Matt Best

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kenn Barron

Matt will spend most of the summer of 2017 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. Matthew joined the largest U.S.-based psychology research team ever assembled to study the mental traits and personality characteristics of the nation’s most elite soccer players.  The study aims to discover what qualities translate to high success rates on the field. 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.”

As an undergraduate, Best is grateful for the opportunity to grow as a researcher so early in his academic career. “It gives me a sense of humility to be 19 years old and already working with people at the top level of my field,” said Best. “I’ve had a lot of support, help and guidance along the way that have really gotten me to where I am.” Best plans to continue with U.S. Soccer Development Academy research at least until the end of its five-year contract.  His work in this field will form the basis for his psychology and Honors College senior capstone projects. “This gives me hope for the future. I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life,” said Best.  “Just the magnitude of the opportunity is awesome.”  The junior is still considering graduate school options, but is particularly interested in a soccer talent identification and development program at the Escuela Universitaria Real Madrid in Madrid, Spain.

Allison Fisher
Economics and French

Faculty Mentor: Philip Heap, AbD.

Allison 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 Hurt
Political Science and Public Policy

Faculty Mentor: Melissa Reid, M.F.A.

Jewel 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.” 

"While interning with MicroSociety, I hope to begin research for my senior honors thesis that will be centered around the MicroSociety program and its effects pertaining to civic engagement."

Alexandrea Riddell

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jessica Davidson

Honors 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.

I" traveled to Livingstone, Zambia for four weeks through Africa Impact. While in Livingstone, Zambia, I taught predominantly teenage girls, adult women, and one group of boys topics ranging from health to general education that will provide them with confidence and a better chance at success in their society. I assisted in combating the problems that plague teenage girls including a high rate of teenage unmarried pregnancy, high levels of HIV, sexual and physical violence, and high levels of uneducated girls. The girls I taught changed my life just as much, if not more, than I changed theirs.”

Holly Rucker

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Rocky Parker

Holly 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.

"I am conducting the first empirical test of the hypothesis that these female mimics have higher levels of the enzyme aromatase, which catalyzes the conversion of testosterone into estrogen."

Laura VanDemark

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dana Haraway

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.

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