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

A Sense of Prague: HC Student’s Summer Study Abroad

When Kyra Crabtree left Kansas City to study in the Czech Republic this summer, she knew she wanted to do everything possible to remember her adventures abroad. Inspired by a class experience at UMKC, she decided to keep a “senses journal” in which she would daily record something she saw, heard, felt, smelled, or tasted. As Kyra notes: “It wasn’t just about what cool things I saw, but what I absorbed from everything around me. My experiences overwhelmed me and excited my soul in ways that I didn’t expect to feel.”

The sounds of the Czech Republic were “just beyond our classroom window, drawing us to the outside world” and, even though there were many different tourists speaking many different languages, Kyra noted that they could all go to a ballet or an opera and understand the story. Smells from the Prague streets varied from “trashcans overflowing with stale bread for pigeons” to “rose gardens, parks, and flower shops that perfumed the air” and made her wish she was better at gardening. On every street corner there was the smell of hot food and Kyra kept a record of dishes she tried: sachertorte, currywurst, schnitzel, and shawarma.

Kyra admits that she never imagined that she would study in the Czech Republic:
“But during my time there I allowed myself to be completely immersed in their culture. I saw towering cliffsides, heard classical opera, walked on ancient roads, smelled roses in palace gardens, and ate like a local. This wasn’t a vacation, where I would sit on a beach and do nothing. It also wasn’t a field trip, where a teacher would hold my hand through everything. This was nothing short of an experience, one that has shaped me and the way I view myself and the world. I am thrilled that I chose to study abroad and would visit Prague again if given the chance.”




Show Your Support–Join HC Friends!

The Honors College Friends (HCF) will work with Honors College Faculty and Staff to create a welcoming and supportive place for perpetually curious students.  The purpose of HCF is to create and nurture meaningful relationships between students, faculty, parents, family, staff, UMKC administrators, alumni, and others.  Honors College Friends will support HC students financially through dues and fundraisers, helping promote community through not only local social events but also field trips to conferences and educational experiences beyond our campus.

If you are an Honors College alumni or are connected in any way to a current Honors College student or just want to see the UMKC Honors College continue to grow and serve more students, you can help!

  • Become a member of HCF ($30/semester or $50/year)
  • Sign up for our email list to get the Honors College Herald published quarterly online.
  • Volunteer to serve on the HCF Board.
  • Follow us on social media.
  • Other ideas?  Let us know!


Honors College Roos are Everywhere

Shiona Deliozar explored Fiji, New Zealand, and…Middle Earth?

Caroline Moriarty visited Amman, Jordan, where she studied Arabic and Jordanian colloquialisms.


Katelyn McAlister studied abroad in the UK and met with several large British businesses.


Cemile Arabaci spent her summer conducting dark matter annihilation analysis research at Arizona State University.


Sam Simmons reconnected with nature in the Rocky Mountain National Park.

New HC Mentoring Program Supports Incoming Students

Whether you are a first-year or a transfer student, the transition to a new college environment can be overwhelming. Starting this fall, an innovative Honors College program will offer support to incoming students by teaming up Older, Wiser Learners (OWLs) with first-year and transfer students (Joeys) new to the UMKC Honors College.  Being an OWL is an opportunity for current HC sophomores and juniors to build lasting relationships with younger HC students. Each OWL will mentor a “mob” of three to seven Joeys, helping the Joeys feel welcomed and integrated into the campus community. OWLs were in touch with their assigned students by email during the summer and greeted them in person at the Honors College BBQ in August. OWLs will meet with their Joeys individually before midterms and finals, attend group events during the fall, and continue the mentor relationship in the spring term.

Thirty Honors College students volunteered for this new program and attended training last spring. Mentorship basics included OWL expectations and Code of Conduct, as well as a review of information about the Honors College and available campus resources for students. OWLs learned about best practices for guiding new students through common issues they might face on campus. They also learned what to do if they find they need guidance helping a Joey with a problem or if they were concerned about the safety of their Joey.

OWLs are enthusiastic about this new Honors College venture:

“I’m excited about being an OWL Mentor because as a freshman student I would not have succeeded if it were not for my more ‘social’ friends. As a commuter student, I didn’t stay on campus much. Having someone closer to you as a mentor/guide (rather than SIs and faculty) who has been through the journey reinforces strategies to tackle life and college. I hope to be that person for others because I was completely lost my first semester and was not aware of the bountiful resources for success.”

Johnson Poon
B.S. Biology | Pre-Medicine | Chemistry Minor
Biomedical Sciences Emphasis

What’s next in building support for student success? The Honors College is looking for recent HC graduates who will volunteer to become Graduation Guides, mentoring our seniors as they negotiate job hunting, applying for grad school, and getting ready for next steps after graduation. Interested applicants should contact HC student advisor Margo Gamache (



Annie Crawford Presents at a National Conference

Honors College senior Annie Crawford’s research on Angelica Schuyler Church, who corresponded with some of the most famous figures of the early United States, reflects her passion for women’s rhetoric. To date, the most memorable experience of her study was presenting her work at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in March in Kansas City. The annual conference is the largest gathering of college teachers of writing and communication in the United States.

“It felt like going to the big leagues. I was surrounded by people whose scholarship I had read in my classes. I got advice about where to go with my project and where to go to graduate school. A few people gave me their cards and told me to look into their programs,” says Annie, who is an English major and is considering going to graduate school to become an English professor.

Annie began the project in Dr. Jane Greer’s class on women and rhetoric at UMKC. Intrigued by Schuyler Church’s character in the musical, Hamilton, which she saw in New York City in March 2016, Annie studied Schuyler Church’s letters to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. With financial support from the UMKC English Department, Annie attended the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies at York College of Pennsylvania and decided to expand her work into a senior honors thesis and a capstone project for her major. Guided by Dr. Greer as her faculty mentor, Annie received a SUROP grant to travel to Albany, New York, and tour Schuyler Church’s childhood home.

“I began to understand that women are remembered in unique ways in different places,” says Annie. “To remember them today, we have to shift the spotlight to their stories.”

As the former editor of Lucerna, the interdisciplinary undergraduate research journal published annually by the Honors College, Annie recognizes the many benefits of undergraduate research. “Working on a research project with my faculty mentor helped me develop my writing and presentation skills. It involved a lot of hard work, but I have no doubt it’s made me a better scholar.”