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News from the Hilltop

May 16, 2011

Birmingham-Southern student has top undergraduate essay in the national competition

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—An essay penned by Birmingham-Southern College senior Ryan Melvin received Third Prize in the 2011 Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy Essay Contest.Birmingham-Southern College senior Ryan Melvin

Melvin's essay, "Minimalism and Consciousness in Zhuangzi's Cook Ding," was the only paper by an undergraduate student to place in the national competition. The first two prizes went to doctoral students from City University of New York and the University of New Mexico.

Melvin, who graduated from Birmingham-Southern May 14 with a double major of physics and religion-philosophy, wrote the essay as a requirement for his Confucianism and Daoism philosophy course last fall, taught by philosophy instructor Dr. Dan Coyle. After reading the paper, Coyle urged Melvin to submit it to the national essay competition last December.

"The essay uses a comedic scene about surfing instruction in the movie 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' as an example to describe Daoism as doing as little as possible, but no less," said Melvin, who eventually plans to pursue his Ph.D. and teach college physics."

The SACP awarded Melvin a $500 prize and an invitation to present the paper at the SACP 2011 Annual Conference May 25-28 at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.

The essay also received the Best Paper Award at the Associated Colleges of the South Student Undergraduate Research Conference on Chinese Studies in Atlanta in April.

A native of Jasper and graduate of Walker High School, Melvin has been accepted into the Boston University School of Theology, one of 10 Birmingham-Southern students from the Class of 2011 accepted into seminary.

Melvin will delay his entry to seminary for two years to participate in Teach for America. He has been assigned to teach 11th grade physics at LPS-Richmond High School near Oakland, Calif.

Teach for America is a program that recruits outstanding recent college graduates of all academic majors and career interests who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and become leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity in low-income communities. Melvin is one of five 2011 Birmingham-Southern graduates participating in Teach for America over the next two years.

While at BSC, he was a Harrison Honors Scholar and editor of the student newspaper, The Hilltop News. In April, he was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, which recognizes senior college students who are in the upper 10 percent of their class. Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest and most prestigious academic honor society.

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