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Friends of the Adams Library announce First Year Research Prize winners

Alexis Rapoza

News Editor

Photo via @riclibrary on Instagram

PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- The Friends of the Adams Library and Library Outreach Committee have announced the two winners of the First Year Research Prize that they co-sponsored earlier this semester. The winners are Alexander Tum and Ashley Mariani, both Tum and Mariani are first year students at Rhode Island College.

Tum, an art major concentrating in graphic design, was nominated by Dr. Kathryn Kalinak from the English and Film Studies departments. Tum’s project was entitled “Penguin Films and the Environment: The Triumph of Happy Feet and the Trouble with March of the Penguins.” Amy Barlow, co-chair of the Library Outreach Committee and Reference Librarian, said Tum’s project “demonstrated exceptional choice and use of secondary literature to advance an original argument on the important subject of climate change.”

“My project explores how the portrayal of wildlife in films has shaped viewers’ stance on environmental politics, along with their ideas of nature in general,” Tum told The Anchor. “I explore the misleading nature of the ‘documentary’ wildlife film, March of The Penguins. The film, which uses penguins to appeal to moviegoers, does little to advocate for the environment or the penguin species. By pushing a romanticized narrative, the movie neglects larger issues.”

Tum said his research was inspired by his first year seminar class with Dr. Kalinak. He said, “Our class discussed how movies have the power to influence our perspective on certain subjects. I found this to be most fascinating in the case of documentary films, which are often thought to be pure reality, yet the filmmakers have control over what they want us to see.” Tum continues, “My goal was to uncover that in one of the more well-known nature documentaries, March of the Penguins.”

Tum said that the best advice he has for other students who might be interested in pursuing the Research Prize is to always research a topic you’re passionate about. He stated, “With the world events that have unfolded in the past year, I was a bit unsure if people would want to read about penguins and nature films right now. However, I think that if you can present an original argument on a valid topic, it will definitely be of interest to readers.”

Mariani is a Political Science major. Her winning project was produced for Professor Erik Christansen’s Honors first year seminar. Her project was entitled “The Mass Incarceration of Black Women” which Barlow says “demonstrated excellent gathering and synthesis of information sources pertaining to the critical topic of systemic racism in the U.S.”

Mariani says that her research paper focused on how the history of systemic racism and sexism in the United States contribute to the increasing number of women being incarcerated. “The objective of this project was to identify a contemporary social issue and explore its historical context.” Mariani explained, “I was inspired to research the mass incarceration of women, particularly women of color, because of their experiences could speak to the ways in which America has yet to fully correct its history of systemic discrimination.”

Mariani says that the most significant thing she learned from her research is that Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act in 1996. She says this act “drastically limited the ability of prisoners to file lawsuits when they feel that their rights have been violated.”

For more information about the Friends of the Adams Library, visit

For more information about the First Year Research Prize, visit



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