Winners of the 2023 Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize Announced

The Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize

Abigail Christine Gillen is the winner of the 2023 Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize in the Undergraduate Upper-level category, which is awarded to the winning project completed in a 200- to 400-level course.

Research Prize Winner Abigail Gillen holding framed certificate.
Abigail Christine Gillen, 2023 Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize Winner in the Undergraduate Upper-level Category

Abigail is a second-year Occupational Therapy major who submitted to the competition her paper titled “Effectiveness of Yoga on Symptom Management for Persons Living with Breast Cancer,” completed in the course OT 250: Scientific Writing and Information Literacy in OT, taught by Dr. Lisa Kozden. Abigail’s project was a literature review on a topic which changed through the course of her research process. In her description of research, she shares she discovered “a new world of research that I was unaware existed because of my accidental findings” which set her down a “new path” for her project, choosing to focus her research on the management of specific breast cancer symptoms including yoga as an intervention.

Abigail used a variety of Library resources, services, and techniques, including the databases CINAHL and ProQuest Health and Medical Complete, and attended an information literacy instruction class with a faculty librarian. The judges were especially struck by the high number of sources Abigail found, consulted, and integrated into this 200-level literature review assignment: her APA references list contains 55 sources. 

The judges also observed Abigail’s personal learning and understanding of the research process and how it connects to Ignatian values; on this, Abigail says, “Magis: a restless desire for excellence. This Ignatian value was constantly on my back […] if I can really help people or at least develop a better understanding of my research in my own space and eventually help clients in the future then I couldn’t just complete this paper to check something off my to-do list.” She goes on to argue for the necessity of research in her field: “Research is necessary, especially in occupational therapy” [because we have to] “prove to people that we make a difference” and also “prove that our interventions work, that we, as a profession are truly making a difference in our communities.”

Sponsoring faculty Dr. Lisa Kozden says of working with Abigail, “Abby showcases her hard work and dedication to the scientific writing process in this assignment. She actively participates in class and demonstrates a sincere interest in learning about the research process. It is my absolute pleasure to work with Abby. This award is well deserved.”

Honorable Mention awards in the Undergraduate Upper-level category were presented to Elizabeth D. Behling, a third-year student in the Occupational Therapy program, for her paper titled “The Effect of Movement Therapy on Symptom Severity in Adults with Parkinson’s Disease: An Evidence Review,” completed in the course OT 350: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods for Dr. Ann Romanosky; and to Jessica Tsu, also a third-year student in the Occupational Therapy program, for her paper titled “Efficacy of Functional Electrical Stimulation Versus Virtual Reality in Improving Upper Extremity Function in Patients with Stroke: An Evidence Review,” completed in the course OT 350: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods for Dr. Deborah Budash.

E Kerr and Ashley Dugasz are the winners of the 2023 Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize in the Graduate category.

Research Prize Winners Ashley Dugasz and E Kerr holding framed certificates.
(Left to Right) Ashley Dugasz and E Kerr, 2023 Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize Winners in the Graduate Category

E and Ashley, graduate students in the five-year Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program, submitted to the competition their project titled “Occupational Therapy, Medicine, and Queer Identity,” completed in the course OT 501: Leadership in OT for Dr. Marlene Morgan. Their project was a historical literature review requiring they find sources on their topic from each decade dating back to 1910. Their research “yielded a timeline of sorts, in that it mapped out the prevalence, classification, and opinions held by society, with regards to gender and sexuality,” as they share in their description of research

But there were challenges they faced in pursuing research on this topic. They go on to share: “Up until very recently, even with progress towards equity and diversity in the late 90s/early 2000s, information was hard to come by regarding queer identity, except for articles that focused on queer identity as an ailment, or as a condition that needed to have a specific “cause”.” There were also challenges in executing the search process for sources; they explain, “We had to adjust some of the terminology throughout our searches, since different time periods used and referred to what we now know as “queer identity” in different ways (such as an illness, mental health condition, etc.).”

E and Ashley’s persistence through these challenges was not only academic but personal: through this research project, they “wanted to trace the history of our shared queer identity, specifically with regards to our future profession, so we could gather a better understanding of how we got where we are today, and where, potentially, we still need to go.” In this way their research and reflection on it is both brave and forward-looking, making connections to future applications of their personal learning through the research process.

Given these challenges, they were able to find, read, and synthesize 49 sources on their topic of “queer identity and presence within the medical realm” dating from the 1910s through the present. To do this they used resources such as the CINAHL, JSTOR, and EBSCOhost library databases, advanced search techniques such as citation chasing which they learned in an information literacy instruction class with a faculty librarian, and new-to-them technology in the form of microfilm and the readers needed to read and access it.

In all this, E and Ashley understood their research as supported and connected to Ignatian values. In particular, the “restless desire for excellence” characterized by the magis can be seen in their persistence through search challenges related to their topic and the dearth of ready historical information about it. And cura personalis for them is evident both in their personal connection to the topic and in their connection to using what they learned in the future “as occupational therapists who focus on working with the whole person.”

Sponsoring faculty Dr. Marlene Morgan comments on E and Ashley’s project, “This is the first time that queer identity has been the focus of a historical analysis” and that the “researchers did a remarkable job locating primary resources on this topic from the early years to the present. They identified medical journals, life stories, legislation, and reports of social perspectives.” Dr. Morgan also highlights the impact of the project when she says, “The need for occupational therapy practitioners to value cultural diversity and practice cultural humility are evident in this project.”

Honorable Mention awards in the Graduate category were presented to Doctor of Physical Therapy students Kerri Breznak, Hannah Woodeshick, Jessica Book, and Karllo Pozo, for the project, “Virtual Reality for Gait and Balance in Adults with Unilateral Amputation: A Systematic Review,” completed in PT 773: Scientific Inquiry III in PT for Dr. Renée Hakim; and to Kameron Matthews, Taylor Baloga, Matthew Schreck, and Carli Tetla, students also in the Doctor of Physical therapy Program, for the project, “Impact of Service on Social Responsibility and Cultural Competency in DPT Students: A Systematic Review,” completed in PT 773: Scientific Inquiry III in PT for Dr. Dana Maida.

Allison Magee is the winner of the 2023 Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize in the Undergraduate Foundational category, which is awarded to the winning project completed in a 100-level course.

Research Prize Winner Allison Magee holding framed certificate.
Allison Magee, 2023 Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize Winner in the Undergraduate Foundational Category

Allison is a first-year mathematical sciences major on the actuarial science track who submitted to the competition her paper titled “Genetics in Life Insurance,” completed in Prof. Dawn D’Aries Zera’s WRTG 107: Composition course. Tasked with researching an argumentative contemporary issue related to her major, Allison chose the topic of genetics in life insurance, using Library resources that included the databases Academic Search Elite (EBSCO) and ProQuest Central, attending an information literacy instruction class with a faculty librarian, and taking advantage of the Library’s InterLibrary Loan service to “expand [her] knowledge of the subject of life insurance,” as she shares in her description of research

From the information literacy class Allison applied advanced search techniques including “Boolean operators in database search fields paired with filters for academic journals,” noting that academic journal keywords “were a great tool to expand [her] searches within the databases.” She found a balance of academic and popular sources for her project, and by doing so exceeded the minimum source requirement, an example of the restless desire for excellence characterized by the magis. Allison comments on this in her description of research when she shares, “Something I have learned about the research process is that it can be draining at times. The perfect source is not going to appear out of thin air and it can take some time.” She goes on to say, “While all the library’s tools and resources make research easier, I realized the best skill for researching is patience, a love of learning, and a passion for your research topic.” 

In her description of research she also reports that at the start of the project she was going to argue against the use of genetic information in life insurance underwriting but through her research she changed her position in favor of its use in life insurance because doing so keeps life insurance affordable for all, an example of cura personalis applied to research.

Sponsoring faculty Prof. Dawn D’Aries Zera comments on the Ignatian learning evident in Allison’s project and shares, “Allison fully embraced her own agency on this assignment. She came up with a challenging research topic . . . which seemed beyond the scope of a 100-level foundational writing course and a topic which may have been better suited for a 300- or 400-level course. . . . During the process of tackling the argument-research assignment . . . it became clear Allison is a person who demonstrates Magis through exceptional commitment to excellence, and persistence through challenges.”

Honorable Mention awards in the Undergraduate Foundational category were presented to first-year Accounting major Gabriella Greene, for the project, “What Is Odinism? How Has It Developed Over Time?” completed in COMM 121X: Mythology in the Media for Dr. Howard Fisher; and to first-year Computer Engineering major James William O’Malley IV, for the project, “Batteries: Sustainable or Unsustainable?” completed in WRTG 107: Composition for Prof. Dawn D’Aries Zera.

Currently celebrating its 12th year, the Weinberg Memorial Library inaugurated the Library Research Prize in 2011 to recognize excellence in research projects that show evidence of significant knowledge of the methods of research and the information gathering process, and use of library resources, tools, and services. In 2017, the prize was named for Professor Emerita Bonnie W. Oldham, who founded the prize at the University in 2011. The Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize was fully endowed in 2019 and consists of a prize of $500 awarded to winning projects in each of the three categories: Undergraduate Foundational (100-level projects), Undergraduate Upper-level (200- to 400-level projects), and Graduate.

Prize winners were honored at an Awards Ceremony & Reception on Thursday, May 11, 2023 in the Charles Kratz Scranton Heritage Room of the Weinberg Memorial Library.

Information about the Bonnie W. Oldham Library Research Prize can be found on the website:

Congratulations to all of our honorees!