Honors Program Newsletter

Spring 2016

Three Set of Twins Graduate from Honors Program

Allyson and Kaitlin Meyer, ‘16

Over four years ago, Kaitlin and I made the decision to attend the University of San Diego. During the
college search, we hadn’t given much thought to whether we’d go to the same university. We figured we’d
go where we both knew we would grow. Touring the USD campus during our senior year of high school,
though, we both fell in love with it - we’d both be Toreros. We’ve been able to pursue our own paths,
Communication/Public Relations for me and Kaitlin in Political Science/Peace Studies. Over the past four
years at USD we’ve grown both in our career goals and in who we are as individuals. We’ve also shared
many of the same experiences, from founding the USD chapter of Habitat for Humanity to presenting our
Honors Theses and being accepted into Phi Beta Kappa, we’ve been able to share these impactful moments
with each other. We came to USD as the Meyer twins, but we’ll be leaving as more than that. For Kaitlin, the
next step may be fellowships or political staff positions and eventually law school. For me, the next step will
be community outreach, with plans to pursue a master’s in public relations. We’re not sure what the future
will be, but just knowing that we get to experience it together makes the next chapter all the more exciting.

Melissa and Michelle Stencil, '16

When we both decided to go to USD we were a little hesitant that we wouldn’t be seen as individuals.
There are always the times when someone completely unknown to us comes up and hugs us thinking it’s
the other one, but we have just learned to correct them and laugh in those awkward moments- we always
come home with great stories for the other! Four years later, though, we have the most amazing
community through the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship who love us each as individuals. We have been
able to grow closer together through this organization but also grow individually, leading different teams
and doing different urban mission trips this past summer (which was actually the first time we spent 6
weeks apart with no contact other than letter writing!) This experience was definitely life-changing for each
of us and actually inspired us both to do Teach for America after graduation. We will be working at different
schools so are excited to support each other in this next journey!

Alexandra and Jordan Vaughn, '16

As twins that have gone to the same school since preschool, we believe that by having each other from day
one of life, we were able to be more comfortable and secure in ourselves. It was always nice having that
person to turn to throughout college. Because so many twins did go to USD, we didn’t really feel special or
unique. We did, however, have different friends in classes without the other, leading to some awkward hugs
and waiving at people we just assumed the other twin knew! Our separate classes did help us to develop
an identity without each other. Although we did have the same major, our minors were different (Heck,
we were even in the same sorority!). Overall our sisterhood has grown, for we have dealt with each other
growing up and discovering our own identities. After we graduate we both will be moving on to separate
graduate schools: Alex for mental health counseling and Jordan at Chapman University for marriage and
family therapy. Ultimately, we both loved our experience at USD and thought that it was cool that we could
maintain our separate school lives but have the same friend group throughout college. Let’s just say, we
aren’t ready to leave and start lives away from USD or away from each other (but either way it’s happening)!

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Director's Report

Dr. Jim Gump, Honors Program Director

For the Honors Program, the 2015-16 academic year has been one of innovation and spectacular student success. Even before the fall semester began, twenty-one incoming first year Honors students participated in our second pre-orientation camping trip to Santa Cruz Island in the 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 classes began in the fall semester, first year Honors students began to participate in their Living Learning Community activities, which included a snorkeling adventure amongst leopard sharks at La Jolla Shores Beach and a brunch and research symposium featuring Dr. Andrew Dickson, one of the world’s leading experts on ocean acidification. We also continued our Brown Bag Luncheon series that features successful Honors alumna. 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. We closed out the fall semester with another distinction: Erin Prickett, Honors Program Coordinator, earned a well-deserved campus Employee Recognition Award.

Over the course of the year Honors students have continued to play a leading role in the intellectual life of the campus. Last November Erin Prickett and I accompanied four members of the Honors Student Board to the annual National Collegiate Honors Council conference held in Chicago, Illinois. The Honors Student Board itself blossomed under the leadership of Michael Burrafato and Kristen Obana, who organized highly successful events such as Tea with the President. Honors seniors participated in the Senior Thesis Seminar as well as Creative Collaborations and delivered sophisticated presentations on a broad range of topics, including humanitarian engineering, corporate tax inversion, the International Criminal Court, peace-building and reconciliation, Mexican labor movements, brown carbon aerosol formation, transnational terrorism, the internet of things, and biochemical, historical, economic, theological, sociological, psychological, and literary analysis. Honors seniors (as well as several juniors) are well represented in the cohort elected to Phi Beta Kappa this spring, comprising nearly fifty per cent of all initiates. Our seniors have also been selected to prestigious graduate and professional programs, including UC San Francisco, Washington University, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, USC, and San Francisco State, and others will take up employment with accounting firms, investment banks, pharmaceutical companies, the Smithsonian, and Teach for America. Finally, the Honors Program this spring produced its eighth class valedictorian since 2000, Behavioral Neuroscience major Marta Stojanovic, and its sixth Fulbrighter, Madeline Kasik, a double major in History and Sociology. As these examples suggest, Honors students epitomize academic excellence and intellectual engagement, qualities that will continue to define our great Honors Program into the future.

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Program News

Fulbright Scholarship Spotlight

Madeline Kasik, '16

When I was entering my first year of college, my preceptorial advisor, Dr. Gump, told us about how he, as the President of the Fulbright scholarship at USD, was currently helping students apply for the program. He described the program and how he had used it to get his Masters in New Zealand. As I listened to him speak, I felt rather intimidated: the program seemed very rigorous, and I did not think that I was qualified enough to apply. That was fall of 2012. Little did I know, four years later, I would end up getting a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in South Korea.

The Fulbright Scholarship was developed by US Senator J.William Fulbright in the 1940s as a way for people to engage in a cultural exchange. There are three main programs: teaching English, doing research, or studying. The yearlong program sends you to a country of your choice after a detailed application process that is due in the fall of your senior year.

I would not have applied for the Fulbright scholarship had I not received the support that I had. Even after I started the application process, I struggled with how to write a convincing statement of grant purpose and personal statement. I remember going to my advisor, Dr. Spiegel’s, office to talk to him about it. I remember him saying: “Maddie, if you don’t advocate for yourself, then who is going to?” That pep talk really helped me with my essays, and only begins to describe the amount of support I received, particularly from the faculty, when applying. Not only did Dr. Gump encourage me to apply to the program, but he was quick to answer any question that I had about the application process. He even was my sounding board as I debated between applying to Argentina, which I love, or taking a chance and applying to South Korea, as I did not know any Korean and have never been there, but was really interested in applying. After I decided to apply to South Korea, Dr. Kirkley agreed to write my letter of reccommendation and would listen to me as I struggled with my personal statement, even going so far as to scrap the entire thing and rewrite it the day before it was due (Don’t do this). After Dr. Williams and Dr. Gump read my essays in the official USD application process (which is about a week before the application is due), Dr. Williams read it several more times and offered suggestions. Other professors, like Dr. Sun, Dr. Dominguez, and Dr. Nadkarni, would stop and offer me constant support whenever I saw them. They believed in me when I doubted myself.

If you are considering what to do after you graduate: whether it is traveling, doing research, continuing your education, or doing a year of service to teach English abroad, I recommend applying for the Fulbright scholarship. Not only did applying give me the experience of a lifetime, but it also showed me how loved and supported I am here at USD, and how much our professors genuinely care. I was nervous about applying for the Fulbright scholarship: where do I apply? How do I explain that I’m qualified? What if I don’t get in? Through this process though, I learned to believe and have confidence in myself. I am so excited to teach in South Korea for the coming year, and could not have done so without many peoples’ support, for which I am forever thankful. So if you are thinking of what to do after graduation, please know: there are many opportunities offered to us, and that we should take a chance and reach out to them. You never know what they may lead to.

Goldwater Scholarship Spotlight

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established in 1986 by Senator Barry Goldwater. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in these fields. Each four-year university was allowed to nominate 4 applicants totaling 1,150 undergraduates from 415 colleges and universities nationwide. Thirty undergraduates from California were selected based on state of residence with one representative from USD, Taylor Cottle. Taylor is a junior at USD studying Biochemistry and Music. He has been a part of undergraduate research for the last 6 years, starting at UCSD in protein folding then continuing at USD working in Dr. Provost’s lab. At USD he studies protein interactions in non-small cell lung cancer with the hopes understanding the molecular mechanisms behind lung and other cancers. When not in lab or studying, he enjoys playing cello and piano, and singing with the USD Choral scholars.

Taylor Cottle ‘17- Spring 2016 Recipient
I am very proud to represent USD as a recipient of this award. I couldn’t have done any of this without the generous support of the department, particularly my research advisor Dr. Provost. Being selected from thousands of undergrads is very rewarding. It motivates me to continue my pursuit of research and high education so I can eventually lead my own lab to important discoveries. I’m planning on getting a PhD in Biochemistry or Molecular Biology and will be applying to graduate schools in the fall.


Emily Bezold, '17

This spring, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the English and Medieval and Renaissance Studes Departments held the Sonnet-a-thon, a 5 hour event where students and teachers could perform one of the Bard’s immortal sonnets (or a sonnet by another bard, we don’t discriminate here). It was an incredible experience as the turn out was way more than we expected (all the desserts were gone within the hour they were laid out). Some professors mandated performances or allowed them to be extra credit, and the varieties of performances were all incredible. I, as the intern for the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Minor, helped host the program, from planning the menu, to setting up, to registering those who performed, and to cleaning up afterwards. I even performed two sonnets myself! I enjoyed getting to act a little as I read them, but not as much as seeing what my fellow students did to turn these individual sonnets into entertaining ensemble scenes and entrancing musical pieces. I believe everyone who attended enjoyed themselves, and I hope we will be able to put on another Sonnet-a-thon next spring!

Team-Taught Spotlight

This semester, Drs. Lance Nelson and Christopher Adler team-taught the course Sound & Spirit in Monsoon Asia. In one of their classes, guest professor David Harnish led a Balinese gamelan lesson with the honors students. Sound & Spirit in Monsoon Asia will be offered again in Spring 2017.

Undergraduate Research Publication

Kyra Thrush, '18

When I was a Freshman, I knew that I wanted to do research—my ultimate goal is grad school, so obviously research would be a huge component of my graduate (and hopefully undergraduate) education. In fact, one of the huge reasons that I came to USD was because of the Office of Undergraduate Research’s work in promoting research opportunities to students. Despite this, as a freshman, the potential to do research still seemed a ways off, and I hadn’t honestly thought about it that much. I was connected to my current research group when I went to ask my honors Chemistry professor, Dr. Kua, for advising help one day after class. After looking through my classes, Dr. Kua asked me if I was interested in doing research with him. I was ecstatic because it seemed like an incredible opportunity so early on in my college career.

With Dr. Kua, I do computational chemistry—I run computer calculations that approximate the fields and wave equations of electrons in molecules of different configurations. I run these programs with the intent to determine the lowest energy orientations of stable molecules in theoretical pathways of small molecules in solutions combining to form more complex molecules, and then the lowest transition state barriers between these molecules.
Over the course of this project, I have been able to add to a large body of research that the group already had, as well as to refine procedures that were previously established but have since been determined to need additional clarification. As a result of my work on this project, I have been able to present at the ACS conference as well as creative collaborations, and have worked with Dr. Kua to publish a paper detailing our findings on this project.

Honors Program First Year Experience

Michael Dopkiss, '19

The Honors Program here at University of San Diego has completely shaped my first-year college experience. Coming from the Midwest, I was initially apprehensive of such a significant transition; however, when I first arrived on campus, any and all reservations disappeared. I was immediately immersed in a community of other Honors Students and faculty members that were warm, welcoming, and enthusiastic. Many of those individuals that I met early on are people I still consider wonderful friends who are not only willing to have fun, but also help me grow as I learn alongside their respective talents, achievements, and experiences.

Among some of the memorable first experiences I had with the Honors Living Learning Community (“LLC”) at USD were swimming with sharks at La Jolla Cove and visiting the San Diego Zoo. I am extremely grateful to have participated in these excursions because they offered opportunities to genuinely get to know and bond with fellow Honors Students. The Honors Program at USD has also challenged me to transcend the limits of my comfort zone to explore unprecedented opportunities in academics, extracurriculars, and the university’s social landscape. Specifically, through the Honors Program, I have interacted with individuals from a myriad of geographies, backgrounds, and interests. Growing up in a small western Michigan community, I never truly experienced views contrary to my own. My first year in college, through involvement in the Honors Program, was the first, real exposure to vastly different ideas, and it allowed me to expand my global perspective and outlook on life. Unreservedly, I encourage students from San Diego—and across California, the nation, and the globe—to explore the opportunities at the University of San Diego Honors Program. Without a doubt, my first year is just a preview of a long future filled with academic achievement, interdisciplinary learning, and friendships that will last a lifetime.

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Study Abroad Corner


By Halie Carpenter, '18

Many travelers swear by the phrase “Not all who wander are lost.” However, if there is anything I have learned from this semester, it is that all who wander truly are lost...lost in the wonder and ineffable beauty of this magnificent world! My time in Madrid has been filled with opportunities to experience new cultures, places, and people- never failing to show me something new to be amazed by every day. Whether it was a quaint coffee shop with cafe con leche (Toma Cafe is highly suggested), or walking into La Sagrada Familia, incredible moments seemed to be waiting around every corner. If there are three pieces of advice that I could give to every student who studies abroad, I would tell them (1) Walk everywhere! If you truly want to experience a new place in its purest form, walking through quaint streets and actually taking the road less traveled will give you this opportunity. (2) Not everything will go as you have planned, so adopt an attitude of openness, flexibility, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. (3) Even though it seems like you have a long time, it will go by faster than you think! Make a bucket list (which you will definitely add to along the way), and don’t let any opportunity pass by. The minutes and hours may seem to go by slowly, but trust me, the weeks and months will pass by before you even know they’re gone. 

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Team-Taught Descriptions and Credit Distribution- Fall 2016

Power & Politics

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

This course covers the analysis, explanation and evaluation of power and politics in organizations. It offers frameworks for assessing the sources of power in organizations, the conditions that lead to its attainment and its effective use from both a practical and an ethical perspective. Discussions will cover how people in organizations try to get what they want by influencing others, how their ability to do so is affected by power distributions and how people try to change power distributions in their favor. We will evaluate these behaviors and discuss how (if at all) we should participate in these behaviors.

HNRS 308: 3 units MGMT, 1 unit ETLW

HNRS 309: 3 units ETLW, 1 unit MGMT

Disparities in Health Care

Drs. Gary Jones (PHIL) and Jesse Mills (ETHN)

This course examines the ethics and politics of racial disparity and inequality in U.S. health care. Understood in cultural and structural terms, health and inequality are placed in the context of racialized risk (i.e. environmental racism, segregations, hate crimes, and racial profiling) and culturally rooted conceptions of health. Fundamentally we will interrogate whether there are special forms of ill-health based on racial inequity, and what sorts of strategies marginalized people use, or could use to promote wellness.

HNRS 326: 3 units PHIL, 1 unit ETHN

HNRS 327: 3 units ETHN, 1 unit PHIL

Asian Women and Popular Culture

Drs. Yi Sun (HIST) and Kristin Moran (COMM)

In the age of globalization, it becomes increasingly important for students to become aware of issues of diversity, and to be able to function and interact in a multicultural society. This course is designed to demystify the stereotypical perceptions of Asian and Asia American women. Students will utilize communication theories to discuss the role of the mass media in generating the imagery of Asian and Asian American women and, consequently, in shaping and/or perpetuating the cultural perceptions of them in the mainstream society. Students will be exposed to a mix of feature films, documentaries and books that demonstrate the conventional stereotypes while discovering how historical facts are often represented or misrepresented. Media presentations will be juxtaposed with historical information on Asian cultures and societies, particularly concerning women. Ultimately, the class will enhance students’ understanding of themselves in relation to the cultural construction of Asia, Asians, and specifically Asian women.

HNRS 328: 3 units HIST, 1 unit COMM

HNRS 329: 3 units COMM, 1 unit HIST

César Chávez, Labor, and Catholic Social Justice

Professors Jeffrey Burns (THRS) and Alberto Pulido (ETHN)

César Chávez is best known as a labor organizer and civil rights champion for farm workers and the disenfranchised in the United States. Inspired by the teachings of non-violence by Gandhi and St. Francis, Chávez successfully organized farmworkers into a labor union that became known as the United Farm Workers (UFW). In addition to his commitment to non-violence, much of Chavez’s vision for social change and social justice for workers came from his Roman Catholic upbringing and Catholic Social Teachings. As both a Cursillista and advocate of Pope Leo’s encyclical Rerum Novarum Chavez became a charismatic visionary and advocate for La Causa! In this course, we situate Chávez into the history of the Civil Rights Movement, the Labor movement, and the teachings of the Catholic Church in support of social justice and human dignity. We look at the roots of Catholicism’s social action agenda and examine both its achievements and contradictions as a religious institution. We also examine the image and symbol of Chávez as both a pious individual and a larger than life charismatic leader within the political narrative of civil rights during this historical period.

HNRS 330: 3 units THRS, 1 unit ETHN

HNRS 331: 3 units ETHN, 1 unit THRS

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Future Team-Taught Courses

Spring 2017

  • Sound & Spirit in Monsoon Asia (Nelson/Adler, Core THRS or Core Fine Arts)
  • International Business Negotiations (Baracks/Baracks, no Core)
  • Apocalypse Then and Now: Cold War and Post-Cold War U.S. Military Interventions (Nadkarni/Statler, no Core)
  • Voice and Text (Robinson/ Gist, Core Literature)

Fall 2017

  • Dead Man Walking: Capital Punishment in the United States (Caywood/Jones, pending Core)**
  • Prison Culture and Communication (Bowman/ Fritsvold, no Core)
  • Plagues, Politics, and Preservation: The Environment in the Ancient World (Abrecht/Tirrell) **
  • Art and Architecture in the 1960s: Intersections and Collisions (Starkey/Yard) **

Spring 2018

  • The Social Capital of Social Media (Bond/Rapp, no Core)
  • Christianity, Education, and Whiteness (Teel/ Nunn, pending Core THRS) **
  • Bombs Away! (Statler/ Sheehan, no Core) **
  • Environmental Fluid Mechanics (Jacobitz/Prairie, no Core)**

Fall 2018

  • Conflict Diagnosis & Dispute Resolution in a Global Environment (Barkacs/Barkacs, no Core)
  • Sound & Spirit in Monsoon Asia (Nelson/ Adler, Core THRS or Core Fine Arts)
  • Music, Borders, Identities (Harnish/Pulido, Core Diversity)
  • Versions of the Pastoral in America Art & Literature (Williams/Cartwright) **

**Courses marked with two asterisks are new/tentative and are still undergoing committee approvals.

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