RIO GRANDE — The University of Rio Grande’s Honors Program works to engage gifted students through specialized curriculum, honors seminars, and a capstone project to challenge and achieve maximum potential.
Each year, the program’s seniors present their senior projects to faculty, administration and classmates on campus. The program recently announced this year’s group, Kaylynn Bell, Taylor Grubb, Lucy Williams, Kelsey Miller and Katie Higgins, have successfully completed their presentations for 2019.
Bell, a sports and exercise science major from Hillsboro, focused her presentation, “Hear Me Out, Decreasing Numbers to Increase Numbers,” on the research and data behind the ways lowered tuition makes college more appealing to students and increases student retention. She said she believes everyone should feel that higher education is an opportunity available to them.
“This project came from a personal experience of seeing people I knew not returning to college the next fall because they felt like they couldn’t afford tuition. I feel very grateful and lucky to be one of the ones who’s making it through college with little debt, and I want to be able to share that experience with other students who don’t feel like they have that opportunity,” Bell said. “I believe college should be in reach for everyone, so I’m glad I was able to do this project through the honors program because it allowed me to have this conversation with our campus. This project also gives the rest of Rio the chance to see what goes into the Honors Program and what we’ve been working toward the past four years.”
Grubb, a sports and exercise science major from Thornville, said she decided to research her project, “Why Do College Athletes Quit?” after both her high school and college classmates quit athletics, and wanted to look into the cause.
“It was really interesting to see the results from my own survey, compare them to data and research I found while preparing this project and learn that the top cause for leaving a sport is injury. As someone who loves being part of a sport, I thought it would be interesting to see what was causing people who were still eligible to quit and see what can be done to solve the problem that’s causing them to quit,” Grubb said. “This is the largest project I’ve ever been assigned so it was a huge learning experience for me. I’m grateful the honors program gives us the opportunity to do this type of research around topics we’re very passionate about.”
Williams, a wildlife conservation major from Athens, said through her project, “Saving Our Hemlock Trees,” she sought to share awareness of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), an invasive insect feeding on and killing eastern hemlock trees, and her work with Crane Hollow Nature Preserve to preserve and cure the tree species.
“This project means a lot to me because I was able to take part in protecting our environment. This infestation is so dangerous to our hemlock trees and their ecosystems,” Williams said. “I was really glad that this project gave me the opportunity to raise awareness of HWA here on campus. I also plan on going into research in my career so this type of project is a great experience for us to practice doing this kind of work in graduate school and in our careers.”
Miller, a wildlife conservation major from Georgetown, chose her project, “Experimentally-Induced Coloration Shade Changes Observed for Captive Cope’s Gray Tree Frogs Exposed to a Different Background Color,” as a continuation of work from her wildlife conservation courses and an interest in the frogs’ ability to change color shades to match its surroundings as a survival tactic. She said she feels research is a great way for students to grow academically.
“The idea for this project came from my service learning internship with Dr. Althoff. It was really interesting to be able to use this Honors Program project as a chance to continue previous work I’d done with tree frogs and watching the data change for the different backgrounds,” Miller said. “Research projects are a big commitment where you get to learn about yourself as much as you do your topic, especially in a project like this where you can choose any topic that interests you.”
Higgins, a psychology major from Ironton, investigated music’s effects on the memory for her project, “How Music Affects Memory in Alzheimer’s Patients.” She said she enjoyed researching the way music can jump-start related memories.
“I’ve always been passionate about music so I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my project. I thought it was interesting to see the studies being done on using music as a form of therapy for Alzheimer’s patients,” Higgins said. “Learning how to put together a research project like these are going to be so important for our futures because it gives us the experience to do this kind of work in the field, so it’s great that the Honors Program provides us with this kind of opportunity to tie our interests to our research.”
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Honors Program Director Dr. Jennifer Lackey said she is very proud of the work the Rio Grande Honors Program students put in during their final year at Rio and wishes them luck for their futures.