Center.

“It was exciting to see the seminar room at the Effron Center filled to the brim with graduating students and their families — an audience that looked very much like America in its profusion of color, appearance, diversity of attire, and shared enthusiasm,” said Acting Director Patricia Fernández-Kelly, professor of sociology. “Here, consistent with the Center's mission, was a small portion of the nation representing unity, diversity, and hope for the future.”

Text: Effron Center for the Study of America. People talking

Students and their families, alumni, faculty and staff gather for refreshments and conversation following the Class Day prize ceremony. Photo by Sarah Malone

The ceremony was the inaugural Class Day for the Effron Center, established in 2021 through a major gift to the University’s Venture Forward campaign from Blair Effron ’84 and Cheryl Effron.

Fernández-Kelly announced four thesis prizes and one prize for work in seminars.

2022 Prizes to Graduating Seniors

Princeton Prize in Race Relations Senior Thesis Prize

Lehman Montgomery, Department of Politics

Thesis title: “Navigating Masculinity Through Race and Sexuality: American Voters’ Candidate Evaluations of Black Men”
Advisor: Corrine McConnaughy, Research Scholar, Department of Politics; Lecturer in Politics and Public and International Affairs

The Princeton Prize in Race Relations Senior Thesis Prize, endowed by the Princeton University Class of 1966, is awarded annually to a member of the senior class, irrespective of academic concentration, whose senior thesis adds significantly to understanding of issues of race and race relations in the United States, broadly defined. While a prize-winning thesis may rely on conventional research methodologies (in libraries and archives, using the research methodologies of the humanities and the social sciences), the Effron Center for the Study of America will look with favor on theses that also manage to draw this scholarship into practical and experiential engagement.

Thesis reader Paul Frymer, professor of politics, called Montgomery’s work “extremely impressive,” appreciating the way Montgomery “handles different possible hypotheses and is willing to question his own hypotheses and findings along the way.” Advisor Corrine McConnaughy praised the “first-rate social science research” of Montgomery’s cases studies and survey experiment, and, in his theory building, his “engaging the divides of the ‘race and politics’ and ‘gender and politics’ and ‘sexuality and politics’ literatures, […] not just going beyond what existing literatures do, but also attempting to resolve dissonance across them.”

Montgomery was a 2021-22 undergraduate research fellow in the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, and chair of the Undergraduate Student Government Senate Campus and Community Affairs Committee.

Asher Hinds Prize

Cameron Lee, Department of English

Thesis title: “The Entropy of Smell: Theorizing a Logic of Olfaction Through the Art and Literature of Asian Women”
Advisors: Anne Cheng, Professor of English, and Paul Nadal, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies

Established in memory of Asher Hinds, professor of English and one of the leaders of the Special Program in the Humanities, which later became the programs in American studies and European cultural studies, the Hinds prize is awarded annually to the student who does the most outstanding work in the humanities.

Thesis reader Diana Fuss, the Louis W. Fairchild '24 Professor of English, wrote that, “Significantly, all of the works [Lee] discusses in this wide-ranging thesis show how art or literature might resist, challenge, or undo racial stereotyping.” Fuss noted how “Lee cleverly widens the scope of her study by turning to neuroscience and semiotics, expanding the possibilities of olfaction,” and admired the bridging of “the disciplinary divide between the sciences and the humanities.”

Lee served as a head editor of The Prospect, the arts and culture publication of The Daily Princetonian. She was a 2020 Trenton Arts at Princeton summer intern. She earned certificates in Asian American studies, East Asian studies and gender and sexuality studies, and is a Fulbright Grant recipient.

Grace May Tilton Prize in Fine Arts

Elizabeth Brooke Baxter, Department of History

Thesis title: “Severed Threads: Benjamin Franklin, Pennsylvania Silk Production, and the Fight for American Independence”
Advisor: Michael A. Blaakman, Assistant Professor of History

A gift of Robert Schirmer of the Class of 1921 in memory of his mother, the Tilton prize is awarded for an outstanding thesis by a senior in any of the departments collaborating in the Effron Center for the Study of America. The thesis must deal wholly or principally with an aspect of the fine arts or crafts within the Americas.

Thesis reader Sean Wilentz, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, noted a “rich array of printed primary sources” and “thorough command of the secondary literature,” and that Baxter showed “equal adeptness” in society, labor and political narratives. Advisor Michael Blaakman wrote that “[i]n a field where historians have long bickered over whether to privilege material or intellectual motives in explaining the origins of American independence, Ms. Baxter’s ability to meld the two and show how they worked in a mutually reinforcing cycle is a superb contribution indeed.”

Baxter was a member of the Humanities Council’s Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows and a James Madison Program Undergraduate Fellow.

Honorable Mention

An honorable mention went to Noel Peng for “DIÓJUÀ (or Mai travels through Nepantla...and not back). Peng’s advisor was Christina Lee, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese.

Peng, a concentrator in Spanish and Portuguese, earned certificates in American studies, creative writing, Latin American studies, and music performance.

Willard Thorp Thesis Prize

Marissa Michaels, Department of Sociology

Thesis title: “Theaters of Accountability: A Performance Studies Analysis of Discipline in Newark Youth Court”
Advisor: Shamus Khan, Professor of Sociology and American Studies

The Thorp prize is awarded to the senior in the Effron Center for the Study of America who prepares the most outstanding thesis of a clearly interdisciplinary nature. The prize honors Professor of English Willard Thorp, a founder of the American studies program and for many years its director.

Reader Adam Goldstein, assistant professor of sociology and public affairs, wrote that “[t]here are many things to praise about this work — the probing research question, the excellent writing, the sophisticated use of theory, and the careful interpretation of ethnographic data. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s concept of theaters of punishment, Michaels shows how the practices of restorative justice in Youth Court engage in theatrical performance to achieve accountability, discipline, and social change.” Advisor Shamus Khan wrote that this “conceptually rich, empirically grounded, and intellectually creative work […] represents some of the best of American studies in its interdisciplinary approach.”

Michaels received certificates in American studies and journalism. She was a member of the Behrman Undergraduate Society of Fellows and an associate news editor for The Daily Princetonian.

David F. Bowers Prize

Emily Sánchez, Department of History

The Bowers prize is awarded to the student in the Effron Center for the Study of America who does the best work in center seminars. Established in 1951 in memory of Professor of Philosophy David F. Bowers, one of the faculty group that drew up the plan for the American studies program, the prize was endowed in 1955 by Willard and Margaret Thorp.

In nominating Emily Sánchez, Associate Professor of History Rosina Lozano highlighted how “you can see her engaging with the readings while the discussion is going. She will redirect the conversation back to the text and get all of the students to see new angles and new forms of analysis. Everyone in the class respects her opinion and she is a willing participant and partner with each of them.” Lozano recalled that in producing a podcast project, Sánchez “worked on all the transitions, music, and recording” without asking questions, but “came multiple times to make sure her argument was rigorous but also accessible to a broader audience. The result was fantastic and very professional.”

Sánchez received a certificate in Latino studies. She was a 2021-22 Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and is a recipient of a 2022-23 ReachOut Fellowship for public service.