Honors Program Students Present Thesis Work at Honors Colloquium

The University of San Diego is committed to a liberal arts education for its students — especially on a sunny spring Saturday morning and afternoon in early May.

Honors Colloquium 2019

That’s what happened as the first half of the graduating seniors in the Class of 2019 in USD’s Honors Program presented their thesis projects in two rooms, the Manchester Hall Auditorium and in Room 106 of the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science building.

The inaugural Honors Colloquium, taking place over the May 4-5 weekend, enables 60 students to present a 15-minute overview of what they’ve been working on for a year — or more in some cases — and it’s a shining example of USD’s liberal arts education and also an interdisciplinary feel.

The dedication was evident with an 8:30 a.m. start time Saturday. Those gathered in the auditorium first got a little inspiration and insight from the words of 2017 USD alumna and Honors Program participant Olivia Gonzalez, who only two years ago was in the current USD students’ shoes. Today, she is two years into her PhD program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“As I begin to prepare for my third and final year of doctoral coursework, it feels poignant and cathartic to reflect on the ways in which my experiences in the Honors Program, producing my honors thesis acting as an undergraduate researcher have shaped my experiences over the last two years,” Gonzalez said. “My experiences as an Honors researcher inspired, prepared and propelled me in my decision to pursue a graduate degree.”

She named USD experiences as a research assistant with Honors Program Faculty Director and Communication Studies Professor Susannah Stern, PhD, and opportunities such as a Summer Undergraduate Research Experience, being a USD McNair Scholar and work through the Office of Undergraduate Research that developed her desire for more. “I learned that I wanted to continue to be part of a community that supported critical and creative inquiry and I wanted to pursue a graduate education and through participating in each of those communities at USD, I was able to develop the skills I needed in order to pursue that path.”

Gonzalez’s words confirmed what many current Honors Program students understand. On Saturday, and taking place again on Sunday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., each 2019 presenter demonstrates a commitment to “inquiry.”

This weekend, Honors Program students with majors and minors in Architecture, Behavioral Neuroscience, Biochemistry, Biology, Biophysics, Business Administration, Chemistry, Communication Studies, Economics, Electrical Engineering, English, Environmental and Ocean Sciences, Finance, History, Interdisciplinary Humanities, International Business, International Relations, Marketing, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Political Science, Psychology, Theatre Arts and Theology and Religious Studies are demonstrating what they’ve learned.

“They all want to make an impact on the world,” Stern said of her Honors Program students and their work. “There’s nothing isolated or selfish. They’re all focused on the contributions they can make.”

On Saturday, students spoke in front of audiences of fellow Honors Program students, faculty mentors, family and friends on a variety of topics. To note, here’s a few of the early Saturday talk topics (see the full program):

  • “Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors: The Mechanism for Treatment of Depression and Relationship with Suicide Risk” by Erin Carollo, Behavioral Neuroscience.
  • “Synthesis and Characterization of Starch-functionalized Dibromomaleimide Conjugates for Delivery Application,” by Tin Tin Luu, Biochemistry.
  • “Investigation of Calcineurin B Homologous Protein (CHP) Isoform Specific Function,” by Shane M. Davis, Biochemistry.
  • “Reassessing Urban Fabric: Identifying Opportunities for Architectural Resilience at the Port of Long Beach (Calif.),” by Caitlin Fanning, Architecture.
  • “Synthesis of Biorenewable Starch-Farnesene Amphiphilic Conjugates via Transesterification of Terpene-Derived Diels-Alder Adducts,” by Brandon Orzolek, Chemistry.
  • “The Evolution and Analysis of the 20-Year Anniversary of the United Nations Global Compact,” by Taylor Hamer, International Business.
  • “Children are Children: Applying the Rights Given to Defendants in Juvenile Court to Minors in Deportation Proceedings,” by Caroline Grace McLeod, International Relations.
  • “The Impact of Advertising Social Justice Issues on Consumers’ Brand Perception,” by Isabelle Suarez, Business Marketing.

All students, following their presentations, take questions from the audience and this event is free and open to the public. For those interested in attending Sunday’s Honors Colloquium talks, each block consists of four student presentations at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. There are short breaks between the blocks and a lunch break from 12:30-1:30 p.m.

Learn more about the USD Honors Program by visiting its website.

— Ryan T. Blystone


USD News Center
(619) 260-4681