One of them will be spending a year in Germany on a Fulbright grant. The second will take her triple major to the University of Massachusetts to pursue her Ph.D. These winners of the Dean’s Honor Award for 2005 would be the pride of any college in the nation. And, they are also history majors, MICHAEL PUGLISI and WHITNEY PURCELL. They joined Chemistry major Michael Newcomer as this year’s recipients of Georgetown’s highest academic honor.
Michael Puglisi: Fulbright Bound
Dean’s Honor Award winner Michael J. Puglisi, Jr., who will graduate in May with a double major in history and political science, has recently been awarded a Fulbright Grant to study in Germany during the 2005-06 school year. He will spend a year helping to teach English in the German schools and working on his thesis for his masters degree.
Puglisi is also already a student in the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, under a cooperative program that allows select Georgetown College seniors to begin work on an M.A. in diplomacy while they are still undergraduates.
His path to a career in diplomacy grew in part out of a summer study trip he took to Germany. While there, he conducted an independent study on Green Party politics in Bavaria. A former member of the Green Party originally promised him 15 minutes, but ultimately gave him 45 “because his questions were so good,” said Dr. Ellen Emerick, a professor of history at the college.
His work with German politics helped inspire his decision to become a diplomat, and his desire to gain further international experience inspired him to apply for a Fulbright Grant.
Puglisi credits close relationships with his professors for the degree of his academic success, particularly citing the infuence of Dr. Michael Cairo and Dr. Sigrid Suesse.
But he also indicates how important it is to challenge oneself in the classroom. “I think rigorous course loads help students better prepare for high-stress jobs in the real world. Of course, the best way to prepare is to take courses that interest the student, but that are also very challenging.”
Puglisi pushed himself in academic matters (he is a member of the Honors Program and is currently completing an Honors Thesis in history on the law of manumission in early Virginia), but he pushed himself equally hard in extracurricular activities. Some of the diplomatic skills that Puglisi has developed through his academic studies came in handy during his year as editor-in-chief of the college’s student newspaper, The Georgetonian. Puglisi continues to write for The Georgetonian and serves as the paper’s managing editor. He is also a Writing Center tutor, a member of Phi Alpha Theta (history honorary), Delta Phi Alpha (German honorary), Pi Sigma Alpha (political science honorary), Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta.
In January of 2004, Puglisi made his national scholarly debut, presenting a paper at the national conference of Phi Alpha Theta, an honor society for history scholars. His paper, “A New World on Their Own Terms,” discussed Italian immigration to American in the early 20th century.
Whitney Purcell: Stretching the Envelope
In announcing Whitney Purcell’s Dean’s Honor Award, Provost Rosemary Allen recognized her for her success in taking on academic challenges.
“For most students the basics for graduation (a major, minor and 120 hours) is enough,” said Allen. “This student’s Georgetown career included a triple major, 157 hours of credit, two terms at Oxford University, and an Honors Program degree.”
Purcell is an Honors Program triple major in English, History and American Studies. She also participated in the college’s innovative cooperative program with Regent’s Park College of Oxford University, where she studied history in the university’s individualized tutorial instruction format. She was able to work one-on-one with a leading expert in Anglo-Saxon history.
Purcell’s academic achievements have earned her other recognition as well. In 2004, she received the Coleman Arnold Award for Excellence in Research from the English department for her work on Renaissance dramatists, and she is currently working on an Honors thesis involving the novels of Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding. She also aided Dr. Roger Ward, associate professor of philosophy, by helping create the index for his book, Conversion in American Philosophy.
Purcell also stays involved outside of the classroom. She is a member of Phi Mu, as well as a Brown Scholar, a member of Phi Kappa Phi, and a Dean’s Ambassador. She participated in the Mock Trial Team and was part of the Chapel Leadership Team.
Purcell also served as copy editor for Inscape, the college’s student literary magazine, and was president of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honorary that sponsors the magazine. She was also for many years the student secretary for the English department.
“I know that Whitney will make a great teacher someday,” said Allen, who is director of Purcell’s Honors thesis. “She’s creative, and she never stops learning. She also has this uncanny ability to recall just about everything she hears or reads. It’s disconcerting to realize that although she never takes notes in class, she always remembers everything I say.”
Purcell has always wanted to be a teacher, and this fall she will get her wish when she takes up her teaching fellowship at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, where she will be pursuing a Ph.D. in English Literature. (Scholars Developing Scholars Newsletter, May 2005, p. 2.)