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Written by Kate Peppiatt ('23).

“You don’t need to be a specific way to be seen as a man or to be seen as a woman … you should be able to express yourself in whatever way you want to,” says Amira Saudi, a junior Psychology student with a minor in Honors Interdisciplinary Studies.

Amira is currently conducting research on toxic masculinity. Her Honors Capstone project is designed to focus “on gender and the problematic nature of gender roles.” The opportunity to accomplish undergraduate research is a large aspect of why Amira chose to come to JMU and to join the Honors College.

As a transfer student, Amira joined the Honors College as a Track II student. She transferred to JMU from Blue Ridge Community College and calls it “one of the smoothest transitions [she’s] ever had.” She quickly became involved in campus activities, even during the pandemic, like Bare Naked Ladies, the Skateboarding club, and Young Life small group.

When she came to JMU, she heard about Honors undergraduate research from the professor she works alongside as a research assistant. After reaching out to Honors faculty, Amira realized joining the Honors College would be “an amazing way for [her] to do [her] own independent research.”

One of the ways that Amira has been working on her research is through Honors Options: taking a regular class and adding an additional project to go more in-depth about the topics. Amira has utilized this option in several of her classes, and this has helped her expand her understanding of the topics and connect the information back to her own research interests. She says, “I am really thankful that I have been able to do all these Honors projects because they are building the foundation for my Honors Thesis.”

Her Honors classes, like Leadership in Times of Change led by Dr. Newcomer, have also had an important impact on her academic career. She emphasizes that “the skills that [she has] learned in this seminar will carry for … the rest of [her] life.” Overall, she says that the experiences she has had in Honors have “helped [her] grow as a person and helped [her] learn to take initiative.”

After JMU, Amira hopes to continue her research in graduate school. She says, “my goal is to get my research out there so people can see it and realize how problematic these gender roles are, especially with men, and hopefully facilitate some kind of change, whether it’s with behavior or the way parents raise their sons.” She wants to “make a career out of researching masculinity.” At the core of her research is the hope that it “sparks a conversation” and has a lasting impact on the way that individuals view gender norms and expectations.

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