University of Pittsburgh
May 12, 2002

Pitt English Professor and His Students Win Frank O'Connor Essay Contest and Research Abroad Program Grant

Contact:  412-624-4147

May 9, 2002

PITTSBURGH—University of Pittsburgh English Professor Michael West and two students in his Irish literature course have won first prizes in the Frank O'Connor Essay Contest sponsored by Auburn University in Montgomery, Ala. West also was awarded a Pitt University Center for International Studies 2002 Research Abroad Program (RAP) Grant to study in Ireland with two other Pitt students taking his Irish literature course.

Zac Sloane, a Pitt College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) sophomore, and Stephanie Hepner, a junior majoring in European and Russian Studies at Carnegie Mellon University, shared first prize in the Frank O'Connor Essay Contest's student category.

West won for his essay, "Prodigal Sons and Prodigal Fathers: Interpreting O'Connor's 'The Late Henry Conran' in the Light of Literary History." Sloane's and Hepner's winning essays are titled, respectively, "No Home Now: Illegitimate Children and Orphans in the Short Stories of Frank O'Connor" and "An Analysis of Terry's Loss of Innocence in Frank O'Connor's 'The Babes in the Wood.'"

The contest, funded by O'Connor's estate, awarded two $500 prizes, one for a winning faculty essay and one for a winning student essay in O'Connor criticism or scholarship; Sloane and Hepner will split the $500 student prize.

West received the UCIS RAP grant for his project "Frank O'Connor, James Joyce, and the Irish Short Story." Traveling to Ireland with West on June 9 are Andrea Butler, a Pitt CAS senior with double majors in philosophy and English literature, and Bridget McMichael, a Pitt CAS freshman. The trio will divide their month in Ireland between Dublin, the center of Irish literary culture, and Cork, O'Connor's birthplace. The students will function as West's research assistants and also conduct independent research projects derived from West's Irish literature course.

In addition, Peter Musser, a CAS senior English writing major, won a $150 prize for his work on Joyce and O'Connor in Pitt's undergraduate symposium, "Europe East and West," cosponsored by Pitt's Center for West European Studies and Center for Russian and East European Studies.

Since 1994, West's students have received various other honors and awards, including the USA Today Academic All-Star Award, Snead Prizes in American Literature, Pitt Women's Studies Program Undergraduate and Graduate Research Awards, Miller Prizes for Essays in British Literature; the Jewish Community Center/CWES Holocaust Essay Competition, and Ossip Essay Awards.