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Honors Forum recognizes hard work of program participants this academic year
May 18, 2015
The Community College of Rhode Island recently held its annual Honors Forum, celebrating the achievements of students who completed in-depth projects in a number of fields.
The boardroom was packed full of students, friends, family and faculty who applauded this year's Honors Program graduates, 15 students whose rigorous course work allowed them to explore their interests and earn additional accolades from the college.
Following the brief ceremony, the guests enjoyed a presentation by Professor Jack Every, who gave a talk titled "The Civil War: The Second American Revolution," prepared in part to celebrate the American Civil War sesquicentennial.
When Every's talk concluded, attendees spilled out into the hallways surrounding the boardroom, which featured more than 40 poster displays assembled by Honors Program students. The variety of academic interests of the students was impressive; topics for the dynamic displays ranged from addiction studies to sociological explorations of reactions to interracial marriage to heavily statistical inquiries.
Three students in particular stood out: Rebecca Edwards, Brady Monk and Kristen Sutton recently returned from presenting their Honors Projects at the Northeast Regional Honors Conference in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The students' abstracts were selected from a competitive nationwide field of two- and four-year colleges.
"Honors directors at other institutions across the Northeast told us how wonderful our students were. We are proud of how well Kristen, Brady and Rebecca represented CCRI and the CCRI Honors Program," said program co-director Professor Lynne Andriozzi-Fontaine. "This conference is growing larger each year, and the acceptance rate is beginning to decrease. Only 80 percent of all abstracts from students at all institutions in the Northeast, at mostly four-year schools, were accepted to present, and all our Honors students who submitted an abstract were accepted."
Edwards, a General Studies major who graduated this month and will move on to UMass-Boston, presented a microbiology project where she compared the air quality at CCRI to her own home. Guided by faculty adviser Assistant Professor Heather Townsend, she said completing the project was essential to the work she hopes to do in science laboratories in the future.
"I've never done a project that big, it was great to get experience working on it, doing research and being in a lab," she said.
Sutton also prized the research aspect of the experience, and will take the knowledge she gained with her when she moves on to study psychology at the University of Rhode Island this fall. She never thought that she was too keen on the research aspect of psychology, but working with Assistant Professor David Alfano on her project, which essentially measured how teachers can positively or negatively affect performance and motivation levels on impossible tasks, changed her mind.
"I wouldn't have known that I liked the research aspect of CCRI. Now I hope to find a career that balances the clinical aspect and the research aspect," she said. "And I loved every minute of being at Gettysburg – it was a great opportunity to meet other honors students and explore interesting topics."
Monk, whose project was on color theory, worked with Associate Professor Lisa Ethier to get to the bottom of why certain combinations of glaze looked better than others. Monk, who has another semester left at the college to study fine arts, fell in love with throwing pottery during his first semester at CCRI.
But the Honors Project was a chance to find out why certain pieces elicited the reactions they did, and how to "enhance the beauty" of other pieces. He spoke of using his time in Gettysburg to gain artistic as well as academic inspiration.
But the trio of students who presented at Gettysburg was just the tip of the iceberg. Some students, such as Summera Zaheer, were presenting more than one project, the breadth of their academic curiosity clearly visible. "I'm a new immigrant, and I see myself in all of these books," she said, motioning to one project that dealt with narratives of the new immigrant experience in fiction. A mirror was placed in the middle, an apt metaphor.
Arriving from Dubai four years ago, Zaheer came back to higher education after 18 years away, and so her second project was also close to home: She examined the impact of higher education on earnings and economic outlook.
Across the hallway, student Tracy Partica took a scientific approach to breaking down what many might consider a slightly unscientific pursuit: popular music. Examining Top 100 Billboard charts over the previous decade, she was looking to uncover lyrical trends of gender stereotypes. Interestingly, she said, she found that in times of crisis – the 2008 recession, the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing – lyrics became more "neutral."
Partica, a single mother of three who came back to school to jump-start her career after a layoff, said she enjoyed the ability to really immerse herself in a project and stand out. She will take her curiosity on to URI in the fall to continue studying psychology.