Honors College

Honors College announces 2017 Hillcrest Scholars

Hillcrest Scholarships support transformative, off-campus experiences for Honors students.


The JMU Honors College is pleased to announce this year’s Hillcrest Scholars. Each Hillcrest Scholarship provides up to $5,000 in financial assistance to support transformative, off-campus experiences for Honors students.

Each of the recipients designed a unique project that meets their academic and professional goals. The winners are: Matthew Best, Allison Fisher, Jewel Hurt, Alexandrea Riddell, and Holly Rucker. Laura Van Demark was named an Honorable Mention.

Matt BestHonors student Matthew Best, a Psychology major, will spend most of the summer in Charlottesville, VA where he will work with the Mindset Assessment Project (MAP). MAP partners with the United States Soccer Federation to measure and analyze the mental attributes of players and the motivational climates within the U.S. soccer development academy system. Discussing the project, Dr. Kenn Barron, Best’s faculty mentor, states: “How many students have an opportunity to change an organization in their undergraduate work? Matt has the chance to change the immediate future of the U.S. Soccer Federation and how youth sports are coached.” 

Allison FisherAllison Fisher, an Honors student majoring in Economics and French, received the Fredric I. McGhee Scholarship. Fisher plans to participate in a 16-week study abroad program in Cameroon. The program’s focus on Development and Social Change aligns with Fisher’s goals of working in economic development with an NGO in Francophone Africa and to achieve fluency in French. Reflecting on why she selected this program, Fisher writes: “The program will provide the practical experience to test my assumptions around my future career goals and be sure that the reality of the work and living in a different country and culture meets my perceptions. I expect it will also challenge me personally in many ways including values, culture perceptions and biases, flexibility, independence and in other ways I can’t anticipate.”

Jewel HurtJewel Hurt, an Honors student and double major in Political Science and Public Policy and Administration, was awarded the Hinshaw-Daniel Scholarship for her project on MicroSociety International. An alumna of a MicroSociety program in her elementary school, Hurt plans to intern at the MicroSociety International headquarters in Philadelphia, PA and research the links between the MicroSociety model and civic engagement. Chris Bozzone, Director of School Partnerships and Community Relations at MicroSociety International, describes Hurt: “Jewel’s dedication to civic engagement, social equity and ensuring that everyone has an important role in society couldn’t be more clear to each and every person that is fortunate enough to meet and know her.”  

Alex RiddellHonors student Alexandrea Riddell, a History major who is pursuing minors in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Pre-professional Secondary Education, and Women’s and Gender Studies, will spend four weeks in Livingstone, Zambia through Africa Impact. Riddell will volunteer in a local school, providing teaching assistance and supporting initiatives focused on empowering girls and addressing challenges like teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and physical violence. As a future history teacher, Riddell believes that this experience—by allowing her to work in a different cultural environment and by forcing her to employ creative teaching techniques—will make her a better teacher. 

Holly RuckerHolly Rucker, an Honors student majoring in Biology and minoring in Astronomy, will study a phenomenon in the red-sided garter snake in which some males produce female pheromones and are attractive to other males. Rucker plans to carry out the first empirical test of the hypothesis that these “she-males” have higher expression levels of the enzyme aromatase in their skin. She will travel to Manitoba, Canada to collect snakes as they emerge from hibernation and will study the biochemical mechanisms of snake pheromone production. Through her project, Rucker also plans to provide hands-on research opportunities to local high school students through the Shenandoah Valley Scholars Latino Initiative.

Honors student Laura VanDemark, a History major and Secondary Education minor, was named an Honorable Mention for her project on AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher preparation initiatives. VanDemark, who has served as an AVID mentor, plans to research the AVID Teacher Preparation Initiatives at several universities. This inquiry will serve as the foundation for an Honors Capstone Project exploring the feasibility of implementing an AVID teacher preparation at JMU.

Hillcrest Scholars are selected on the basis of the quality of the proposed experience, their academic achievements, their leadership experience and community engagement, and the ability of the project to make a significant contribution to society. The Hillcrest Scholarships help fulfill the JMU Honors College’s mission to prepare thoughtful and engaged citizens equipped to lead, innovate, and make meaningful contributions in a complex and ever changing global community.

The Honors College would like to thank the Honors Advisory Council and the members of this year’s Hillcrest Scholarship selection committee. 

Published: Friday, April 28, 2017

Last Updated: Friday, April 28, 2017

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