News

March 12, 2004

Amanda Roth ’04 Receives Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from U.S. Department of Education

A Marquis Scholar with two majors, philosophy and an individualized, interdisciplinary major in women’s studies, Roth will pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy.

Amanda Roth ’04 (Easton, Pa.) is the recipient of a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education.

Roth, a Marquis Scholar, is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree with two majors, philosophy and an individualized, interdisciplinary major in women’s studies.

According to the Department of Education, recipients of Javits Fellowships demonstrate superior ability and achievement, exceptional promise, and financial need. The fellowship program helps students undertake graduate study in selected fields of the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Roth, who intends to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy, will receive her fellowship annually for four years or until the completion of her degree, whichever is less. The fellowship consists of a payment to the institution of higher education, which the school accepts as full compensation for tuition and fees, and a stipend of up to $30,000.

Roth also recently learned that Journal of Sport & Social Issues will publish a paper she coauthored with Susan Basow, Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology. Roth is lead author of “Femininity, Sport, and Feminism: Developing a Theory of Physical Liberation,” which grew out of an independent study that Roth did last year under Basow’s guidance.

She is conducting a year-long research project on “luck egalitarianism” in pursuit of honors in philosophy.

“Luck egalitarians apply a presumption of equality to economic goods in society. That is, they believe that economic inequalities must be justified. The main candidates for such justification are choice or responsibility, i.e., economic inequalities are morally legitimate if they result from freely made choices or the employment of differing levels of responsibility,” Roth explains. “I am examining the ways in which Ronald Dworkin and Richard Arneson incorporate these basic ideas into full-blown theories of distribution in society in order to evaluate which philosopher offers the more plausible theory, as well as whether the basic ideas of luck egalitarianism can survive criticism from other types of egalitarians.”

The issue of economic justice has always interested her, Roth says. “I’ve been involved in activist organizations like the Association for Lafayette Women, QuEST [Questioning Established Sexual Taboos], and Students for Social Justice, and economic issues are never far from issues of oppression based on sex, race, sexuality, geographic location, etc. I also intend to specialize in ethics and/or political philosophy in graduate school.” Egalitarianism combines these interests, she notes.

Roth’s adviser is George Panichas, professor and head of philosophy. She took two of his courses as a first-year student, and they convinced her to major in philosophy.

“Professor Panichas’ philosophical specialties include applied ethics and political philosophy, which are exactly what I am interested in, so it was only natural that he be my thesis adviser,” Roth says. “I’ve definitely had an enjoyable time working on the project, in part due to his advising. He’s given me a lot of freedom to do things any way I choose, on my own schedule, which works very well for me. But his comments on my work have also helped me tremendously in organizing my thesis and in developing new lines of thought to pursue.”

“I have been teaching since 1980, and Amanda is as good as it gets when it comes to students. No qualifiers: she is an exceptional, outstanding student. Her thesis is remarkable; it is a distinguished piece of work,” Panichas says. “She is naturally smart, blessed with an amazing intellect. Philosophy is a hard field in which to be original. In philosophy we ask questions most people don’t usually take seriously. Amanda is different; she thinks outside the box, she is attracted to difficult, thorny questions.

“A student like Amanda comes from heaven,” Panichas continues. “She is truly remarkable, not simply for her industriousness, but for her natural intellectual inquisitiveness. She really works hard. She has the ability to read through the contemporary literature and absorb very demanding ideas.”

Roth is coauthor and coproducer of We Were Pioneers, an original play telling the story of Lafayette’s transition to coeducation in 1970, which debuted on campus in October. Roth and Kamaka Martin ’04 (Brooklyn, N.Y.), a history and government & law major, co-wrote the play using a series of monologues based on about 50 interviews with alumni from the 1960s and ’70s, as well as 15 to 20 with current students. They conducted the interviews as part of an EXCEL Scholars project led by special collections assistant Kristen Turner and Diane Shaw, special collections librarian and College archivist.

“The play format offers the campus a history lesson about Lafayette College, hopefully an entertaining one,” says Roth. “And, like any good history lesson, the play demonstrates how history connects to the present by offering some current students’ voices to complement those of the older alumni.”

Roth and Martin gave a presentation on their work last year at the ninth annual Undergraduate Women’s Studies Conference, held by the Women’s Studies Coalition of the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges, where Roth also presented her research on the links between femininity, sports, and feminism.

Roth’s experience also includes serving as an EXCEL research assistant to Deborah Byrd, associate professor of English, on a study of orphans in British fiction and nonfiction writing.

“I’ve always felt very well prepared by the philosophy curriculum here,” says Roth. “I have nothing but good things to say about my professors, who have certainly contributed invaluably to my education and have also always been incredibly available to me outside of the classroom. I do value the attention and small class sizes of Lafayette greatly. Most of my philosophy classes have been small and some downright tiny—exactly the way I like it.”

She is a member of the McKelvy House Scholars program, in which 16 students are living in a historic off-campus house and share in intellectual and social activities. Last year she received Lafayette’s Eugene P. Chase Government Prize, awarded annually to the student author of the best paper in political science, and in 2002 received the Eugene P. Chase Phi Beta Kappa Prize, awarded to sophomores who have demonstrated scholarship as first-year students.

Roth was a member of the production staff of Lafayette’s presentation of Eve Ensler’s Obie Award-winning play The Vagina Monologues March 5-7, proceeds from which are going to Women’s Crisis Services of Flemington, N.J.

She has served as co-president of Association for Lafayette Women and co-chair of QuEST, and is an assistant in the admissions office.

In May and June 2002, following her sophomore year, Roth traveled to take a special, three-week Lafayette course, Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance, taught by Diane Cole Ahl, Arthur J. ’55 and Barbara S. Rothkopf Professor of Art History, and Rado Pribic, Oliver Edwin Williams Professor of Languages and chair of the international affairs and Russian & East European studies programs.

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