RIC Honors students give final poster presentations

Thirty graduating RIC seniors from the College Honors Program gathered in the Student Union Ballroom on April 30 to present their final poster presentations to an audience of faculty, staff and students.

Xenia Fernandez, a biology major, with her poster presentation titled "Bcp1 as a possible component of the DNA damage response in Saccharomyces cerevisiae."
The 30 honor students were all part of the departmental honors program, which requires students to complete a two-semester independent research, critical or creative project on a topic of their choice, with a professor they selected, to work with them and monitor their progress.

In addition to the departmental honors program, 10 of these students also participated in the general education honors program. These 10 students will graduate with College Honors.

Xenia Fernandez, a biology major, put two years of research into her honors project, which aimed to expand current knowledge of Bcp1 protein in yeast. So far, she has applied to seven graduate schools (including RIC) and plans to further her education in pediatric medicine, specifically in hematology or oncology.

Fernandez is also the recipient of the Eleanor M. McMahon award, an honor given to a senior in the College Honors Program on the basis of academic achievement and quality of the final project. She will be officially presented with this award at graduation on Thursday, May 17.

“The College Honors Program has benefited me by raising my expectations of myself … I found myself surpassing what I thought I was capable of,” said Fernandez. “It was a lot of work, but I feel more prepared for similar projects that I will have later on in my academic career.”

Julie VanGyzen presents her final honors project in the Student Union Ballroom on April 30.
“The general education honors program is a major factor for [RIC] recruitment,” said Spencer Hall, director of the College Honors Program. “We like to create a community among the honors students, particularly during the year of transition from seniors in high school to freshmen in college.”

Most students who enroll in the College Honors Program are invited to apply from high school on the basis of academic record. The general education honors program accepts around 45 freshmen at the beginning of each academic year, many of whom rank in the top 20 percent of their high school classes and receive SAT scores of at least 1200, said Hall.

Clarinet performance major Julie VanGyzen gave a presentation titled “The Chameleon Clarinet – Cultural and Historical Perspectives in America Through the Twentieth Century” which explored American genres of the instrument, including Swing Era, Dixieland and Jewish Klezmer.

VanGyzen was able to travel to Tulane University in New Orleans to look at musical archives and read oral histories and interviews of clarinet musicians when jazz exploded in the United States. She was able to travel thanks to a grant from The Anne and Bob DeStefano Undergraduate Research Program, which often subsidizes RIC students’ honors projects.

Samuel Kashuk, a ceramics major, showcased his ceramics pieces constructed and fired at RIC rather than giving a poster presentation.
"My senior project has taken me places that I never thought I'd go to, and has given me experience in activities that will help me greatly in my future endeavors,” said VanGyzen. “The College Honors program is a great environment for intellectual growth and stimulation. It really forced me to think critically in many different subject areas, while finding a way to relate them to my own field of music.”

Through her research, VanGyzen discovered that different types of clarinet genres share many of the same techniques and pedagogy.

On the same night, a dinner was held to acknowledge the honors students and their achievements. VanGyzen and RIC flute student Meghan Bowen, who have been playing together for two years, performed a piece by Paul Nelson for the audience.

College Honors Program alums Julie Lima Boyle ’94 – an English teacher at Coventry High School who was recently awarded Rhode Island’s Teacher of the Year – and Lisa Rose Bucci ’05 – a science teacher at Hope High School who was named Providence Teacher of the Year – also attended the dinner.

Boyle was a recipient of the McMahon award in 1994.