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English graduate wins outstanding master's thesis award

November 14, 2006

SPRINGFIELD – Joshua Alan Doetsch has won the University of Illinois at Springfield's Outstanding Master's Thesis award for the 2005-06 academic year. His thesis – a creative writing exercise, a novel titled Souls Unsure: A Dark Epic in Prose and Poetry – was chosen from among nine theses and projects nominated by graduate departments at the university.

Doetsch, who graduated in May with master of arts degree in English, is currently polishing and expanding Souls Unsure to prepare it for submission to publishers. He describes the work as a "dark, modern epic in prose and poetry, about a Voodoo priestess, a fallen angel, and a mischievous muse who may not be telling the story truthfully." The title is taken from Dante's The Inferno, III 30-37: "This is the sorrowful state of souls unsure./ Whose lives earned neither honor nor bad fame" (Book II, Coda 91).  One of the main characters is Syth, an angel "not fallen, not soaring; neither good nor evil; neither black nor white."

The UIS Research Board, which reviews nominated theses and projects and makes the final selection, noted that Doetsch's work was chosen in part for its "imagination, clarity, and consistency of the plot; the unique and creative imagery; and the competency of writing expressed in both prose and poetry." 

Nancy Perkins, associate professor of English who served as Doetsch's adviser, said, "Joshua's language is beautiful and in some places truly breathtaking. His story is dark, disturbing, and thought-provoking. It illuminates the dark side of the soul with empathy and candor.

"He successfully conjures images of Milton, Homer, Poe, holy scripture from several religions, and many mythologies as well as modern works, and in the confluence of cultures, religious ideas/worldviews, and philosophies the main characters search for self, meaning, hope, and healing." 

One vignette from the larger story – "Teddy Bear Rex" – was published separately as a short story and has been nominated for a Pushcart Award.

Deborah Shotts, who earned a master of science degree in Management Information Systems, and Amanda Winters, who earned a master of arts degree in History, also received Special Merit Awards.

Shotts' thesis was titled "Requirements Analysis for Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure Recovery at the Illinois Department of Central Management Services." Te-Wei Wang, assistant professor of Management Information Systems, served as her adviser.

Wang noted, "I want to congratulate Deborah on receiving this award; she deserves it. Deborah is not only a good student, she is an excellent project manager. In the process of completing her MIS master's project, she showed me great enthusiasm in her project. She always followed my recommendations and exceeded my expectations. Most importantly, she was able to manage her busy work schedule and to complete a very demanding project in a short period of time. I feel lucky to have had her as a student during my first year at UIS. I'm certain that she will excel in her career."

Shotts is employed in CMS' Bureau of Communication and Computer Services.

Winters' thesis – "Constant Surveillance: The Panopticon and Warden Ragen of Joliet" – explored the philosophy, theory, and history of the Joliet and Stateville prisons and the historic and architectural phenomenon known as the Panopticon, a circular arrangement of cells with a guard tower in the center, through the career of Warden Ragen. Deborah McGregor, associate professor of History and Women's Studies, served as her adviser. McGregor noted that Winters uncovered a wealth of primary sources from prison records, and used classic historical sources as well.

Said McGregor, "Amanda's thesis has already established her as a reputable and significant scholar, offering her a bright and professional future." She currently serves as coordinator of the History online undergraduate program at UIS and is teaching western civilization at Lincoln Land Community College for the 2006-2007 academic year. In October she presented a paper on the history of the Panopticon at a conference on Illinois history, and she has been contacted by a literary scholar and professor at the University of California-San Diego regarding her research and writing.

UIS Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Harry Berman said the UIS Research Board was impressed by the high quality of each of the nine nominated reports.  "Determining which among them should be singled out for special recognition was a challenging task," he said.

Other students who were nominated, their theses or projects, and their programs, are Martha Allsup (Human Services) "Substance Abuse Assessment - An Applied Process for Mandated DUI Offenders"; Jeremiah Auble (Educational Leadership) "A Case Study of Parent and Teacher Usage of Edline, a School-to-Home Communication Tool"; Connie Batsell (Human Development Counseling) "Spirituality and Stress: An Examination of College Students' Perceptions of Health Status and Life Satisfaction"; Tanja Hodges (Individual Option) "Examining Stakeholder Perceptions of Online Discussion Board Efficacy"; John Rodgers (Environmental Studies) "Evaluating Accuracy of Radon Risk Distribution in Illinois - Updating the Status Report"; and Thomas Sidener (Computer Science) "Development and Evaluation of Shared Database Variables in a Heterogeneous Distributed Environment."

All nine students will be honored at a reception to be held early in the spring semester.

Research Board members are Lynn Pardie, who serves as chair; UIS faculty members Sviatoslav Braynov, Jeffrey Decker, Nithya Karuppaswamy, and Kent Redfield; and Lenore Killam, staff in UIS' College of Public Affairs and Administration.

    The University of Illinois at Springfield, one of three U of I campuses, is a small, public liberal arts university that offers 42 degree programs – 21 bachelor’s, 20 master’s, and the Doctorate of Public Administration. UIS has a special mission in public affairs and service and is known for extraordinary internships, a wireless campus, extensive online offerings, and a commitment to teaching.
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