18th David Nord Award Presented to Two Whitman Students

November 6, 2013

Samantha Grainger-Shuba

Benjamin Roberson
Benjamin Roberson

Sean Mulloy
Sean Mulloy

The 18th Annual David Nord Award has been presented to two Whitman students for projects designed to address issues in the LGBTQ community. Benjamin Roberson ’14 and Sean Mulloy ’14 are the 2013-14 recipients for their respective projects: “Queer Times at Whitman: A Timeline Project of Whitman’s Queer History;” and a thesis focused on the implications of the United States v Windsor Supreme Court Decision for the LGBTQ community. Roberson and Mulloy were selected by the David Nord Award Committee and will receive $2,500 each to conduct their research.

“Both projects meet the goals of the David Nord Award of supporting scholarship and projects that address critical issues facing LGBTQ communities,” professor of politics and David Nord Award Committee member Susanne Beechey said.

Roberson’s project, “Queer Times at Whitman,” focuses on the history of the LGBT community on Whitman’s campus, compiling information from archives in Whitman’s Penrose Library, The Pioneer newspaper, and interviews with former students into a timeline of facts and experiences. He hopes to create a permanent online resource for the use of the Whitman community. Roberson’s project is designed to illuminate a part of Whitman’s student body that has not always been a prominent or accepted part of campus life.

“The project will trace the history of discourse on queer issues at Whitman and allow former, current and future students place their own experiences within the context of the larger Whitman narrative,” Roberson said.

“I think it's important to remember that we take for granted our ability to talk about gender and sexuality, and that even twenty years ago the LGBTQ club met in off-campus houses and garages. So for me, this project is a means by which to remember this and consider all the great steps that we've made at Whitman.”

Roberson is being advised by Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Melissa Salrin and Systems and Applications Librarian Dan Martensen. He is currently applying to law school, hoping to go into the fields of international or environmental law.

Mulloy’s project – also his senior thesis – researches the United States v Windsor Supreme Court decision which occurred earlier this summer. The decision struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act. Mulloy hopes to determine whether the Windsor judgment strengthened and/or weakened queer political and social movements and struggles. He is interested in taking a closer look at the way this decision and the publicity associated with it places marriage at the forefront of LGBT political agendas.

“I think my thesis research is very pertinent and timely. It should allow some critical insight into the state of queer politics today, both its possibilities as well as its limitations,” Mulloy said. “Hopefully [I can] illustrate alternative ways of bringing about radical social change for queer communities beyond gay marriage and the court victories.”

Mulloy’s adviser is Assistant Professor of Politics Jack Jackson.

He plans to pursue a career in national politics and public policy for non-profit organizations, hoping to land a job on Capitol Hill someday. He added:  “It is an honor and a privilege to follow in the footsteps of excellent Nord Award research projects that have made such an impact illuminating critical issues facing the queer community.”

David Nord ’83 graduated with honors in political science. He proceeded to intern for U.S. Senator Henry M. Jackson, then served as a delegate to the 1996 Democratic Party Convention. He wrote “Multiple AIDS-Related Loss: A Handbook for Understanding and Surviving a Perpetual Fall.” In 1996, he established a fund for the annual award in his name, and attended the first presentation. Nord died of AIDS in November of 1999.

The winners of the Nord Award will present their research to a public forum at the end of spring semester.