Student receives library award for research

Three people standing in front of a bookshelf smiling. The person in the middle is holding an award.

Mildred Mickle, associate professor of English, left; Curran McCune, first-year student and winner of the University Libraries Undergraduate Research Award; and Andrew Marshall, head librarian.

Credit: Zachary Rosen

MCKEESPORT, Pa. – In pursuit of new knowledge, Penn State Greater Allegheny students collaborate with faculty mentors to conduct research projects on topics of interest.  Each semester, those research projects are presented to the campus community during the Student Research & Creativity Conference.   

At the fall 2019 conference, first-year student Curran McCune received the University Libraries Undergraduate Research Award for his research project titled, “Imperial Chinese Views on LGBTQ+ Issues, As Illustrated By Poetry.” The award recognizes outstanding student work and undergraduate research that showcases exceptional information literacy skills.   

McCune developed his research question under the guidance of his English 15 instructor and honors option faculty mentor, Associate Professor of English Mildred R. Mickle.   

“I was inspired to select this topic by my friends in the LGTBQ+ community,” said McCune. “My love of history and literature and the 2019-2020 Teaching International topic of China determined the rest,” said McCune.  

McCune and Mickle discussed his interests and began to focus on China’s literary Renaissance during the T’ang Dynasty. “I was impressed with Curran’s desire to tackle such a complex topic as LGTBQ+ issues in fiction in China,” said Mickle. “However, I suggested that Curran narrow his focus to poetry, particularly since we were focusing on Han-shan's Cold Mountain, a fine example of T’ang Dynasty poetry. The T’ang Dynasty period produced some of China’s greatest poetry, and I knew that Curran would find some of what he needed in the poems in Cold Mountain. I then put Curran in touch with Andrew Marshall, Greater Allegheny’s interim head librarian.  The research paper Curran produced for his Honors Option was simply outstanding, and I do not say that lightly.” 


Research poster with 4 columns and 2 rows
Credit: Curran McCune

“I wanted to examine the opinions, beliefs, and views that Imperial Chinese society had about LGBTQ+ people,” said McCune, who made good use of Penn State's library system to collect and analyze different resources.   

Marshall helped McCune understand how much the library has to offer and how to reach it.   

"It was a pleasure to work with Curran on his research," said Marshall. “His curiosity and ability to integrate the sources he found into a compelling and coherent argument are exemplary for a first-year student. I look forward to seeing more of his work at future student research conferences."  

McCune, who is pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering, would be interested in delving more into his fall research project if time allows. “I’d like to think that my analysis might show people how wrong homophobia is and that in turn might come back around for my aforementioned friends in the future,” said McCune.  “That hope makes me feel pretty good.” 

Greater Allegheny students who want to conduct research and present at an upcoming research and creativity conference can contact Ellie Higgins, associate professor of English and honors and undergraduate research coordinator at [email protected].