Honors Students Earn Accolades at Great Plains Honors Council Conference

For Honors Program student Noah Fansler, the highlight of the Great Plains Honors Council Conference in March was not winning the Humanities poster competition or helping UMKC bring home the trivia contest trophy.

“The highlight was hearing how interested people were in my research,” said Noah, whose presentation addressed a famous artwork at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. “I presented on Friday, and on Saturday, I had several people tell me that my research was thought provoking. Creating a project that encouraged discussion was so rewarding because it made my research feel meaningful.”

Noah was one of eight UMKC Honors students and two advisors who traveled 1,000 miles in three days to attend the conference at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. More than 300 students from four states participated in the annual event, which featured poster and oral presentations on topics from diverse disciplines.

Honors Program student Jessica Kim won first place in the STEM poster competition for her research on a dynamic circadian complex.

“I was able to present my research in front of new faces and reaffirmed it is relevant and important. Furthermore, I loved seeing Wichita Falls and eating at Braum’s for the first time!” Jess said.

Noah and Jess helped UMKC win two of the six poster awards of the conference; each student also received $100 as a prize.

The other UMKC participants were Symone Franks, Chinecherem Ihenacho, Ebele Mgbemena, Diana Perez, Theo Raitzer, and Elliott Smith. Margo Gamache, Honors Program Director of Student Services, and Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood, Honors Program Teaching Professor, organized and chaperoned the trip funded by the Honors Program.

Elliott shared his research on the history and current impact of KCUR, the Kansas City public radio station based at UMKC. “My favorite part of the GPHC was interacting with students from other colleges and universities. Learning about the work they do in their communities and seeing how involved they were was very inspiring. We were even able to team up with some students from Texas and win the conference’s trivia challenge!” he said.

The conference was the first time these Honors students had presented their scholarship to a university audience.

“The Great Plains Honors Conference introduced me to what an academic career in my field looks like,” said Ebele, who talked about how three UMKC conservatory professors and composers think of their work. “I enjoyed preparing for the presentation, sharing my research, and discussing the material with my fellow presenters. It was such a positive learning experience, and I look forward to participating in more academic conferences in the future.”

Local Mayors Meet Honors Program Students in New Leadership Class

Honors students asked hard questions and got honest answers about the challenges of leadership when they met with three Kansas City-area mayors on September 28 in Honors 360C, a new class about leadership and ethics.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Mission Mayor Sollie Flora, and Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson talked about responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with critical and polarized constituents, and efforts to provide affordable housing. Mayor Flora, one of the few women mayors in the area, addressed assumptions about gender and leadership.

“We were impressed that three local leaders took the time to meet with our students and share their experiences and insights,” said Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood, a Teaching Professor in the Honors Program who is co-teaching Honors 360C with Margo Gamache, the Honors Program Student Services Director.

A funny thing happened to Mayor Lucas on the way to the meeting: he had trouble finding the classroom, so he used his Twitter account to ask for help and later posted a picture of the class.

Tweet from Mayor Quentin Lucas that says "I found my UMKC classroom and enjoyed visiting with students today on policy, communications, and what makes us unique - quite a question." Attached is an image of Mayor Lucas sitting in a classroom with students.

Honors 360C is the first class in the Honors Leader Program, which helps students develop the skills they need to solve social problems and address important issues. The program is a series of four one-credit courses focusing on the four Honors pillars: environmental sustainability, social justice and cultural awareness, leadership and ethics, and Kansas City history and urban engagement.

Gamache proposed the Honors Leader Program because students told her they wanted more opportunities to make a difference in Kansas City.

“Many Honors students already volunteer for campus and community organizations,” Gamache said. “The Honors Leader Program will allow them to connect with local leaders, learning from and with them about the needs of the Kansas City area.”

Honors faculty and staff will teach the Honors Leader courses, which will include discussion groups, guest speakers, and community service. One course will be offered each semester during a two-year period with the program repeating every two years.

“For more than forty years, the UMKC Honors Program has encouraged students to develop leadership skills through classes, student-led groups, and study abroad,” said Dr. Gayle Levy, Director of the Honors Program. “The Honors Leader Program extends our efforts to help our students, our university, and Kansas City. Many of our alumni are leaders, and we plan to call upon them to participate in the program.”

For more information about the Honors Leader Program, please contact Margo Gamache at gamachem@umkc.edu.

Lucerna 2022 available online

The latest volume of Lucerna, the UMKC undergraduate research journal published annually by the Honors Program, is available online now.

Lucerna 2022 features the scholarship of twelve UMKC students: Karah Chappel, “Exploration of the Referral Process of Social Work Within a Policing Structure”; Lauren Cooper and Brooke Friday, “The Neuropathological Analysis of Sport and Blast TBIs”; Robin Conrad, “The Many Names of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: How They Have Improved and How They Can Continue to Improve”; Anuhya Dayal, “From MMR to COVID-19: A Study of Vaccination Perception Over Time and the Modern Effects of Social Media”; Denise Dean, “Associations of Environmental Factors and Physical Activity Behaviors: A Photo Analysis”; Dominic Guillen, “A Simpler Annuity”; Ellie Jackson, “Iran: Analyzing the Dominant Coalition of an Authoritarian Regime”; Niki Joshi, “Reconciling Two Identities: The Letters of Anandibai Joshi”; Kai Milanovich, “Performing Escape: Imagining Future with Plato’s Symposium”; Carson Rau, “Spatial and Social Organization in Restaurants: The Dynamics of Cooperation and Contention”; and Lauren Textor, “The Necessity of Art Programming in Restructuring the Prison System.”

Lucerna accepts submissions from UMKC undergraduates in all programs. For more information and guidelines, go to https://honors.umkc.edu/get-involved/lucerna/

Honors senior Sean Purdue steers Concrete Canoe team to regional win

For the first time in more than a decade, UMKC engineering students designed and constructed a unique water vessel for the annual Concrete Canoe Competition sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Led by Honors senior Sean Purdue, a civil engineering major, the UMKC team won its regional competition, hosted by Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, in April.

“The idea of making a canoe out of concrete is absurd, but that absurdity is what makes it so fun. You have to put your head together with your team and make a boat out of a really unsuitable material, so you’re forced to think outside of the box,” Sean said.

Sean is president of the UMKC student chapter of ASCE and was captain and project manager of the UMKC canoe team of fifteen students. He says the team tried to compensate for its lack of recent experience in the competition by keeping things simple and communicating effectively.

Of course, it is not simple to make and race a concrete canoe, but enabling students to test their skills in concrete mix designs and project management is the goal of the competition that began in 1988 and is known as the “America’s Cup of Civil Engineering.”

Sean said there were plenty of challenges. “Lack of experience made duration and cost estimating nearly impossible. I frequently underestimated how long construction tasks would take, which meant a lot of last-minute scrambling to finish things. Unifying the writing of the technical report was also a challenge, since multiple people contributed to it. We also did not do a good job with quality control (ensuring that construction matches design). Managing members who are busy with school, work, and other extracurriculars was challenging as well.”

Bad weather prevented the UMKC team from racing its canoe at the regional competition, where it took first place for the “Blue Phoenix,” which is 238 inches long, 26 inches wide, 15 inches deep, and weighed 395 pounds. Despite the win, the UMKC team did not participate in the national Concrete Canoe competition because it did not meet other ASCE requirements unrelated to the canoe project.

Sean aims to help the UMKC team repeat its regional win and qualify for the national competition next year.

Dr. John T. Kevern, chairperson of the UMKC Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering and faculty advisor to the Concrete Canoe team, praised Sean’s leadership on the project.

“UMKC hasn’t had a concrete canoe since the mid-2000’s and as such, had no institutional knowledge for the Blue Phoenix. Sean successfully organized all aspects of the team from scratch—canoe design, mold construction, concrete design, paddling, report writing, presentations, and especially fund raising. Under normal circumstances this is a significant bit of extra work, but to do it without anyone to ask, ‘What did you do last time?’ is huge, plus they won the regional competition. It’s safe to say that without Sean’s leadership it would have been a different outcome,” Dr. Kevern said.

Honors students restore Student Union Garden

The garden on the rooftop terrace of the UMKC Student Union looked more like a desert than an oasis for years.

Today, the garden blooms again, thanks to a campaign led by eight Honors students in Spring 2022. The students formed a new organization, the UMKC Gardening Club, as part of their project for an Honors class, Civic and Urban Engagement H202: Social Action. This class asks students to identify a social problem and take action to solve that problem in one semester.

For their social action campaign, Sonya Ahmad, Ashley Appleberry, Amelia Beharry, Jay Cravens, Sudhiksha Kumar, Hannah Leyva, Cassandra Ludwig, and Madi Sweeney focused on a campus garden that was abandoned during the COVID-19 pandemic. They collaborated to get permission and supplies to revitalize the space and organized a planting party on April 29.

For more information about the UMKC Gardening Club, go to Instagram @umkcgardeningclub


Meet a Lucerna Author: Denise Dean

What is your Lucerna project about?

My article, “Associations of Environmental Factors and Physical Activity Behaviors: A Photo Analysis, is about how the built environment affects physical activity behaviors among underserved communities in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I am interested in improving health equity for our community and exploring the associations of the built environment on health behaviors was the perfect start.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The benefits of this project include working closely with faculty and becoming familiar with scholarly-scientific writing.

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

My advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna is to make sure you meet your deadlines and carefully read the requirements before submitting your work.

What are your professional plans or goals?

My professional goal is to work towards global health equity by developing sustainable water and sanitation systems as well as increasing access to culturally tailored health education. I will be starting my Masters in Global Public Health Spring of 2022 and plan to pursue a doctoral program soon after.

Meet a Lucerna Author: Lauren Textor

What is your Lucerna project about?

My article, “The Necessity of Art Programming in Restructuring the Prison System,” is about art programming in prisons and how it can be helpful in lowering recidivism rates and expanding the skill sets of incarcerated individuals. I combined quantitative data from previous research studies with the qualitative answers of people who have worked with prison programs.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I believe that everyone should have access to a creative outlet! My love of writing has gotten me through the most difficult times of my life. I had heard about organizations that facilitated art projects in local prisons before, so I decided to look deeper into it. I decided to incorporate interviews with facilitators into my research, and that’s when the project took off for me. My sources shared so many personal stories with me. From the first interview that I conducted, I could tell that this was going to become more than just another paper to me.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

I’m much more educated now on how our justice system functions, but there’s so much ground to cover that I still feel like I’m only beginning to understand it all. I’m grateful that I was able to connect with so many people who not only consented to being interviewed, but fully embraced it. The biggest challenge was in editing, because I found the writing process so enjoyable and I felt loyal to my first draft. I went through so many rounds of edits, partly so that I could find a more objective tone. There was no way to condense all the information that I gathered from the interviews into a single paper, so I had to make some sacrifices and narrow my focus.

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

There is no one way to do research! I was intimidated by the idea of it at first, but research in its most basic form is just asking a question and then attempting to find an answer. I research local restaurants extensively on Yelp, and you could most definitely write a paper about the overlaps in the Kansas City foodie scene and the gaps that we’ve yet to fill. Pick something you care about and go from there.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I’m still figuring out what I like. I have always loved writing, and I care about humanitarian issues, so for the past few years I’ve planned to combine the two through nonprofit work. I’m planning on going to graduate school, but not directly after undergrad. I want to give myself time to explore all the fields that I’m interested in.

Meet a Lucerna Author: Anuhya Dayal

What is your Lucerna project about?  

My article “From MMR to COVID-19: A Study of Vaccine Perception Over Time and the Modern Effects of Social Media” is about the perception of vaccination and how it has changed from the age of MMR to COVID-19. I look at how social media has played a role in anti-vaccination sentiment and the evolution of this movement across time. 

Why are you interested in this topic?  

While I was writing this paper in Fall 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had just started and vaccines were being made. Seeing how this virus turned the world upside-down was flabbergasting, and the perception of the new vaccine was equally intriguing. While the virus was new, the concept of vaccination wasn’t, so the public reaction to COVID-19 vaccination was immensely interesting to me. Also, as a medical school student, the crossover between the medical and social worlds was something I hadn’t studied before, but I integrated two aspects of my own life that I hadn’t looked at analytically before.  

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?  

There were many benefits and challenges of working on this project. Some of the benefits include researching an interdisciplinary topic in a detailed manner that I haven’t been able to before. I was given the opportunity to dive into a unique type of research that broadened my knowledge and perception of social media and social movements in a medical context. I was able to enhance my writing style and learned to work flexibly to create the best paper possible. I was also immensely grateful to work with an amazing mentor who helped me write this paper every step of the way.  

Some of the challenges include the time and attention to detail that producing a good quality research paper required. More often than not, research requires a different level of patience and grit that can be difficult to maintain at the early stages of the paper. Additionally, keeping up with deadlines was definitely challenging, but an important requirement to meet.  

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

My advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna is to start early and submit with no regrets. I think starting early and making many edits/revisions yourself or with a mentor/peers is a vital first step to writing a successful paper that will be accepted into the journal. The second piece of advice is to simply submit their paper! Don’t be afraid of your work not being good enough or traditional enough. Lucerna is an open-minded journal that loves unique and creative pieces. Along those lines, if you ever have questions, don’t be afraid to ask the staff! Everyone is really friendly and wants to help you succeed!   

What are your professional plans or goals? 

I am a second-year student in UMKC’s BA/MD program. My professional goals are to graduate from medical school and hopefully match at a good residency program. While I am not sure what specialty I would like to pursue, I aim to become a helpful and humble clinician-scientist, both practicing medicine and (hopefully) working in my own research lab.  

Meet a Lucerna Author: Kai Milanovich

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project, “Performing Escape: Imagining Future with Plato’s Symposium,” spun out of a queer theory course I completed in the Fall of 2021. One theme of this class was focusing on the contingency of history and theoretical interventions into our understanding of time. Why must we understand time as linear, such as a story line—can these formulations be transfigured? One “queered” view of time comes in founding the construct of time on relationality and affect rather than on the movement of the planets. This conception of time relates to idealistic political questions, such as, “How might one’s relationship to the future—a world which is not yet here—shape their actions in forming that future?” The potency of our imagination is a vital condition to any political project because any world worth desiring must be creatively different from our current state.

Why are you interested in this topic?

This project focuses on several historically distinct moments in order to do the “imaginative work” of political thinking. If all social and political constructs are historically situated within contingent material conditions, then how does the dislocation of these constructs alter their constitution? What would it genuinely mean to bring old ideas into the present—not in a carbon-copy form that is ignorant to the diversity of contingent structural meanings—but in a way which was respectful to those ideas as they were? The clearest motivation for this project came as a method of creativity: historical situations are not only the failures of ancestors from which we vicariously learn, they are also sites for the generation of world-making knowledge.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this project was personal, in that it allowed me the time and space to think through how queer theoretic approaches to time altered conceptions of meaning making. Personally, this has helped me make clearer sense of what my past has meant to me, specifically realizing that part of growing up is learning always to relate differently to past moments so substantially that those moments fail to be recognizable any more. Challenges, on the other hand, were found in trying to make the project somehow pragmatic in a social/political sense. While it was a personally fulfilling project, it was a little bit straining to identify how such conceptions of meaning making could act as viable, let alone useful, supplements to any sort of political project.

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

Work with others! Students, professors, even people outside of academia to identify alternative viewpoints. Personally, I do much greater work whenever I can bounce ideas off people, hear new formulations of thought, and work to clarify where my confusions sit.

What are your professional plans or goals?

Currently I am applying to a number of graduate programs in philosophy. I’m primarily interested in bioethics and epistemology and am drawn to more of the applied side of philosophy. I graduated in December of 2021, though on the off chance that I decide graduate school somehow isn’t best for me, then I will likely continue my work at a local domestic violence shelter. This work has proven to be more rigorous, fulfilling, and insightful than most academic work I’ve engaged with yet, so the pull of the work has been quite strong!

To hear Kai and other UMKC students talk about their remarkable research, attend the annual Lucerna Symposium, 5-6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 17, in Zoom. Click here to register.

Meet a Lucerna Author: Karah Chappel

What is your Lucerna project about?

My study, “Exploration of the Referral Process of Social Work Within a Policing Structure,” looked at the referral process to and from social workers directly employed by the police department in a large midwestern city. The goal of the study was to understand why social workers’ service persons were not being referred to music therapy and make recommendations as to how music therapists could better serve these populations.

Why are you interested in this topic?

As a music therapy major, I have a specific interest in trauma care, especially related to the criminal justice system. Music therapy is an evidence-based field; I wanted to continue building the research base that would support my future work in this area.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

Working with the chosen police department was a huge benefit. I was able to meet and interact with many personnel, which gave me a true appreciation for the policing structure and opened my eyes to all the factors at play in their work environment. It was challenging to stop writing! Because of the qualitative phenomenological approach, I collected a massive amount of data, and every time I rearranged the subjects’ answers or looked at them from a new angle, I saw new possible connections.

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

Go for it! When you are passionate about a project, no matter how niche the topic, it’s worth sharing with others. You don’t know who may read it and be interested. Plus, being published is a great way to start a career in many fields.

What are your professional plans or goals?

After graduation in May 2022, I will complete a six-month internship and then sit for the board certification exam to become a credentialed music therapist. I hope to stay in the Kansas City area and work in correctional facilities, nonprofits that serve offenders and victims of violent crimes, or a police department.

To hear Karah and other UMKC students talk about their remarkable research, attend the annual Lucerna Symposium, 5-6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 17, in Zoom. Click here to register.