Center for the Humanities

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Previous Winners of Student Excellence in the Humanities!


Rebecca Carroll ’15 (French, Spanish, and Film/Media) is a student who has demonstrated a love of world literatures and film throughout her experience at URI. She brings valuable insights to each of her classes, and the work that she completes demonstrates an ability to draw on broader knowledge in the humanities in order to strengthen her analyses, whether in French, Spanish or English. For example, for her final paper in a French 412 class, she did a feminist reading of select films by directors of North African origin in France, and this project stood out because of the quality of the written work, the strength of the argument, and the originality of the approach as did her original work in the Francophone African Literature course.  Becka displays a commitment to global communication. When selecting a venue to improve her French skills she chose the Université Laval, Quebec, where she was the only URI student. Becka’s interest in the humanities extends beyond the classroom. She was selected among Spanish majors to serve as a program Spanish Ambassador. She is an excellent leader as President of the URI Film Collaborative, the mission of which includes to “educate, create, advocate, and inform through cinematic art.” Becka is an effective collaborator with other students on film sets and at her job in the Harrington Hub.  This year, she has spearheaded the URI Life in a Day film project, which is currently in pre-production. Becka accomplishes all of this while maintaining a 3.88 grade point average.


Kruse pict.Sarah Kruse ’15 (English) came to URI from Portland State University in Oregon where she achieved the highest honors (summa cum laude) as an undergraduate majoring in Film Studies and Theater Arts, and as a Masters Student in English. An unusually gifted thinker, at URI, Sarah has distinguished herself for her rare ability to work with equal inspiration and aplomb as a literary theorist and a creative writer, having won multiple first place honors in the English Department’s Graduate competitions in both the Critical Essay (in two consecutive years) and Creative Nonfiction (2011, and 2013). Sarah has presented her research nationally on a range of writers and philosophers from Anne Carson to Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, Celan, Adorno, Wallace Stevens, and Roland Barthes, and she has published work on Slavoj Zizek and Marcel Proust. Thanks to a URI Center for the Humanities Research Grant, Sarah was able to consult the long-neglected manuscript editions of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons in Yale University’s Beinecke Library, the effects of which, in Sarah’s hands, have been to re-orient our understanding of a foundationally radical experiment with language and the conditioning principles of human perception. How do we perceive what we perceive when we think we are perceiving color and language? Sarah’s dissertation on what she calls “the color of grammar” works at the intersection of early twentieth century visual art, philosophy, and avant-garde poetry boldly to answer this question with the help of Wittgenstein, Paul Celan, Blaise Cendrars and Mina Loy. Currently a blogger on contemporary poetry for Harvard University’s Poetry Room, an invited contributor to Brown University’s on-line literary forum, Anomalous, and the Managing Editor of Barrow Street Press, Sarah shows a keen dedication both to the time thought takes and the necessity for public discourse.



John Wrenn ’15 (History and Computer Science) has excelled both as a History major and as a Computer Science major. His completion of this unusual combination of majors reflects his wide-ranging intellectual interests. The History Department chose John last spring for the Margaret Thomas/Phi Alpha Theta Prize which is given to the outstanding junior History major. While his grades had much to do with that award, his grades alone do not measure his achievements. He has been a thoughtful and articulate participant in classroom discussions, and he has been ambitious to learn more than is required to receive grades of “A.” His ambitions are on display in the capstone research project which he is completing this semester on the effects of episodes of repatriation and expatriation on national identities in recent European history. The scope of this project could be cut by half and still be demanding. Despite John’s busy academic schedule he has found time for two campus jobs and an array of campus activities. He has worked as a systems technician and programmer in the Memorial Union for four years, and he has worked as a teaching assistant in CSC 211 for two years. He is one of the founders of the student organization Secular Student Alliance. John will start a Ph.D. program in Computer Science next fall at Brown University. This will not end his studies in History, because he will take advantage of Brown’s Open Graduate Education Program to work also toward a master’s degree in History.


Morgan Breene ‘14 became interested in underwater archaeology after studying abroad in the United Kingdom in the fall of her junior year. As a part of those studies, Morgan has received an undergraduate research initiative grant to study Napoleon’s 1799 siege of the port of Acre, now Akko, in Israel. The work Morgan completed while on this research trip both surprised and impressed Morgan’s professors and the scholars at the Israeli Antiquities Authority, as she submitted a game-changing technical paper. Breene has helped rewrite the naval history of the Napoleonic wars with her identification and interpretation of the shipwreck discoveries at Akko. As her professor Dr. Bridget Buxton wrote “Basically in maritime history it doesn’t get more significant than this.” Morgan is a Fulbright finalist to the University of Southampton in the UK to study maritime archaeology during Fall 2014, which is certainly no small achievement. As I wrote to the Center for the Humanities “Morgan Breene is way above others I know in scholarly achievement.” She has since gone on to be the recipient of the 2014 Marshall Scholarship Award. Don’t miss this video about the research that led to this prestigious award!



Beazley Kanost ‘14 (English) began her distinguished academic career (during which she never earned less than a perfect 4.0 GPA!) at the University of Oklahoma, where she took her BA in Psychology and English, and her MA in English Literature. She came

Photo from URI English Graduate Blog Chants giving her talk “Whose Cool? The Direction Truth Takes in Portrait of Jason”

to New England by way of Brown’s Creative Writing program, where she was awarded a M.F.A. in Fiction.  She is now completing a dissertation titled “Off the Hip: A Thermodynamics of the Cool,” under my direction  in URI’s English Doctoral program.  Kanost’s project takes what at first seems to be a trivial term—“cool”—and subjects it to serious scrutiny, tracing it from its emergence in an African American jazz and civil rights tradition, through its transformations and appropriations throughout U.S. history in the latter half of the twentieth century. Kanost’s revised first chapter has already been accepted for publication in a collection of essays on James Baldwin, and she has also published her creative writing in the literary journal Roger.  Kanost has been the recipient of many distinguished awards, including research grants from URI’s Center for the Humanities and the Graduate School to travel to the Shirley Clarke Archives in Wisconsin and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; first place in the English Department’s critical essay contest; and Teaching Assistantships at URI, Brown, and Oklahoma.  She teaches a broad variety of courses in literature, writing and film across the URI campus and at other area schools.      Click here for a review of her talk“Whose Cool? The Direction Truth Takes in Portrait of Jason”!

Tamisa Francois, Photo from The Harrington Rangers page.


Tamisha Francois, ‘14 (English and Film) is a major in both Film Media and English.  She is Vice President of URI’s Slam Poetry Club and loves all forms of art, but her favorites are writing, cinematography, dancing, acting, and performing the spoken word.  Tamisha is no stranger to the written word, as she was the Fall 2013 winner of the Paul Conway Memorial Essay Contest, in which students must submit an essay on “The Value of a Liberal Arts Education.”  As a Harrington Ranger, she coordinates a community service project to support a local women’s shelter and also meets with prospective URI students.  At the same time, she maintains an exceptional GPA among the Harrington Rangers, an impressive feat! Her interest in community service has also led her to tutor students at the Central School and has taken her to Haiti to help the people of her parents’ native country. In the future Tamisha aspires to establish herself as a uniquely skilled screenwriter and filmmaker. Her ultimate goal is to publish a series of books and subsequently adapt them into movies. Click here for a recording of Tamisha reading at URI Slam Poetry Open Mic Night.


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