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For Adam Chutuape, a senior Religion major with minors in Biology and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies, his Honors Capstone Project gave him the “chance to connect some of [his] personal interests with [his] academic ones.” Adam originally joined the Honors College for the “academic opportunities it would provide.” Now, Adam uses those opportunities to dive deeper into his major and explore his own identity. 

When asked to define the subject of his Capstone Project, Adam takes a brief pause and then describes the central purpose of his paper is to evaluate the “function of religion as it appears in the process of orientation that Filipinos undergo as they move to the United States.” His Capstone Project explores the experience of Filipino immigrants and how religion does, or does not, play an important role in the assimilation to American culture. 

Adam started by exploring the past: looking into historical materials to provide an accurate picture of the realities that Filipino immigrants face during their transition to American culture. In terms of the academic element of his project, Adam has been studying three key ideas. First, he is using primary sources to understand the conditions that Filipinos endure in America and in the Philippines. Next, he is contrasting the effect of the Philippines being a colony of the United States and Spain. By considering how this impacts viewpoints, Adam is creating an understanding of how Filipinos assimilate, or not, into mainstream culture. He is also studying how scholars are examining the ideas of Filipino Americans. This calls into greater question what it means to be an American or how America functions regarding ethnic minorities. He emphasizes that this is just as much “a study about America as the people who live here.” 

However, there is also a distinct personal element that drives Adam’s project. As a Filipino American, Adam feels a deep connection with his project. When describing his project, he often used the term “we” to describe Filipino Americans. For example, he stated that he evaluated different trends of Filipino Americans and religion to “come to grips with the reality we find ourselves in.” His father immigrated from the Philippines, so there is a direct connection between his family and his Capstone Project. In a way, Adam describes this project as “autobiographical” because it made him “question the assumptions [he] had about being a Filipino person in the United States.” 

Currently, Adam is finishing the rough draft of his Capstone Project. Working with JMU faculty, he is shaping his research into something he is proud of. Although originally wary of the scope of this project, Adam advises other Honors students to “just start writing.” That is the only way to turn the ideas that one may have in their head into a meaningful research experience. Adam’s Capstone Project will have a lasting impact in his academic field and in his own life. 

Story written by Kate Peppiatt, '23

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