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Library Undergraduate Research Award

Banner image that says Library Undergraduate Research Award. There are multi colored circles on the right hand side, with two images in circles, the two different winners from 2024: Nadine Koochou and Bryce Nishikawa

2024 Award Winners

Congratulations to the 2024 Award Winners:

Nadine Koochou and Bryce Akira Nishikawa!

Nadine Koochou

Nadine Koochou - On Marriage, Children, and Other Expectations: The Feminist Absurd in Rachel Cusk’s Outline

Photo of Nadine Koochou in front of the ocean on the beach. The sky is overcast and she has a slight smile with her head tilted


Told through a series of conversations between the narrator and the people she meets during a work trip to Athens, Rachel Cusk’s Outline is a commentary on the ways in which we attempt to find meaning in our lives. To exemplify this, Cusk takes on a passive narrative style: other characters tell their stories, and the narrator, Faye, reports them back to us. However, even more significant than the narrative techniques are the stories revealed to us through Faye’s perspective. Cusk’s novel features a cast of characters who seem to have a shared understanding of the inherent meaninglessness of life. What differentiates the characters from one another is that they are in various stages of denial or acceptance of this concept. 

In this article, I argue that all of the characters in the novel are grappling with the absurdist idea that life lacks any inherent meaning, that the universe is God-less and without empathy. Thus, the characters try, to varying degrees of success, to create their own sense of meaning in life. This philosophical questioning is especially exemplified by the ambivalent stance the characters take towards supposedly sacred structures in society, such as marriage and childrearing. In doing so, Cusk writes a novel that joins theories of feminism and absurdism, suggesting that because of the condition of the patriarchy, marriage and parenthood alone cannot bring fulfillment and are therefore inadequate structures with which to inscribe meaning to the world. 

According to Professor Michele Burnham, "This article was Nadine’s final project for that course, and it offers a sophisticated literary analysis of the contemporary novel Outline by Rachel Cusk. The article is informed by robust research, exceptional critical and textual analysis, and integrative interdisciplinary thinking." The review committee for the Undergraduate Research Award heartily agrees with this statement. We were impressed with Nadine's excellent description of her research process - including stumbling blocks and finding solutions to these problems. We appreciated the way that Nadine provided evidence and support for the claims she made in the article. Professor Burnham sums up how the committee felt: "she has written a convincing and engaging analysis of the text, using evidence from the novel." Congratulations Nadine!


Bryce Akira Nishikawa

Bryce Akira Nishikawa - Diversity Requirements: An Analysis of Policy and Interpersonal Interactions at Santa Clara University

photo of Bryce Nishikawa smiling while wearing a floral button down. The background is blurry, with hanging string lights and darkened trees behind him.


Higher education diversity courses bring students of all backgrounds into a shared space to focus on the experiences of institutionally excluded or underrepresented communities. At Santa Clara University (SCU), calls for increased efforts to promote diversity are spearheaded by an interest in increasing the diversity course policy from one to two mandated courses. Through the conducting of 11 semi-structured interviews with faculty and students and short-term longitudinal surveys in 3 sections of diversity courses, this study seeks to understand the strengths and limitations of existing policies on diversity initiatives and where future efforts should be concentrated. Community members indicated strong support for the second diversity course policy with three additional goals in mind: remedy performative diversity from the administration, nurture deeper takeaways from courses, and ensure diversity is upheld beyond the classroom. Existing diversity courses provided a glimpse of the additional time and resources necessary to make SCU a welcoming environment for all identities. To achieve this goal, students, faculty, and administrators must invest more time and resources into diversity initiatives and building cross-boundary interpersonal relationships.

The review committee was impressed with the variety of research methods that Bryce incorporated into this project. According to Professor Jesica Fernandez, "Bryce’s project is ambitious in its scope as it combined varied qualitative research methods, specifically primary and secondary data sources from surveys to interviews to archival records of student activists and organizing at SCU."  We were particularly impressed at his usage of archival records to provide context and information about his research topic. We all agree it was an interesting study and we appreciated the opportunity to read it. Working in higher education allows us to see students original research and we second Professor Fernandez's statement: "As an educator I take great pride in students who take the initiative to want to make a change in society, and who are committed to justice. Bryce upholds these values...". Congratulations Bryce!



As Santa Clara University strengthens its commitment to undergraduate research, the University Library is supporting this effort by annually offering two undergraduate research awards. These awards will honor students who demonstrate exemplary research skills and creativity through the comprehensive use of library and information resources to produce a scholarly work or class project of high quality.


  • Two $1,000 awards and a certificate for the winning student(s) or group(s)


Key dates for academic year 2023-2024

  • Submission deadline: April 15th, 2024 (Corrected: previous version listed April 12th as the due date)

  • Winner notifications: May 6th, 2024

  • Award reception: May 23, 2024


Award Ceremony

  • The Dean of the Library will present the awards at a ceremony held during the spring quarter.   

  • The winners (individuals or groups) will give a 10-12 minute presentation about their research projects, followed by a Q & A session.

  • A reception will follow.