URECA’s First Essay Contest Winner

By ALYSSA MADRID

Staff Writer, UAS WHALESONG

UAS senior, Claire Helgeson, won the Undergraduate Research, Experiential and Creative Activity program’s first annual essay contest. 

Titled “Colonialism’s Legacy and the Traditional Strength to Heal,” the award-winning essay recognized the difficulty and necessity of healing from the violence of colonialism.  

Helgeson, an Alaska Native Studies major, told the Whalesong that English and Philosophy Professor Sol Neely encouraged her to enter the contest and introduced her to History Professor Michael Collins. 

Collins and Writing Specialist, Allison Neeland created the essay contest through URECA. The essay contest allows UAS students to share and be awarded for their research work. 

Helgeson said she was inspired by works by Simon J. Ortiz, who wrote about the Sand Creek Massacres, and Gabrielle Schwab, a Holocaust scholar. 

“Her essay was chosen as this year’s contest winner because it effectively blended personal reflection with robust academic research and careful analysis,” Neeland said at the URECA award ceremony.

“And we thought it really exemplified the UAS mission, which focuses on research, creative activity, community engagement, and the cultures and environment of Southeast Alaska.”

Helgeson was recognized and awarded $1,000 during a small URECA ceremony, where she shared a piece of her essay.

“It was really exciting and helpful as a student,” Helgeson said about the award.

“I think it helped me to try and write my paper in a way that people who aren’t in my degree program could understand.”

Helgeson said she planned to walk at graduation in May and had some big goals for her future.

“I have a few credits to finish up and I’m going to do that abroad in Ireland in the fall,” Helgeson told the Whalesong.

Helgeson’s essay will be available online in the UAS Repository for anyone to read.

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