Honors Program Newsletter

Fall 2016

Feature Story

"Fulbright Scholar Experience"

Madeline Kasik ‘16

When I received the email that I had been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach English in South Korea, I felt both excitement and disbelief. Since I had no formal teaching experience, I was worried that I was not qualified to be a teacher. Even after a 120 hour TEFOL class and a six week orientation, I still felt nervous about teaching for the year. And truthfully, no matter how much I learned about Korea and teaching, I needed to actually experience teaching in order to see how I would do. Now, five months in, I can say that it is challenging. Some lessons, like “For or against (and Zombies)” go extremely well, and others just fail completely. But there is no better way to improve than to continuously try. I am not constantly getting better, but I am constantly trying, seeing what works with my students and what does not. As a cultural ambassador, I thought my role would be to be the “perfect” English teacher, but it is not like that. Instead, I find it more fulfilling to foster great relationships with my students. And while I was not prepared to be a teacher, it was my experiences at USD that helped me connect with my students. Because I had been a leader on campus, through PRIDE and Res Life, I felt comfortable leaning into discomfort and initiating conversations. Remembering my residents’ names helped me remember many of my 800 students’ names, and it both makes them happy and makes teaching much easier. My involvement in PRIDE left me with many fun games and activities that I now do with my students, and it is a happy reminder of all my friends back home. Instead of me trying by myself to be the best at English teaching, my students and I are learning and growing together. And I love it. Every day my students will come up and talk to me, or ask me questions, or make me laugh with something funny they did or said. While I am still learning about what it takes to be a good and effective teacher, I am constantly building loving and wonderful relationships with my middle school students. Each day is challenging, but it is also so unbelievably rewarding. But I do not think it would have been that way had I doubted myself and stopped making an effort. I have never been happier, and I am so grateful that I put myself out there and applied to Fulbright, and for the mentors at USD who encouraged me to do so. While I am unsure about what the future holds, I am thankful for this experience and for the people I’ve met because of it.

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Director's Report

Dr. Jim Gump, Honors Program Director

Established thirty-seven 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, eight Honors graduates have been recognized as class valedictorians and six 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 August, staff members from Outdoor Adventures accompanied twenty-nine incoming Honors students, Honors LLC director Dr. Kathryn Statler, and myself to Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park. In this third 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 Diana Fontaine (class of 2016), who is currently a research associate at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland. Also this fall Brianna Kirkpatrick (class of 2015), currently a recruiting coordinator for Adobe Systems in Silicon Valley, met with Honors students to discuss employment opportunities at Adobe. We also held an Honors Homecoming Reunion for Honors alumni in early October. Finally, the Honors Student Board, under the outstanding leadership of acting president Tim Holdsworth, has launched several initiatives this fall including a pre-election analysis and discussion featuring Drs. Alberto Pulido, Casey Dominguez, and Emily Edmonds-Poli. Tim, along with Sarah Weeks, Sydney Pidgeon, and Michael McGaw, also delivered a highly successful poster presentation on our Honors outreach efforts at the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) annual conference in Seattle in mid-October.

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

USD Postcards by the Honors Student Board

Michael Burrafato ‘16

USD Postcards, produced by the Honors Program, are now for sale in the Torero Store! You can find them at the cashier’s counter near the Blue Spoon. HSB initiated this project to market USD and generate profits for the Honors Program. Many of the photographs were taken by HSB President Tim Holdsworth.
Show off our beautiful campus to family, friends, and those enduring the cold weather in the North and East coast! The limited-time collection includes images of the Immaculata, aerial views of campus, and more.

Election Event

Tim Holdsworth '19

Before November 8th, we held an event in partnership with the Changemaker Hub to give students a space to meet and talk about the current state of politics and surrounding concerns. Along with dinner, students enjoyed a series of 10-minute talks from Dr. Dominguez, Dr. Pulido, and Dr. Edmonds based on the current political climate. The talks were followed with thirty minutes of small group discussions, where people engaged in healthy debate and dialogue.

Black Mountain Middle School Visit

Amanda White '20

This October, 100 students from Black Mountain Middle School came to campus to learn about the Honors Program and the school in general. Mckenna Wade, Tim Holdsworth, Kayla Weston, and I represented the Honors Program by speaking to the kids about our experiences and answering their questions. They asked about everything from GPA requirements to the perks we receive. One of them even asked about financial aid packages and “expected cost of attending,” a question that made him seem way older than he was. Together, we shared stories about our favorite classes, teachers, and LLC events as well as our plans for the future. We were thrilled to see their interest in college and specifically in the Honors Program! Hopefully we will be welcoming some of them as new Toreros in a couple of years!

Honors Resume Book

Tim Holdsworth '19

The Honors Resume Book is a project by the Honors Student Board in collaboration with the Career Development Center that is curating the talents, skills, and experiences of Honors Students. The goal is to connect students with exclusive internship and employment opportunities through Honors Alumni, employers, and partners who consistently seek out the high-quality students in the program. We received over 50 submissions this fall, and as we expand our efforts to directly connect alumni with right-fit students, we expect this number to raise significantly in the spring.

NCHC Recap

Sydney Pidgeon ‘19

Members of the Honors Student Executive Board and Honors Program attended the 51st Annual National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Seattle, Washington in October of this semester. With the support of Honors Program Director, Dr. James Gump and Honors Program Coordinator, Ms. Erin Prickett, four USD students in the Honors Program attended and presented at this conference. Sydney Pidgeon, Timothy Holdsworth, Sarah Weeks, and Michael Mcgaw presented on USD Honors Program’s Student Outreach within a culture of care.

Many exceptional honors programs presented on their student outreach activities to correspond with this year’s conference theme: Know Yourself. Pidgeon, Holdsworth, Weeks, and Mcgaw presented on how USD’s student outreach works within a culture of care by fostering relationships with current, past, and future students to allow the opportunity to know themselves and others better. This presentation was separated into four fundamental pillars: prospective students, current students, the local community, and alumni. Prospective students are connected to current Honors students through congratulatory phoning, a congratulatory video, and a virtual open house. These activities provide a venue for incoming students to make connections, explore interests, and ask questions. Current students have the opportunity to participate in the Insight LLC where they participate in events such as Swimming with Sharks and The Honors Ice Cream Social where they can learn about local issues, network with students and faculty, and build new communities. The local community outreach extends to both our local environment and local community members through a San Diego River Beach clean up and a Black Mountain Middle School Visit. Even after graduation, USD creates an environment for fostering greater relationships through Alumni Brown Bag Lunches. In this event, Honors alumni and current students build relationships, network, and allow for current students to gain insight on future positions they may be interested in.

In addition to presenting, attending workshops, and engaging in dialogue with hundreds of other students, faculty, and professional leaders, the students had the opportunity to explore several areas of Seattle. They went to Pike Place Market, walked to the Space Needle, and enjoyed the beautiful city. Through this experience, the members of the USD Honors Program shared their insights on student outreach and spoke with other university students and faculty on ways to further improve. They look forward to continuing to work to implement a space of service, outreach, and academic excellence within the USD community.

Undergraduate Internship Experience

Riley Henning ‘19

This past summer, I was selected to be the Life Support Systems Intern at the Georgia aquarium. I worked directly with the life support technicians, the water quality lab technicians, and the engineers that keep the 10 million gallons of water clean for over 100,000 animals. In the mornings I would turn on all of the water motion mechanisms, including the waterfall in the Asian Small Clawed Otter exhibit, and the wind simulation in our Ocean Voyager exhibit, home to our four whale sharks and four manta rays, among other species. I would take water samples from various ports, making sure that the salinity and other chemical levels were at optimal levels. Occasionally I got to make the new “batch” of salt water, which involved a forklift, a one ton bag of salt, and 8000 gallons of warm freshwater. The four biggest projects I worked on over the summer was the installation of flow meters in a new sand filtration system for our sea lion exhibit, the installation of a new chemical mixing tank for our beluga whales, the replacement of UV light bulbs in our UV filtration systems, and the reorganization and documentation of our departments standard operating procedure.

My shift started at 6:00am, and my favorite part of the experience was being one of the first people in the aquarium in the mornings. An average day sees 10,000 visitors in the aquarium, and being able to stand in front of an exhibit by yourself is rare. Not only did I get to see the aquarium in a new light, I got to interact with the animals one on one and get to know them on a more personal level. It was definitely an amazing experience, and I learned so much on topics ranging from water chemistry to engineering. I miss going into the Georgia Aquarium every day and spending time with my coworkers, but I have taken away valuable knowledge that I can now apply to my education in the Environmental and Ocean Sciences.

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Study Abroad Corner


Michael Schwabe '18

Along with the Honors Program, my decision to attend the University of San Diego was strongly influenced by the strength of the study abroad office. This past semester, I had the opportunity to fulfill my dreams and study abroad in Prague, Czech Republic. When people asked me why I chose Prague, my response used to center around the central location and lack of a foreign language requirement. However, my experience has built upon my initial answer. I have discovered a unique city filled with wonder and a tumultuous past of cultural and political unrest that still influences the Czech culture. Prague’s central location allowed me to travel solo for two weeks; it was during this time I found an inner confidence and learned to embrace the world around me on my own. Split between Eastern and Western Europe, Prague is a midpoint between the two sides and allowed me to experience the extremes of the two cultures. Every study abroad experience is unique and I am thankful for my time in Prague. With an open mind and a sense of adventure, it is impossible to have a poor semester abroad. I encourage anyone studying abroad to not limit themselves and pursue any fleeting passions.


Madeleine Stockton '18

Studying abroad this semester was such an amazing experience! I had the opportunity to live and study in Madrid, Spain, and I had a blast. The food, culture, and siesta lifestyle is one that was truly unique. Spain has such an incredible history, and I loved being able to travel around Europe. My travels taught me that good friends will always eat more dessert with you, that public transportation is always the way to go, and that going to the wrong airport for a flight really does happen (learn from my mistakes and check your boarding passes early). If you’re on the fence about studying abroad, you should definitely decide to do it. It was one of the best experiences of my life!


Maddy Peters '18

This past semester, I had the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. It has been an incredible four months, and I’ve gotten to see and experience more places than I ever thought I would be able to. I might be biased, but Edinburgh is the best city in the world, and Scotland is an equally wonderful country. The best part of the study abroad experience for me has been the amount of travel I’ve gotten to do. In addition to seeing most of Scotland, I also visited 13 other countries! I’ve learned so much about myself along the way, and gained a huge amount of confidence and independence. Meeting people from around the world is exciting, and being immersed in different cultures is fun and interesting. Not to mention all the amazing new foods you get to try (my other favorite part of studying abroad). If you’re on the fence about going abroad, don’t hesitate to do it! It was the best decision I’ve made in college. It’s a once in a lifetime adventure not to be missed.

Study Abroad and Student Success

Rachel Stein ‘16

Hi everyone!  My name is Rachel Stein and I’m a Mechanical Engineering student in the Honors Program and will be graduating this December! Part of graduating from the Honors Program includes completing thesis research and presenting it to the USD community. This project is an awesome opportunity for students to showcase their skills they’ve learned while talking about a topic they are passionate about! My project was called “Adventure Is Out There: The Correlation Between Study Abroad Participation and Student Success” which took a look the how going abroad during one’s time at USD would affect their experience here. To my pleasure, the research showed that studying abroad makes a student more likely to have a higher GPA, more likely to have connections on campus, more likely to enjoy their time at USD, and helps a student grow personally by making them more independent and expanding their knowledge of the world!

I myself studied abroad in London for three weeks during the Summer of 2014. I took a class called Introduction to Thermal Sciences, which helped me fill requirements for my engineering major while collecting some Honors credits! Going abroad was something I looked forward to since the time I toured USD as a high schooler. When I came here as a first-year student, I loved listening to older Toreros talk about their travels abroad and couldn’t wait for my own adventure. However, when a friend of mine (who was also an engineering major) and I realized that there weren’t very many classes abroad that helped us complete our degree requirements, we talked to a professor and several other students who were interested in going abroad and got enough people together to create our class! Spending the summer in London was by far one of my favorite experiences during my time as a student here. Our professor did a wonderful job of teaching us about engineering principles during the class time, and then taking us to museums to learn about the English Industrial Revolution where many of these lessons came to life. I had such a wonderful time exploring the city of London with my classmates, where I got to learn so much about myself, the English culture, all while making new friends I’m still connected with today!

I truly think that every USD student should take a class abroad if they can! It’s an opportunity to explore the world, make new friends, and learn so much more about yourself all while taking classes towards your degree. If you’re not sure which abroad program is best for you, I suggest going to the International Center to explore all of the different options that they have here. And if they don’t offer a program that’s quite what you’re looking for, find a group of friends and a professor who are passionate a class or location, and you can start a whole new program! Take advantage of the exciting opportunities USD has to offer, you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime while gaining a whole new perspective on the world!

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Team-Taught Descriptions and Credit Distributions 


Professors Fred Robinson (ENGL) and Jan Gist (THEA)

What does it mean to find the voice of a text? What is your own authentic voice? How can these two voices be made one so that you express yourself as you express the text? How can the voice emanating from your body, breath and mind express the language, imagery and meaning/intention of the text – that is, deliver the text, not only to yourself but to an audience. We will read plays, poems and stories, as well as a variety of materials on voice and speech skills. Class will meet once a week and time will be divided into 1) brief vocal exercises, 2) analytical discussions of a text, and 3) rehearsed and formal recitations to the class. At the end of the semester, we will hold a public reading involving all students. We will also require attendance at one literary reading and one play, on or off campus. Texts will include a short anthology of poems, three or four plays (including Shakespeare), and handouts of short stories + numerous handouts of essays, speeches, monologues, etc. This class will be valuable for majors in any field requiring analyses of texts, for students entering any field of work after school that involves talking and writing expressively, and for students who personally want their own voices to be more expressive and/or who want to hear more of the writer’s voice in what they read.

This course will satisfy upper-division major/minor requirements in English and Theatre, as well as Core English Literature.


Professors Vidya Nadkarni (POLS) and Kathryn Statler (HIST)

With the Cold War’s end in 1989 and the Soviet collapse in late 1991, President George H.W. Bush announced a “new world order” underpinned by cooperation among the major powers. And yet, as early as 1993, President Clinton’s CIA nominee James Woolsey warned against emerging security threats to the United States, observing that “we have slain a large dragon, but we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes. And in many ways, the dragon was easier to keep track of.” Military interventions during the Cold War occurred in contested areas all over the world as the United States and the Soviet Union jockeyed for power and influence. These interventions saw the interplay of both ideology and interests with complex geopolitical and strategic goals that often overlooked the national aspirations and needs of the target states, many of which were far more concerned with the process of decolonization than Cold War imperatives. Such interventions have continued during the post- Cold War period for humanitarian and economic reasons, to preserve geo-political dominance, and in order to combat the new menance of terrorism. In this class, we will explore whether we should miss the Cold War with respect to military intervention, weighing whether such interventions have been more, or less, complicated post Cold War. We begin with an examination of the origins both of the Cold War and of Islamic fundamentalist movements, focusing on case studies from the Cold War era (the Korean War, the Vietnam War) and post- Cold War U.S.-led interventions (Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria). We will alternate between interactive lectures (from two faculty members who will provide historical and political science perspectives), seminar-style discussions, and debates. Readings will be supplemented with documentaries and movies, as appropriate.

This course can satisfy upper-division elective credit in POLS or HIST.


Professors Linda Barkacs (ETLW) and Craig Barkacs (MGMT)

This course explores the science and art of negotiation in an international environment conducted, in part, within a computer-mediated environment. The science will be learned largely through readings and discussions of the readings. The art will be learned by participating in simulated negotiations and critiques of those negotiation processes and outcomes. The course will enhance students’ awareness of the prevalence of negotiation and its impact on business organizations. Students completing the course should be able to identify the principles of negotiation, to recognize and appreciate the impact of culture (especially international differences in culture) on negotiations, to develop negotiating objectives and strategies, to apply principles and tools to different negotiating environments (especially computer-mediated environments), and to identify the negotiation principles and tools that work best for the student. Students should aalso find their communication skills enhanced and their insights into other cultures broadened.

This course can satisfy upper-division elective credit in the Business Administration major/minor.


Professors 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.

This course will satisfy upper-division major/minor requirements in THRS and MUSC. It can also satisfy Core Fine Arts or upper-division Core THRS.

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The Honors Thesis: Tips from Survivors

Kameron LeCalli ‘16

  • Do your thesis in the specific field or industry you want to be in, as it’s a huge resume booster; I received a job offer after talking almost exclusively about my thesis project during my interviews.
    • If you’re unsure about what to do, ask multiple professors in your department about relevant subjects in their field, and what an undergrad student would be able to tackle.
  • Choose your adviser carefully - you obviously want them to be accomplished and knowledgeable on the subject, but it’s almost more important that you simply enjoy spending time with them! It makes the process much smoother if you can comfortably go in their office and just talk.
  • Start the paper earlier than you think you should, even if it means skimping on some of the technical stuff. It’s almost expected that an undergraduate thesis won’t be perfectly meticulous, or that things will go wrong, so it’s better to focus on putting together a comprehensive and complete presentation of your work, rather than rush the compilation and have a confusing or disorganized paper.
  • You’ve already put in the work and created a lengthy academic paper, so you might as well try to get your written thesis published in an academic journal, or presented at a conference, if you can. This is a huge plus on a grad school application, especially for research focused programs. This also means choosing a thesis topic that a relevant journal/conference would want to accept.
  • While you do want to do a good job on your thesis, don’t work yourself too hard-- it’s senior year!

Olivia Burns ‘16

  • Begin. The best way to get something done is to begin it. Whether it is writing a primary literature review or applying for jobs, just start. It will reduce apprehension and the amount of time needed to finish it later.
  • Find a way to relieve stress, and do it often. For me, that was running. If I could get a run in everyday, even a short one, living that day was much better.
  • Go to office hours. Make your advisor your best friend as soon as possible.
  • Stop saying you’re busy. It is not helping you or anyone you tell. Accept the business, and let it motivate you to be successful.
  • Work with manageable pieces, and don’t be afraid to change each piece along the way. Your thesis is not your baby, it is your recipe. Tweaking, remaking, sharing, and redoing are important.
  • Present your passion. It makes the content and your presentation more engaging and worthwhile.

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Future Team Taughts

Fall 2017

  • Dead Man Walking: Capital Punishment in the United States
    • Professors Cynthia Caywood and Gary Jones. Taken for ENGL/PHIL credit
  • Prison Culture and Communication
    • ProfessorsJonathan Bowman and Erik Fritsvold. Taken for COMM/SOCI credit
  • Plagues, Politics, and Preservation: The Environment in the Ancient World
    • Professors Ryan Abrecht and Andrew Tirrell. Taken for HIST/POLS credit
  • Art and Architecture in the 1960s: Intersections and Collisions
    • Professors Shannon Starkey and Sally Yard. Taken for ARCH/ARTH credit

Spring 2018

  • The Social Capital of Social Media
    • Professors Bradley Bond and Justine Rapp. Taken for COMM/MKTG credit
  • Whiteness in Higher Education and Christianity
    • Professors Karen Teel and Lisa Nunn. Taken for THRS/SOCI credit
  • Bombs Away!
    • Professors Kathryn Statler and Daniel Sheehan. Taken for HIST/PHYS credit
  • Environmental Fluid Mechanics
    • Professors Frank Jacobitz and Jennifer Prairie. Taken for ENGR/ENVI credit

Fall 2018

  • Conflict Diagnosis & Dispute Resolution in a Global Environment
    • Professors Craig Barkacs and Linda Barkacs. Taken for MGMT/ETLW credit
  • Sound & Spirit in Monsoon Asia
    • Professors Lance Nelson and Christopher Adler. Taken for THRS/MUSC credit
  • Music, Borders, Identities
    • Professors David Harnish and Alberto Pulido. Taken for MUSC/ETHN credit
  • Versions of the Pastoral in America Art & Literature
    • Professors Irene Williams and Derrick Cartwright. Taken for ENGL/ARTH credit

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