Hilary Term 2021 Prize Winners Announced

SCIO is thrilled to announce Hilary Term 2021 student prize winners.

The prizes include the SCIO Alumni Prize and the de Jager Prizes for British Culture and Research Seminar Essay. The SCIO Alumni Prize is awarded to a student with outstanding academic performance throughout the duration of her or his term or programme. The de Jager Prizes are awarded in recognition of outstanding scholarly work submitted by each awardee during the Scholars’ Semester in Oxford in either the British culture or undergraduate research seminar course.

The prize winners are:

SCIO Alumni Prize: Daniel MoeDordt University, Graduation Year: 2022

De Jager prizes for British Culture: 

  1. Terrel Armstrong, Westmont College, Graduation Year: 2022
  2. Isaac Bleecker, Gordon College, Graduation Year: 2021

De Jager prizes for Research Seminar Essay: 

  1. Morgan Hirchert, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Graduation Year: 2022 
  2. Lanie Johnson, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Graduation Year: 2022 
  3. Madeleine Teel, George Fox University, Graduation Year: 2022

The topics each of the de Jager prize winners explore in their essays prove not only intellectually stimulating and academically robust but also meaningful to personal questions of identity and belief.

When asked about her prize-winning research and essay, Madeleine Teel said she explored the theological and philosophical concept of self-sacrifice as understood by Søren Kierkegaard and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Teel finds that in Christian circles, the notion of self-sacrifice is used to silence, abuse, or marginalize. However, this weaponized use and understanding of the term differs significantly from Kierkegaard’s and Bonhoeffer’s.

“Kierkegaard and Bonhoeffer believed in the complete sacrifice of the self before God, but since humanity cannot benefit God, no matter how great the sacrifice, the sacrifice of the self before God becomes the fulfilment of the self, due to God’s great love for humanity,” Teel said.

Fellow de Jager prize winner, Terrel Armstrong, also wrote on Kierkegaard but in relation to the philosopher’s concept of the “leap of faith” and how it parallels the philosopher Simone Weil’s. Armstrong said he is intrigued by Kierkegaard’s and Weil’s personalities and faith, as both of these aspects to their personhood exhibit tension in their commitment to believing in a God they cannot understand.

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Terrel Armstrong, Westmont College, ’22

Morgan Hirchert’s prize winning essay delves into CS Lewis fiction and Lewis’ concept of Sehnsucht. Lewis defines as an “inherent longing in every human heart” or “joy”, cites Hirchert.

“My essay examined each piece of Lewis’s fiction as I sought to better understand how Lewis uses Sehnsucht as a literary device that brings his signature magic to his work,” said Hirchert.

Lanie Johnson also wrote on Lewis in her essay, specifically The Chronicles of Narnia, in conjunction with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Johnson’s essay answered the question of how creation stories presented in these works informed the analysis and understanding of their ideological and philosophical underpinnings.

Reflecting on the personal impact this essay had, Johnson says, “Writing the essay was a joy because I think fictional creation stories are key to understanding both in-universe and out-of-universe (i.e., the author’s) understanding of life’s most important questions: “Why do we exist? Why is the world broken? Can all be made right again?””

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Lanie Johnson, Palm Beach Atlantic University, ’22

These are of course a few samples of Hilary Term 2021’s prize-winning essays, but these themes – self-sacrifice, leaps of faith, Sehnsucht or joy and origin stories – may bring perspective to the COVID reality in which we find ourselves.

Hilary Term 2021 was undoubtedly an odd term. Students had limited Bodleian Library access; they kept to six-to-eight person bubbles while living in the Vines; they had tutorials via Zoom. However, despite these challenges and limitations, the students engaged with the Scholars’ Semester in Oxford programme with grace and an eagerness to learn.

Reflecting on his term, SCIO Alumni Prize winner Daniel Moe says, “My time at Oxford was undoubtedly one of the most formative, challenging, and rewarding experiences of my life. The term provided incredible opportunities to intensely research and discuss topics of personal interest with my brilliant tutors and all the exceptional SCIO students and staff, which profoundly shaped my views and ideas and will equip me with invaluable knowledge and skills for my future studies and career.”

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Daniel Moe, Dordt University, ’22

Moe continues, “Living in Oxford with its entirely unique culture and history, studying in the beautiful libraries filled with centuries of knowledge, and being challenged to learn in a completely new way also uncovered a more intense drive, inspiration, and enthusiasm for my scholarship than ever. And I know that the perspectives and friendships built during the term will continue to last for a lifetime.”

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