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. Margo will be honored at the 2021 Staff Awards ceremony at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 20 via Zoom. (The invitation will be posted on the Honors College website on April 19.)

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 College 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 College 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 College 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 College 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: William Burrus

William Burrus’ essay, “European Rail Nationalization and Income Inequality: An Empirical Analysis,” appears in the new volume of Lucerna available at

For more about William’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My Lucerna project is about the relationship between rail industry nationalization and income inequality in European Union member states.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I am interested in this topic because economic inequality is a significant problem in our society. I wanted to explore whether there is a relationship between government involvement and control in the economy and income inequality. I selected data from the European Union because its data were readily available and easily accessible.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The main benefit has been the experience of developing my econometrics project beyond what was required for my course. It also helped me to learn more about using a statistical software called R, which was also challenging because I needed to teach myself some programming on the fly.

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

My advice is to not be shy in asking for advice from your professor for feedback regarding the writing and research process. They will be happy to help improve the quality of your work.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I plan to begin graduate school in economics or finance in France in Fall 2021.

Meet a Lucerna author: Samantha N. Hays

Samantha N. Hays’ essay, “Failing the Fight: The Historical Context of US Environmental Conservation and How Endangered Species are Mismanaged in the Current Legislature,” appears in the new volume of Lucerna available at

For more about Samantha’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project evaluates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 and related national environmental standards by creating a historical timeline of large-scale protective measures to assess their impact on the species and systems they were created to protect. After almost fifty years of working under the ESA, can we honestly reflect on it and other legislative standards and say we have done our very best to conserve environmental diversity? How should we proceed?

Why are you interested in this topic?

I became interested in this topic after taking a conservation course with Dr. Aaron Reed in the School of Biological Sciences. While earning my Bachelor of Science in Biology, I often had to memorize internal environmental and physiological systems and processes, but I never much reflected on how outside systems like American politics play a pivotal role in the modern conservation movement. This class really opened my eyes, and I recommend it highly to others.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

This was a very lengthy undertaking. I did not know when I began this project that the style of reporting under the ESA by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service is very much based on “good-faith,” and therefore numerical tracking (especially of funds) is confusing at best. Additionally, combing through decades of expenditures and population tracking documents was very difficult when reporting measures can often be revised annually, making them hard to compare to one another. The benefit of this project is that at the very least, it aims to start a conversation. The public needs to be more aware of and invested in the legislation that protects lands and neighboring species.

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

You have nothing to lose by trying. The team of editors and staff that assists in the publication process for Lucerna is composed of incredibly gifted and supportive folks. They are amazing to work with and have nothing but passion for the process. You will be delighted to work with them as you prepare your project for publication.

What are your professional plans or goals?

After finishing my Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry, I enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at UMKC in Fall 2020. I have one more year in that program, and then I hope to attend medical school following my graduation. I am really grateful for the opportunity to explore this topic through my Honors College thesis and publication in Lucerna, as it fits so well within my scope of study, but without the inspiration I am not sure I would have become so invested in the subject of environmental legislature and policy reform. It really impacts us as individuals on all levels.

Meet a Lucerna Author: Kylie Brous

Kylie Brous’ essay, “The Mystery of Negative and Imaginary Logarithms,” appears in the new volume of Lucerna available at

For more about Kylie’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project is an explanation of eighteenth-century mathematician Leonhard Euler’s examination of Johann (Jean) Bernoulli and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s letters to one another about the existence, or thereof, of negative and imaginary logarithms. I took Euler’s original work, translated from Latin to English by Todd Doucet, and explained it using modern math.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I find logarithms interesting, and in math classes, one is always told, “You cannot take the logarithm of negative number.” The surface level reason made sense, but I always wondered about the deeper reason.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The benefit of this project was it made me both a better mathematician and allowed me to satisfy my curiosity. Having to explain eighteenth-century math in modern terms made me figure out information that I would not have had to do otherwise. This project also let me explore the why as to why negative and imaginary logarithms do not exist or the possibility that they do exist. The two main challenges were getting stuck constantly and then having to figure it out only to be told that I did it wrong and the sheer amount of work that this entailed. This paper is not one that I could do two days before it was due; I had to start five weeks in advance and keep doing little-by-little to produce a high quality paper.

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

My advice would be to work closely with your professor. They can make sure that not only is your paper factually correct, but that it is robust enough for Lucerna. Also, do not get discouraged when your professor crosses out a whole page of work. That work still taught you valuable information that you may be able to use elsewhere; failure is part of the process. Finally, make sure that you are interested in your topic since you will spend more hours than you will want writing and editing the paper.

What are your professional plans or goals?

My plan is to be a high school math teacher who teaches courses at or above the algebra 2 level. I plan on either getting my master’s degree in math immediately after I graduate and then teach high school or go right into teaching and get my master’s degree in education later.

Lucerna 2021 is here!

The new volume of Lucerna, the UMKC undergraduate research journal produced by the Honors College, was released at the annual Symposium on March 11. Hard copies are available in the Honors College office in Cherry Hall or the PDF can be downloaded at

Forty-eight students, administrators, professors, and guests attended the Lucerna Symposium via Zoom. The Symposium featured presentations by Sophie Jess on panhandlers, Yujay Masay on Civil Rights Movement photography, Anna Ryan on historic preservation in Kansas City, and Annie Spencer on Eleanor of Aquitaine.

During the Symposium, UMKC Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jennifer Lundgren spoke about her experience as an undergraduate researcher; UMKC Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal congratulated presenters; and UMKC Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development Chris Liu asked presenters about the most rewarding part of their project.

The fifteenth edition of Lucerna publishes the work of ten UMKC undergraduates from different disciplines. The contributors and their topics are Samantha N. Hays, “Failing the Fight: The Historical Context of US Environmental Conservation and How Endangered Species Are Mismanaged in the Current Legislature; Sophie Jess, “Panhandlers: Why Kansas Citians Can’t (Pan)Handle Them”; Anna Ryan, “From Decreptitude to Diamonds: The Value of Preserving and Repurposing Historic Buildings in the Kansas City Area”; Lillian Taylor, “Intersex Adolescents and Medically Accepted Abuse”; Johnny Waggoner, “The Promise of Progress: Apollo and American Values”; William Burrus, “European Rail Nationalization and Income Inequality: An Empirical Analysis”; Annie Spencer, “Finding Eleanor of Aquitaine”; Yujay Masah, “Civil Rights Photography and Consensus Memory”; Kylie Brous, “The Mystery of Negative and Imaginary Logarithms”; and Gregory R. Troiani, “Thermal Constraints on Exoplanet Habitability.”

The Lucerna staff seeks submissions for the next volume of the journal to be published in March 2022. The submission deadline is May 14, 2021. For the Lucerna submission guidelines, go to

If you are an Honors College student who is interested in working for Lucerna next year, the executive board of the journal will accept applications for managing editor and staff positions in April. For more information, contact Editor-in-Chief Richard Schneider at

Meet A Lucerna Author: Sophie Jess

Sophie will present her research on panhandling in Kansas City at the Lucerna Symposium on March 11. For more about Sophie’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My Lucerna project is about panhandling in Kansas City, specifically on the Country Club Plaza. I examine laws restricting panhandling as well as the attitudes of Kansas City residents towards folks who panhandle.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I grew up in Kansas City and have been visiting the Plaza since I was a little girl. I have also seen firsthand the negative attitudes some people have towards panhandlers, and it has always rubbed me the wrong way.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

One challenge of this project was examining local ordinances regarding panhandling and the constitutionality of them, which was difficult considering I don’t have a law background. It was also very important to me to be as accurate as possible, so I worked hard to make sure my arguments could be supported. I wrote this essay two years ago when I was a sophomore, so over the summer and winter of 2020 before I submitted my final draft, I had to make sure my information was still current. I tried to figure out what happened with new ordinances that were on the table when I originally wrote the essay, which can be hard to do with local legislation.

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

I would say read the previous volumes of Lucerna to get an idea of what sort of essays get published. When I was a freshman, I thought it would be so cool to be published in Lucerna, but I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute. Through my regular coursework I ended up writing two essays that I submitted and were published in Lucerna. I never would have known to submit them had I not been encouraged to do so by my professor.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I graduated last December, and I am working full-time at an inpatient mental health facility. I am also in the process of applying to graduate programs for counseling psychology. I would like to continue to work in the mental health field, and eventually earn a Ph.D. and perhaps teach at a university

Meet A Lucerna Author: Annie Spencer

Annie will present her research on Eleanor of Aquitaine at the Lucerna Symposium on March 11. For more about Annie’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My Lucerna project looks at how chroniclers wrote about Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) during and shortly after her lifetime and how current scholars utilize those chronicles to make decisions about her character.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I have always been very interested in medieval history, specifically the depiction of powerful women. Eleanor of Aquitaine was a perfect subject for this type of project since much has been written about her.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

This project required engaging with several different types of scholarship about Eleanor. The project helped me significantly with understanding the types of questions someone can ask of primary sources and how to answer those questions meaningfully. The challenges were using those primary sources in the first place, as finding reliable translations of these were difficult. Additionally, sifting through all of the chronicles and secondary literature about Eleanor to find the most influential works was a significant challenge in the beginning.

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

Your faculty advisor is your best friend. Schedule meetings with them often, if you can, get their feedback and apply that feedback to the best of your ability. Having that mentor who has been through the process of writing and disseminating academic scholarship is an incredible opportunity, especially for undergraduates.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I’m currently getting my M.A. in Medieval Studies, which has always been a goal of mine. I want to go on to get a Ph.D. in a medieval field. One day, I wish to be a professor at a university teaching people how exciting the medieval period can be while also doing my own research.

Meet A Lucerna Author: Anna Ryan

Anna will present her research on historic preservation in Kansas City at the Lucerna Symposium on March 11. For more about Anna’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My Lucerna project is an investigation into historical buildings in Kansas City and the potential they hold for affecting future generations. Beginning with UMKC’s very own Scofield Hall, my writing explores how many structures and areas of historical significance have endured over the years as a direct result of their capacity to be adapted to meet changing societal needs. I argue that repurposing historical buildings has many financial and social benefits and ensures that they do not become obsolete, which could happen if they are only preserved rather than put to a new use.

Why are you interested in this topic?

This project sprang from my experiences in Scofield Hall coupled with my Anchor and Discourse classes from prior semesters. For an assignment in my Anchor 200 course, we were tasked with walking around campus and observing social and cultural elements in the buildings and people we encountered. My friend and I sat down in front of the old fireplace in the lobby of Scofield, and I was struck by how much change the mansion had experienced, as it now housed offices and classrooms instead of ballrooms and dining rooms. The juxtaposition of the antique with the functional was an aspect of Scofield that stood out to me, and from there Scofield became a microcosm for a phenomenon I began to notice in other places in Kansas City. When we were tasked with a writing assignment for Discourse 200, I wanted to do further research into historical buildings in KC, of which there is no shortage, and examine the most effective method of ensuring their survival.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

Some benefits of the project are the ways in which it has deepened my connection to and knowledge of my community and my campus. Though I’ve been in Kansas City my whole life, it’s easy to be present, but not invested, in the area’s culture or history. Doing the research for this paper has increased my appreciation for the richness of KC’s history, and it has also refined my investigation and composition skills as a student.

One of the challenges for this project was the scarcity of academic research for Kansas City specifically. While certain statistics and bits of information are relatively easy to come by, scholarly analysis of some historical buildings or cultural aspects of Kansas City is rare if not nonexistent. This research drought contributed to another more personal challenge, which was actually persisting in writing the paper. My typical writing process for most classes and assignments is usually no more than a few hours, as it becomes second nature to mechanically construct an essay that will get me a decent grade. This was the first paper in a long time that demanded my consistent investment over the course of days and weeks of writing, drafting, and revising. Striving for excellence rather than settling for mediocrity was the most rewarding challenge of the project.

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

My advice would be to set your own standards of acceptability. Especially in the Honors College, I’m sure many students are familiar with what it takes to write an “A” or “B” paper. You know how much effort it will require to get the grade you want, and oftentimes that acknowledgement allows plenty of space for passivity and subsequent mediocrity. That strategy is undoubtedly effective in passing classes, but if your goal is getting published, set the bar high. Don’t neglect the writing process, and don’t neglect your own potential to craft something better than just “okay.”

What are your professional plans or goals?

Right now my plan is to maximize my time at UMKC to gain experience in the writing and editing field, establish valuable connections, and be equipped for the various paths my future career could take. I plan to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Spanish, and from there I plan to enter the workforce in Kansas City, likely with some kind of writing-related job. I do want to note that my professional plans, while important, are not my purpose, joy, or fulfillment in life. In whatever career I end up, my goal and singular pursuit will always be to serve God and share His truth and love with other people. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the heartbeat of my life, and whether I’m writing or editing or getting published or getting another degree, that will always be my goal and reason for living.