Caitlin Quirk Awarded Talbott Honors Scholarship

Honors College senior Caitlin Quirk was awarded the Linda H. and Thomas H. Talbott Honors Scholarship for 2021. The scholarship was established by the late Dr. Linda Talbott, who was a scholarship student in the Honors Program at UMKC and wanted to support outstanding students.

“Caitlin is truly an outstanding honors student,” said Jim McKusick, dean of the Honors College. “She has demonstrated academic excellence and has helped to build a community of learning among her fellow honors students.”

Caitlin is an English major with an emphasis on American literature and cultural studies. After she earns her bachelor’s degree in December 2021, she will begin the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at UMKC in Spring 2022. Caitlin wants to teach English in high school and eventually earn a doctorate in Education Administration with the goal of becoming an elementary school principal.

At UMKC, Caitlin loves being part of Sigma Tau Delta and the Spring Interdisciplinary Symposium Committee. She also enjoys spending time with family, reading (she is currently reading Jazz by Toni Morrison), painting, exploring Kansas City, and taking care of her many plants. Some of her favorite Kansas City spots include the River Market, Blue Koi on 39th Street, and Mills Record Company in Westport. She is from Ozark, Missouri, and moved to Kansas City in 2018 to begin her undergraduate studies.

Margo Gamache Rising Star Award

Margo Gamache, the Director of Student Services for the Honors College, has won the UMKC Rising Star Award for 2021!

You can watch and applaud as Margo is given the Rising Star Award today, Tuesday April 20, via YouTube! The event will begin at 3:30, and can be accessed here.

The Rising Star Award recognizes a staff member who makes significant contributions to their area and UMKC within the first five years of their service. The winner of this award demonstrates extraordinary commitment through their innovative ideas, passion, and leadership.

“I am honored to have been chosen for the Rising Star Award,” Margo said. “I am so thankful to my co-workers who offered support and suggestions every time I came with a new idea. Our Honors community is special, and I am honored to have the opportunity to nurture it. I look forward to helping UMKC students thrive well into the future!”

Honors College Executive Assistant Alisa Carmichael said she nominated Margo for the award because Margo provides “the best possible university experience for the students she serves. She is always willing to go above and beyond to see that students succeed, both in their present academic work as well as in their preparations for the future. Perhaps even more importantly at this time, Margo has a strong sense of empathy with students and the challenges they face. This has been particularly evident during the pandemic, as she has focused on ways to build a community of caring for our students, working to mitigate the isolation and uncertainty many students have felt during these periods of quarantine.”

Margo joined the Honors College in October 2018 after working at the UMKC School of Medicine for one and one-half years.

“Margo has accomplished truly impressive things during her two years in the Honors College,” said Honors College Dean James McKusick. “She has greatly improved student recruitment, enrollment, and retention, and she has made substantive innovations in our workflow and technology infrastructure.”

Dean Jim noted that Margo has helped increase enrollment by almost 100 students and achieve a record projected enrollment of 500 honors students for Fall 2021.

“Margo also has shown exceptional commitment to the development of ethical and effective leadership skills among the students who hold leadership positions in Honors College student organizations. Seeing that our various student groups needed to develop better interpersonal communication, she volunteered to facilitate a monthly Student Executive Council meeting where all of our student leaders can coordinate plans and develop consistent shared objectives for their respective groups. Under her careful guidance and mentoring, this monthly meeting has become a model for respectful and inclusive student self-governance within the Honors College,” Dean Jim said.

Commenting on Margo’s well-known “straightforward, no-nonsense demeanor,” Honors College Director Gayle Levy said that Margo “gives students confidence. She assists the students who are having difficulties in using the tools they have to resolve their issues and she emboldens those who are doing well to go further, whether that is to complete a senior honors thesis, to study abroad, or to apply for a research opportunity. The mentoring programs she created for the Honor College—Honors College Preceptors, faculty who informally mentor groups of students from varied disciplines—and the OWL (Older, Wiser Learner) program in which students mentor and socially interact with small groups of “joeys” or first-year students, serve as models for the greater UMKC community.”

Margo was born in Iowa City and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She studied Mechanical Engineering and English at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and English at the University of Iowa in Iowa City before earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications-Publications with a minor in Marketing at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Margo has a master’s degree in Leadership in Human Service Administration from Bradley. She lives in Lee’s Summit with her husband and two young sons.

Congratulations to Margo and thanks to her for all that she does for the Honors College.

Honors student Niki Joshi wins prestigious fellowship

Honors College student Niki Joshi will never forget how she celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 2021.

As the recipient of a competitive fellowship that will send her to Ireland this summer, she  appeared at an online event with US Vice President Kamala Harris, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Micheál Martin, and Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, Daniel Mulhall on March 17.

Mulhall introduced Niki and 13 other US college students as Frederick Douglass Global Fellows for 2021. The Douglass fellowship honors the famous nineteenth-century African American abolitionist and aims to help students of color develop skills in leadership, social justice, agitation for positive change, and cross-cultural understanding.

The program will be based in Dublin this summer to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the meeting of Douglass and Irish reformer Daniel O’Connell in Dublin in 1845 during Douglass’ campaign against slavery and oppression.

Nettie Washington Douglass, the great-great-granddaughter of Frederick Douglass, also attended the March 17 event.

Niki said she was grateful for the recognition of Harris, Martin, Mulhall, and Nettie Douglass, and for the discussion of the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. “It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the emotional significance and impact that Douglass’s time in Ireland had on his development and activism. I’m deeply humbled and honored to have the opportunity to follow his journey and walk in his footsteps.”

 Niki looks forward to meeting the other Douglass Fellows in person in Dublin. “All of us are in a pretty active group chat where we often share news, personal updates, and words of encouragement. Not only are they all inspiring and accomplished leaders, but they’re also genuinely kind and supportive people,” she said.

 Douglass Fellows are selected for their academic achievement, communication skills, and commitment to social justice. Niki is a sophomore pursuing double majors in History and English—Creative Writing with a minor in Film Studies. She is one of seven UMKC Trustees’ Scholars for 2019 and has earned merit scholarships from the UMKC departments of English and History. As the senior editor and writer for Her Campus at UMKC, Niki recently reported on activist Jane Fonda and film director Ava Du Vernay. She also contributes to the UNews and is the video and production coordinator of TEDxRockhill.

Honors College Dean James McKusick said that Niki is an engaged student leader at UMKC who “has shown exceptional talent and dedication in her off-campus activities, which include pre-professional internships at three prestigious local firms, as well as volunteer service for UNICEF and dedicated work as a community organizer for a local advocacy group, March For Our Lives. Through these varied work experiences, Ms. Joshi has become deeply invested in building stronger communities in her hometown of Kansas City, and along the way, she has become adept at building bridges between people of diverse heritage throughout our metro area.”

To view the March 17 video, go to

To hear from Niki and other Douglass fellows, go to



Roo Honors Academy

The Roo Honors Academy invites high school students to participate in a fun and intellectually engaging one-week summer enrichment program, June 21-25, 2021, in the Honors Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Academy will offer non-credit classes on environmental justice, food culture, the evolution of cities and wildlife, and the culture and history of Kansas City. For course descriptions, click on

Participants will choose one morning course and one afternoon course taught by UMKC faculty members. All classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the Volker campus, near the Country Club Plaza.

Students need to provide their own transportation to and from the campus and bring their own lunch, except on Friday. Students who successfully complete each course will receive a “Recognition of Achievement” certificate from the UMKC Honors Program and a souvenir T-shirt.

The fee for the selective program open to thirty students in grades 9-12 is $265; children of UMKC employees are eligible for a $20 discount. Need-based scholarships may be available. For more information about scholarships or other questions about the Academy, please contact Margo Gamache, Honors Program Director of Student Services.

The application deadline is May 1, 2021, and applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Click here to complete the Roo Honors Academy application.

 To view the Roo Honors Academy video, go to


Meet a Lucerna Author: Grace Reeseman

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project initially was about designing and implementing a sun-tracking solar panel system. I wanted to make a solar panel system that would “follow” the sun throughout the day and therefore be at a more effective angle to collect energy. To do this, I used a light dependent resistor (LDR) and a servo motor. An LDR is a resistor that is inversely proportional to incident light intensity. The motor moved the panel from 0 to 180 degrees every 15 minutes, and voltage values were taken at each degree and stored in an array. The maximum voltage in the array, and the associated position, was found using a program in Arduino (using C++). The servo motor adjusted the solar panel to the position at which the voltage was at a maximum. As the project progressed, however, certain problems arose with saturation of the photocell. In response, I examined the effects of using a filter over the LDR in this system.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I was interested in this topic because it seemed like a simple way to increase solar panel efficiency. Renewable energy sources are underused, and I think a way to make them more appealing is to increase their efficiency.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The challenges of this project were mainly in the coding and building of the system. I had never written code in C++ before, used an Arduino, or built a circuit of this magnitude. Hence, the whole process was a learning experience for me, which I viewed as a major benefit.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

My advice for students is to get involved in doing research that you enjoy, take really good notes (even on things you are sure you’ll remember), and don’t leave all of your writing for the end.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I am currently a Mathematics and Physics double major. I am also currently enrolled in an accelerated Mathematics degree program which will allow me to obtain a master’s degree two semesters after graduating with my bachelor’s degrees. Then I plan to attend graduate school and obtain a Ph.D. in Physics. I aspire to do research in theoretical physics.





Meet a Lucerna Author: Bwaar Omer

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project explores the effects of the German Third Reich on some of the most important composers of the time. I looked into how Adolf Hitler and his regime used these composers to further their goals. I specifically focused on Kurt Weill, Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Anton Bruckner, and Richard Strauss because they were the most prominent during the Third Reich. The legacies of these composers were all impacted differently and some were unscathed. There are many opinions about these composers’ standings and whether or not some of them should be shunned by the music community because of affiliation with the Third Reich.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I was initially interested in this topic due to a discussion in my European Cultures, Histories & Ideas class in which we talked about Beethoven’s contribution to the world of music. One of the professors, Dr. William Everett, asked if we knew about Beethoven’s music during the Third Reich. Then he asked why nobody seemed to be bothered that many of Beethoven’s compositions were used to empower and motivate the Third Reich. The obvious answer to this question would be that Beethoven wasn’t alive at that time, so there was no way for him to confirm or deny if he supported the beliefs of Hitler. However, this piqued my interest, because through research I was able to find that the music of some composers was treated differently after the atrocities of the Third Reich. All of this led me to research more and write a paper on the topic.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

Some benefits were learning more about something I am interested in and interacting with professors from different majors. As a biology major, I don’t get many opportunities to sign up for classes that involve culture, but this project has given me the chance to delve deeper into European culture and history. Working with Dr. Everett and Dr. Scott Baker was also great because they were amazing professors and very helpful in the writing process. My biggest challenge while taking on this project was definitely the sea of opinions that I had to read through to find the facts that were necessary to write an  effective research article.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

My advice is to make sure that you find something that you are truly interested in. It is really difficult to spend time and effort on something that you won’t find intriguing in the long run. Also, I advise them to not get discouraged, because it can be hard to find information on your specific topic, but don’t stop trying.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I plan to earn my bachelor’s degree in Biology in May 2020 and hope to get my Master’s Degree in Biology by the end of next year. This summer I will be taking the MCAT and I hope to get into medical school in order to become a doctor.





Meet a Lucerna Author: Maggie Agee

What is your Lucerna project about?

My Lucerna project is about the mental health struggles that many kids in the LGBTQIA+ community face as well as ways in which schools, parents, and peers can help. The main area of concern is the impact of ignorance and homophobia on healthy identity development and their influence on anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation in youth. This essay examines how the lack of inclusive education and positive role models can weaken a child’s spirit, and how poor support from family and peers can lead to homelessness or conversion therapy programs that can be traumatic. In addition, I explore potential methods for mediating the stress on queer youth and promoting acceptance, such as family therapies and queer inclusive lesson plans. The goal is ultimately to educate people about a problem that typically goes under the radar and to let people in the LGBTQIA+ community know that they matter, and things can get better.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I’m interested in this topic because it is rarely spoken about, especially in academic circles. A lot of discussion of queer-related topics are restricted to adults, and they often revolve around sexual attraction or gender reassignment procedures. I noticed this when I was doing my research because there were very few scholarly articles about identity development and the effects of homophobia on children. I imagine it’s because there is a common belief that sexual orientation and gender identity are not established until one is older or that they shouldn’t be in the conversation at all because it’s supposedly inappropriate for children to talk about it. However, this is far from the truth. First of all, sexual orientation and gender identity are much more than sex itself. There are emotions and elements of expression in both gender and sexuality that are present from a young age and that shape the type of person they grow up to be. While these things are fluid and can change as one ages, I think it’s important to talk about it when people are young because in all the examples I’ve seen people went through years of confusion and fear because they didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. All they knew was that the feelings they were having were deemed wrong by society, and it caused a lot of internal torment. I think that the stigma surrounding these topics limits people from being 100% true to themselves, and it also limits our understanding of differences in human experience. For me, this project is meant to open up the conversation about such topics so that we can break this stigma and promote not only tolerance but acceptance and encouragement.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

I’d say that one of the challenges was definitely finding sources related to the material I wanted to cover. I had to do a lot of digging, and there are a lot of individual stories about people who have been through tough situations, which I think both helps and hurts my argument. Emotional appeals help strengthen my point that this is a problem deserving of urgent attention, but I also understand that scholarly information and statistics is important for credibility. Balancing the two was difficult at times, but I’m happy with the result. I’d also say that it was a challenge to keep my own experiences out of the equation because it is a topic that hits close to home for me. That said, I’ve definitely benefitted from this work as well. It’s been inspiring for me because I see now that there are realistic solutions available to make life a bit easier for queer kids. I’ve also been given an opportunity to explore my own identity and experiences a little better which has made me more confident for the long run.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

My advice to anyone that is interested in potentially publishing their work in Lucerna or any publication really is to start early and give yourself time to develop your ideas. I began work on this project in Fall of 2018 in a Discourse class, and I continued to work on it under my teacher’s mentorship in Spring 2019, and on my own in Fall 2019. It has been a long journey, and I’ve made a lot of changes along the way, but I’m much happier with it than I was with my first draft. I think that the more effort you put into it, the more satisfied you feel about your work and the prouder you feel about being given an opportunity to share it. I’d also like to advise people to not hold back or be afraid to showcase bits of themselves in their work. It makes it unique, and it can strengthen the argument because it shows passion and a commitment. For me, I want people to see my commitment and passion for social justice, so that’s something I’d encourage others to do as well.

What are your professional plans or goals?

My career goals are to attend graduate school and work towards earning a PhD in clinical psychology. My current plan is to go into gerontology and work with older adults. While I am not interested in working with children, I think that the things I have discussed in this project like identity development and formation of healthy self-concepts at a young age have long-lasting effects that may be evident in some of my adult patients. I also think sexual orientation and gender identity fall into the area of intersectionality, which is crucial to consider when trying to figure out the best way to help a person. I need to be able to think about things from their point of view which means taking into account individual struggles as well as their resources for coping with those struggles.





Shefaa Allan wins Talbott Honors College Scholarship

Science student Shefaa Allan has received the Talbott Honors College Scholarship for 2020-2021. The scholarship is named for distinguished alumna and civic leader Linda Hood Talbott and is presented annually to a full-time Honors College student who has achieved academic excellence.

Shefaa is a rising junior majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and philosophy who plans to attend medical school and become a pathologist. She led an Honors Discussion Group in Spring 2020, started a UMKC student organization advocating for justice through education, and represented Palestinians in Culture Night 2019 at UMKC.

“Shefaa truly deserves this honor!,” said Dr. Gayle Levy, Honors College Director. “She has been the Honors Discussion Group leader for Cell Biology (Bio 202) since January and it is clear how much she cares about the participants and the Honors College as a whole. She has worked hard to migrate the Cell Bio HDG online during this challenging period and to support the honors students in her group as they face all of these sudden changes together.”

Shefaa describes herself as “a girl of Palestinian origin born and raised in the Midwest” and admits that she has struggled to merge her ethnic identity with her identity as a U.S. citizen. She chose to attend UMKC, which has a large international student population, so that she could embrace both parts of her background. As she completes her second year at UMKC, Shefaa says that the university has exceeded her expectations.

Congratulations, Shefaa!


Lucerna Symposium 2020

More than forty students, faculty, family, and friends attended the annual Lucerna Symposium on March 5 in Pierson Auditorium at UMKC. Three of the nine undergraduates whose research articles appear in the new volume of Lucerna gave brief presentations about their remarkable scholarship and answered questions posed by the audience at the event sponsored by the Honors College.

Honors College student Sophie Jess spoke about her article, “Please Touch: An Exploration of the Bloch Building as a Post-Museum in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.” Grace Reeseman shared highlights from her research, “Overcoming LDR Saturation in a Sun Tracking Solar Panel System.” Honors College student Chase Ford summarized his study, “The Portu-guise: Influence on the Portuguese National Identity Post-Carnation Revolution.”

Dr. Gayle Levy, the director of the Honors College, offered opening remarks and an overview of the history of Lucerna, the only peer-reviewed interdisciplinary research journal open to submissions from all UMKC undergraduates. The Honors College began publishing Lucerna in 2005 as a service to the academic community and collaborates on its design with the Egghead Student Design Agency led by UMKC Professor Paul Tosh.

“We are so lucky to be able to come together as a community every year to celebrate the publication of the exciting and creative research that UMKC students conduct. I want to thank Senior Editor Joseph Allen and Lucerna faculty advisor Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood and their team for hosting a wonderful symposium!” Dr. Levy said.

Dr. Chris Liu, vice-chancellor for research, spoke about the importance of undergraduate research. Allen and Editor-in-Chief Katelyn Fisher also addressed the audience, thanking faculty advisors who work with contributors and the Lucerna staff, and encouraging new submissions for the next volume of the journal.

The latest edition of Lucerna soon will be available in digital form on the Honors College website at