Four English Department students named Dean's Distinguished Graduates
Posted: May 12, 2010
Friedman, Giordani, Hammond, & Meyer
Every year the College of Liberal Arts names twelve Dean’s Distinguished Graduates on the basis of high achievements in scholarship, leadership, and service to the college. To date, 357 Dean’s Distinguished Graduates have been so honored.
This year, four English majors were selected as Dean's Distinguished Graduates based on their high levels of achievement: Daniel Friedman, Angela Giorgani, James Hammond, and John Meyer. The English Department congratulates them on all their accomplishments and on being selected for such an honor.
Daniel Friedman’s most thrilling discovery as an undergraduate was that he could specialize without being exclusive. He has four majors—Plan II, English, French, and Asian Cultures and Languages—and has written three theses, while nurturing obsessions with Milton and with neurobiology. One of the many academic endeavors UT has allowed him to pursue—by dint of many late-night library sessions during which he struggled to translate a 2,000-year-old Classical Chinese text—revealed to him one of the passions that will guide his life: thinking and writing about early imperial China while working towards a PhD in East Asian Studies.
Daniel has learned, however, that he cannot be satisfied with purely academic pursuits. Through coursework and human rights internships (including a summer at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York), he has explored the extent of the suffering that policies like torture and indefinite detention continue to cause. He learned that the power to free people from this unjust coercion, and to prevent it from happening again, was found not in the languages he studied, but in the language of the law. His desire to use his education to help and protect others, the same desire that motivates him to use his fifteen years of martial arts experience to teach women’s self-defense classes, will inspire him to seek a law degree in concert with a PhD. His UT education, simultaneously intensive and extensive, will remain the model for his future intellectual life.
Angela Giordani has completed four majors--Arabic Language & Literature, Islamic Studies, English and Religious Studies--during her five years at the University of Texas at Austin. Writing her senior thesis through the Liberal Arts Honors (Plan I) program, Angela researches modern Arab intellectual history and literature from the 1960s to the present. Her thesis, entitled "Along the Fault Lines of Contemporary Egyptian Thought: An Intellectual Biography of Tariq al-Bishri," examines the career and writings of a prominent Egyptian thinker who emerged--along with many of his comrades--as a neo-Islamist in the late 1970s after a long career as secular nationalist with Marxist leanings. She has been fortunate to have spent significant time in Egypt throughout her college career, first on a language scholarship and then on a research grant to study the phenomenon of intellectual conversion that her thesis investigates. After graduation, she will move to Syria for a year as a fellow of the UT Arabic Flagship to continue her study of Arabic while applying to graduate school.
In addition to studying Arabic for the past four years, Angela taught the language for two years through the UT Arabic Flagship's teaching apprenticeship and mentoring programs. Last Fall, she traveled to Boston to present a paper on a contemporary Arabic literature panel at the 2009 Middle East Studies Association's Annual Meeting. As a student of Medieval English literature prior to her move to focus on the modern Arab world, Angela won the Burleson Writing Contest in Literary Criticism for a paper on Chaucer. She has also been honored with numerous merit scholarships by the Liberal Arts Honors Program as well as the departments of Religious Studies and Middle Eastern Studies.
A member of the Junior Fellows program, James Hammond has received eight UT fellowships and scholarships, including the Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which enabled him to travel to Germany to study the statue of the Black St Maurice of Magdeburg Cathedral—an enigmatic African saint that has puzzled art historians for centuries—in the context of the identity of the city of Magdeburg and its citizenry. His thesis, "The Darkness of Memory: 'Post-Race' in Pre-Modernity," was directed by Professor Geraldine Heng and examines the symbolism of blackness in the Middle Ages, commonly believed to signify sin and death, appears to be complicated by a few medieval romances in which black-skinned figures who behave benevolently toward white European Christians are featured. James Hammond's English honors thesis interrogates three such romances – The King of Tars (c.1330), The Sultan of Babylon (c.1450), and Morien (c.1270) – and explains how the pseudo-tolerant treatments of black figures in these texts function as models of cultural subordination and control. James's thesis won a Second Prize George H.Mitchell Award for Academic Excellence of $5,000.
A former U.S. debate champion in oratory, James has been accepted into Teach For America, which saw 30,000 applications this year, and will serve as a high school English teacher in San Antonio following graduation.
John M. Meyer was born in Dallas, Texas in 1982. After growing up in New Orleans and Kansas City, he served in the Army as an Airborne Ranger. His service included combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meyer studies comparative politics, and recently joined the TIGER research group at the University of Texas. In the fall, he will begin pursuing a PhD in government. Meyer’s 2010 honors thesis explores ethnic competition across three of Iraq’s recent elections. His military awards include the Ranger tab, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Bronze Star. His play, American Volunteers, debuted at FronteraFest 2010 and won the George H.Mitchell Award for Academic Excellence Grand Prize of $20,000. His writing has appeared in a number of literary journals and newspapers, and his novel manuscript received the Roy L. Crane Award for literary achievement. On campus, he has been involved with Shakespeare Outreach, Spirit of Shakespeare, Shakespeare at Winedale, UT Toastmasters, Foot in the Door Theater, and Lambda Omega Alpha.