David Nord Award Winners Announced

Hannah Bartman

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The 18th-annual David Nord Award was presented to seniors Ben Roberson and Sean Mulloy in late October. The award is presented to students who propose a project in relation to GLBTQ issues and cumulatively provides them with $2,500 to conduct their research. Roberson is focusing his project on an electronic and physical timeline outlining gender and queer related issues at Whitman College, while Mulloy will be doing research on the effects of the United States v. Windsor court case on queer issues.

Ben Roberson '14

Photo by Rachael Barton

“We tend to look for projects that take different approaches or that draw upon different disciplines,” said Professor of Politics and David Nord Award Committee member Susanne Beechey in an email.

Both recipients are a part of the GLBTQ club on campus and thus have been aware of the award throughout their Whitman careers. Most of the inspiration for their projects, however, carries a personal weight that inspired their participation in the award. Roberson, despite his interests as a religion major, found that this project would speak to his role as a queer student on campus.

“A large part of it has to do with my own sexuality,” he said. “I feel like coming to Whitman as a member of [the GLBTQ] group, it’s important to find people you connect with in the group itself or in some kind of history, which we don’t have at this point.”

Roberson’s timeline will manifest itself first online, and then in a physical form through posters hung up around campus. He is still in the planning stages, looking through ASWC files and copies of The Pioneer from the 1960s and 1970s, but he plans on both finding primary source material and interviewing current members of the community to gather information.

In relation to long-term effects of the project, Roberson hopes that students will look to his timeline when they come to Whitman to understand how their own sexuality fits in both as past and present Whitman narrative.

“If they do identify and they want to know what that experience would be like at Whitman, then this project would show what it is like now and what it was like in the past,” said Roberson.

Mulloy’s interest in his project is more academically bound, as this project is also his thesis. He decided upon this specific issue through his involvement in the policy decisions of United States v. Windsor as an intern in Washington D.C. last summer.

“Just being [in Washington D.C.] and seeing all the different protesters and hearing the decision, I thought it would be a really cool project to get into since it’s so timely,” said Mulloy.

The decision stated that restricting the legal recognition of marriage solely to heterosexual unions is unconstitutional and was a landmark decision for queer rights. Researching issues regarding the policy decisions surrounding queer issues Mulloy hopes will lead him to understanding other issues of more precedence within the queer community.

Sean Mulloy '14

Photo by Rachael Barton

“I want to look at ways in which legal strategies and legal victories can bring about social change for the queer community and what ways maybe it can and can’t be restrictive,” he said. “I want to holistically look at how this decision affects the broader goals of the LGBTQ movement.”

When researching for the project, Mulloy will have to focus on scholarship provided from similar court cases from the past, since the United States v. Windsor court decision only occurred last summer, and thus the current scholarship is limited. In his research, Mulloy hopes to find alternative solutions to the multitude of adversities that surround the queer community.

“I want to see how better we can address these issues of discrimination, inequality and violence against queer people without getting distracted by things that only affect the privileged part of the community,” he said.

The completion of both projects is scheduled for the end of spring semester. The stipulation of the award requires that the students give a presentation to the community outlining the findings of their research.

“These promise to be thought-provoking presentations, and I hope many from the Whitman community can join us in celebrating this scholarship late next spring,” said Beechey.

David Nord ’83 was a political science major who died in 1999 of AIDS. He received a master’s in psychology from Antioch University and began to practice as a psychotherapist until he stopped to become a full time researcher and writer. He established the endowment for the award before his passing and was able to attend the first presentation in 1996.

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