Honors Program Newsletter

Spring 2017

Reflecting on the Honors Experience

Emma Doolittle, '17 Valedictorian

In reflecting on what four years in the honors program at USD has meant to me, the first thing that comes to mind is how this experience has come full-circle. I participated in the Honors Overnight as a prospective student, and getting the opportunity to stay in Missions B for a night and meet other students confirmed that USD and honors was the right fit for me. My first year was full of new experiences, including swimming with sharks in La Jolla, taking honors coursework for the first time (shout out to Dr. Gump’s War and Peace in the Modern World!), and an academic research symposium that featured a dinner at Le Gran, complete with butter patties with the USD logo stamped on them. Throughout my sophomore and junior years, what I appreciated most about the honors program was the ways that it prepared me to be an active scholar, engaged with and responding to the major issues facing our campus, community, and world. Through single and team taught courses I learned to see myself as a scholar whose research was impactful, and whose voice could be taken seriously in my academic fields. During this time I had the opportunity to participate in a study abroad program specifically designed for USD honors students at Oxford University. In addition to refining my academic abilities, I learned real world skills in Britain like navigating public transport throughout Europe, learning in a tutorial based educational system, and struggling with the use of a towel warmer in my bathroom that I never did figure out how to turn on. My fourth and final year at USD has been focused on research and producing a lengthy thesis in my academic disciplines, history and sociology. The process of starting from a couple of ideas jotted in a notebook to developing a year long, argument based paper has been rewarding, frustrating at times, and illuminating.

A few weeks ago, I helped host prospective students at the Honors Overnight, and it seemed as if four year flew by in a minute. As the year draws to a close and we honor the work our honors students have done academically and through other leadership roles, I want to leave you with the three things that I took away from my time in the Honors program. First, find your passion. The joy of the honors program is that students are interested in different things, but we share a commitment to academic excellence. Talk about your work and your interests, and you’ll be surprised at what doors open up for you. Second, know your people. I have been fortunate to work with incredible faculty, staff, and administrators within the Honors program who care about students as well rounded people. I met the professor who went on to be my thesis advisor and a mentor in an honors course during my first year, and it was in large part because of the support of Dr. Kirkley that I have been successful at USD. Third, take risks. Many of my closest friendships, most impactful experiences, and best memories occurred when I stepped outside my comfort zone and tried new things. Finally, thank you to Erin and Dr. Gump for all the hard work you put in to making the Honors program a supportive space, and for your dedication to the program. It shines through the accomplishments of all our students. Happy summer!

Back to the Top

Director's Report

Dr. Jim Gump, Honors Program Director

For the Honors Program, the 2016-17 academic year has been one of innovation and spectacular student success. Even before the fall semester began, twenty-nine incoming first year Honors students participated in our third pre-orientation camping trip to Santa Cruz Island in the 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 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. We also continued our Brown Bag Luncheon series that features successful Honors alumna. 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 in the 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. Finally, Erin and I accompanied four Honors students to Seattle, Washington, where they delivered a poster presentation at the National Collegiate Honors Council annual conference.

Over the course of the year Honors students have continued to play a leading role in the intellectual life of the campus. The Honors Student Board itself flourished under the leadership of Tim Holdsworth and Michael Schwabe, who organized highly successful events that included a pre-election analysis in the fall and Tea with the President in the spring. 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, conscious capitalism, courtroom and classroom media usage, memes, NAFTA, social capital, Old Testament/New Testament continuities, elevated water conductivity levels, connections among Wicked, Frankenstein, and Rousseau’s Second Discourse, and biochemical, historical, economic, sociological, psychological, and literary analyses. 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 USC, UCLA, Michigan, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Penn State, Arizona, Arizona State, and Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, and others will take up employment with accounting firms, tech companies, engineering firms, and Teach for America. Finally, the Honors Program this spring produced its ninth class valedictorian in the past fifteen years, History and Sociology double major Emma Doolittle, its seventh and eighth Fulbrighters, James Bennett, an English major and currently a Peace Corps volunteer, and Katie Quinn, an Economics major, and Goldwater Scholar Taylor Cottle, the program’s sixth Goldwater. 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.

Back to the Top

Program News

Mid-Year Mentorship Program

Sydney Pidgeon, '19

Last fall, I was approached by my Philosophy of Human Nature Professor, Michael Kelly, and encouraged join the Honors program mid-year. After learning more about the program and completing my application, I was accepted into the Honors Program and quickly entered a space of educational and personal growth. This transition is difficult for many students because navigating coursework and scheduling while balancing other obligations can be overwhelming. After receiving feedback from new admits about their desire for guidance, Dr. Gump created a Mid-Year Mentorship Program to provide support for new members of the Honors Program.

This mentorship program linked seasoned Honors students to new admits with similar majors, ages, and interests. The mentors served as a link into the honors community, an academic guide for scheduling, and a mentor for balancing coursework and personal endeavors. I served as a first-year mentor this spring and worked with three new admits on both their academic and personal struggles this semester. I met with my mentors bi-monthly to discuss their progress, any difficulties they were having, and to plan their future schedules. I saw these individuals begin to flourish in the honors community as they were challenged in their courses and focused their passion on knowledge and interdisciplinary studies. I was able to provide the knowledge I’ve gained and the experiences I’ve had to allow my mentees to be as successful as possible during their first semester as an Honors student. This mentorship program eases the transition into the Honors program and provides a community for these students as soon as they join the program. Being a mentor was a reminder of the incredible Honors program we have at USD, and how grateful I am to have applied and been accepted last Fall.

Annual Tea with the President Recap

Tim Holdsworth, '19

The Honors Tea with the President went well, with the students and President Harris joining together over tea, pastries, and close conversation. Under the backdrop of Tecolote Canyon, Dr. Harris spoke with students about what it means to transition from college, the challenges currently facing the University, and the plan to improve. He also answered student questions about campus life on the weekends and access to classes on subjects like cooking and personal finance.

Honors Overnight Panel

Hayley Benson, '17

At the Honors Overnight program, I was a student representative on a panel for prospective students and parents. On the panel, we had representatives from the Study Abroad office, the Illuminate (Honors) LLC, and the Honors Program itself. Each representative spoke about their program and how it relates to the Honors student experience. I personally got to share how much participating in the Honors program has impacted me during my last four years. I have grown so much from living with Honors students as a first-year, taking amazing team-taught courses, and especially this semester as I complete my Senior Honors Thesis. Parents and students also had the opportunity to ask the panelists questions. The panel seemed to be a very informative and impactful way for the visiting students and their families to end their Honors Overnight visit.

The Advantage of an Honors Thesis

Emily Bezold, '17

Working on the Honors thesis has been such an advantage to me in my last year of college. When I started working on this thesis last semester, my primary purpose for its creation was to act as my writing sample for my graduate school applications (and it worked!). I strategically divided the thesis into two parts, so that I’d still have something to write about during the official Honors class. Honestly, though that made my work load easier, it taught me that trying to force an essay into compliance instead of letting it evolve organically makes for an awkward and seemingly random, though well written and well thought-out, 18 pages of character comparisons centering on the corruption of human nature. But in being able to give my essay free reign during the Honors class, I was both able to grant it cohesion and to actually enjoy writing it. Moreover, I was able to develop my own critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis skills, in a more nuanced and heavily applied manner, than in my other English courses. I honestly felt like I was utilizing the skills I’d developed throughout college and proving that getting a B.A. in English from a Liberal Arts college isn’t spending four years of college, and plenty of knowledge, to earn me a useless degree.

Most significantly, though, I enjoyed writing a Senior thesis for everyone else’s theses. As an English major, as with any major, the thesis topics I’m used to are departmental; in my case, they were all about literary texts. The Honors program, as is partly its purpose, granted me the opportunity to hear of research in other departments, to meet other Seniors with incredible and interesting studies, and to learn about a wide variety of topics through fun and entertaining presentations. I’ve learned about the various uses of fruit flies in human research, about the importance of photo angles in food marketing, about the pesticide residue in the Tecolote watershed, about the importance of creating a queer persona in rhetoric, and so much more. The reason I love the Honors program is how interdisciplinary it is, and this course is the culmination of that trait – one I got to be apart of as equally as I benefited from it. My thesis became more than part of my ticket to a Masters program; it became my connection to an astonishing group of individuals through shared experiences. This opportunity prepared me for any future research-oriented writing endeavor I may be apart of, both in graduate school and in any future career. If you’ve made it to this point in the Honors program, I recommend writing a thesis.

Senior Dean's Reception

Margaret Driscoll, '18

On May 1, 2017, Honors Prorgam Seniors gathered on the terrace of La Gran Terraza to recieve their Honors Program Certificates. They enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and conversation with all of the deans, as well as their thesis advisors. Additionally, Dr. Gump presented the Mens et Spiritus award to the Honors Professor of the Year: Dr. Yi Sun.

Back to the Top

Study Abroad Corner

Semester at Sea

Kennedy Avery, '18

Morocco was the last stop on my “Voyage Around the World” through Semester at Sea. Beginning in San Diego and continuing on to numerous countries throughout Asia and Africa, I was gifted with the opportunity to see the places that other people call home. Interacting with people from all around the world was an invaluable experience. Not only was I able to see the world through the eyes of an American, but I was also able to see America through the eyes of the world. With both of these vantage points I think I developed a greater and more concrete awareness of myself as a global citizen.


Kyra Thrush, '18

For my semester abroad I went to Cork, the rebel city of Ireland. It was an incredibly friendly place with a smalltown vibe. I also had the chance to visit a number of places on the continent, including my personal favorite, Amsterdam. Overall, my favorite experience was hiking along the wild Atlantic way on Ireland’s west coast.

Back to the Top

Team-Taught Descriptions and Credit Distribution

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 over 2 million people behind bars, with the lion’s share residing in state and federal prisons. There is a bountiful legacy of scholarship that examines the power dynamics, lived experiences and culture behind bars; in short, both culture and communication matter. The complex social interactions within these institutions follow similar patterns to those studied in the 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 individual experiences 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

Plagues, Politics, and Preservation: The Environment in the Ancient World

Drs. Ryan Abrecht (HIST) and Andrew Tirrell (POLS)

Humanity’s fraught relationship with its natural environment is arguably the most important issue of our time. Many scientists agree that we are living at the beginning of a new era – the Anthropocene – in which human activities have an unprecedented impact on Earth’s ecosystems. Debate continues, however, about precisely when this “new” era began. While some scholars link the beginning of the Anthropocene to the later half of the twentieth century or the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, others assert that we should look further back. This course will examine the beginning of humanity’s efforts to mold the natural world to suit its needs, tracing a direct line from the environmental issues of our own time to the invention of agriculture and urbanism in the Neolithic Revolution. We will seek the beginnings of the Anthropocene, in other words, in the very foundations of human civilization as we know it. Using case studies from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, we will examine ancient peoples’ changing relationship with the natural world, focusing on issues such as the sacredness of nature; resource use, degradation, and scarcity; disease and other environmental health factors; and early conceptions of conservation and preservation.

HNRS 338: 3 units POLS, 1 unit HIST

HNRS 339: 3 units HIST, 1 unit POLS

Art and Architecture in the 1960s: Intersections and Collisions

Drs. Shannon Starkey (ARTH) and Sally Yard (ARCH)

This course explores the moment in the 1960s when art and architecture intersected in any number of ways despite rhetorical attempts to maintain disciplinary boundaries from both sides. The class will consider the literal connections, disciplinary fluidity, and material/technique cross-pollination between art and architecture that emerged during this decade. Cultural production today--with disciplinary boundaries all but nonexistent-- demonstrates the imperative of contextualization through an exploration and discussion of this formative cultural moment. Eschewing a chronological approach to history and focusing primarily on work made in the United States, the course will instead progress thematically; each week will focus on a pairing of artists and architects.

HNRS 340: 3 units ARCH, 1 unit ARTH

HNRS 341: 3 units ARTH, 1 unit ARCH

Dead Man Walking: Capital Punishment in the United States

Drs. Cynthia Caywood (ENGL) and Gary Jones (PHIL)

This course explores the legal, ethical, and literary aspects of the national debate over the death penalty. The course, offered for credit in either English or Philosophy/Ethics, provides students with the opportunity, through readings, writing assignments, lectures, and seminar-style discussions, to become more informed about this highly controversial national issue. Class discussions and reading will be supplemented by speakers (e.g. members of the San Diego legal community) and film. Students will also undertake a semester-long investigation of a San Diego death penalty case, resulting in an oral presentation and long paper.

HNRS 342: 3 units PHIL, 1 unit ENGL

HNRS 343: 3 units ENGL, 1 unit PHIL

Back to the Top

Future Team-Taught Courses

Spring 2018

  • The Social Capital of Social Media: Bradley Bond/ Justine Rapp (COMM/MKTG)
    • Core Integration
  • Christianity, Higher Education, and Whiteness: Karen Teel/ Lisa Nunn (THRS/ SOCI)
    • Core THRS and Core Integration
  • Bombs Away! Kathryn Statler/Daniel Sheehan (HIST/PHYS)
    • Core Integration and Historical Inquiry
  • Life and Moving Fluids: Frank Jacobitz/ Jennifer Prairie (ENGR/ENVI)

Fall 2018

  • Conflict Diagnosis & Dispute Resolution in a Global Environment: Craig Barkacs/ Linda Barkacs (BUSN)
  • Sound & Spirit in Monsoon Asia: Lance Nelson/Christopher Adler (MUSC/THRS)
    • Core THRS or Core FA
  • Music, Borders, Identities: David Harnish/ Alberto Pulido (MUSC/ ETHN)
    • Core Diversity
  • Versions of the Pastoral in America Art & Literature: Irene Williams/ Derrick Cartwright (ENGL/ ARTH)

Spring 2019

  • Tentative: China and India: Yi Sun/Vidya Nadkarni (HIST/POLS)
  • Tentative: Folding: Satyan Devadoss/ Shannon Starkey (MATH/Art and ARCH)
  • Drama from Page to Stage: Rick Seer/ Fred Robinson (Graduate Theatre/ENGL)
  • Apostles and Apostates: Orthodoxy and Heresy in Science and Religion: Daniel Sheehan/Mary Doak
    • Core THRS and Core Integration

Fall 2019

  • Tentative: Women in Islam and Confucianism: Yi Sun/ Bahar Davary (History/THRS)
  • Tentative: Integration and Innovation in Disability Studies: Jillian Tullis/ Suzanne Stolz (COMM/EDUC)
  • Tentative: Power and Politics: Craig Barkacs/Linda Barkacs (BUSN)
  • Plagues, Politics, and Preservation: The Environment in the Ancient World: Ryan Abrecht/ Andrew Tirrell(HIST/POLS)Core Integration or Historical Inquiry

Spring 2020

  • Tentative: Studies in Modern Palestinian Art & Literature: Irene Williams/ John Halaka (ENGL/ART)
  • Tentative: A History of Hate” Christian Antisemitism and Western Culture: Mary Doak/ Russel Fuller (BiblicalStudies/ Constructive Theology)

Fall 2020

  • It’s about Time: Halina Duraj/Daniel Sheehan (ENGL/PHYS)
  • Tentative: Queer Cinema and Theory: Ivan Ortiz/ Martin Repinecz (ENGL and Languages)

Back to the Top