Highlighting Honors Projects

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Each year, PLNU seniors have the opportunity to go above and beyond and showcase research projects of their choice. The topics range from the sciences to the arts and professional studies, and are often created by the students themselves. With every project comes extensive, demanding and laborious research.

In the spring of their junior year, students who have maintained a cumulative 3.5 GPA and are able to resourcefully and seriously research may apply to do a senior honors project under the sponsorship of the Honors Program. With guidance from professors, students complete the honors projects during their senior year, meeting with fellow honors scholars and their advisers to discuss their projects and maintain progress.

By early May, students are expected to prepare two formal presentations: one to their committee and the second to the Honors Conference. Upon graduation, these scholars are each recognized for their extensive efforts and are given a special tassel.

Mark Mann, director of the Honors Program, said it allows students the opportunity to explore subjects they have a passion for more deeply.

“It demonstrates that a student can succeed at a higher level than is expected of the typical undergrad, that a student can take on and complete a large, and perhaps, multi-year, project and take self-initiative,” said Mann via email.

Here is a sample of some of the students who decided to take on a honors project this year:

Kalika Kastein

Kastein, a senior double majoring in graphic design and philosophy/theology, chose to do a project on something she enjoys, she said. “My project is about the social construct of gender as it relates to our bodies and how by looking critically at expectations within gender roles it begins to break down and reveal inerrancies in itself,” said Kastein via email.

Kastein explores how art “subversively creates an inversion of the realistic and the fanciful, thus providing space for a hybrid, multi-faceted understanding of gender.”

Although art can portray women and their gender roles through photoshopped magazine ads, Kastein emphasizes that “art has the potential to present gender issues in a neutral and thought-provoking way,” therefore initiating dialogue that can challenge us to think.

Kastein found that narrowing down what she wanted to say became very difficult due to the abundance of research but that this allowed her to challenge her own conceptions of gender. She hopes her project will bring about awareness and dialogue about gender.

Allyse Kramer

Kramer, an athletic training major, has spent the last eight months researching how the pressures of being a collegiate athlete may affect the development of disordered eating. Kramer conducted her research using two pre-created surveys.

One survey identifies “at risk” athletes for developing an eating disorder. The other identifies where possible sources of pressure that an athlete might feel are coming from. Though her research is still in progress, Kramer has compared results from the surveys and found several correlations.

Kramer’s interest in nutrition and experience with athletes has shown her how important it is for athletes to eat correctly, she said.

“I have had many friends that have struggled with this issue and have also been able to see a lack of information reaching our athletes in this area,” said Kramer.

Kramer hopes to identify pressures that lead to the development of eating disorders with collegiate-level athletes and use that information to prevent further disorders from occurring.

Caleb Bryce

Bryce, an environmental science major, spent a summer researching and analyzing data in Costa Rica last summer. When he returned, he knew he had ample material for a honor’s project.

Bryce’s project used photo traps to monitor rainforest carnivores. He analyzed the presence of large predators such as jaguars and puma’s in neo-tropical forests and how they indicate a stable ecosystem due to the fact that these animals require “intact populations of prey lower on the food chain for survival,” he said.

“My honors project focuses not only on the results we attained last summer but also methods for improving the protocol we use for camera placement and data analysis with the hope of refining the process and improving the success of subsequent summers,” said Bryce.

Bryce, who will be the only returning member of the research group to Costa Rica this summer, has recently accepted an offer to UC Santa Cruz to earn his Ph.D. in comparative physiology.

Written by Kalyn McMackin

This story originally was published by The Point Weekly, the student newspaper for PLNU.