Honors Program Newsletter

Fall 2015

Feature Story

"Oxford Blackfriars Program Experience"

Emma Doolittle, '17

Last April I accepted an offer to study abroad at Oxford University for a semester. Five months later, I arrived in the United Kingdom with a reading list, a laptop, and not a clue what to expect. Oxford is beautiful; it’s a city of endless spires peppered between gorgeous gothic architecture, cobblestone streets, and historic pubs. The university is the heart and soul of the city with over forty colleges and private halls spread over many miles, interspersed with a culture that makes it difficult to leave. I was affiliated with Blackfriars Hall, operated by catholic friars who enthusiastically welcomed overseas students into their community. I lived in a red brick Victorian house, took a double decker bus to class everyday, and had access to the Bodleian, one of the most famous libraries in the world. Oxford is taught on the tutorial system rather than with lectures and exams. The rigor of my program was initially intimidating; I was expected to read extensively, learn independently, as well as write and defend two to three lengthy papers every week. The program is demanding and challenging, but the advantage of this system is that you work one on one with a tutor who is an expert in your field of study. They read your work, discuss your arguments, and challenge you to think critically. The tutorials tended to be informal, one of my tutors had a cat that would sit with us as we discussed the topics of the week over a cup of tea. In addition to academics, I participated in formal dinners, attended informal social events that generally involved a lot of tea and scones, and travelled to different cities in the UK and Europe as often as possible. Overall, Blackfriars is an outstanding program that combines the rigor and prestige of Oxford University with the fun cultural experiences that come with being an international student. My time in Oxford has been rewarding and engaging, and I could not have asked for a better semester abroad!

Read more about Emma’s experience in Oxford on her blog

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Director's Report

Dr. Jim Gump, Honors Program Director

Established thirty-six years ago to promote interdisciplinary learning and undergraduate research, strengthen the intellectual climate of the campus, and maintain the vision of the liberal arts as central to the college experience, the Honors Program has become the most prestigious and competitive academic program on campus. The hallmarks of the program—the first year Honors LLC, upper division team-taught interdisciplinary seminars, and a senior thesis—continue to define the curricular experience and help produce some of our best and brightest students. Over the past decade for example, seven Honors graduates have been recognized as class valedictorians and five Honors students have won Fulbright Scholarships. Honors graduates have also achieved great success in nonprofits, medicine, law, business, education, and politics. In many ways, the Honors Program has been instrumental in shaping the university into a student-centered, research-focused, nationally ranked institution of higher learning.

Erin Prickett (Honors Program Coordinator) and I are very excited about the continuing success of our Honors initiatives. This past July, staff members from Outdoor Adventures accompanied twenty-one incoming Honors students and faculty member Dr. Michael Mayer to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. In this second annual pre-O venture, designed exclusively for the Honors Program, our students spent a week camping, hiking, kayaking, and bonding. According to Outdoor Adventures program manager Mark Ceder, the Channel Islands excursion continues to be their most successful pre-O experience. Once the fall semester began, we also continued our Brown Bag luncheon series, in which we invited current Honors students to engage with a distinguished Honors alumnus. In October students interacted with Kate Sheets (class of 2007), who is currently an attorney in the corporate department at the international law firm Proskauer in Los Angeles. Kate was class valedictorian in 2007 with a double major in History and Business Administration. Her presentation was sensational--she shared her fondest memories of USD campus life and offered sage advice on getting the most out of the undergraduate experience. Finally, the Honors Student Board, under the outstanding leadership of Michael Burrafato and Kristen Obana, has launched several initiatives this year including the Honors Network and High Tea with the President. Three members of the Board—Michael Burrafato, Margaret Driscoll, and Madeleine Stockton—delivered a highly successful poster presentation on the pillars of our program at the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) annual conference in Chicago in mid- November.

Our program’s continued success leaves me humbled and honored to work with so many talented students, faculty, and staff. As a result, I am confident that our program will confront all future opportunities as well as challenges with vision and resolve.

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Program News

New HSB Members

Sarah Weeks, '19

I am the Director of Student Affairs on the board. I have been helping with the upcoming event Tea with the President. We have been brainstorming event details and spent time planning the budget and creating the invitations. I’m intending to major in Behavioral Neuroscience and minor in Chemistry. My goal is to go to medical school after college and become a pediatrician. Both my brother and my dad went to school here!

Katarina Zivec, '19

On the HSB, I work in the PR, as well as help out our Secretary. We have been working on the event Tea with the President which is a really exciting project for us. So far, we have been coming up with some ideas and coordinating everything; my role was to figure out the catering. The academic area I am most interested in besides my major (political science) is modern history; I just think that it can offer so many great lessons. Besides, it is connected to politics quite a lot.

Tim Holdsworth, '19

I am the treasurer. I have been taking pictures for the postcards and putting together the pitch for the student store to attempt to fundraise with them. Electrical engineering is my intended major, and a fun fact about me is that I’m left handed, but I prefer the right handed desks.

Michael Dopkiss, '19

My position on the Honors Student Board is public relations. Currently, I have been working on preparation for Tea with the President, an Honors event scheduled for next semester - something we are very excited about. One responsibility of mine has been creating the email invitations. I am interested in business and finance, but I am still exploring options for my intended major. I am also fascinated by entrepreneurship and researching the origins and growth of different companies.

National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) conference

By Madeleine Stockton '18 and Michael Burrafato '16

Members of the Honors Student Executive Board attended the 50th Annual National Collegiate Honors Council in Chicago this semester. Under the leadership of Honors Program Director Dr. James Gump and Honors Program Coordinator Ms. Erin Prickett, Board members Michael Burrafato (President), Margaret Driscoll (VP of Public Relations), and Madeleine Stockton (Treasurer) presented the best practices and framework of the Honors Program at the University of San Diego.

The framework, which was delineated in a Parthenon-like construct, included the Honors Program’s foundation of Values, Objectives, and Long-Term Vision that supports the three fundamental pillars of the Program: the Honors LLC Experience, Interdisciplinary Learning, and Professional Development. The capstone of the Program is completed by the composition of the Honors Research Thesis, the apex of our undergraduate collegiate experience. The Board met and interacted with other presenters as well as faculty, staff, and students to explain the program. They also heard students from other universities present their research topics, and attended various group sessions to learn about fundraising, improving retention rates, senior capstones, and the use and benefits of the implementation of ePortfolios.

In addition to meeting the hundreds of students, faculty, and professional leaders in attendance, the Board had the opportunity to explore several sites within the city of Chicago. At the Art Institute of Chicago, the students and advisors admired the extensive Impressionist collection, as well as other various exhibits on display. They explored the famous Michigan Avenue and ate copious amounts of Garrett Popcorn. After almost being blown away by the wind, the Board visited the famous Cloud Gate monument, commonly known as the Bean. They took traditional tourist pictures and even witnessed, as Treasurer Madeleine Stockton stated, “the most epic photobomb of all time” by an unexpected stranger (pictured at bottom; photobomber at left). Through this experience, the Honors Program continues to lead the highest standards of academics, service, and professionalism.

Upcoming Event: Tea with the President

The Honors Student Board is excited to present the first annual Tea with the President! Please join us in kicking off the Spring 2016 semester with this terrific event on Wednesday, February 17th from 5-7 pm in the Degheri Alumni Center. Students will enjoy tea with President Dr. James T. Harris, III, who will deliver a brief presentation about tips for success. Students will also bring a resume to be included in the Honors Resume Book, which will be distributed by the Career Development Center to various employers. For information on how to sign-up for this special event, be sure to read your Monday Mail!

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Study Abroad Corner

Cork, Ireland

By Mary Beth Putz, '17

This semester I’m studying in Cork, Ireland. Even though the rainy weather is quite the change from San Diego, I love the city so much! I’ve been enjoying exploring Ireland and traveling throughout Europe. One of my favorite experiences was when I went to the Vatican and had the opportunity to see Pope Francis and receive his blessing.

Florence, Italy

by Abbey Solnet, '17

I’m abroad in Florence, Italy (the cradle of the Renaissance). My semester has been filled with adventures traveling throughout Italy and Europe, and honestly my favorite part has been walking through the streets of Florence. Nowhere else in the world could I say, ‘I live on the same street as the famous Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, Piazza Repubblica, Ponte Vecchio, and Pitti Palace!’

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Team-Taught Descriptions and Credit Distributions

Sound and Spirit in Monsoon Asia

Drs. Christopher Adler (MUSC) and Lance Nelson (THRS)

In this course, we will examine the history of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam in South and Southeast Asia and trace their incorporation into Southeast Asian kingdoms. We will contrast these with the indigenous traditions of diverse hill peoples who resisted incorporation into the large kingdoms of Southeast Asia. We will examine a number of the musical traditions that arose within these interacting religious civilizations, and examine some of the diverse indigenous animist beliefs and cultural practices that persist in the modern context. Music, whether in ceremony, entertainment, or daily life, is a vehicle for the enactment and transmission of religious, artistic and cultural values. Tracing the common religious threads from South Asia through Southeast Asia, we will reveal the underlying beliefs and aesthetics that link cultures across the region, as well as clarify the distinctions resulting from local circumstances, indigenous cultural practices, other transregional influences, and idiosyncratic fusions of changing belief systems.

HNRS 390: 3 units THRS, 1 unit MUSC

HNRS 391: 3 units MUSC, 1 unit THRS

Prison: Communication and Culture

Drs. Jonathan Bowman (COMM) and Erik Fritsvold (SOCI)

This course marshals cornerstone communication studies theory as a lens into understanding the dynamic and contentious lived experience of prison culture. This interdisciplinary, cross-cultural, critical investigation of prison culture demands a mastery of the seminal theoretical perspectives on group formation and interaction within and beyond the incarceration experience. America has nearly 2.4 million people behind bars, including roughly 1.6 million in state and federal prisons. There is a bountiful legacy of scholarship that examines the power dynamic, lived experiences and culture behind bars; in short, culture and communication matter. Yet, the subtle nuances of prison life are oft misunderstood by the general population. Prison is sometimes viewed as a different “world” by the unincarcerated, and yet many of the complex social interactions follow similar patterns to those studied in more traditional cultures outside the prison walls. This course will use communication theory from a small group and interpersonal perspective to allow understanding and explanation of the unique way that communication—and general social interaction—shapes one’s experience upon incarceration. From initial first-impression stages of relationship development to the complex ways that people structure and negotiate impressions in order to send messages to perceived “others,” communication theorists have much to say about the nature and structure of communication events within the contraventions of the prison system.

HNRS 382: 3 units COMM, 1 unit SOCI

HNRS 383: 3 units SOCI, 1 unit COMM

It's About Time

Drs. Daniel Sheehan (PHYS) and Halina Duraj (ENGL)

Time lies at the heart of the human condition and science’s description of the natural world. Nothing ’happens’ without it. Despite its seeming familiarity it remains elusive, mysterious, paradoxical. This team-taught, upper-division honors class will explore the phenomenon of time through the lenses of literature and physics. The course will incorporate classroom lectures and discussion, student presentations, visits by experts, laboratory experiments, readings of technical material, novels and short stories, as well as an occasional Friday-night movie. A premium will be placed on integrating the subject matter across the traditional divide between the humanities and sciences. 80% of the class’s subject matter will be shared, while the remaining 20% will be enrichment materials for either humanities or science majors, overseen by the appropriate instructor. The class will be sufficiently rigorous to satisfy major requirements in several disciplines.

HNRS 322: 3 units PHYS, 1 unit ENGL

HNRS 323: 3 units ENGL, 1 unit PHYS

Journalism and Literature in Spanish America

Drs. Julia Medina (SPAN) and Antonieta Mercado (COMM)

This course explores the interdependence between the fictional and the journalistic tradition in Spanish America, the world that goes from Tierra de Fuego to Alaska. Journalism is fundamental to the modernity of the region, and its development involves migrant exchanges that include the United States. Periodical were favored because they were easily produced and distributed, whereas books had been banned by the Spanish colonial regime. The lettered city thus forged its intellectual platform in newspapers. This medium and intersection has been crucial in the Speaking Americas, where the newspaper served to develop writers and readers, as well as national and local configurations of identity and of modernity that continue to define the area today. Certain traditional fictional genres, such as the novel and the short story, and even the corrido, have emerged from newspaper production, thereby conditioning both registers/discourses. This interdependence is often manifested in the content as well as in the form of both journalistic and fictional production. The course will survey the development of this phenomenon historically, pausing at important junctures of production and ending in the contemporary period.

HNRS 324: 3 units SPAN, 1 unit COMM

HNRS 325: 3 units COMM, 1 unit SPAN

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The Ultimate Guide to Study Spaces on Campus

Margaret Driscoll, '18

A good—or bad—study space can make or break the semester. If it is too quiet, it can be difficult to get into a groove; if it is too loud, the distractions can lower productivity. If your chair is too comfortable, you could wake up in a panic; if it is too uncomfortable it can discourage long study sessions. This semester, I’ve been unfortunate in having gaps between classes that were long enough to necessitate doing homework, but short enough that I had to stay on main campus instead of return to my couch in my vista (my original study zone). So naturally, this semester I have scoured the campus to find the quietest, the busiest, the serenest, the most obscure study spaces!


  • Copley Stacks- very quiet, comfortable chairs
  • Harry Potter Reading Room- silent, focused atmosphere
  • Reading Room upstairs SOLES- very quiet, comfortable chairs, large tables and sofas
  • Alumni Center- little-known, quiet
  • Exhibit Hall by Torero Store- silent study space
  • 3rd Floor Shiley Tables- quiet, surrounded by people who could help with sciences
  • 1st floor UC’s- low tables (not good if you need a surface), comfortable sofas, sometimes piano playing
  • Desks upstairs IPJ (to the right on either side)- little known, secluded, comfortable chairs
  • Honors Program Conference Room- quiet, big table, comfortable rolling chairs, Keurig


  • Aroma’s- music playing, general bustle
  • La Paloma- quieter than Aroma’s, busy
  • Bert’s Bistro- quiet bustle, my personal favorite
  • Tables in Serra- comfortable chairs, can get loud during passing time
  • Upstairs SLP- can get loud, but lots of tables and food nearby
  • Missions Cafe- great music, just enough activity
  • Downstairs Olin- sofas and chairs/tables, can be loud or quiet


  • SLP Roof- beautiful view, open during day
  • Patio by One Stop Student Center- quiet, secluded, tables and chairs
  • Courtyard behind Shiley- quiet, secluded, good view
  • Courtyard beside Olin- some tables, but current construction nearby
  • Outside Aroma’s- quiet, lots of tables especially near Health Center
  • Outside Bert’s- beautiful view, quiet
  • Outside of Frank’s Lounge- fireplaces, comfortable chairs Above: Keurig with tea
  • Garden of the Sea behind IPJ- quiet, beautiful view, no tables and coffee in SLP 409

Group Study

  • Missions Crossroads- sofas and tables
  • Copley Private Study Rooms- reserve at http://libcal.sandiego.edu/booking/groupstudy
  • Honors Program Conference Room- SLP 409, reserve through Erin Prickett in the office, pictured above
  • Upstairs SLP- no reservations, so can be hard to find a table

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