Carnegie Mellon University

Historical Awards

04-19-2011

Students Win First Place for Papers; 11 Inducted Into Phi Alpha Theta

Two students in the History Department recently won first place as part of the Western Pennsylvania Regional Conference hosted by Grove City College in late March.

Seniors Caulder Tempel (History, Science and Humanities Scholars) and Neha Mittal (Ethics, History, and Public Policy) both won first prize on their separate panels for their research papers focusing on Africa.

Tempel's paper, "Israeli Assistance and Biafran Resistance: A Special relationship, 1967-1970," which focused on Nigeria, was born out of his own interest in West Africa. He moved to Accra, Ghana, at age 16 after his parents relocated for their work with a mining company.

The conference gave him a chance to experience the professional world of historical research.

"My plan is to eventually go to graduate school for anthropology," Tempel said. "This gave me my first glimpse at the professional, active side of academia."

Mittals's paper is titled "The Female Crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: The Persistence of Rape as a Weapon of War (1994-Present)."

"Because I take so many history classes, I am used to these kinds of things being over, something to look back at," Mittal said. "This was something that was happening now, and so it didn't really make sense to me. People don't know it is still happening now."

Through the reference of a faculty source, she attended a speech at The University of Pittsburgh by a representative from the Panzi Hospital, which is the only women's hospital in the Congo. The hospital hopes to raise money through a campaign called Pennies for Panzi, which is currently in its formative stage. When it becomes operational, Mittal aims to have CMU become one of the first places in the country to implement the campaign.

The two were among 11 CMU participants who presented at the conference and have been inducted into Phi Alpha Theta, an honor society for undergraduate students, graduate students and professors of history. Other CMU presenters included Isabel Smith-Bernstein, Hee Joo Jeon, Emily Dillinger, Hester Simons, Julian Imbrescia, Jacqueline Cortese, Ian Epperson, Andrew Robb and Kelly Bescherer.

Some of the students will present their research at this year's Meeting of the Minds on May 4 in the University Center.

"Psychologically, the level of confidence these students gain from the conference should be available to all students. For all history majors, public speaking is a very important skill," said Professor Naum Kats, an adjunct professor in the history department and the adviser for Phi Alpha Theta. "Although maybe only a couple of them will become historians, the experience is still useful for anything they may do in the future."

Membership is not restricted to history majors. Any major who has taken at least six history courses, has a high GPA and has written a qualifying research paper may apply after meeting with Kats.

"Undergraduates shouldn't feel that they are somehow constrained in the kind of sources that are available to them just because they are not graduate students who can get fellowships to travel around the world to be in an archive for six months," said Laurie Eisenberg, a teaching professor in the Department of History, and adviser for many of the students. "Between the sources we have on campus, what we can access through our library and what is available now on the Internet, there is no reason why they should not aspire to using primary, original source material to do their own original research."

— Written Maria Zayas

Shilo Raube