(Photo: Dessislava Krasteva gives her presentation during the inaugural competition, held in 2008.)
The McDaniel Prize for writing and Research started in 2008, and is conducted every year at McDaniel College Budapest. Students are given the opportunity to write a 2500-3000 words essay paper from any subject at all. Faculty referees rate the submissions, and the writers of the three highest scoring papers advance to the oral presentation round. Scores from the two rounds are combined to determine a winner, who receives the chance to publish his/her paper as well as dinner at the famous Rosenstein Restaurant, one of the most prestigious restaurants in Budapest.
About the origins of the prize, Professor Adamson stated that “The McDaniel faculty and administration were interested in finding a means for students to demonstrate their learning outside of routine coursework, in a way that required both creativity and rigor. At the same time, we hoped for a forum in which students to share their intellectual work and for students to see what their classmates had achieved’’.
Past winners, starting from 2008, were: Jenai Towuru in 2008, Nadia Artiomenco in 2009, João Salviano Carmo in 2010, Catherine O’ Keeffe in 2011. We await the result of the winner this year.
I was able to interview João Salviano Carmo about how it felt to win the McDaniel prize. Here is how the interview went.
Messenger: What topic did you choose?
João: One Out of Many: Memory and the Holocaust
Messenger: why did you choose this topic?
João: I interviewed a Holocaust survivor and the paper was mostly about the experiences of Zsuzsanna Markovits, how her experience related to other known stories about the Holocaust, both real and fictitious, and I ended up stumbling upon the difficulties of interviewing an Holocaust survivor so many decades after the fact. In the end the paper gave me more to work on than I bargained for.
Messenger: How did you feel about winning the McDaniel
João: I felt obviously happy. Happy because I won, because the story of Zsuzsanna
Markovits could be exposed to many others and because I felt I had done a good job on such a delicate matter.
Messenger: Was the prize worth it?
João: The prize brought me recognition at McDaniel College Budapest, mainly next to the faculty body. It also allowed me to discover a very good restaurant (Rosenstein) which still today I visit with my family whenever possible.
Messenger: Did your paper have the chance to get published?
João: No, in order to be published the paper would have to be further developed and a lot of time from my side would have to be devoted to it. At the time I gave it a thought and at first I was inclined to do it, but then life took me to pursue other ventures instead.
Messenger: What advice would you give students writing the McDaniel prize essay?
João: I believe that the best papers we can write are papers that have a meaning to us besides the academic purpose they serve. In my case I was blessed with the opportunity to share with others the unique story of a family friend that survived the Holocaust, and that made my paper much more than any ordinary paper I had to write for a class. It was a personal paper with deep personal meaning for me and that was the driving force behind it.
Another important factor in my paper was the tremendous help and assistance I received from Dr. Andrea Petö, my teacher of Holocaust and Memory. Her advice and interest was instrumental in my writing and analysis and I advise all those thinking about entering the McDaniel Research Prize to seek the advice and feedback of the teacher of the field they are writing about. That surely will improve the odds of them winning the prize, but most importantly, it allows the students to really develop an understanding of what their work is all about.