Each year, the College of Arts & Letters presents two Varg-Sullivan Endowed Graduate Awards to graduate students for their outstanding achievement in the arts or letters. This year’s winners are Jessica Stokes, Outstanding Achievement in the Arts recipient, and Bronson Hui, Outstanding Achievement in the Letters recipient.
Paul Varg and Richard Sullivan are former Deans of the College of Arts & Letters who dedicated their professional lives to excellence in the College. This award was established in their name. Recipients are selected based on best performance/exhibition at a national or international event in the Arts and best presentation at a national or international event or best published article in the Letters.
Outstanding Achievement in the Arts
Jessica Stokes enrolled in the Ph.D. in English program at MSU in 2018 and has been a Teaching Assistant at MSU since then.
She is an accomplished poet and visual artist and had an art installation at the Everyday Accessible Art Event exhibit at the Broad ArtLab in East Lansing in 2019. This installation, titled Mirrors Shall Be Mounted With the Bottom Edge of the Reflecting Surface No Higher Than 40 Inches, also was accepted into the Art Walk Central exhibit that was hosted by Art Reach of Mid-Michigan. It was displayed on the campus of Central Michigan University in August 2019.
Receiving this award makes me hopeful. As conversations on accessibility and even disability justice happen here at MSU, we can begin imagining the place anew.Jessica Stokes, Ph.D. Student in English
“I was not expecting the piece I created as a political commentary about the accessibility of bathrooms around the Michigan State University campus to receive recognition, let alone be commended by the College of Arts & Letters,” Stokes said. “It hung at a nonstandard height in a couple of art exhibits last year and featured many selfies of my forehead taken in bathroom mirrors around MSU’s campus that are hung at heights where I can only see my forehead from the wheelchair. People were encouraged to take selfies in the piece, which hung at a height good for some disabled people as well as some kids. People also were encouraged to touch the piece, which included Braille restroom signage and a swivel coat-hook. Receiving this award makes me hopeful. As conversations on accessibility and even disability justice happen here at MSU, we can begin imagining the place anew.”
Stokes aspires to have a career where she is a disability scholar, writer, and artist. She co-facilitated a workshop for high school teachers in the Lansing area that provided a theoretical grounding in CREE (Critical Race English Education) and Disability Studies as well as practical classroom applications. She also is the co-founder of the HIVES Research Workshop and Speaker Series here at MSU.
Outstanding Achievement in the Letters
Bronson Hui enrolled in the Ph.D. in Second Language Studies program at MSU in 2017 after seven years of teaching English in Hong Kong and with a B.A. and B.Ed. from Hong Kong University and an M.Sc. from Oxford.
He already has six research articles published or in press, four of which are single- or first-authored, and numerous others under review in journals such as Studies in Second Language Acquisition, Applied Psycholinguistics, and Second Language Research.
“I feel honored, humbled, and grateful to have won this award,” Hui said. “I have won this award based on the strengths of a solo-authored research paper (titled Processing Variability in Intentional and Incidental Word Learning: An Extension of Solovyeva and DeKeyser) published in a flagship journal in our field (Studies in Second Language Acquisition), but I could not have done it without the amazing support from my program. This piece of research was initially a research proposal for a class. It turned into my first qualifying research paper, so faculty members and my colleagues have helped tremendously along the way. I feel very thankful for the program.”
This piece of research was initially a research proposal for a class. It turned into my first qualifying research paper, so faculty members and my colleagues have helped tremendously along the way. I feel very thankful for the program.Bronson Hui, Ph.D. Student in Second Language Studies
Hui taught Quantitative Research in Second Language Studies with Professor Shawn Loewen last fall and taught Pedagogical Grammar for an undergraduate class here at MSU this past spring. He served as a Research Assistant at MSU from 2017 to 2019 and received a Summer Fellowship from the College of Arts & Letters in 2018 and 2019. He is currently a graduate student statistical consultant with the Center of Statistical Training and Consulting (CSTAT).
After receiving his Ph.D., Hui hopes to find a position that allows him to continue to do research, possibly contribute to the understanding of how humans learn a second language, and in turn, inform what teachers should do in the classroom and what learners can do for themselves.