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UW-Eau Claire graduate awarded first place in master's thesis competition

February 11, 2014
Chelsey McKimmy will present her thesis at a reception on April 29 in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. 

EAU CLAIRE — University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire graduate Chelsey McKimmy, originally from La Crescent, Minn., earned first-place honors in UW-Eau Claire's 2014 Distinguished Master's Thesis Competition.

Each year faculty and staff members are encouraged to nominate exceptional quality theses for the competition, with judging provided by the Graduate Council faculty committee.

Dr. Audrey Fessler, an associate professor of English and women's studies, and director of the graduate program in English, submitted McKimmy's thesis. The title of the thesis is "I Must Be Taken As I Have Been Made": A Feminist Re-Vision of Estella in 'Great Expectations.'"

"It is a bold move for a graduate student to dive into such a lively scholarly conversation in hopes of making an original contribution," Fessler wrote in her nomination letter. "Chelsey's thesis is stunning in its capacity to move from a fine-grained analysis of textual details in a Victorian novel to the revelation of subtle, but very telling manifestations of persisting sexism in contemporary literary criticism, and in contemporary society more broadly."

Dr. Jennifer Shaddock, professor of English, was McKimmy's thesis adviser, and Dr. Joel Pace, professor of English, and Dr. Jill Olm, associate professor of art & design, were readers on the thesis committee.

McKimmy's thesis is unique because it creates a paradigm shift in the way that we interpret the controversial character, Estella, in Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations," Shaddock said.

"This classic novel has drawn an enormous amount of critical attention, so to create such a broad-sweeping new interpretation is quite a feat," Shaddock said. "I believe her thesis was chosen because it was ambitious in its conception and meticulously and compellingly argued. It also makes a significant contribution to a novel that both critics and the general public admire."

McKimmy earned a master's degree in English with an emphasis in literature and textual interpretation from UW-Eau Claire in spring 2013 and is currently applying to law schools.

"I feel honored to receive this award," McKimmy said. "It feels good to be able to show people the great work we do in the English department at UW-Eau Claire."

McKimmy will receive recognition for her work as well as a $500 award. She has been invited to return to her alma mater to provide a short presentation on her winning thesis at noon April 29 in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. All are welcome to attend the presentation and refreshments will be provided.

In addition, her thesis will be submitted to the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools 2014 Distinguished Master's Thesis Awards competition, results of which will be announced this spring.

For more information, contact the Office of Graduate Studies at or 715-836-2721.




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