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Sarah Rogers Wins Best Undergraduate Student Presentation

Sarah Rogers in Newfoundland.


Newly graduated biology student Sarah Rogers won Best Undergraduate Student Presentation at the 2019 Benthic Ecology annual meeting in Newfoundland, Canada for a presentation based on her honors thesis, “The combined effects of ocean acidification and elevated sea temperature on the temperate coral Oculina arbuscula.

“This is a conference that the Gleason Lab—Dr. Daniel Gleason was my thesis mentor—attends every year,” Rogers said. “It is very student oriented, making it a great learning opportunity.”

Sarah Rogers (biology ‘19) travelled all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland to present

This research has been her focus for a year and a half, and she was very excited for the opportunity to showcase what her research had uncovered at the meeting. She is very grateful that her mentor encouraged her to create her own project independently, giving her guidance only when she needed it. “He was very supportive of me answering questions myself and exploring new ideas,” Rogers said.

Starting this fall, Rogers will attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to begin in the Ocean Science and Engineering PhD program where she will continue her research. She has been awarded a teaching assistantship to support her studies at Tech.  In addition to continuing her research, she also plans to become a professor so that she can pass on her knowledge to the next generation of eager young scientists to pursue their passions.

“Don’t be afraid to extensively research the field you want to explore and answer questions for yourself, as opposed to relying on what other people tell you,” Rogers advised. “Draw conclusions and let those guide you in your research.”

See and hear from Sarah Rogers herself in this video.



Katherine Barrs Wins Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Katherine Barrs, a second-year biology and mathematics double-major, won the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, the nation’s top scholarship for undergraduate students engaged in research in the sciences.

Barrs has worked on research that brings together mathematics and biology in labs here at Georgia Southern and on a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at University of North Carolina – Greensboro last summer. This coming summer she will participate in another REU at Yale University.



Please read more about her award and experiences here.


Honors Program Travels to Memphis to Present Research

Honors Program students from the Statesboro and Armstrong campuses traveled by bus to Memphis to present their research at the annual meeting of the Southern Regional Honors Council (SRHC). Led by Dr. Steven Engel and Dr. Jonathan Roberts, 49 Georgia Southern students participated in poster presentations and paper panel sessions. SRHC is comprised of honors colleges and programs across the southeast, and for the second year in a row, Georgia Southern had the largest contingent of students presenting.

For many of the Georgia Southern students, this was their first experience presenting at an academic conference. Anna Hassett (exercise science ‘19) left her first poster presentation feeling like she had expanded her knowledge on things from her field of study as well as other varying fields that she normally would not encounter. “I felt inspired to continue my research as well as other outside research projects,” she said.

Jim Walker (mechanical engineering ‘19) and Kelley Nemec (information systems ‘19) were also first time participants in the event. They both enjoyed the opportunity to present their honors thesis research and receive feedback from other honors students.

Nemec said, “My research is something I’ve spent a lot of time with, personally, and being able to tell people about it was very gratifying.”

Walker agreed, “It’s always inspiring to be in a group of individuals that are all driven and actually care about what they’re doing, and I think that’s something that’s relatively difficult to come by.”

Many of the students were also excited to travel to a new city. Memphis provided a new environment for these students to take in and helped to expand their curiosities beyond the conference presentations.

Kira Breen (rehabilitation sciences ‘20) was inspired by the city of Memphis and felt it added to the interdisciplinary environment of the conference itself. Being able to explore a new city and all that it has to offer helped to spark an invigorated interest in all that the world has to offer and encouraged students to further pursue their passions.

Both Dr. Steven Engel and Dr. Jonathan Roberts recognize the opportunity to travel and to present personal research at a recognized and respected conference. Dr. Engel said, “I think it was great that we were able to bring such a large group of students from both campuses and give them the opportunity to present their research in a professional setting. This is the kind of experience that the honors program provides and contributes to the students’ personal and professional development.”

Dr. Roberts continued, “I think it is a great opportunity for students to not only present their own work but learn about what other people from the Southeastern United States are researching.”

Overall, honors students from a variety of disciplines came together to support and to learn from each other. This experience gave students connections and experience explaining and defending their research.



Project Pura Vida: An Honors Legacy in Costa Rica

Back row, left to right: Jaymin Patel, Matthew McGrath, Bodie Fox, and Moriah Harris. Front row, left to right: Jacey Thomas, Tabitha Lowe, Kelly Lesh, Jessica Kolman, and Caitlin Shelby.

Costa Rica has become a popular spring break destination for many college students in recent years. Countless planes fly into the capital city of San José where passengers depart and make their way to the closest white sandy beach in the most popular resort hotels. There are some students, however, who have taken a different path after entering the country. Some of those students are from Georgia Southern, and for the past five years, they have flown into San Jose and then made their way to the small town of La Carpio where they have dedicated their spring break to serving the Nicaraguan refugee community.

“Project Pura Vida! Honors in Costa Rica” is led by Doctora Leticia McGrath (Spanish), who approached the University Honors Program in 2014 to develop a volunteer trip in partnership with the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, a group she had met on an earlier study abroad trip.

“I continue to be inspired to watch Georgia Southern Honors students who are willing to give up their free time, their spring break, no less, to serve others and to bring the lessons they’ve learned back home and apply them here locally,” Dra. McGrath said.

That approach also defines the focus of her Honors First-Year Experience (FYE) courses as well, and those discussions have prompted students in the class to join in the trip, often during their freshman year. Bailey Kirk (mathematics ’18) was one of the students who went on the very first Pura Vida trip. Her time in Dra. McGrath’s Hispanic Culture through Film FYE course sparked the her interest in global citizenship and gave her the perfect opportunity to fulfill one of her dreams of travelling with Georgia Southern University.

Kirk’s participation in this first trip inspired her to go again the next year as a trip leader. “My responsibilities focused on keeping the group organized, prepared, and involved. When we were volunteering or in the community, I would make sure that the group was comfortable and knew exactly what to expect,” she said.

Of the numerous opportunities and adventures she had on these trips, her most memorable experience was being able to watch baby sea turtles hatch on the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park. “It had been an emotional trip and this felt like a sign that it was all worth it and this trip was meant to never be forgotten. Plus, it was amazing to be walking and just randomly stumble on an unknown sea turtle nest beginning to hatch,” Kirk said.

Other students have participated in this trip and been inspired to become trip leaders as well. Bodie Fox (writing and linguistics ’20) wanted to go a second time, but as a trip leader so that he could teach some of the new students about what he had learned the year before.

On his second trip, Fox appreciated the shift to more direct service that made a visible impact in the community. He also enjoyed being able to spend more time with Gail Nystrom, director of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, and being able to ask her more direct and focused questions on the operations of the Foundation.

One of the most rewarding experiences that Fox had on the trip was being able to help a woman and her family move into their newly built house. Fox connected with this family due to their passion for books. “It was so rewarding to hear how proud this woman and her children were of their book collection, which totaled over 500 books,” he said.

Throughout the years of this trip, Dra. McGrath has been able to see rewarding changes throughout the La Carpio community. “The most notable change is the fact that many of the children who have been educated in the Montessori school run by the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation are now in high school and are succeeding,” she said. “Watching the children grow year after year has to be the most rewarding experience for me. That, and knowing that they are thriving and being cared for in a safe environment.”

Kirk also noticed some of these changes in her multiple years of participating in the trip. She said, “It was amazing for me to walk around La Carpio and see how much had changed in just one year, even though there were things that seemed so simple, such as bagging their garbage and bringing it to a specific area. There was also the difference in buildings becoming permanent and being able to see the investment people had made to continue growing their community.”

While these students are clearly making an impact in this community, the experiences and lessons that they learn in Costa Rica are being brought home and implemented in these students’ communities, as well.

McGrath said, “We have communities in our local hometowns that are often ignored or discriminated against, just like La Carpio, and it is clear to me that this experience has inspired my students to return to their own cities to seek ways in which they can provide hope, encouragement, and a helping hand where perhaps before they had never thought to do so. Student’s newfound perspective is the direct result of their having the opportunity to view this in another country with different ethnic groups and removing themselves from the equation to step back and see how universal the issues of poverty, discrimination, and immigration truly are.”

Georgia Southern’s continuous involvement in Project Pura Vida has had a tremendous impact on the community of La Carpio as well as on the students who have participated in the trip over the years. “This and other Alternative Break Trips offered at Georgia Southern are amazing opportunities not only to travel, experience culture, and have an adventure, but also to be able to have impact on people’s lives and be able to see life from a different perspective,” Kirk says.



Honors Research: Swimming with Sharks

Colton Borresen (blue shirt, left)

Ever since the release of the 1975 film Jaws, sharks have suffered a negative reputation that leaves many people clinging to the shore. There are some people, however, who say sharks are misunderstood. Second-year student Colton Borresen (biology ‘21) is one of those people, and last summer he joined them in their natural habitat as he worked with the Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy (CMERA) to conduct research about shark and stingray populations.

Borresen holds fond memories of traveling to the beach with his family when he was younger. He often went snorkeling in places such as Florida, Mexico and Aruba where his fascination with marine life began.

“I remember drift snorkeling around the Exumas in the Bahamas with sharks and stingrays only a few feet away,” he said. Naturally, majoring in biology at college was his primary choice.

Borresen heard about the internship with CMERA through the Department of Biology, and was intrigued by the summer program they have in Clearwater, Florida. He especially liked that who worked on research for four weeks or longer would have their name on any papers published by CMERA for that research.

During this internship, students attended morning lectures on topics such as shark and ray anatomy and physiology, ecology and conservation concerns. In the afternoon, students actively participated with research efforts by tagging, measuring and collecting relevant data on both sharks and stingrays that were hauled onto the boat using long lines and tangle nets. The team could bring in as many as 18 shark and 10 stingrays per day which kept them busy. After the animal was pulled onto the boat, the team worked quickly to record this data as well as irrigate the creature to keep it alive before releasing it back into the ocean.

“Because this is a catch and release program, the safety and handling of each animal was a priority,” Borresen said.  Smaller animals were fitted with an identification tag while larger animals were fitted with a satellite tag to track their location. The team encountered a variety of shark species including “bonnet heads, scalloped hammerheads, great hammerheads, black tips, tiger sharks, and nurse sharks” he said. They also caught many species of rays including smooth butterfly rays, southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, bluntnose stingrays, and cownose rays.

Although there were many exciting experiences, Borresen singled out one day in particular. “One of my most memorable experiences on the boat was catching a 7 ½ foot tiger shark,” he said. “My heart was pounding, but there was not much time to think about it because we needed to work quickly to return the shark to the water. We tagged the shark with a satellite tag, which was provided through generous donations, to track its location.”

Borresen believes this internship will help him with his future ventures in marine biology and plans to join CMERA again this summer for more internship experiences researching the creatures that many people simply misunderstand.

Emily Pressler Selected for Fulbright

Emily Pressler

Senior Spanish and French major Emily Pressler has been awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Spain for the 2019-2020 academic year.  Pressler’s placement will be in Galicia, Spain, and she will assist primarily in English classes for students who speak Spanish, Galician, and English. She is the first Georgia Southern student to be awarded a Fulbright ETA since 2014.

Pressler is a student in the University Honors Program, and she recently completed her honors thesis, “Hispanic Stereotypes in Contemporary Film.” Her coursework in Spanish and French gave her insight into language-learning and a variety of approaches for engaging language learners in the classroom.

“I am really excited to start teaching. I have had experiences tutoring and volunteering as a teaching assistant, but this will be a real chance to see how to organize and to teach a class, working closely with the teacher,” she said.

Pressler also is no stranger to embracing new surroundings.  She is originally from Southold, NY on Long Island and came south to attend Georgia Southern. She also participated on the Honors Program’s alternative break trip to Costa Rica and spent summers studying abroad in Spain and France. She said she is very much looking forward to exploring the Galicia region in Spain’s northwest corner.

“I was hoping to have my Fulbright ETA placement in Galicia because I completed research on the area for one of my classes, and it seems like a beautiful place with a unique culture, including their own regional language,” she said. “Listening to it, I can pick out a few words here in there, but it really is unique from Spanish. I hope that I can teach the students just as much as they can teach me.”

After her time as a Fulbright ETA, Pressler plans to enroll in a master’s program for teaching Spanish, with the goal of teaching Spanish, and possibly French, at the high school level.

Mary Kate Moore…Than Meets the Eye

Mary Kate Moore (r) and her mentor, Dr. Joshua Williams

Soon-to-graduate Honors student Mary Kate Moore (experimental psychology ’19) will be able to add one more entry to her curriculum vita this June: a publication as lead author of the article, “George Berkeley Through History: Multimodal Perception from the 1700s to Present.” The article is coming out in the North American Journal of Psychology.

What began as a two-page topical paper for her History and Systems of Psychology class in 2017 turned into a 17-page publication on multimodal perception, or the idea that all our senses – visual, auditory, sensory and more – work together to create one’s perception of reality. The original assignment was to select a figure in history – in Moore’s case, George Berkeley – and connect their ideas to modern research.

In respect to multimodal perception, Berkeley championed the idea that there is a correlation between sight, touch, and previous experiences, and humans interpret the world through the integration of these inputs.  Moore focused her paper on the points in history where Berkeley’s idea was used – knowingly or not – and showcased how his idea has persisted through time and has even been supported using today’s available technology.

The journey from two-page paper to full-blown publication was, naturally, a laborious one. “Difficult would probably be the best word I could use to describe it,” Moore said.

After writing the paper for her class, Moore was fascinated by “the fact that [one] could see [Berkeley’s ideas] in all these different perspectives” and wanted to explore it further. Her professor for the class, Dr. Joshua Williams, had included a clause in his syllabus that indicated he would support students looking to publish papers written in class. Moore reports that it was a “mutual idea to go to publication” and that “discussion about her interest [in writing the article] made [Dr. Williams] excited.”

Once Moore began writing the article, she ran into quite a few obstacles, including writer’s block and how to best organize the article.

“I first attempted to look at theoretical perspectives in chronological order instead of organizing the article by person,” she shared. “That didn’t work, so I tried looking at it topically, as in a section on audio, then visual, then touch, etc. What ended up working was looking at the historical figures that relate to Berkeley’s ideas. Whole textbooks have been written on multimodal perception alone, so this article is just a highly representative distillation of all that it could have been, emphasizing connections back to Berkeley’s ideas.”

Dr. Williams and fellow psychology professor Dr. Nancy McCarley mentored Moore throughout the writing process. Williams helped Moore by focusing the content of the article and providing feedback, while McCarley aided Moore in ensuring the writing flowed and, according to Moore, helped her to write in a way that was “accessible to any person who decided they wanted to read it.”

“She really didn’t need us that much,” Dr. Williams shared. “Mary Kate is extremely driven, and she’s very dedicated to projects she gets involved in.” Williams described Moore as diligent and said she is “one of the most reliable undergraduate research students I’ve ever worked with, paired with a good attitude.”

In addition to Moore’s work ethic, Williams also attributed some of her success to her involvement with the Student Scholars Symposium. “She’s an accomplished speaker,” he shared. “Higher-up presentations at field-specific conferences are now old hat.” Moore has presented her work on this subject at a previous Student Scholars Symposium and the Southeastern Psychological Association conference last year in fulfillment of her Honors project graduation requirement.

While being the lead author on a publication while an undergraduate student certainly sets Moore apart from her peers, the process of researching and writing the article had a big impact on Moore. “The most challenging part was reading philosophical texts such as the Critique of Pure Reason by Kant. I have lots of respect for philosophers after that.”

Williams expanded on the article’s impact: “For Mary Kate, the article allowed her to explore her interest in neuroscience as it relates to development, and knowing the history and ideas behind development is going to play a big part for her as she goes to graduate school. For the discipline, the article is significant as many people are still exploring old ideas, and it’s amazing to think that many past figures in history hit the nail on the head before having any of the fancy technologies of today.”

In the future, Moore would like to focus on research into multimodal perception with an applied perspective as opposed to theoretical. “Multimodal perception is my baby,” she explained. “I think it’s fascinating.” She already has ideas in mind for possible experiments but confided that she may have to wait until she’s earned her Ph.D. before delving even further into the subject.

Honors Research: Trawling the Stories of Georgia’s Fishers

Julia Thomas in the archives.

While eating your shrimp basket with fries, do you ever stop and wonder how that seafood arrived on your plate? Perhaps it was caught locally. Or maybe it was imported from another part of the world.  Or even raised in a fish farm. Julia Thomas (anthropology ’19) has spent the past three semesters researching and interviewing fishers, particularly shrimpers and crabbers, in southeast Georgia who supply seafood across American and Asian markets. Her research focuses on the fishers’ relationship to larger commercialized fishing corporations.

“Stricter government regulations, increasing fuel and operation costs, and competition from imported seafood are negatively affecting coastal Georgia’s commercial fishing industry. Fishers’ local ecological knowledge is extensive and gives them unique perspectives into the problems the industry is facing,” she said. “Their perspectives differ from those of biologists or policymakers, making them useful for implementing good management practices that not only consider the scientific knowledge of a fishery, but the human aspect as well. My thesis discusses the findings from mixed-methods research conducted with Georgia fishermen about the problems they face and their unique insights into potential solutions.”

Thomas recently had the opportunity to present her honors thesis at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology in Portland, Oregon. She worked under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Sweeney Tookes whose oral history research team she joined last March.

“I was one of twelve undergraduate and graduate anthropology students selected to be a part of Dr. Tookes’ research team. We conducted oral history interviews with the fishing community,” she said. “As the number of commercial fishers in Georgia declines, there is a lot of cultural knowledge and history that could be lost. While on the trip Dr. Tookes mentioned the opportunity to continue doing research with this community as part of an honors thesis, and I took her up on that.”

The oral histories conducted on that research trip were recorded and will be uploaded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Voices from the Fisheries database which is available to the public.

As her mentor, Dr. Tookes aided in developing the topic, reading drafts, making edits, and providing support in Thomas’s endeavors. Dr. Tookes praised her student and recognized her strive and commitment. “Julia Thomas has completed intensive, independent anthropological research that rivals the work of many graduate students.  She has completed an ambitious project, and it has been a pleasure to serve as her undergraduate honors thesis advisor,” she said.

The conference gave Thomas the opportunity to share her finding with scholars in her field. While Thomas has presented posters at conferences before, Portland was her first experience with an oral presentation.

“I had only done poster presentations, so this was a whole new experience. It was fun to attend a conference more related to my major and thesis. Dr. Tookes introduced me to a few of her colleagues who attended the session I presented in. It was nice to meet people whose research relates to my thesis and know so much more about fisheries than me. There were also a few people in the audience whose works I cited in my thesis. I was able to put a face to the name and meet people whose research I have read and used in my work,” Thomas said.

During Thomas’ four years at Georgia Southern University, she has been an active member of the anthropology community on campus. She is a member of the Anthropological Society and Vice President of Lambda Alpha, a national anthropology honors society.

“In Lambda Alpha, the officers and I lead and organize meetings and host events like our Anthropology Spring Film Series. Most recently we showed Secrets of the Dead: Herculaneum Uncovered, and 82 people attended. We are also currently planning an end-of-year departmental event in collaboration with the Anthropological Society,” she said.

Thomas also volunteers in the archeology lab, in the Carroll Building, for several hours a week. She works with graduate students and staff, helping in organizational projects. “Last semester, I helped organize and rehabilitate a collection we got from the Armstrong Campus. It was from the 1980s and 1990s, and we went through approximately 80 or so boxes of archaeological material, creating inventory forms for each box and re-bagging artifacts when we need to. We also worked on some of the zooarchaeological comparative collection, mainly by cleaning and rinsing off specimens when they were ready. This semester, we have re-boxed and stored another collection from Armstrong and are currently in the process of cleaning, sorting, and bagging artifacts donated to us from a collector,” she said.

“After conducting research, I am most passionate about the fishers. Before doing this research, I knew next to nothing about commercial fishing and the industry in Georgia. Now, I have so much admiration and respect for the fishers and other people in the industry. It is such dangerous, risky, difficult work, but they love it anyway. Hearing how much they enjoy fishing and listening to their stories is so inspirational and they are such an incredible group of people,” Thomas said.

Honors in Action: Research at Camp

Honors Students at camp. L-R: Mariah Arnett, Delaney Grim, Seth Davis, Niesha Bell, Sarah Martinez, and Christina Sartain.

In what has become a spring break tradition, Camp Blue Skies comes to Camp Twin Lakes in Rutledge, Georgia—a camp especially designed to support campers who face medical, adaptive, and other life challenges. Dr. Jerri Kropp and Dr. Brent Wolfe led a group of 16 students to volunteer as cabin counselors and activity leaders for participants in Camp Blue Skies, a camp for adults with developmental disabilities. Our students go through some intensive pre-camp training, including training on-site a couple weeks before camp.

This year’s group featured a mix of new volunteers and seasoned returners, including Delaney Grimm (recreation ’20), who used this year’s camp to conduct research for her honors thesis.  Her thesis will be the third honors thesis connected to research about the camp. Her project utilized PhotoVoice to give campers the opportunity to voice their opinion on what they have learned at camp, which Delaney will analyze in order to assess, she said, “what domains of recreational therapy (physical, emotional, spiritual, social, cognitive, and leisure) are being achieved by Camp Blue Skies and how they can improve activities in the future.”

PhotoVoice is a method that gives the participants a voice in deciding what issues are important in the study and puts cameras in their hands so they can identify those issues visually as well as through focus groups.  “Being able to use Camp Blue Skies as the focus for my thesis project has helped expand my experience with the population, create meaningful interactions, and advocate for an amazing population that usually gets underestimated,” Grimm said. “There is truly no place like camp.”

Grace Pittman Reveals What is “Better Left Unsaid”

Grace Pittman with her mentor, Dr. Joshua Kennedy.

Grace Pittman (political science ’19) had the opportunity to present her honors research at the Southern Political Science Association (SPSA) in Austin, TX. Her thesis, “Better Left Unsaid: The Connection between Members of Congress, the President, and Political Ambiguity,” examines the lack of direct support from politicians for specific programs or views.

“My thesis concerns the ambiguity demonstrated by members of Congress based on the president’s popularity. Ambiguity, simply defined, is a deliberate refusal to be clear about what it is one supports. It is a political tool for members of Congress. Remaining silent about their position on political issues, especially ‘hot-button’ issues, allows congressional members to maintain the support of their voting bloc and potentially win over more voters,” she said.

Pittman discovered that there was little to no research on potential candidate’s ambiguity. Her research is adding to the scholarly discussion for political science. She was able to provide a new lens of analysis for candidate behavior research.

“Finding a topic that had never been researched mattered because I was starting from scratch. My argument had to be sound to justify my choice in topic. It is easy to flip on or scroll through the news to see and hear examples of politicians using vague statements or dodging questions when pressed by reporters on political issues. However, the challenge lied in proving it and explaining why they would do it. Therefore, my argument, represented by my theory and literature review, became central to my research,” she said.

She worked with her research mentor, Dr. Joshua Kennedy, during the writing process to develop and to refine her work. Dr. Kennedy praised Pittman’s work ethic and dedication to the process of research. “She has demonstrated extraordinary ability and drive in tackling a very ambitious research project, and her sterling presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association highlights this,” he said. “Her presentation was professional, polished, and won her praise from advanced scholars. She continues to exemplify everything that is great about Georgia Southern University.”

The mentor’s role is to provide guidance for the student who is taking on an intensive research project. “My thesis was my responsibility, and I am independent by nature, so I anticipated writing, developing, and carrying out my research. However, I quickly learned that there were aspects of this process that I could not figure out and do alone,” Pittman said. “So, in many ways, I have learned to ask questions and seek help from my advisor as this thesis progresses. My goal is to submit a sound thesis, and Dr. Kennedy has offered great advice and encouragement to ensure that I achieve that goal.”

SPSA was Pittman’s second conference. Last year, she presented at the Georgia Political Science Association (GPSA). Both experiences allowed her to gain experience in the professional world of academia. Pittman presented her findings to a room full of scholars with graduate degrees, whose specializations were related to researching politicians’ behavior.

“My audience, in comparison to GPSA, was slightly larger, and I feel almost certain that everyone in the room had a Master’s or Doctoral degree. It was intimidating. Everyone in the room knew the ins and outs of what I was discussing. However, midway through the presentation, my nerves seemed to dissipate a bit, and I was pleased with my execution at this conference,” Pittman said.

Conferences give students the opportunity to expand their professional connections through engaging conversations with scholars in their field.  Students are putting their ideas, thoughts, and analysis into the discussion. The reward is the advice, suggestions, and support that follows.

Pittman said, “One of the unspoken benefits of the Honors Program is the opportunity to develop public speaking skills by presenting research. I cannot stress enough how much I loathe speaking in front of others, and this process has forced me to confront my fear. Another benefit to be gained by presenting research is constructive criticism. Out of habit, I take and keep any notes audience members suggest when they are given the opportunity to express their opinions. An audience offers fresh eyes and ears, and as a result, they can offer valuable advice and new perspective to students writing their theses.”

Her experience with the University Honors Program has allowed her to challenge and to grow her academic skills in the classroom, with her research, and at conferences. “The program requires a commitment to give 100% to your thesis and studies. Yes, there are good and bad days, but the attitude you manifest is the one that determines your likelihood for success. Honors is similar to a long-term investment. The payoffs are greatest for those who are serious and passionate about their work. Suddenly, your work, whatever it may be, speaks for itself, and there is satisfaction in that,” Pittman said.