History Department
History Department

History Students Recognized in First Annual Student Writing Flag Contest

Tue, April 4, 2017
History Students Recognized in First Annual Student Writing Flag Contest
Marissa Kessenich and Katherine Rickert

On March 21, the School of Undergraduate Studies hosted an award ceremony for its first annual Student Writing Flag Contest. The History Department celebrates two students among those recognized: Katherine Rickert and Marissa Kessenich. Rickert won Second Place in the Research Category for her essay "Controlling Death: Suicide and the Eighteenth-Century English State.” Kessenich received an honorable mention for her essay entitled "White Female Identity-Building in Colonial Africa,” also in the Research Category. More than 200 students entered the 2016 contest, with winning entries representing majors and courses in six colleges and schools. This strong showing among History students highlights the department’s strong commitment to undergraduate research.

RickertKatherine Rickert's "Controlling Death" is the research paper she wrote for Dr. Julie Hardwick's HIS 350L course, Law and Society in Early Modern Europe. For this paper, she utilized ordinary accounts and trials from the Old Bailey Criminal Court's online database. Her paper challenges the traditional historiography of suicide, which asserts that secularization brought about a more benign treatment of suicide victims. Her research indicates that the state had many reasons to persecute suicide in order to preserve the prerogative of the ruling class. This finding is important because it provides context for modern society's stigma against suicide and other mental health conditions.

Above: History major Katherine Rickert receives her award from UGS Dean Brent L. Iverson

Rickert is from Sugar Land, Texas, and graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School. She is a senior History major, graduating in May, and is currently working on her undergraduate thesis for the History Department's Honors Program. Her thesis is a continuation of the topic discussed in her award-winning research paper. Rickert explains, "I have had a passion for history from a young age, and I particularly enjoy medieval and early modern English history. Additionally, I am interested in legal history because this field provides an opportunity to learn more about the common experience of people in the medieval and early modern periods. I will be attending law school in the fall of 2017, and I have been accepted into the University of Texas' Law Program, the University of Houston's Law Center, and Tulane University's Law Program."

KessenichMarissa Kessenich, a Liberal Arts Honors senior majoring in English and History, received an honorable mention for her research paper in the UGS Writing Flag competition. Her submission was based on her final project for Dr. Ruramisai Charumbira's HIS 350L, Becoming African: Europeans in Southern African History. In her paper, Marissa analyzes the ways in which Europeans "became African" upon settling in southern African colonies in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and how the gendered construction of colonial society often hindered women's ability to adopt this new identity.


Above: English and History major Marissa Kessenich


Originally from San Antonio, Marissa is currently completing her undergraduate English Honors thesis, which analyzes depictions of slavery in late twentieth-century African American fiction and the ways in which these narratives reconstruct the lost history and interior lives of slaves in America. Marissa is also an intern at the Harry Ransom Center and plans to pursue a career in marketing or non-profit development after graduation.

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