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October  18, 2010

Scott Fick wins first-year research award

Scott Fick with Dr. Charles Mahaffey. (Augustana Photo Bureau/Mark Marogil)

Scott Fick, an Augustana sophomore from Aurora, Ill., received the Tredway Library Prize for his first-year research paper, "Household Compost in Rock Island." The Tredway Library Prize recognizes one outstanding research paper each year that is written by a first-year student and demonstrates superior writing and critical thinking skills.

Fick became interested in household composting after taking a trip to Germany in the summer of 2009. He noticed that German households had curbside compost bins in addition to recycling bins and trash cans, and he was impressed with the Germans' sustainable lifestyle. In his first-year environmental studies course, Fick was encouraged by Dr. Charles Mahaffey, geography professor, to choose a research topic of local focus and personal interest. Fick decided to investigate composting in the United States. His paper shows the benefits of composting for the environment and the minimal time and costs involved in composting.

Margaret Rogal, a reference librarian and one of three judges on the Tredway Library Prize panel, says Fick's paper was impressive for its variety and quality of sources. "His paper cites scholarly journal articles, newspapers, interviews, lectures, authoritative websites and reference resources," she commented. "He contextualizes relevant local information-about composting and landfills in Rock Island County-with studies conducted across the country and the world."

Fick enjoyed gathering information at the Thomas Tredway Library and in the community. "Having conversations with people and going to a local lecture really brought the research to life for me," Fick said. "It was the first opportunity I had to get in the field and do first-hand research on my own."

He also appreciates that his research has applications for his own life and his community. "With my encouragement, my family started a compost pile at the beginning of the summer. It was exciting to apply what I learned from my research," he said.

For Rogal and other Augustana librarians, the Tredway Library Prize is important because it encourages first-year students' research skills. "First-year courses offer many students their first opportunity to develop their skills as researchers and writers, so we think it is important to recognize the significant effort these students are making," Rogal said. Fick's paper can be read by visiting

Fick plans to major in geography with minors in Spanish and environmental studies. He is president of STAND, a campus organization that works to stop genocide, and is a member of the student organizations Farm2Fork and Global Affect. He also plays cello in the Augustana Symphony Orchestra.

Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833