Alisa Nie Wins the Rutherford Medal

English Honors student Alisa Nie was recently awarded the Rutherford Medal during the Convocation ceremony on June 7, 2023.

21 June 2023

The Rutherford Medal, which recognizes the student graduating in Honors English with the highest academic achievement, was established in 1912 by Alexander Rutherford who, as the first premier of Alberta, spearheaded the legislative act that founded the University in 1908, with English as one of its four inaugural disciplines. At Convocation on June 7th, 2023, the Medal was awarded to English Honors student Alisa Nie. 

Nie is thrilled to be the 111th student to join the ranks of Medal winners. As an international student from China, Nie's accomplishment is particularly remarkable since her first language was not English. She overcame this potential obstacle when her English language teacher suggested reading novels as a way to improve her vocabulary, thereby igniting her passion for English literature. Though it was initially challenging to look up twenty words she did not understand on every page, she says "I found it harder and harder to put down the novels. I read Gone with the Wind on the night when TOEFL ended." 

From this early passion, studying English literature at the University of Alberta was a natural progression, one that has also taught her the importance of critically questioning cultural assumptions. Nie notes that she started her degree having internalized the widespread prejudice that reading romances was "useless and childish" whereas realist novels were "serious" and therefore more valuable. "Fortunately," she writes, "in Dr. Corrinne Harol and Dr. Leslie Robertson's classes, I learned more about the development, importance, and effect of romance." Her interest in the roots of romance led Nie to focus on one of the first bestselling romance novels in English, Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740). Nie's thesis examined early feminist novelist Eliza Haywood's response to Richardson's highly disciplinary code for women's morality.  Having supervised Nie's thesis, Professor Harol describes it as offering "a new feminist argument about one of the most studied texts in English Literature."  Naturally, Professor Harol was delighted to hear that "such a deserving student" won the Rutherford. 

With plans to apply to graduate school, Nie has recently returned to China where she looks forward to a future of reading, writing and critical thinking.

Congratulations to all our 113 graduates from 6 programmes in the Department of English and Films Studies who convocated this Spring!