Brandywine Senior Labanya Mookerjee wins research award

Schreyer Honors Scholar Labanya Mookerjee, a senior English major at Penn State Brandywine, was honored by the Eastern American Studies Association (EASA) with the Francis Ryan Award, in March. The honor is given annually to the undergraduate with the top research paper.

Competition was fierce, with numerous papers submitted from universities all over the East Coast, such as Boston, Rutgers and La Salle universities.

Mookerjee attended the EASA Conference, which was held at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. and despite the strong competition, took home the esteemed award. She also delivered a presentation to conference attendees that highlighted her studies.  

Mookerjee submitted a chapter from her senior honors thesis paper to the EASA in February, which explores the connections between transcendentalism, feminism and social activism in the late nineteenth century through the life of Margaret Fuller's disciple, Ednah Dow Cheney.

"I was really interested in learning about the research projects that others at different campuses were conducting. I saw some amazing presentations, ranging from Boston architecture to women in combat to the Harlem Renaissance," she said.

Brandywine Professor of English, Women's Studies and American Studies Phyllis Cole served as Mookerjee's senior honor thesis supervisor and worked closely with her leading up to the conference. "Labanya's work is certainly evidence of what can be achieved on our campus," Cole said.  "She has been a joy to work with and makes us all Penn State proud."

"I had a very good supervisor in Dr. Cole. She really prepared me," Mookerjee said. "We were up several nights in a row getting this piece ready for the conference. When I received the award, my first thought was 'I wish Dr. Cole was here!'"

Assistant Professor of History Julie Gallagher attended the event and was thrilled to have Brandywine represented at the conference. "Knowing the quality of the papers that hers was up against speaks very highly of Labanya and her work," Gallagher said. "I think we put out an opportunity on our campus for students to really seize the most of an educational experience."

In preparation for her senior honor thesis Mookerjee conducted numerous hours of research using a variety of different outlets. During the summer she visited Harvard University's Houghton Library in Cambridge, Mass. and the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston to obtain information used in her paper.

"I was always really interested in transcendentalism, even since high school," she explained. "In my first semester at Brandywine I had a class with Dr. Cole, who specializes in transcendentalism and feminism, so it was perfect. In my junior year, I took a women's studies class with Dr. Gallagher, and I knew I also wanted to do something with feminism when it came to my thesis."

Mookerjee will share her research at Penn State Brandywine's Exhibition of Undergraduate Research Enterprise and Creative Accomplishment (EURECA) event, on Tuesday, April 16. 

Upon graduating in May she plans to attend graduate school, where she will study English.