The Lydia Maria Child Society is proud to announce the winners of its second social justice awards, a project designed to acknowledge and encourage students, scholars, and professionals whose work furthers Lydia Maria Child’s passionate commitment to social progress. This year’s selection committee for these awards was deeply inspired by the number, range, and outstanding quality of the applications and nominations we received. In an era of social and political upheaval, we are heartened by the dedication to justice and equity these awards highlight in scholarship, service, and classrooms across the country. We wish we had the means to recognize all of our tremendously deserving applicants/nominees, and we’re particularly pleased to announce the winners in each of our three award categories.
The winner in our high school and undergraduate student category is Alma Stott of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Alma is a Geography and Environmental and Sustainability Studies major and visual artist who was nominated after she chose to respond to the discomfort of the many minority students at her school in the wake of the 2016 election by creating a series of wood-block posters with messages like “Ningún ser humano es illegal. No human being is illegal. Choose your words carefully” and “Muslim students, you are so loved and valued.” Alma distributed these messages of solidarity around her campus and community, in coffee shops and classrooms, to friends and strangers, asking others to please “put them on your fridge or mail them to your grandmother.”
Our graduate student winner is Kristin Lacey, a third-year English Ph.D. student at Boston University. Kristin writes and teaches about the figure of the madwoman in literature, examining how cultural and gendered expectations impact mental states. She has also organized conferences on Higher Ed in the Era of #MeToo and workshops on transgender inclusion in higher education, and she has been instrumental in her grad student union’s gender equity working group, where she’s campaigned for all-gender rest-rooms and increased sexual assault prevention training on campus.
Finally, our winner in the professor and independent scholar category is Dr. Katy Ryan of West Virginia University. Katy has written and taught extensively on American literature of imprisonment and the death penalty, and she is the founder and director of the Appalachian Prison Book Project, which, since its inception in 2004, has distributed over 13,000 books to prisoners in her region. This project emerged directly from a graduate seminar Katy taught, and many of her former students are still active in the program years later, testifying to Katy’s clear ability to inspire. Katy also volunteers to edit the prisoner-written newsletter of a prison in Illinois.
We extend our most heartfelt congratulations and gratitude to our three winners as well as the rest of our applicants/nominees: Meredith Eliassen, Robert Fanuzzi, Heather Humann, Rebecca Kling, Debra Rosenthal, Randi Lynn Tanglen, Monica Urban, Lindsay Vreeland, and Madeleine Wilkinson. We look forward to sharing more about these extraordinary individuals in future postings. We hope reading about their scholarship and activism inspires you, as it has us, to continue to approach our teaching and academic work in ways that strive to make the world a better and more just place.