Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism given to four students who presented their work at symposium

Two $500 awards were given in a general category and two in the special topic category on “civility.”


Julie Cajigas

The seven students selected to present at the Auburn Symposium. Front Row (L-R) Emily Sesto, Madison Richards, Kimberly Barlock. Back row (L-R) Lennon Medvick, Mat Cruz, Alyssa Alexsonshk, Benjamin Kissinger.

By Alyssa Springer, Social Media Editor

On Friday, April 14, 2023, seven students presented their works of cultural criticism at the Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism Symposium, held in the Williams Honors College common room.

The Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism looks to expand upon the idea of cultural criticism in the eyes of undergraduate students. As stated by the Ben Auburn Award website, criticism is defined as “the assesses and trends in the arts, aesthetics, and ideas of a human society.”

Founded and sponsored by Mark, Sandy, and David Auburn, the competition is held in honor of their late son and brother, Ben Auburn.

The Auburn award hopes to inspire the creativity of cultural criticism from the students at The University of Akron, as well as “expand the boundaries of cultural criticism, the capacity of our students to participate in its creation, and the opportunities to grapple with the ideas expressed in any form,” according to the award website.

The competition has two categories, one for general cultural criticism and one that is focused on a special topic. This year’s special topic was that of “Civility.”

The award competition received over 30 submissions and of those 30, seven students were selected to present their criticism at the symposium.

Gallery: The Auburn Award Symposium

The following seven students were selected to present:

Mat Cruz, Senior-English

Today, Yesterday and 300 Years Ago”

 Kimberly Barlock, Sophomore-Child & Family Development

“Civility…or Lack Thereof: White Hoods and Statues in Charlottesville”

Alyssa Alexsonshk, 4th Year – Marketing and Public Relations

“My Experience with and Thoughts of Civility as a College Student at The University of Akron”

Benjamin Kissinger, Freshman – PPE (Philosophy, Political Science, Economics)  

“Hercule Poirot: How Different Adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express Portray the Iconic Detective”

Lennon Medvick, Senior- English

“A Powerful Mother and A Frail Lover: Gender In Angela Carter”

Emily Sesto, Sophomore- Psychology (Pre-Med)

“Spoken Word and Poetry”

The four competition jurors were, Professor Nathanial BlowerProfessor Philathia Bolton, Professor Elisha Dumser and Professor Carrie Tomko. 

During the judging phase of the competition, Mark and Sandy Auburn decided the presentations were so compelling that they would fund four winners, two in the general category and two in the special topic category.

This year, the winners of The Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism are Mat Cruz, Benjamin Kissinger, Madison Richards, and Emily Sesto. Each received prize of $500.

Of the selected presenters, those who chose to submit their presentation to The Buchtelite will be published in the Summer 2023 “Students Speak” edition.

To hear more about The Auburn family story and learn how to get involved and compete in next year’s awards, visit the Ben Auburn Award in Cultural Criticism website.