Dozens of honors students from colleges across the state and West Virginia gathered at the University at Lynchburg over the weekend for the Virginias Collegiate Honors Council 2022 Spring Conference: “Reconnecting.”
Provost Dr. Allison Jablonski and Dr. Beth Savage, dean of the Westover Honors College at Lynchburg, welcomed attendees on Friday afternoon, along with Katie McShea, VCHC student vice president, and Dr. Karen Layou, VCHC president.
The keynote address on Friday night was presented by Dr. Stephen Smith, director of the Central Virginia Governor’s School for Science and Technology in Lynchburg, and adjunct faculty at Lynchburg in the School of Education and in the Westover Honors College.
Over the two days, several Westover Honors Fellows represented the University of Lynchburg through oral presentations, posters, and flash talks in Schewel Hall’s Sydnor Performance Hall. They also participated in a service project by writing cards to hospitalized children and elderly people in care facilities, and a game night hosted by the Westover Honors Executive Council.
A professional development workshop for students and a faculty workshop enriched the busy Saturday schedule, as did free student headshots provided by University photographer John McCormick.
“The whole weekend was a wonderful opportunity for professional, academic, and personal development,” Savage said. “The scholarship was definitely top notch, and it was so valuable for our students to both present their own work and get to hear how other students from honors programs across Virginia and West Virginia approached their research.
“The diversity of topics was striking, and for many students it was their first opportunity to take part in an in-person conference.”
Two Lynchburg students were nominated for the VCHC Emerging Honors Scholar of the Year and VCHC Honors Scholar of the Year awards — psychological science major Taylor Morgan ’24 and biomedical science major Manuela Amouzou ’23, respectively.
Though still in its beginning stages, Amouzou’s senior thesis project, “The Effect of Weight Bias on Cardiovascular Disease Treatment,” made an impression on the council’s Scholarship Committee.
“I felt extremely honored and humbled to even be considered for this award, let alone nominated,” she said. “I’m very grateful to all the Westover faculty for encouraging me to explore and challenge my ideas, and for fostering a safe space for this to occur.”
Amouzou admitted she was nervous to present the project to an audience for the first time, but said her thesis advisors helped her prepare.
“Thanks to [their] support, with great thanks to Dr. Tonya Price, I was able to fully communicate the beginnings of my research and convey how interwoven weight bias is in society, specifically health care, and the necessity for research in this field [to improve] the quality of health care for all people.”
Presentations by other Lynchburg honors students included such varied topics as “The Impact of Female Militia Units on Women’s Rights in a Society” (Grace Ball ’22), “What’s in a Vote: Voter Choice in the 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020 Presidential Election” (Matthew Gillett ’22), or “Insanity: The Effect of the Scientific Revolution on the Treatment of Mental Illness” (Sam Lipert ’23).
Frederick Smallshaw ’23, who introduced the service project during the welcome on Friday afternoon, presented on “Harmony in Peril: Interactions Between Red and White in The Canterbury Tales,” while Quinn Harker shared her research on “A Functional Comparison of RAW 264.7 Cells and Murine Bone Marrow-Derived Macrophages (BMDM).”
Other Lynchburg projects featured “The Effects of Communication Differences on Listeners’ Attitudes of Warmth and Competence, Credibility, Intelligences, and Social Distance” (Rebecca Parks ’22), “The Invasion of the American Heiress: How wealthy American women bought husbands and married their way to the top of British society” (Ana Emond ’24), and “A Quantitative Analysis of Gender Inequality on Efforts to Reduce Human Trafficking in Countries” (Amelia Simmons ’23).
The conference also included students and faculty from Bluefield College, Emory & Henry College, Ferrum College, George Mason University, Hampton University, James Madison University, Longwood University, Marymount University, Radford University, Reynolds Community College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, the University of Mary Washington, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, Virginia Wesleyan University, and West Virginia University.
The Virginias Collegiate Honors Council, now more than 20 years old, joins Virginia universities, colleges, and community colleges throughout the commonwealth to support and enhance programs and activities to meet the needs of exceptionally talented and motivated students. Recently, schools from West Virginia have also been included.