Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
W&M menu close William & Mary

Honors students raise the “Barr” in inaugural Thesis in Three competition

Government and anthropology double-major Erin Cearlock '24 (left) received the inaugural Barr Prize for public speaking from Stanley "Butch" Barr '62 (right) at the Charles Center's "Thesis in Three" event as a part of the Graduate & Honors Research Symposium March 22 in Sadler. (Photo by Emmanuel Sampson)

“As a Texan, the public school system made sure that I would always remember the Alamo,” explained government and anthropology major Erin Cearlock ’24, as she opened her “Thesis in Three” talk at the Graduate & Honors Research Symposium March 22 in Sadler. 

“On the Pacific island of Rurutu, some 6,000 miles away in French Polynesia, the communities’ histories are at risk of not being remembered – or even worse – not remembered on their own terms,” Cearlock said.

Cearlock reflected upon oral histories she collected and documented while on a Charles Center Honors Fellowship in Rurutu last summer.  “I will always remember the Alamo,” Cearlock concluded, before honoring locals on the island who hope “that future Rurutuans will always remember the real Rurutu.”

So began and ended Cearlock’s three-minute distillation of her 10,000-word Honors thesis, inviting the audience to journey through history and memory from Texas to Rurutu and back.  The around-the-world trip in less than 180 seconds earned her the inaugural Barr Prize in public speaking and an accompanying $500 award.

Though challenging and time consuming, the opportunity to participate in the event was well worth it, according to Cearlock.  “This competition was really important for helping me to understand what the main goals of my research were and how to convey academic research to a non-academic audience,” she said. 

Biology major Jessica Horner '24, neuroscience major Gabrielle Riddlemoser '24, psychological sciences major Sam Gruber '24, history major Kendall McKinley '24, and government and anthropology double-major Erin Cearlock '24 (shown left to right) competed for the Inaugural Barr Prize in public speaking March 22 in Sadler. (Photo by Emmanuel Sampson)Four other Honors students competed in the Thesis in Three event, which was made possible through the vision and generosity of Stanley “Butch” Barr '62, a legal professional and instructor of speech at the university. The aptly named “Barr Prizes” are awarded to the three presenters who best used their limited time to engage the audience and explain key ideas from their Honors thesis.

Psychology major Sam Gruber ’24 took second place for his presentation illuminating the lives of children of incarcerated parents. Neuroscience major Gabrielle Riddlemoser ’24 earned a third-place award for her talk on emerging treatments for Parkinson’s disease.  Gruber and Riddlemoser received $200 and $100 cash prizes, respectively, while runners-up were awarded W&M sweatshirts.

In his closing remarks, Barr explained that all of the students who presented “deserve significant recognition” for both their research and the ways they concisely “expressed that research [with] an exceptional level of confidence, delivery, and projection.”  He added, “I can’t even clear my throat in three minutes!”

Barr concluded with a charge to all students conducting research at the university. “Hopefully, as you go forward in your career, you will continue to exhibit the level of education that William & Mary provides. You are a reflection of that committal to excellence.”

If you are interested in conducting funded Honors research in your senior year, please see the Charles Center website for more information.