Honors Students Present Original Research

From cultural awareness to Camelot

By Myra Saturen,

Honors Conference 2016From cultural awareness to Camelot, students in Northampton Community College's (NCC) Honors Program presented their original research at a conference at the College on April 28.  

Dr. Cara McClintock-Walsh, honors program coordinator, introduced the event by gauging how far the honors program has progressed since its inception in 2006.  From 27 students in three courses at the Bethlehem Campus, it has grown to more than 350 students in 20 courses on both the Bethlehem and Monroe campuses and articulation agreements with five four-year institutions.  

Dr. Christine Pense, dean of humanities and social sciences, defined what goes into being a scholar: resilience, persistence, humor, and kindness.  Habits of a scholar's mind encompass dispassionate, analytic empathy; an ability to make connections beyond the obvious;looking at one's convictions without fear of failure; and resisting the comfort of closure.  

Abigail Michelini, an honors program alumna, traced her path from a 23-year-old freshman to a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  A transfer agreement enabled her to go, as an undergraduate, directly into Lehigh's honors baccalaureate program.  "NCC was the place that enabled me to think on a higher level," she said.  "It paved my way with smooth stones to knowledge."  

Caleb Geinosky and Sam Caprio described and showed pages from a website they created to promote cultural awareness and understanding on campus, especially in residence halls, where students come from a variety of backgrounds.  In Creating a Sense of Community, viewers are encouraged to identify issues that can cause conflict, strategies for compromise and methods of resolving conflict.  Areas of diversity may involve varying standards and attitudes regarding noise, personal hygiene, food, sexual orientation, modesty, and religion.  The webpage includes guides to recreation in the Lehigh Valley and transportation information such as bus schedules. Accompanying posters by Nahara de la Cruz read "Speak your mind even if your voice hurts," and "the world in which you are born is just one model of reality."

Robert McElroy, Sam Caprio and Carina Canney used pictures, photographs and text to illustrate poems by W.B. Yeats, which they also read aloud.  Each line of "Leda and the Swan" and "Wandering Aengus" was illustrated with carefully chosen, evocative art.    

Lauren Raimunde called upon the writings of Huey P. Newton, W.E.B. DuBois, Frederick Douglass, poet Alain Locke, and others to analyze Melvin Van Peebles's film Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song in her paper "Not a Blaxploitation Film."   She showed how the film drew parallels between slavery and the main character's flight from an unjust arrest as a black man.  She also highlighted Van Peebles's use of African music and short film jump cinematic technique.  Raimunde will continue her education at Smith College.  

Lauren Strong, who plans to be an electrical engineer, advocated the "Benefits of Mentorship for Women in STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields.  She presented her research and analysis of data collected via Survey Monkey, Facebook groups and social media.  Why, she asked, do women make up 50% of the American workforce but only 25% of STEM participants?  Her research showed three factors to be in effect: stereotyping, lack of support from men in these careers, and the lack of mentoring from women already in STEM fields.  Strong's research also demonstrated that women are more likely to enter into and stay in STEM fields if they have had positive mentors than are those women who have lacked positive mentors.  She pointed out benefits of having more women in STEM, including different perspectives.  For example, women suffer more from the side effects of some medications, which have been tested only on average-sized men.   

Hannah Estevez and Krystal Endrulat narrated and showed a slide presentation, "Lord Tennyson: the Making of Camelot."  They described how Tennyson's life mirrored his poetry.  The celebrated Victorian poet, they said, wrote his best poetry in his years as a student at Cambridge.  His later verse reflected his return to his small, isolated village, where he had endured an unhappy childhood.   

In "Life's a Beach," Kiki Tassone, Sammy Margonine and Dami Smeal tied this year's NCC National Endowment for the Humanities theme The Good Life with Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach."  After a life of isolation and struggle, the presenters said, Arnold found the good life in simple, often unnoticed beauty to be found in "the grating roar of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling."  The students then showed a modern interpretation of The Good Life, a video by the band Panic! at the Disco, picturing dancing and a party and helping an older woman cross the street as illustrations of celebrating the small things in life.     

Faculty mentors with students in the conference and the honors courses represented included professors Donna Acerra, Honors Intercultural Communication; Dr. Cara McClintock-Walsh, Honors Irish Literature; Sharon Gavin-Levy, Honors African-American Literature; Gina Turner, Research Methods in the Social Sciences; and Precie Schroyer, Honors British Literature II.