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Georgia Southern University elevates Honors Program into new Honors College

Georgia Southern University Honors College logo

Georgia Southern University now encompasses 10 academic colleges with the transition of the  University Honors Program to the Honors College. The move provides a growing community of honors students with enhanced experiential learning opportunities including undergraduate research, creative scholarship and the honors thesis, focusing on professional development, interdisciplinary education and global experiences. 

“The elevation of the Honors Program into the Honors College is a reflection of the quality of our student body and the rigor of opportunities we provide,” said Steven Engel, Ph.D., dean of the Honors College. “This new distinction will make Georgia Southern an even greater destination for high-performing students and raise the overall academic reputation of the institution.”

“It is a natural progression of success when a university elevates their Honors Program to a College—recognizing and expanding the opportunities for our highest-achieving students,” said Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero. “With three Goldwater Scholars in the last few years and a long list of other national and international accolades for our students, we already have an impressive track record of educating bright and motivated students. An Honors College will allow us to build on this success and focus even more on creating a distinctive and challenging undergraduate experience for some of the nation’s best students.”

The University System of Georgia officially approved the program’s transition to the Honors College late last month.

Open to students in any major, the Honors College provides access to smaller classes and enriching seminars. The Honors College also prioritizes members of the military with a goal of becoming the most military-friendly honors college in the nation.

Inclusive excellence continues to be an important pillar of the honors experience at Georgia Southern. Students gain intercultural competence with curricular and extracurricular experiences that contribute to a welcoming atmosphere. With 33% of students from minority racial and ethnic groups, the honors student population reflects the many forms of diversity within the University’s broader student body.

Honors student Katie McIntosh

“I believe the transition will add more prestige to our degrees, increase the level of rigor and academic competition among peers, and enhance our education as a whole,” said Katie McIntosh, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering on the Statesboro campus. 

“I’m super excited about the program’s transition to a college,” said Zoe Lincoln, a junior majoring in health sciences on the Armstrong campus. “I think that becoming an Honors College will give students more opportunities in terms of funding and networking with professionals in their respective fields.”

Honors student Zoe Lincoln

Honors education began at Georgia Southern in 1982, when the Bell Honors Program was founded. The University Honors Program was established on the Armstrong campus in 1996 and on the Statesboro campus in 1998. Today, the Honors College enrolls more than 800 students across both campuses, representing all University colleges and academic disciplines. 

“Building on decades of success, this change further demonstrates Georgia Southern’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate education,” said Carl Reiber, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “The new Honors College will provide a rigorous curriculum for students that fosters intellectual and professional development, preparing them for top-tier graduate schools and meaningful careers.”

Since the inception of the Bell Honors Program, approximately 1,650 students have graduated from the University’s Honors programs. Thirty percent of graduates last year completed their degrees in less than four years.

The deadline for incoming freshmen to apply is Feb. 1, 2021. For more information, visit Current Georgia Southern students are encouraged to apply.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers approximately 140 different degree programs serving almost 27,000 students through 10 colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit

Congratulations to the Class of 2020

Read all about our graduates and their accomplishments in our University Honors Program Graduates online booklet.

Andrea Appleton Wins Goldwater Scholarship

Flowers, for many, may simply be a nice gift for a loved one or something to stop and smell along the way, but to Honors Program biology student Andrea Appleton, they are a window into the intricacies of daily life.

“Plants are incredibly diverse and everywhere, and I feel that we have a lot to learn from them and their life history,” Appleton said. “Flowers are a remarkable evolutionary advancement for plants; and understanding their uniqueness is important to understanding the complexities of life.”

Appleton’s research in botany and floral evolution were recognized this year when she was named a Goldwater Scholar, the highest national award for undergraduate students in the STEM majors.

“A career in science, especially research, was not always the obvious path for me to take, so to pursue it and have that pursuit validated is very meaningful,” said Appleton. “This recognition, to me, means that I am trusted and expected to conduct innovative research throughout my career. I feel very fortunate for the support and for the reassurance in my career choice.”

This is the second year in a row that a Georgia Southern student has been honored with this prestigious scholarship, which is awarded to undergraduates who show exceptional promise of becoming the nation’s next generation of research leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Having a recipient of this high honor from Georgia Southern University speaks volumes about our commitment to student research, the quality of our undergraduates, and the talent of our faculty,” said Georgia Southern President Kyle Marrero. “I would like to congratulate Andrea Appleton, and the professors who worked with her, for this outstanding achievement.”

In addition to her award-winning research, Appleton directs the Georgia Southern Herbarium, a collection of 40,000 plant specimens from around the world. While sorting through a backlog of specimens, she realized just how unique flowers can be.

“I opened a newsprint and was stunned by the most striking flowers I had ever seen,” Appleton said. “Those flowers were pressed in intricate clumps and retained the most surreal blue color, even though the newsprint was dated to the 1960s.”

The Georgia Southern junior later learned they were flowers of Delphinium, commonly known as larkspurs. Intrigued by the immense biodiversity and charm of plants, Appleton began to conduct floral evolution research with her advisor, former Georgia Southern Professor John Schenk. She studies the evolution and development of staminodes, which are stamens (the pollen-producing parts of flowers) that have lost the ability to produce pollen. His departure from Georgia Southern left the Herbarium curator position open, and Appleton was selected to take on that role, an opportunity that is extremely rare for an undergraduate student. William Irby, Ph.D., a professor of biology, taught Appleton in his Honors Principles of Biology class. He said Apppleton was an obvious choice for the position of acting curator.

“She readily took to the responsibilities of her job,” Irby said. “She began work on her honors research early, and by the end of her sophomore year had achieved as much as most honors students do, by the time they finish their projects as seniors.”

The College of Science and Mathematics and the biology department have supported Appleton’s studies with travel grants that have enabled her to present her research at regional and national conferences.

“As faculty have worked to enhance the undergraduate research experience, we see this huge benefit for our students – they are competitive at a national level and they are poised to become the future of scientific research,” said Delana Gajdosik-Nivens, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics.

The Honors scholar plans to attend graduate school after she leaves Georgia Southern and pursue a career in evolutionary botany.

“I am eager to expand our understanding of the patterns and processes of floral evolution,” Appleton said. “I want to explore the power of plants to uncover the secrets of evolution and push the boundaries of our understanding of the natural world and its complexity.” 

The rising senior expressed gratitude for the faculty mentors who guided her through the process to winning the Goldwater Scholarship. She said guidance from her advisor and mentors have been invaluable.

“I am a first-generation student and would not be in college at all without the support of the Honors Program and the Department of Biology,” she said. “The opportunities I have been granted and the people I have met have all been incredibly influential in my professional and personal life.”

Appleton was one of only 396 college students across the United States to earn the scholarship of up to $7,500 a year. The scholarship honors the lifetime work of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate.

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 26,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit

University Honors Program Student Named Semi-Finalist for Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Samuel Hobbs has been named a semi-finalist for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program (ETA), taking an important step toward his goal of teaching English in Colombia next school year.

“I’ve had so many great opportunities here at Georgia Southern that have helped me to develop a true love for teaching and mentoring students and the Fulbright Scholarship allows me to explore this passion in a rigorous and exciting manner,” Hobbs said.

Samuel Hobbs

Hobbs will graduate in May with a degree in Political Science and Spanish, and is currently working on his honors thesis, “Does Description Equal Prescription? A Case for Gender Quotas in Latin America” mentored by Dr. Jamie Scalera. The thesis focuses on the influence that women have on legislation rates pertaining to women such as reproductive healthcare, sexual and domestic violence, and education in Latin American legislatures.

Hobbs conducted a case study analysis of countries that have gender quotas, a fixed percentage of women in the legislature, to determine if the presence of women increase the rate of legislation passed in regards to the aforementioned topics.

“Going to Colombia with Fulbright will give me even more insight into this topic because Columbia doesn’t have a gender quota. This will help me to explore the effects this has on the rates of legislation passed in a country that does not adhere to this other method,” Hobbs explained. “I’ve also had to translate hundreds of laws from Spanish to English for this project, so it only made sense to apply to a country where I could strengthen my Spanish.”

The next steps for the semi-finalist include an interview with the selection committee in Colombia. Final decisions will be made later in the spring.

In regards to his future with both this program opportunity and his thesis research, Hobbs said, “Well, if all goes as planned, I am certain that I will cry. As for my thesis, I plan on expanding my dataset and research to Africa, Asia, and Europe during my time in graduate school and hopefully get it published. With the Fulbright program, I would gladly postpone my graduate school plans and receive this opportunity with open arms.”

Developing the Research Mindset

Like all Honors Program students, when Molly Rowe graduates with her degree in biology this fall, she will have completed an independent research project in the form of her honors thesis. Unlike a number of her peers, she will also have two publications in scientific journals.

Molly Rowe in the lab.

Lots of students delving into medical research start out tackling the big health issues of the day, and Rowe is no different. She is on the list of authors for two articles that focus on cancer research: “DNA topoisomerase IIα and RAD21 cohesin complex component are predicted as potential therapeutic targets in bladder cancer” published in Oncology Letters, and “Integration of bioinformatics approaches and experimental validations to understand the role of notch signaling in ovarian cancer” published in the Journal of Visual Experiments.

In thinking about her research mindset, Rowe said, “The research process for me usually begins with reading and staying up-to-date with existing scientific literature, then identifying a topic that is intriguing to me and further refining this to develop specific questions or testable hypotheses,and my research mentor, Dr. Dongyu Jia, has really helped me progress from finding a topic of interest to identifying specific questions that can be researched and answered.”

Once a topic has been selected, the work has only just begun. Rowe’s dedication to solving real-world problems has resulted in complex research on her selected topics that can prove to be very challenging. 

“Research in general definitely has highs and lows,” she said. “Sometimes experiments that you have spent countless hours on do not work out and sometimes these experiments turn out perfectly. For these publications, the research process was no exception.” 

Her experiments involved extensive preplanning in the forms of problem identification, hypothesis creation, and designing and effective, replicable experiment. She and her other research team members also utilized various types of technology from microscopy and antibody staining to advanced computer programs to analyze data from a biostatistics and bioinformatics standpoint. While they encountered many challenges throughout their research, after a lot of work and time spent to ensure accuracy and validity, they were able to overcome these problems and produce results that they were confident in.

With a thorough experiment completed, Rowe could then move on to recording her results and submitting them for publication. “The process can sometimes be very extensive and time-consuming from writing the paper itself and deciding which journal(s) you would like to send it to, waiting to hear from your publisher and potentially having to go through multiple rounds of revision before acceptance,” Rowe explained, “but from this process you truly get to experience the value of peer review firsthand and see how it can help lead to a more meaningful contribution to your field.” 

By adapting her experimental approach and thinking outside of the box in her problem solving techniques, Rowe was able to see her work and herself grow into their best versions. “In the end, it is exciting to be able to write about and share the work that we are doing in our lab with others in the scientific community.”

Even after all of these achievements, Rowe is continuing to challenge herself. She currently has a paper written in association with her thesis work, “Analysis of the Temporal Patterning of Notch Downstream Targets during Drosophila melanogaster Egg Chamber Development”, that is currently in the publication process, as well. After graduation Rowe plans to attend medical school at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and continue pursuing her passions through research.

Political Science Students on the Conference Trail

In a world full of constant political division, Georgia Southern Honors students are making their mark by using research to gather a greater understanding of these intricacies and provide their own insights to some of today’s most pressing political issues. Their work has addressed topics such as immigration policy, the influence of women in chief executive roles, and voter turnout and is well received by peers and colleagues in the larger Political Science community. 

L-R: Gabrielle Peterson, Dr. Jamie Scalera, Anna Kwiatkowski, Dr. Srobana Bhattacharya,  Samuel Hobbs, Dr. Maureen Stobb, Ian Sheppard, Dr. Kate Perry.

In early October, four Political Science Honors students, Anna Kwiatkowski (political science ‘19), Ian Sheppard (political science and philosophy, ‘20), Gabrielle Peterson (political science and writing & linguistics ‘21), and Samuel Hobbs (political science and Spanish ‘20) attended the International Studies Association (ISA)—South Conference in Memphis to present their Honors Thesis research on panels with other students and faculty. Through this experience, these students were able to connect not just with their Georgia Southern faculty, but with professors and students from other universities across the region as well.

Kwiatkowski, who presented her research, Immigration Policy Reform: Higher education and International Students, commented that her greatest takeaway from the conference was the connections she was able to make with her professors. “I really enjoyed getting to connect with the professors from my department,” she said. “I got to learn more about what their research areas are and what the women in the department face as academics. I grew such an appreciation for all my professors during this conference.”

Peterson, who presented her thesis, Nurturing Democracy? Mediating Between Female Chief Executives and Voter Turnout, also enjoyed this time spent with both her own professors as well as those from other universities in the region. “Because of my professors’ involvement in ISA’s Women’s Caucus, I was able to go to the Women’s Caucus Breakfast and Roundtable Discussion and learn what it means to be a woman in Political Science academia,” Peterson said. This opportunity allowed her to experience a supportive and uplifting environment for female political scientists in this special space they have created for themselves. Peterson continued saying, “It was really touching for me to see this type of fellowship. It makes me hopeful that the unyielding support I have received from my Georgia Southern professors exists in the Political Science departments of other schools and in the broader field of Political Science.”

Attending conferences like this one also allows them to make connections with other universities that could help them in their graduate careers. Georgia Southern Associate Professor, Dr. Jamie Scalera, shared her avid admiration for these students and their work, saying, “Our students did such an outstanding job that they have caught the attention of several graduate programs throughout the country!” She continued saying, “Georgia Southern has become a well-known presence at this conference — both due to the involvement of our faculty and for the excellent presentations from our students.” 

A Golden Summer Research Experience

For international students like Jennifer Iwenofu (Biochemistry ‘22), finding a summer internship or research opportunity that provides some financial support can be difficult. Despite this obstacle, Iwenofu was able to find a program that also fit her research interests and helped her achieve academic goals.

Jennifer Iwenofu in the lab with Dr. Derrick Swinton, Department of Chemistry, at Claflin University.

Iwenofu spent her summer researching nanoparticles in the Spectroscopic Characterization of Gold Nanoparticles with Proteins Project at Claflin University. Her days typically began at 9:00 am and consisted of completing specific tasks designated for each day. “The most unique part of this project was that we all had different aspects that we worked on independently, but in some way all of the results of these individual aspects overlapped to lead to the overall scientific finding,” Iwenofu said. 

Iwenofu also enjoyed the rewarding feeling of seeing all of her work come together through a proven hypothesis. “One of my highlights was the day we put our gold coated nanoparticles and our bare nanoparticles in the Circular Dichroism spectrum,” she said. “It was exciting to see our hypothesis that the gold coated nanoparticles would have higher alpha helices in higher ionic strengths proven and reflected through our graphs.”

Through this experience, Iwenofu was able to learn how to rely on herself. While her mentors were available to her, it was her responsibility to solve the problems she encountered within her realm of the research. In this way, Iwenofu no longer had to rely on her mentors to teach her how to do things as she was able to learn for herself while working through the challenges. 

Cross-Cultural Experiences in Cancer Research

With graduate school application deadlines approaching quickly, Abigail McNamee (Biochemistry ‘20) had a tough decision to make about how to spend her final undergraduate summer. Her desire to study abroad and experience another culture was matched by her academic need for research experience. Thanks to the dedication of her professors and the participants in her Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, McNamee was able to achieve both of these goals while also fulfilling all of her desires for worthwhile summer experiences.

McNamee in the lab.

McNamee spent her summer in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department in the Georgia Cancer Center building of Augusta University researching the effects of phosphodiesterase inhibitors on c-GMP signaling and colon cancer cell proliferation in vitro. “My role in the project was to investigate whether the colon cancer cells themselves were being affected by the drugs we were studying or if the initiation process of colon cancer was being affected,” McNamee explained. In doing this research, McNamee enjoyed being exposed to more biomedical-focused research and learning about a vast array of research topics in the biomedical field ranging from cancer to eye diseases. 

“I wanted to pursue research over the summer because I wanted to continue to enhance my research skills and hopefully prepare myself for graduate school,” McNamee said. Her choice to participate in research at another university was also motivated by her desire to attend graduate school. “I wanted the chance to see what other universities might have to offer. Since I am in the process of looking for graduate programs, I thought that an REU at a potential graduate school option would be an excellent way for me to see if the school would be a good fit and what the research opportunities were there.”

While McNamee was initially disappointed in the impact this had on her ability to study abroad, she soon realized that her time spent in Augusta could contain just as many unique cultural experiences. “In my program, there were five international students, and I learned a lot about them and their cultures. So in essence, I still got the benefits that I was looking for from a study abroad and also got the research experience that was the most important.” 

Due to their vigorous daily work schedules, the members of the research team spent most of their free time getting to know more about one another and their different cultures during meals. “Since the international students didn’t have cars, I often drove with them to go grocery shopping or out to eat,” McNamee recalled. “These trips actually proved to be a wonderful time for us to talk about their home countries and the differences between how they lived there compared to in America.” McNamee was even able to try some traditional Nepali food prepared by one of her fellow researchers. “Anush, one of the Nepali students, often cooked for himself and would share what he had made with me. I had never tried Nepali cuisine before, but after this, I was convinced I had found my new favorite type of food!” 

McNamee’s REU was a successful experience that increased her self confidence and provided further clarity for her career path. “I am more confident than ever that I wish to pursue a career in research, specifically in the biomedical or a similarly health-related field of study,” McNamee said. “Through this experience, I got a glimpse of what a full-time career in research could look like.”

Summer Research at Yale

Katherine Barrs with Dr. Yuan Ren, one of her summer research mentors at Yale.

Throughout her time at Georgia Southern, Katherine Barrs (Biology and Mathematics ‘21) has received ample recognition for her achievements in academics and undergraduate research such as her 2018 summer spent researching bees and winning the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship this past May. In continuing with this progress, Barrs adds to her long list of accolades by participating in a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at Yale University.

Leading up to the 10 week 2019 Sackler/National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates: Interdisciplinary Research Training Across Biology, Physics, and Engineering Program, Barrs felt a healthy combination of anxiety and excitement. “I was feeling very excited to participate in the program, but I was a bit nervous to be starting work in an Ivy League environment with researchers at the absolute top of their fields and in labs with state of the art equipment,” Barrs said. “I was honestly terrified the first two weeks that I would accidentally break something expensive.”

Throughout her time at Yale, Barrs adhered to her daily schedule, which was always anything but dull. Her time spent both in the classroom and in the lab conducting experiments, preparing cell cultures and working directly with yeast cells, dye, and a spectrophotometer allowed her to develop and refine some very valuable skills. Her research explored a new method of measuring exocytosis and endocytosis rates through the use of lipophilic dye fluorescence in fission yeast and contributed to the Berro Lab’s overall research goal of unraveling how the molecular machinery of clathrin-mediated endocytosis generates forces to deform the plasma membrane and also how this machinery then senses membrane tension and adapts to it. “All of the aspects of this research combined to challenge and expand my communication and research skills,” Barrs explained. “My encounters with machine errors, issues with cell culture, and plain bad luck also helped me to develop a more positive and determined attitude toward solving problems.” 

“All of the aspects of this research combined to challenge and expand my communication and research skills,” Barrs explained. “My encounters with machine errors, issues with cell culture, and plain bad luck also helped me to develop a more positive and determined attitude toward solving problems.”

Barrs also quickly discovered the welcoming environment of the program seen in both its leaders and participants. “I always felt welcome and had many interactions with professors, post doctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students. Overall, the environment I worked in and the people I worked with inspired me to be purposeful and meet my research goals,” Barrs said. While the work in the lab was often long and strenuous, Barrs was able to connect with the other program participants and form new friendships based on common interests both related and unrelated to the subject of their program.

Due to the specifics of this research project, Barrs was able to cultivate an interdisciplinary mindset that she will carry with her back to Georgia Southern and beyond. This focus on interdisciplinary studies also ties in with Barrs’ future plans as she wants to pursue a PhD in a combination of biology, chemistry, and mathematics. “The training I gained in the program has helped me feel more confident in my skills and previous experiences being sufficient to succeed in graduate school. Overall, I have a better understanding of what discipline and type of research I am interested in pursuing through graduate school,” Barrs said.

Her experiences working alongside students and faculty during this training at Yale University helped her improve her professional and academic credentials and increase her confidence in her own skills. Barrs now has no doubt in her ability to succeed in her research endeavors and achieve her professional and personal goals.

The Rhetoric of Inclusiveness

On our phones during class. On the computers in the library. On the bulletin boards in the Russell Union. We come into contact with a myriad of texts and images in these and so many more places, but what impact are they having on us? Some might consider this question too big to pursue, but senior honors writing and linguistics student Hannah Sincavage has turned her passion for the pursuit of these answers into projects and presentations throughout her undergraduate academic career to help shed light on an increasingly important topic.

Hannah Sincavage presenting her research.

Through her focus on rhetoric and composition, Sincavage has been able to devote countless hours of work into studying these examples of written, spoken, and visual rhetoric in an attempt to bring awareness to the impacts they are having on our opinions, ideas, and ways of life. Graduating this fall, Sincavage has spent the past three semesters researching the intersectionality and representation of female bodies with disabilities in still image advertising, such as activewear, swimwear, and lingerie advertisements for her honors thesis. “I saw an advertisement from Aerie featuring a girl with an insulin pump that made me realize how abled I am and how much of a privilege it is to be able to walk up the stairs, to digest my own food, to see,” Sincavage said. With this understanding, she has centered her research around the forms of language, rhetoric, and visual rhetoric and has focused on the topics of the historical representation, language, and representation of disability. 

By incorporating the rhetorical theory and research methods she has been using for her thesis project, Sincavage has been able to take a similar approach in researching and analysing other forms of rhetoric found in the public realm.

Last April, Sincavage presented at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Intellectual Opportunities (CURIO) Conference here at Georgia Southern, a conference that offers the opportunity for arts and humanities students to showcase their work and research. Her presentation focused on her blog, “Your Privilege is Showing,” a multimodal piece created for her Cultural Rhetoric class that incorporates theory and texts from the course to highlight the themes of invisible privilege and the perpetuation of oppression and discrimination that spurs from the refusal of some to recognize the existence of privilege in both themselves and others. 

Being able to combine classroom concepts and personal passions is a skill every student strives to achieve. Through her hard work and dedication, Sincavage has been able to use her time in college to research topics and issues that interest her in an academically appropriate way that not only increases her knowledge of the theories and concepts taught in her classes but also makes her better informed on the issues that she cares about. Sincavage reflected on her summer by saying, “This research helps to remind me that I’m writing about people, that these things matter, and that I can make a difference.” For the remainder of her time at Georgia Southern and in her future endeavors, Sincavage will continue to work to address the issues of representation, racism, xenophobia, and homophobia in her writing by combining all that she has learned with all that she is passionate about.