I am having a wonderful time in Oxford! My work consumes a lot of time and energy, but my tutorials are coming along nicely. I have an awesome tutor for my law tutorial, who has two law degrees and is getting their doctorate in socio-legal studies. They are having me attend a law school lecture on human rights law, every Monday afternoon. They are also encouraging me to apply to Oxford’s socio-legal studies MPhil program! I am considering it. My secondary tutorial in women’s studies has a focus in anthropology, due to my tutor’s research interests. Weirdly enough, I am falling in love with anthropology. I also had drinks with Wentworth Miller, the actor from the TV show Prison Break, at an Oxford Union event!
On October 19th, in conjunction with UT’s Department of Speech, Theatre, and Dance, the UT Honors Program hosted five internationally renowned experts in mixed abilities dance. The dancers thrilled the students with three performances, then answered students’ questions. Students were fascinated to learn more about the backgrounds of the dancers and how they develop dancing that incorporate varied mobilities.
Honors Council President, Laura Hearst, and Social and PR Chair, Kamakshi Dadhwal, accompanied Honors Program Director, Dr. Ryan Cragun, on a trip to the 2016 National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Seattle from October 12-16. NCHC provides a national collegiate platform for honors students and faculty members to present their respective research, brainstorm ideas for enhancing honors experience, and showcase artistic talents in master classes. We asked Dr. Cragun and the two students what they thought about the NCHC conference. Here’s what they told us.
Q. What did you think of the conference and the overall experience?
Dr. Cragun: As it was my first NCHC Conference, I found it very helpful. I’m in the process of re-thinking the entire Honors Program at The University of Tampa and hearing about other Honors Programs, their curricula, their activities, and their efforts to build a strong sense of community among their Honors Students was all really helpful. I learned a lot and came away with many ideas for how to make UT’s Honors Program even better.
Laura: I thought the conference was an overall wonderful experience that was eye opening to all of the opportunities honors student have and can take advantage of.
Kamakshi: The NCHC conference opened the door to a whole new world of Honors, which I didn’t realise existed until I was immersed in the various sessions ranging from how to improve your Honors Program experience for first-year students to how to make the most of your Honors Program as a senior. Besides, who wouldn’t like to spend time getting to know professors, from all over the United States and abroad, outside of the classroom?
Q. What did you gain from the conference?
Dr. Cragun: I met and had a chance to talk with about half a dozen other Honors Program Directors. Speaking with those individuals about their programs and getting their thoughts on the Honors Program at UT was very helpful. All of them were very nice and I’m sure moving forward they will all be willing to provide helpful feedback when I need it. The professional connections I developed will, no doubt, prove to be invaluable in the future.
Laura: I learned a lot about how to improve the Honors Council and make a difference at UT.
Kamakshi: Although the conference was more geared towards faculty, it served us well to attend it because we have come back with wonderful ideas- some our own, but most of them courtesy of the various presenters at the conference- to make UT’s Honors Council events more inclusive of students from various disciplines.
Q. What was the best part of the trip for you?
Dr. Cragun: The best part of the conference for me was hanging out with the two Honors Program students from UT. Traveling with students provides a great opportunity to get to know students on a deeper level. I learned a lot about both of the students and gained an appreciation for just how great UT Honors Program students are. Of course, what I loved the most is that I learned about some of the quirks of the students, too, like the fact that Laura won’t step on grates on sidewalks (even if it means getting wet in the rain) and Kamakshi is an Indian princess who flashes gang signs. Awesome!
Laura: My favorite part of the trip was seeing the first Starbucks store in the world. [Laura and Kamakshi ran in the cold rain and harsh wind to make it to Starbucks 9 minutes before it closed on their last night in Seattle; just in time to get themselves “First Starbucks Store” mugs.]
Kamakshi: The chance to visit the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was my favourite part. The Gates family is inspirational in their intelligent altruism, which not only funds countless projects that help alleviate global crises in many domains, but also sponsors research to find definitive solutions specifically to worldwide health problems. They’re currently working on injecting infected mosquitoes with a bacteria, Wolbachia, in an attempt to find a cure to Zika. Just knowing that they care to put their abundance of wealth into improving health, reaffirmed my faith in humanity. Also, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Cragun and Laura’s company. I had expected to get to know them better, but I hadn’t expected them to find a place in my heart, as friends.
In conjunction with The University of Tampa’s Center for Ethics in the Sykes College of Business, the UT Honors Program hosted Keith Campbell, Professor of Psychology at the University of Georgia. Dr. Campbell discussed his research into narcissism. He explored some of the instruments used to measure narcissism and examined how narcissism influences interpersonal relationships, leaderships styles, and corporate behavior.
In collaboration with the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and their National Hispanic Scientist of the Year Award, the UT Honors Program hosted Dr. Adriana Ocampo on October 21st. She spoke to a standing room only crowd of high school and college students (along with faculty and staff) about her research. Dr. Ocampo was one of the lead researchers on the team that first determined the site of the Chicxulub Crater that is now believed to have been the event that began the mass extinction non-avian dinosaurs (known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event). Dr. Ocampo works at NASA where she has helped with numerous interplanetary missions, including New Horizons, OSIRIS-REx, and Juno.
Three UT Honors Program students recently competed in the AACS Client Problem Solving Competition. The problem was introduced during the first day of the conference and students had only two days to come up with their solutions. This year’s problem involved a local service agency in Denver, the ECDC-ACC. They work in the area of refugee resettlement and are facing a severe shortage of affordable housing for incoming refugee families. To compound the problem, refugees have been stigmatized as risky tenants for two reasons: first, there have been a few incidences where residents have unknowingly taken actions that caused damage to the property (e.g. cooking fish in the dishwasher, washing cooking oil down sink drains, placing hot pots on the floor as families gathered for traditional-style meals), and second, the State Department covers refugee housing for only their first three months, and after that, while refugees still receive financial assistance for living expenses, there is nothing set aside for housing in particular, and the total monthly allowance is not enough to cover the rent in full alongside everyday expenses. Refugees’ only option is to try become employed as quickly as possible. Yet, given limited language proficiency, a laborer job that offers more than the minimum wage is unlikely. So, not only is there a shortage of affordable housing, there is also a reluctance to lease those spaces to refugee families as well, in addition to the critical issue of employment that pays a family wage.
To better understand the problem, our students went to the ECDC-ACC and interviewed both the housing specialist as well as the jobs specialist and learned in-depth about all their programs as well as the challenges they faced. We learned that the ECDC-ACC operates a thrift store that is both frequented by refugees for household supplies as well as largely run by former refugees themselves. So we went to the store and spoke with several refugees about their experiences adjusting and integrating into the Denver community. From their perspective, there didn’t seem to be a shortage of housing in the area, just a shortage of housing they could afford on a minimum wage. In addition, in many families, only one adult member of the household worked outside the home, as the second adult member cared for the many young children common to the refugee family composition. From there we visited the housing resettlement areas and saw the low-rise multi-family dwellings that were in such demand. There were community gardens, children playing in the field behind the housing area, and small groups of people enjoying ice cream cones from a nearby shop. By the day’s end, our students had developed a much deeper understanding of the problems as well as inspiration to develop viable solutions. They didn’t want to just participate in the competition anymore, it was so much more, they had become invested in really coming up with a solution that could help improve the lives of refugee families.
Our team developed both short- and long-term solutions. The short-term ideas were aimed at helping refugee tenants take care of their rental properties and utilizing social media to facilitate the ECDC-ACC to connect with potential new landlords. Their long-term solutions were guided by theories of social capital. They came up with a list of initiatives that would develop bonds between tenants and property owners, new refugees and existing refugee families, between the refugee community and other social institutions such as places of worship, schools, and workplaces. They also proposed a micro lending enterprise after their research showed that it had worked in a similar situation in Oregon. Specifically, there are only two places in Denver where Muslim women may purchase head scarves. The ECDC-ACC already had a sewing group in place as a community activity. Our team proposed creating a small business through making and selling the scarves with a micro loan. As you can see, our team had many creative and interesting ideas, all with an eye to thinking sociologically about the problems and solutions.
Ashley, Melissa, and Summer gave a theory-driven, field-researched, thoughtful and creative applied sociology presentation that received praise from faculty, practitioners, and fellow students alike. Miriam Broeri, the AACS organizer of the competition, indicated that the UT team was just a point or two away from winning. This is a great start for our program and I thank our three students for all their hard work and congratulate them for representing UT so well.
-Contributed by Lakshmi Jayaram, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Honors courses at The University of Tampa are designed to enhance the educational experience of Honors Program students. Kimberly Dobrinski, Assistant Professor of Biology, developed several experiments for the students in her General Biology (BIO 198) Honors course that students in regular sections of General Biology do not get to do. In this post she describes the experiments they conducted.
In order to instruct the students on the associations between red blood cell morphologies and human disease I developed a new assignment. Using funds from the Honors Program provided to supplement the course content, the students were presented with red blood cell slides. The students determined which diseases they were observing from four possible diseases: Alcoholism, Iron Deficiency Anemia, Malignancy, and Sickle Cell Disease, basing their analysis on the slides with red blood cell morphologies, patient history, physical exam and laboratory tests. The students seemed to really love the exercise and I am happy to say they did very well! In fact, one of the correct answers for their case study was iron deficiency anemia and I even had a student come to me after class and tell me he had been diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia. He was so excited that he now understood how the diagnosis was made and what his own blood cells would look like. It made for a very personal experience for this student. For all the students, this exercise allowed them to engage their problem solving capabilities to solve real-world problems. As many of the Honors students will be pursuing a career in some aspect of medicine, I think they really enjoyed getting a taste of how clinical laboratory science works and how doctors make a diagnosis based on this type of analysis.