Posted by: rcieri | August 2, 2009

Students examine Jeffersonian economy in essay contest

Junior Jenna Stout won second place for her essay “Hamilton’s Country: Economics and Politics in Jeffersonian America,” and senior Olivia Hubert-Allen was awarded first place for her essay “The Pursuit of Happiness: Thomas Jefferson’s Understanding of Liberty and Empire in Early American Economic Development.” (Photo by Rachel Cieri)

Junior Jenna Stout won second place for her essay “Hamilton’s Country: Economics and Politics in Jeffersonian America,” and senior Olivia Hubert-Allen was awarded first place for her essay “The Pursuit of Happiness: Thomas Jefferson’s Understanding of Liberty and Empire in Early American Economic Development.” (Photo by Rachel Cieri)

by Rachel Cieri, April 28, 2009

Politics and economics have crossed paths more than once in U.S. history, as participants in the Thomas Jefferson essay contest discovered.

The essay committee picked the contest’s topic before they knew the country would face a deplorable economic situation, but it turned out to be perfectly timed when they asked students to address the relationship between politics and economics in Jeffersonian America for the contest’s thirteenth year of existence.

Her winnings will buy her a new pair of tennis shoes, but first-place essayist and senior Olivia

Hubert-Allen found the real prize in the knowledge she gained from her research.

“I learned so much, not just about Jefferson, but about early America,” the journalism and political science double-major said. “I saw the titles of the other entries, and I was intimidated. Those look awesome.”

Each entrant found his or her own interpretation of the topic as guests of the contest’s annual dinner learned Monday.

Hubert-Allen’s take on the topic was that Jeffersonians were forced to change positions in the pursuit of a successful American economy. The Jeffersonians “abandoned hopes of a free and open marketplace,” Hubert-Allen wrote in her essay.

Junior Jenna Stout, the contest’s second place winner, took an entirely different side to the argument.

Jefferson was not alone in America’s economic success, she said. Alexander Hamilton, one of Jefferson’s strongest adversaries, played a key role in setting the country’s finances in order, Stout argued.

The contest’s other four essay arguments ranged from junior Brett Scuiletti’s assertion that slavery was a driving economic force to senior Laura Gaither’s application of the past to today’s economy.

Both Hubert-Allen and Stout were surprised they were selected as winners.

“I didn’t think I was going to get anything,” Stout, a history major, said. “I didn’t even know it was my essay (Communications Professor David Copeland) was introducing until the very end when he said the title.”

Hubert-Allen received $1,000 for her first place essay, Stout received $600, and each of the four honorable mentions, Sarah Costello, Laura Gaither, Andrew Johnson and Brett Scuiletti, received $100.

Every participant was given $10 in two-dollar bills, symbolic because the bills feature Jefferson’s face.

This year was Hubert-Allen’s second time entering the contest. Last spring, she was awarded second place, and she entered again this year at the encouragement of Registrar Mark Albertson.

Next year’s essay contest will be moved to the fall in the hope that more students will be encouraged to enter and learn from Jefferson’s wisdom.

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