Honors Students Present Research in Arizona

Five Westminster College honors students attended the recent 2002 Western Regional Honors Council conference at Arizona State University, where they delivered refereed academic papers on research from their individual fields. They were accompanied by Dr. Michael Popich, Professor of Philosophy and Dr. Richard Badenhausen, Director of the Honors Program. Because student research is an increasing focus of the Honors Program, each student's travel and conference costs were fully funded by the program.

Honors Students Present Research in ArizonaThe conference was attended by 250 students, professors, and administrators from schools around the West, including the University of Colorado, University of Montana, Cal. Sate at Chico, University of New Mexico, Loyola Marymount, University of Wyoming, UNLV, Utah, and BYU, among many others. The annual meeting gives those interested in honors education a chance to gather each year and talk about ways to improve their programs, give papers on a range of interesting topics, and enjoy the surroundings of the conference locale.

Biology major Becca Welch ('03) presented her paper analyzing the mineral content of breakfast cereals in the first of a number of science sessions. Her work had been done originally under the sponsorship of a Gore summer research grant with Dr. Paul Hooker. In an afternoon session, communications major Rachel Carlson (02) talked on World War I literature, a topic she had first explored in an honors seminar last fall. Her talk was followed the next day by historical papers delivered by Spencer Woolley ('05), an ancient history major and Marisa Bedell ('03), an English major from Vermont. They delivered papers on Roman misgovernment in first century Judea and on the role of the mir in the Russian revolution, respectively. Both of those projects also started out as assignments in honors seminars. Spencer wrote his for Dr. Michael Markowski and Dr. Nick More in the first of the Humanities Honors seminars and Marisa wrote hers in Dr. Susan Cottler's seminar in revolution.

Biology major Heidee Lund ('02) had the misfortune of having her paper placed in one of the conference's final sessions, which meant that she couldn't relax until the meeting was almost over. But it was well worth the wait for all who attended. In fact, her paper analyzing soil-lead contamination in Salt Lake Valley play areas, which also derived from work done with Dr. Hooker on a Gore grant, was so strong that it prompted the incoming president of the National Collegiate Honors Council (the organization that oversees the country's 500 honors programs) to pull her aside after her talk and encourage her to submit a project for next year's national honors convention, even though the deadline for submissions had already passed.

The trip was not all work, however. After the papers had ended, the Westminster contingent walked around the campus of Arizona State, visited a local antiquarian bookstore featuring a $12,000 complete works of Henry James, had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, and took in an Iranian film called Kandahar, an exploration of the plight of women in Afghanistan that won a major prize at the 2001 Cannes film festival.

Honors students from Westminster College should continue to have an increased presence in research conferences around the country because this is a new focus of the program. In fact, 14 students submitted proposals for the upcoming national honors convention. Honors students who are looking for guidance about conducting their own research or who need help seeking funding for their research projects should contact the program director for assistance.