Honors Program Students Share a Diverse Array of In-Depth Research

Marist College

With topics ranging from an examination of genocide to the role of leadership in municipal government, 24 students from Marist’s Honors Program shared a fascinating array of senior research projects at the Senior Thesis Exhibit on December 4 in the Student Center.  Hundreds of people from the Marist community were on hand to see the students’ posters on display and ask them about their work.  Reflecting the distinctive nature of the Honors Program, students’ projects were driven entirely by academic interest and not necessarily related to their majors.  Working closely with a faculty mentor, the students were free to conduct an in-depth exploration of any research question they chose. 

Sandeep Dhaliwal ’18, a business administration major from Poughkeepsie, approached her project, “Lessons from a Genocide,” from a deeply personal standpoint.  “Members of my family were directly impacted by the Sikh Genocide of 1984, but it’s not very well known either inside or outside India.  I feel a moral obligation to raise awareness and be a voice for the thousands of people who were lost during that tragedy and for minorities still being oppressed in India,” she said.  Sandeep’s faculty mentor was James Phillips, Associate Dean of the School of Management.  She added, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss a topic that means the world to me.” 

Mutiat Alagbala ’18, a computer science major from Chicago with minors in graphic design and information systems, also chose a subject with personal relevance.  “Black Women in Computing” examines the dearth of black women in a traditionally male-dominated field.  Mentored by Associate Professor of Philosophy James Snyder (who also directs the Honors Program), Mutiat’s research concludes that “there is a deficit of black women in computer science because of the systemic gap created by the intersectionality of being black and female in America.”  Solving the problem will require the sustained effort and support of the computing community.  Mutiat noted, “I’m often the only black female in the classroom, and I’ve never wanted to be treated as different.  By the time I finished this project, however, I realized that I have to embrace my identity as a black woman because by ignoring it, I can’t help combat underrepresentation in my field.” 



For Kathryn Eldridge ’18 of Brunswick, Maine, the senior project allowed her to bring together her interests in accounting and political science.  “The thesis process has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve had at Marist,” said Kathryn.  Her project, “Fiscally Responsible Debt Practices in Municipal Government: The Role of Leadership,” gave her the unique opportunity to work with President Emeritus Dennis Murray as her faculty mentor.  According to Kathryn, “Dr. Murray is very knowledgeable about both leadership and public policy.  He pushed me to think about leadership in new ways, both academically and personally.”  The research led to the development of a five-component framework to help leaders make decisions in the best interest of a community’s financial health. 

Amber Kelly ’18, a communication major and political science minor from Monroe Township, New Jersey, focused on contemporary world events.  “Russian Interests and the Syrian Conflict: Discerning Russian Foreign Policy Through UN Security Council Decisions” reflected her interest in international relations, as well as a desire to challenge herself.  In Amber’s view, “the ultimate goal of the honors thesis is to learn, and so it made sense to choose not just a topic I found interesting, but also one with which I didn’t have much familiarity.”  Working with faculty supervisor Juris Pupcenoks, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Amber looked at UN Security Council decisions from 1992-2017.  She learned that Syria was the single most vetoed topic by Russia, suggesting that it viewed Syria as key to its goal of reclaiming global influence.  Reflecting on the thesis process, Amber noted, “the process showed me that I can handle a project as complex as a thesis; never have I delved so deeply into a topic, and I was happy so many people were interested in it.”  

A passion for animals led Jessica Babi ’18, a double major in advertising and studio art from Smithtown, New York, to pursue her honors thesis on the ethics of captivity, rehabilitation, and conservation efforts.  Specifically, Jessica’s volunteer work at an animal rehabilitation center and internship at the Trevor Zoo in Millbrook, New York influenced her to delve into a study of animal ethics, even though it wasn’t related to her majors.  Said Jessica, “These experiences opened my eyes to the possibility of a future caring for animals beyond veterinary care.”  Professor James Snyder served as the advisor for her senior project. 

The wide range of other topics at the exhibition included best practices for sexual assault prevention on college campuses; creating meaningful retail experiences; the local impact of the national opioid epidemic; sustainability in business; bacteria and viruses in local tributaries; and a study in game design.  Another Honors Program Senior Thesis Exhibit will be held in the spring.


About the Honors Program           

Marist’s Honors Program can be described as a more focused version of the College’s liberal arts Core curriculum, and the three-credit senior research project is the program’s culmination.  Directed by Associate Professor of Philosophy James Snyder, the program seeks to develop scholars, leaders, and global citizens by providing with opportunities for academic excellence, leadership, cultural enrichment, and global engagement.  More than 400 Marist students from all majors and disciplines participate, a number that has increased dramatically in recent years.  Students build a strong sense of community by living side-by-side in the residence halls.  In addition to the senior thesis, the hallmarks of Marist’s Honors Program include Honors seminars across the curriculum, small classes, special lectures and field trips, intensive advising, and collaboration with a faculty mentor.  Professor Snyder calls directing the Honors Program and working with the students a “dream job.”  He describes the typical Honors student as “both well-rounded and focused.  They take liberal arts seminars that ask them to engage with the biggest intellectual and practical problems we are facing today.”


Students are given an invitation to join the program from Admissions in accordance with academic criteria defined by the Honors Council (other students can apply to join the campus once they are on campus).  For Admissions, it has become key to being able to attract academically talented students who want to explore high-level scholarly pursuits and interdisciplinary approaches to learning.  According to Dean of Admission Kent Rinehart, “The Honors Program is a valuable recruitment tool for us.  High school students who wish to dramatically expand their skill set and who have exhibited intellectual curiosity, initiative, and success in secondary school are well positioned to be invited into the honors program at Marist.”  Ensuring that the Honors Program is diverse and international is a high priority and one of its major selling points.

Honors seminars change every semester, giving the program flexibility to examine issues of contemporary relevance.  Among the seminars planned for the spring 2018 semester are Ethics and Migration (being offered to students at Marist’s branch campus in Florence), Religion and the Constitution, Diversity in Media, Life on Earth & Climate Change, The Royal Arts of Africa, and The Evolution of Money and Banking.  


About Marist 

Located on the banks of the historic Hudson River and at its Florence, Italy branch campus, Marist College is a comprehensive, independent institution grounded in the liberal arts.  Its mission is to “help students develop the intellect, character, and skills required for enlightened, ethical, and productive lives in the global community of the 21st century.”  Marist is consistently recognized for excellence by The Princeton Review (Colleges That Create Futures and The Best 381 Colleges), U.S. News & World Report (9th Best Regional University/North), Kiplinger’s Personal Finance (“Best College Values”), and others.  Though now independent, Marist remains committed to the ideals handed down from its founders, the Marist Brothers: excellence in education, a sense of community, and a commitment to service.  Marist educates approximately 5,000 traditional-age undergraduate students and 1,400 adult and graduate students in 47 undergraduate majors and 14 graduate programs, including fully online MBA, MPA, MS, and MA degrees.

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