Harrisburg graduate students in American studies receive honors

Headshots of Logan Daly and Jack Daly side by side

Two doctoral students in Penn State Harrisburg’s American studies program have received prestigious honors: Logan Daly, left, and Jack Daly.

Credit: Sharon Siegfried

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — Two doctoral students in Penn State Harrisburg’s American studies program, Logan Daly and Jack Daly, have received prestigious honors — one awarded a University Graduate Fellowship, and the other awarded a prize from the American Folklore Society. (Ed. note: The two students are not related.)

Logan Daly awarded fellowship

Logan Daly received a 2023-24 University Graduate Fellowship, a prestigious honor awarded to 74 individuals across Penn State this year.

“Receiving this fellowship has given me the opportunity to realize my dream of being a lifelong scholar,” Daly said. “Without it, I would not have been able to pursue my doctorate. It is far more than just a monetary award; it has opened the door to the career I have dreamed of since I was an undergrad. The fellowship is evidence that the Graduate School, the American studies program, and the School of Humanities are truly invested in their students and their long-term development.”

Daly earned his bachelor’s degree in humanities from Penn State Harrisburg in 2021, when he took courses in American studies, as well as independent studies. He went on to receive a master’s degree in philosophy from West Chester University.

Daly’s research interests are rooted in American literature but have stemmed into environmental humanities — combining history and literature to look at how American society has interacted with the environment.

Anthony Buccitelli, associate professor of American studies and communication, said Daly’s research interests fit well with the program.

“The American studies doctoral program encourages this sort of interdisciplinary exploration, and we see great merit in the lines of inquiry he intends to pursue,” Buccitelli said.

The University Graduate Fellowship provides funding for two years of graduate study, with teaching or assistantship work required in the second year; Daly, who is in his first year of studies, expects to teach U.S. environmental history in the fall. Buccitelli said the awards make it possible for talented people to pursue a career in higher education or other fields that require a doctorate.

“Indeed, our ability to attract talented humanist scholars like Logan to Penn State for their early careers is in large part dependent on having good, livable funded positions to offer them,” he said.

Daly wants to teach in higher education and give back to students like the many professors who went above and beyond for him.

“I’ve had some really great professors, especially here, who stuck their neck out for me,” Daly said. “I’d like to be able to do that for other people.”

Jack Daly wins American Folklore Society prize

Jack Daly was awarded the Warren Roberts Prize in Folk Art and Material Culture from the American Folklore Society for his paper, titled “Devil in the Skies, Stars on the Barns: The Snallygaster, Barn Stars, and Hex Signs.” The American Folklore Society, founded in 1888, gives the prize for the best student project focused on folk art or material culture.

“I’m very happy to have won the prize,” Daly said. “It’s great to be recognized by the American Folklore Society, but also to be able to represent Penn State Harrisburg in a positive way. Penn State Harrisburg has a really great tradition in folklore studies. That’s really the reason I’m here — the connection to folklore, both on the program level but also the professors that teach within American studies.”

Daly studies contemporary monsters and the way legendary monster figures operate in the modern world. His paper stemmed from research he conducted in a material culture class with Mariah Kupfner, assistant professor of American studies and public heritage, where he examined whether barn stars – an art form found on the sides of barns in this region of the country – were once used to protect against the snallygaster, a legendary half-bird half-reptile creature from the Mid-Atlantic Appalachian region. The answer isn’t conclusive, but he discovered references to the idea circulating around the 1950s.

Daly, a 2022-23 University Graduate Fellowship recipient, noted that he looked at the topic a bit differently than other researchers — examining how the material culture (the barn stars and art itself) intertwines with legends and beliefs.

“That’s kind of one of the reasons American studies is a great field for this type of research,” he said. “American studies is inherently interdisciplinary. You can go a little bit rogue in a sense.”

Buccitelli said the Warren Roberts Prize highlights Daly’s range of abilities as a scholar.

“He primarily researches supernatural belief and narrative genres such as legend and memorate (a personal narrative about an encounter with the supernatural),” Buccitelli said. “But this prize demonstrates his ability in the area of material culture studies as well. It's a wonderful achievement to be recognized as having research strengths in two fairly distinct areas of study.”