Past Awards

2014: Mary Adkins

Master Lecturer at the University of Florida Levin College of Law

“Pigs, Pot, and Policy: The Creation of Florida’s Modern Constitution”

Mary consulted many archival collections during her time at USF Libraries. Particularly invaluable were the papers of Jan Platt, Leroy Collins, Terrell Sessums, and Betty Castor, although personal meetings with influential local figures contributed to Mary’s research as well. Mary worked tirelessly to research the history of the 1968 Florida Constitution and its 1978 and 1998 revisions. The constitution provides that every twenty years, a Constitution Revision Commission should look critically at the entire document to determine what changes are needed. The next Commission will be appointed in 2016 or 2017 for revision and adoption in 2018. Therefore, her research is timely and important for persons interested in Florida’s Constitution and political history. Mary’s presentation, “Pigs, Pot, and Policy” was well-attended and stimulated terrific discussion afterwards.

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2012: Sarah McNamara

Ph.D. candidate, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

“‘Un-American’ Americans: Latina Working-Class Activism in Ybor City, Florida”

Sarah used records from Ybor City’s mutual aid societies, La Gaceta, and photographs of striking workers to weave together her thesis on women’s activism and their incorporation into the international Popular Front movement. Her research seeks to show that these activities were more than mere labor strikes or communist movements; that they were, in fact, the beginnings of the civil rights movement. Says Sarah, “Using the Special Collections at USF is essentially going straight to the source. It’s a fantastic archive with an immense amount of local materials, but combining the available information from the Centros, newspapers, and oral histories with government records, Works Progress Administration reports, and other items that connect the city to larger policies and broader events makes it come alive in new ways.” To view Sarah’s Riordan Fellowship public presentation, click here.

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2010: Michelle Zacks

Ph.D. candidate, University of Hawai’i at Manoa

“The Creole World of Mullet in American Florida”

Michelle examined the social life of mullet, a fish that has long been a member of the Gulf of Mexico’s inshore ecosystems, a staple source of food, and a key item in regional circuits of exchange. She argued that mullet being considered a ‘trash’ fish was caused by cultural expectations regarding the proper use of the seascape in addition to environmental conditions.

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2008: Gregory Jason Bell

Ph.D. candidate, University of Cincinnati

“A Ragged Outer Margin: Tampa’s 19th-Century Regional Identity”

Gregory argued that Tampa was never part of the Old South. As he wrote, “Instead, it went from being a frontier settlement on the Caribbean northern periphery directly to being part of the New South. Timing and circumstance caused Tampa to skip a step in Southern evolution, making Tampa Southern and yet atypical within the South. This is why Tampans are convinced that they are Southern, while Southerners outside of Florida are convinced that Tampans are not Southern.” Gregory utilized the John T. Lesley diaries, the James McKay receipt book, the Mervine Mix papers, and the Florida Negro Manuscript Collection while here at USF.

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2007: Thomas Rudczynski

Ph.D. candidate, Northwestern University

“‘God’s Waiting Room’: How Retirement to Florida Transformed the Sunbelt and the Nation”

Thomas’s research examined the causes and consequences the unprecedented migration of “senior citizens” after the New Deal for American politics and culture. As he wrote, “I believe migration to Florida helped the nation’s growing elderly population lead an essential transition in contemporary America. Their relocation secured a rightward outlook for the post-Civil Rights South by giving aging Northerners with varied social politics—but fixed incomes—significant influence over major local issues such as economic growth, housing and taxation.”

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2006: Meeghan Kane

M.A. Candidate, University of South Florida

“A History of Spring Break”

Meeghan’s research examined the social, economic, and racial aspects of the spring break youth-culture phenomenon in Florida. As she wrote in her fellowship application: “The role of mass media in promoting spring break, as well as the romantic portrayal of spring break in film, music, and popular fiction, is key to this thesis. However, I will also give considerable attention to the more negative expressions of spring break such as the prevalence of violent crimes and the riots, which resulted in mass arrests on Florida’s beaches. Finally, I am studying spring break’s influences on municipal law and local industry, and, in turn, how this shaped the identities and public perception of the cities and towns that actively courted and catered to the growing spring break crowds. While I am focusing primarily on those communities most synonymous with spring break, particularly Fort Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, and Panama City, I am also studying the role of spring break in Clearwater, Miami, and Jacksonville.” Meeghan worked mainly with the LeRoy Collins papers.

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2005: Wendy Adams King

Ph.D. Candidate, University of South Florida

“Through the Looking Glass of Silver Springs: Tourism and the Politics of Vision”

Wendy defined her project in this way: “Since its inception in the 1880s, Silver Springs has been a place oriented toward observing nature. The park’s glass-bottom boats framed the natural world underneath the water, for instance, and the visitors’ walks were constructed so to best view the natural world presented by the park. During the 1920s however, the tourist experience at Silver Springs shifted, for it was partially supplanted by a reconstruction of the cinematic space of Hollywood. Exotic plants and animals were added to the park as Florida’s subtropical landscape became increasingly framed as an ersatz jungle setting for tourists and filmmakers. Today, Silver Springs’ exhibits and promotion still greatly emphasize the park’s connection with its cinematic past. Since the 1990s, however, Silver Springs’ non-native plants and animals have received increased scrutiny. A large number of African animals, for example, were recently relocated and new rides emphasize Florida history rather than generic, tropical fantasy. Within the context of Florida history and tourism theory, my work explores the cultural significance of Silver Springs’ narrative shift “From Reel to Real Florida.”

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2004: Alan Bliss

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Florida

“Interpreting a New South Place: Tampa, Florida, 1932-1964”

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2003: Ana Varela-Lago

Ph.D. Candidate University of California at San Diego

“Building ‘Everyman’s Spanish Castle’: The Construction of Florida’s Spanish Past in the 1920s”

Ana’s research at USF explored the response of the Tampa Spanish immigrant community to the simultaneous projects of “rediscovery” of the past carried out in Florida and Spain in the 1920s. As she explained in her fellowship application: “In Florida, the promotion of the state’s Spanish past helped to downplay its southern heritage as it sought to compete for tourists and investments with the state which had most successfully recreated its own Spanish heritage — California. In Spain, a military dictatorship used this outburst of “Spanishness” in the United States to help infuse a new pride in the imperial heritage of the country which, given the achievements of the United States, could now be seen as a source of development and progress. For many in the immigrant community these images of Spain were not so easily reconciled. Their vision of a new Spain was manifested in their endorsement of the Republic when it was first established in 1931, and their unyielding support when it was later threatened and finally crushed by a new dictator, General Franco, during the Spanish Civil War. Over the following decades, Spanish immigrants struggled with these relationships as they negotiated their own place between their homeland and their adopted country.“ Ana utilized the records of the Spanish mutual aid societies (Centro Asturiano and Centro Español), the papers of Hillsborough County historian, Tony Pizzo, and the microfilm collection of the local Spanish newspaper La Gaceta for her research.

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2002: Steven Hatch

Ph.D. CandidateUniversity of Florida

“Let’s Finish Together this Nonsense: The Cold War in Florida, 1957-1965”

Stephen’s research focused on the Cold War in Florida from 1957-1965 in an attempt to provide a more multi-faceted perspective on the statewide effects of U.S. Cold War-driven domestic and foreign policy. He stated in his fellowship application: “I explore the many unforeseen impacts of the conflict on the state as well as the ways in which Florida politicians used the hysteria, the soul searching concerning the national purpose, and the projects initiated in response to Sputnik in order to further their own careers and agendas. How did these differing constructions of the Cold War and their resultant agendas interact? Did the Cold War fought by Floridians have different goals than the one fought by the Federal government? Did reforms in the local prosecution of the Cold War implemented in the aftermath of Sputnik represent something new and different for Florida, or were they merely additional “tools” to be used in longstanding battles over politics, race relations, education, trade, and economic development? Did the trajectory of the conflict and the effects of Federal Cold War policy initiatives retard or accelerate long-term state trends in politics, education, race-relations, and economic development?” Stephen utilized the Governor LeRoy Collins papers, the papers of Congressman Sam M. Gibbons, the John W. Egerton papers, the Ruth Perry papers, the Tony Pizzo collection, the Hampton Dunn collection, the Hillsborough County Civil Defense records, the papers of Tom Adams, and the papers of Robert and Helen Saunders for his research.

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Fall 2009

Jessica Merrick

“Meaningful Places: Gay and Lesbian Retirement in Florida,” presented at the 35th Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Sociological Association in Lafayette, Louisiana, November 4-7, 2009.

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Spring 2009

Shiela Douglas

Her research focuses on World War II prisoner of war camps in Florida, mainly Branch camp No. 7 in Dade City, a branch of Camp Blanding near Starke, FL. She is interested in the lives of the prisoners and what effect the camps had on the towns in which they were located.

Scott D. Hussey

“A Modern Eden: Social Nudism in Florida, Paradise Lakes Clothing-Optional Resort, and Image” and “Florida: Its Image and the Use of Symbols,” presented at the Florida Historical Society conference in Pensacola, Florida, May 20-23, 2009.

Nano E. Riley

Nano’s thesis research is on naturalists who explored Southwest Florida in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and noted the increasing loss of natural systems as the state’s population increased.

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Fall 2008

Michelle Formica

“An Integrated Model for the Study of Fortified Landscapes: The Second Seminole War as a Case Study” and “Determining Familial Relationships using Historic DNA from Urban and Rural Cemeteries in Indiana,” presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology annual conference in Toronto on January 6-11, 2009.

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Spring 2008

Kevin Kokomoor

His paper dealing with the history of tarpon fishing on the coast of southwest Florida from 1885-1925, was presented at the Florida Historical Society conference in Bradenton, Florida, May 22-24, 2008.
Spring 2007

Kevin Kokomoor

“Companions in Misery: Maroons, Seminoles, and the Florida Territory, 1821-1835,” presented at the Florida Historical Society annual meeting, Clearwater, FL, May 2007.

David A. Moody

His thesis research is on the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition.

Jennifer Syversten

Her presentation is on disaster mental health services to hurricane survivors in Florida at the American Psychological Association annual meeting, San Francisco, CA, August 2007.

Justin C. Whitney

His thesis research is on Tampa Bay-area interstate highway system development.

Allyson Bennett

Her thesis research is on Florida’s Cross-State Barge Canal.

Zanetta Starks

Her thesis research is on Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy in Florida.
Fall 2006

Kali Pace-Graczyk

This thesis research is on “Isotopic Investigations of Cave Drip Waters: Applications to Hydrogeological and Carbonate Studies in Florida”.

Luis Oliva Ramos

His thesis research is on Tampa’s Cuban cigar-making community at the turn of the 20th century.

Edward J. Ford

His paper is on the relationship between politicians’ messages used to attain office and their ability to get elected, presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting, San Jose, CA, November 2006.

Hope L. Black

Her thesis research is on Bertha Honore Palmer.

Elizabeth C. Edgecomb

“Creating a Consumable Historical Identity: The Case of Historical West Tampa,” presented at the National Communication Association annual meeting, San Antonio, TX, November 2006

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Fall 2005

Stephanie Nelson Cain

Her thesis research is on spring training baseball in Florida.

Kristina Dunman

“Models for Community-Based Refugee Support,” presented at the Society for Applied Anthrogology annual meeting, Vancouver, Canada, March 2006.

Jenna Holzberg

Her paper is on economic development and community engagement in West Tampa, presented at the Society for Applied Anthrogology annual meeting, Vancouver, Canada, March 2006.

Nikki Pike

Her thesis research is on the intersection of social critique, sculpture, and horticulture using indigenous Florida materials.

Nevin Sitler

His thesis research is on “Selling St. Petersburg: Boosters, Showmen, and Sunshine”.

Terry Tomalin

This thesis research is on mullet and Florida’s maritime tradition.

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Spring 2005

Camille Daniels

“Development and Application of the SEDCON Index for Coral Reef Ecosystems,” presented at the Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean annual meeting, Curacao, June 2005.

Cassandra Rae Harper

“Model of Middle Woodland Domestic Culture,” presented at the Florida Anthropological Society annual meeting, May 2005.

Michelle Hoffman

“Keeping a Promise to US Maritime Minutemen,” presented at the American Merchant Marines Veterans’ 19th National Convention, Reno, NV.

Ashley Spalding

“Does Mixing Occur in a ‘Mixed Income’ Neighborhood?” presented at “Translocality: Discussing Culture and Change in the 21st Century,” Merida, Mexico.

Jared Toney

“The Henry Wallace Campaign in Ybor City, 1948,” presented at the American Historical Association annual conference, Portland, OR, August 2005.

Albert William Vogt III

His thesis research is on Spanish missionaries in the territory of La Florida during the Spanish colonial period.

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Fall 2004

Dennis Halpin and Jared Toney

“Development of Community and Collective Identity among African Americans in Tampa in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries,” presented at Florida Conference of Historians, March 2005.

Lee Florea

“Hydrogeologic Comparison Between First-Magnitude Springs of the Tertiary Limestone Aquifers of West-Central Florida and the Quaternary Basalt Aquifers of the Snake River Plateau, Idaho,” presented at Southeastern Geological Society of America annual meeting, Biloxi, MS, March 2005.

Linda Levitt

“Touring NASA: Communicating Triumph and Tragedy,” presented at the International Society of Travel Writers annual meeting, Milwaukee, WI, October 2004.

Gregory Vance Smith

His thesis research is on Parrot Head rituals in Key West.

Maria Claudia Duque

“Using Interactive Participatory Research in Food Consumption Studies with Immigrant Children in Florida,” presented at the American Anthropological Society annual meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 2004.

James B. Mayo Jr.

“Negotiating Curricular Boundaries and Sexual Orientation: The Lived Experiences of Gay Secondary Teachers in West Central Florida,” presented at American Educational Research Association annual conference, Montreal, Canada, April 2005.

Monica Rowland

Her thesis research is on tourism in St. Augustine.

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Spring 2004

Ashley E. Spalding

Her thesis research is on how federal housing policy HOPE IV affected individuals in Tampa’s “Nuccio” area of South Temple Terrace

Jennifer A. Kelly

Her paper is on the role maize played in the subsistence practices of prehistoric native Florida populations, presented at the Society for American Archeology annual meeting, Montreal, Canada, April 2004.

Marcy W. Murray

Her thesis research is on circus winter quarters in Sarasota County.

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Fall 2003

Preston Poe

His thesis research is on musician Roy Bookbinder.

Hongmei Gao

This dissertation research is on “Globalization and Migration: Asian Americans in Florida”.

Lucy D. Jones

Her thesis research is on territorial/early state-era settler Augustus Steele.

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Spring 2003

Wendy Adams King

“Through the Looking Glass: Tourism and Politics of Vision at Silver Springs, Florida,” presented at the Visual Culture and Leisure Conference, London, England, July 2003.

Lawrence B. McBride

“Physicality and Consciousness: UltraRunners, Professional Wrestlers, and Belly Dancers,” presented at the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness annual meeting, Las Vegas, NV, April 2003.

Lee Florea

This dissertation research is on “Karst Morphodynamics of the Unconfined Floridan Aquifer, West Central, Florida”.

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Fall 2002

Elgin Klugh

“The Revitalization of Old African American Schoolhouses: A Silent Movement” (Glover School Historic Site in Bealsville, FL), presented at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History annual meeting, October 2002.

Linda M. Callejas

“‘White Folks Are Trying to Take Our Building Again’: The Continuing Struggle to Maintain a Contested Afro-Cuban Heritage in Tampa, Florida,” presented at the Latin American Studies Association annual meeting, Dallas, TX, March 2003.

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Undergraduate Prize Winners


Kim C. Godbee, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee

“The New Deal in Our Own Backyard: The Civilian Conservation Corps at Highland Hammock and Myakka River State Parks”


Naomi R. Williams, University of South Florida

“The Struggle for Gay Rights in Tampa and Hillsborough County, 1989-1995”


Jerry L. Rumph, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

“Trampling the Tocobaga Indians: Alienating Maximo Park from its Environmental and Native American Heritage”

Graduate Prize Winners


Nicole C. Cox, University of South Florida

“Damage Control and the 1921 Hurricane: Boosters, Businessmen, and Bad Press”


Thomas Foley, University of South Florida St. Petersburg

“The Taming of the Hillsborough River: How Tampa Gained a Moat, Destroyed a Creek, and Forgot a River”


Leslie Kemp Poole, University of Florida

“The Women of the Early Florida Audubon Society”


Alan Bliss, University of Florida

“Planning a New Tampa : George W. Simons Jr.”

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