University of Rochester

Two Rochester Students Win NEH Younger Scholars Awards

April 17, 1995

Joshua Clinton, a junior majoring in political science and economics, and Joel Helfrich, a freshman majoring in history, have been named National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Younger Scholars for 1995.

The two University of Rochester students were selected from a field of more than 2000 applicants in the national competition. The NEH Younger Scholars Award carries a stipend of $2500 that supports independent, non-credit research and writing projects. The projects will be carried out over the summer under the supervision of faculty advisors.

Clinton's research will focus on the impact of philosophical pragmatism on modern politics. Clinton's research is built around the writings of Karl Llewelyn and Stephen Breyer. Describing his project Clinton said, "I'm examining how the law ought to reflect society and how that relates to government operation." Professor James Johnson of the Department of Political Science is Clinton's adviser. Previously Johnson oversaw Clinton's 1994 Xerox research project on the writings of Foucault. Clinton plans to attend graduate school in political science.

Helfrich intends to study the ideals of musical literacy and their relation to the life and work of American composer Scott Joplin. Helfrich's research concentrates on Joplin's opera Treemonisha and Joplin's role in African-American musical expression, from oral traditions to musical literacy. "Originally ragtime was seen as music for the lower class," Helfrich said. "Joplin sought to develop ragtime into a musical art form that could compete with the traditional European forms such as symphonies and operas." Vice president and University Dean of Students Paul Burgett, who also teaches "The Music of Black Americans," is serving as Helfrich's adviser for the project. Helfrich is the first University freshman to win this award. Commenting on his achievement Helfrich said, "When I opened the mailbox and realized that I had won, that I was the first freshman to win the award, I nearly hugged everybody in Todd Union."

Twenty six Rochester undergraduates have received NEH Younger Scholars awards since the program's creation in 1984. The NEH has announced that this year's awards will be the last, because the agency is discontinuing the program. No specific reasons were given for the cancellation. "It has been a wonderful honor. There is nothing like it. It is the most prestigious national award that supports undergraduate research in the arts and humanities," said Jarold Ramsey, professor of English, who oversees the program at the University. Ramsey believes that the NEH projects have had a significant impact in shaping the English and political science honors programs at the University. "It has been by consensus a successful project. Students said they were glad that they had the opportunity to apply. The exercises taught them a lot," he said.