Frances Johnson outdoors, smiling in deck chair

The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies is proud to announce the recipient of its 2021 Outstanding Student in Jewish Studies Award: Frances Johnson, a history major minoring in Jewish studies and diversity who plans to graduate in autumn 2021.

The Outstanding Student Award was established in 2020 to recognize exceptional students in Jewish studies at the University of Washington. The criteria for the award are:

  • Dedication to Jewish studies as a field of study, regardless of official minor or major
  • Excellence in academic achievement
  • Active citizenship in the UW campus community and beyond

Stroum Center faculty who worked with Frances agreed that she excelled on all counts. “Frances is a brilliant student,” wrote faculty member Smadar Ben-Natan. “I found it hard to believe that she was not already a graduate student. She was extremely curious, offered sharp critical analysis, worked hard, and made a great contribution to the class.”

Frances’s academic interests include social movements, gender studies, collective memory, print media, and Sephardic studies. In summer 2020, she studied the Ladino language (also known as Judeo-Spanish) with visiting professor David Bunis in the Stroum Center’s summer Ladino class. After completing this course, Frances used her new skills in Ladino to start translating the “Nuevo Silavario Djudeo-Espanyol,” a Ladino textbook that is available online as part of the UW’s Sephardic Studies Digital Collection. (Learn more about this textbook in this great overview of Ladino silavarios.)

In addition to undertaking this translation project, Frances delved deeper into the history around Ladino-language books in the winter 2021 Jewish History and Culture class, taught by faculty member Liora Halperin. In the course, Frances studied Ladino-language publishing in 19th-century and early-20th-century Constantinople, culminating in the creation of an educational website outlining the history of the Ladino press in Constantinople — currently available online for everyone to learn from!

More recently, Frances researched the incarceration of transgender and gender non-conforming people in Israel and the United States as part of Smadar Ben-Natan’s Comparative Carceral Studies course.

Frances plans to complete her undergraduate degree as a Department of History Sleizer Scholar in autumn 2021. After graduating, she intends to apply to graduate school to continue her studies in history and Jewish studies.

In addition to her accomplishment at the University of Washington, Frances has also worked with the Jewish feminist publication Alma during her time as a student, joining its inaugural program for undergraduate college students in 2018-2019. She also attended the National Jewish Student Journalism Conference in 2019.

The Stroum Center congratulates Frances on her excellent scholarship! Mazel tov, Frances, and best wishes for the path ahead!

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⇒ Learn more about the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, our Sephardic Studies Program, or our Israel Studies Program.
Note: The opinions expressed by faculty and students in our publications reflect the views of the individual writer only and not those of the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.