History Department
History Department

Honors students awarded prestigious Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarships

Tue, October 24, 2017
Honors students awarded prestigious Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarships
Mr. Anton Ermakov and Ms. Jennifer Levin, History Honors students. Photo of Ms. Levin courtesy of Trent Lesikar, Office of Undergraduate Research.

The College of Liberal Arts has awarded Rapport-King Thesis Scholarships to two History Honors in support of their research. Recipients Jennifer Levin and Anton Ermakov, both History majors in their senior year, will receive research stipends in the amount of $3,000.

Ms. Levin’s project considers the extent to which European conflicts between 1685 and 1721 affected French motives for exploring, colonizing, and developing relations with indigenous peoples on the Gulf Coast. She intends to incorporate archaeological evidence into her thesis. After graduation, she hopes to attend graduate school to continue pursuing her interest in history.

“Jennifer Levin has spent a good deal of time studying the archeology of La Salle’s famous seventeenth-century French vessel La Belle, recovered not long ago from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico and now preserved in the Bullock Texas State History Museum down the street here in Austin,” explains Associate Professor of History Neil Kamil, Ms. Levin’s thesis supervisor. “Her prize-winning project, 'Thorns from the Fleur de Lis: French Exploration of the Gulf Coast after La Salle,’ will be a study of La Belle, La Salle’s mission, and particularly its aftermath. What were the ramifications of La Salle’s voyage among the many actors with an interest in the Rio Grande region during the period in which the Spanish struggled mightily and with limited success to assert control over the borderlands of New Spain? Jennifer will approach her sources in innovative ways, including from the perspective of material culture in the context of the ongoing Spanish competition with challenges from the French and English. Jennifer will enliven an old subject that begs new interpretations, especially in the light of the recovery of La Belle along with hundreds of artifacts from France intended for both domestic and military use. Most exciting, perhaps, is the recovery of things that may have been intended for trade and to curry favor with the native populations that continued to dominate much of the borderland region in the face of European incursions. This study of French, Spanish and English imperial ambitions thus becomes one in which Jennifer considers natives as equal actors in their story through material as well as written sources.”

Mr. Ermakov is writing his thesis on Soviet New Year celebrations under Stalin. He will examine these holidays in the context of Stalinist culture and changing attitudes toward public ritual in the Soviet Union. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school and pursue a master's degree in Russian studies and a doctorate in history.

His thesis advisor, Professor of History Joan Neuberger, writes: “Anton Ermakov is writing a fascinating history of the secular New Year’s Day holiday, which was officially used to replace Christmas, in the Soviet Union. By reading primary sources available online, he has discovered that the holiday was capacious enough to support the Stalinist personality cult, to disseminate Soviet values in children’s literature, and to become a genuinely popular holiday both because of and despite its politicization. The Rapoport-King award will allow him to do research in the remarkable collection of Soviet children’s books at Princeton and the extensive Russian/Soviet collections at the New York Public Library.”

The Rapoport-King Thesis Scholarship honors Audre and Bernard Rapoport and Robert D. King, former Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. Audre and Bernard Rapoport of Waco, Texas, have provided an endowment that enables the College of Liberal Arts to provide scholarship and research support for those students who are writing a thesis in one of the Departmental Honors Programs the year they apply.

Monique Pikus, Associate Director and Lecturer of the Liberal Arts Honors Program, noted that this year COLA received a record number of applications from across the college: “The list of applicants was impressive. We would like to thank the students for the incredible work they are doing. It was truly a pleasure reviewing the applications. We congratulate all the awardees.”

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