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Press Release

Barbara Laskin

Macalester Political Science Graduate Wins Top Prize from Law and Society Association
Unprecedented Third Year in a Row for Macalester Students

St. Paul, Minn. - May 27, 2009 - Clare Ryan ’08 has won the 2009 Undergraduate Paper Prize from The Law and Society Association for her political science honors thesis titled, “Confronting Childhood: Courts and the Contradictions of Juvenile Justice.”  This marks the third year in a row that a Macalester student has won this recognition from The Law and Society Association (LSA).  Macalester is the only school in the nation to have undergraduates win the prize for three consecutive years. 

Allison Berman ’09 and Hopi Costello ’10 will also present at the LSA annual meeting this week in Denver. Ryan will also be there to receive her award. 

Ryan’s thesis examined the interactions of court actors—judges, prosecutors, public defenders, social workers, and others—in a juvenile court, exploring how the many adults, the children encountered, understood and defined “childhood”.  Animating her study were important questions such as how court actors come to see some children as morally responsible for the crimes of which they are accused, and how far children can understand the idea of justice that adults present to them.  Based on extensive interviews and observation of courts, the thesis was an original contribution to the understanding of juvenile courts, which has rarely been the subject of close, direct study.

Allison Berman will be giving a paper based on her senior capstone research titled “Education Finance Litigation: "Adequacy" as the Legal Framework for Reform.”  Hopi Costello will also be presenting a paper with Political Science Professor Patrick Schmidt titled “Becoming the Four Horsemen: Regimes, Reputations, and the Post-New Deal Construction of Conservative Jurisprudence,” which grew out of a collaboration they had studying the Four Horsemen, the conservative Supreme Court justices who opposed the New Deal during the 1930s.

Ryan, whose thesis work was supervised by Professor Schmidt, joins prior recipients Patricia Bass ‘08 (2008 winner) and Rebecca Sheff ‘09 (2007 winner), whose work was mentored and nominated by Sociology Professor Erik Larson.  Larson and Schmidt co-direct Macalester’s Legal Studies Program. The winner receives a $500 prize to attend the annual meeting.

The Law and Society Association is an international, interdisciplinary association, founded in 1964, bringing together scholars from across the social sciences, humanities, and law. The Undergraduate Paper prize has been awarded since 1989. The Association publishes The Law and Society Review, sponsors annual conferences and educational workshops, and fosters the development of academic programs in law and society around the world.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,858 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.