2021-22 Hillcrest Scholars

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

Honors College

The JMU Honors College is pleased to announce the Hillcrest Scholarship recipients for 2021-22. Each award provides up to $5,000 to support transformative summer experiences for Honors students. 

Each recipient designed a unique project that incorporates their academic, professional, and personal interests. These projects reflect the purposeful and rigorous scholarship undertaken by students in the Honors College.

Hillcrest Scholarships are made possible through the generous financial support of the Honors Advisory Council. 

gentille-kaitlyn.jpgKaitlyn Gentille (Sociology and Independent Scholars)
“Quality and Class: The Effects of Lower Socioeconomic Status on Individual’s Perception of Healthcare”
Faculty mentor: Dr. Matthew Ezzell, Professor of Sociology

Kaitlyn Gentille’s project focuses on the role of societal inequities impacting health disparities in medical care. Health inequity, the systematic disparity in health between different population groups, arises out of the social, economic, and environmental conditions in which people are born, live, and work. People in marginalized groups frequently live in worse health and receive fewer medical resources than others. Kaitlyn will conduct research on this issue at the local level, focusing on the role of socioeconomic status (SES) in perceptions of healthcare in the Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro region of Virginia. Using her Hillcrest funds, she will interview people living in low-SES areas as well as local healthcare and social service professionals, asking about perceptions of the quality of healthcare they seek and receive. For her Honors thesis, she will combine these personal narratives with comprehensive data from a community health survey to provide a rich illustration of the health inequities in the community. As a pre-med student and future physician, Kaitlyn believes it is imperative to understand the social and environmental factors that affect the health of one’s patients in order to get a complete picture of the patient, rather than their symptoms and diagnosis alone. After medical school, she plans to practice as a primary care physician in a medically underserved area and continue to push for reductions in health inequity in the United States. 

henn-darby.jpgDarby Henn (Elementary Education)
“Telling Their Story: Nasaruni and the Power of Multicultural Literature”
Faculty mentor: Dr. Michelle Cude, Professor, College of Education
Fredric I. McGhee Hillcrest Scholarship for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Darby Henn’s Hillcrest project aims to write and produce a children’s book for a school in Kenya that reflects the identities and experiences of the children who study there. After becoming familiar with Nasaruni Academy in Narok, Kenya during her first year, Darby learned that most of the donated books in use in their classrooms highlight white, American narratives. They bear little resemblance to the lives of the students reading them and reinforce problematic narratives about whose stories are important. In order to develop this new book, Darby has met regularly with students at the school through Zoom, getting to know them and gathering their stories. While recognizing that her position as an outsider poses challenges in accurately reflecting their culture, she hopes as much as possible to be a vessel for their own unique experiences. In order to complete the book, Darby will use her Hillcrest funds for illustration costs, printing, and travel to Kenya this summer to present copies of the book to the school. This project forms the basis for her Honors thesis. As a future educator, Darby believes in the importance of multicultural literature and wants to empower students from all backgrounds to create and tell their own stories.

tartivita-victoria.jpgVictoria Tartivita (Biology)
“American Sign Language and the Dynamics between ASL Interpreters and Deaf Patients in Medicine”
Faculty mentor: Dr. Tobias Reynolds-Tylus, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

Victoria Tartivita’s Hillcrest project will give her the necessary tools and experiences to be successful as a future physician who plans to work with the Deaf community, Next summer, she will participate in an immersive American Sign Language (ASL) program at Gallaudet University, a campus in Washington, D.C. that centers Deaf and hard of hearing students. The program offers two intensive ASL courses as well as enriching opportunities to engage deeply with members of the signing community. In addition to her studies at Gallaudet, Victoria will interview ASL interpreters at a local hospital about their experiences and the challenges that Deaf and hard of hearing patients face when communicating with healthcare providers. These include the frequent unavailability of interpreters, the difficulty of exchanging written notes in real time during a medical situation, or the use of video remote interpreting, which is often an inadequate medium for transmitting a visual language in a stressful environment. Victoria’s goal is to gain insight into these issues and learn the perspectives of these practitioners. She hopes to present her findings at a conference next year. This project is distinct from her Honors thesis in Biology. After graduation, Victoria will pursue a degree in ASL-English Interpreting before enrolling in medical school.

templeton-grace.jpgGrace Templeton (Music Education)
“The Creative Futures Experience”
Faculty mentor: Dr. Lisa Maynard, Associate Professor, School of Music 

Grace Templeton seeks to explore methods and programs to effectively teach music to hard of hearing and deaf students. Many people who experience hearing loss or belong to the Deaf community have a deep love of music, yet face obstacles in music classrooms or doubts about their ability to successfully perform music. Grace plans to travel to London, England to work with Creative Futures, an organization that supports arts education. Their research program Sounding Out partners with the Institute of Education at University College London (UCL) to measure the impact of music programs on the musical and communication development of deaf children. Over the course of a month, Grace will observe their research at two primary schools that work with deaf students. She also has the opportunity to network with faculty at UCL, which is an international leader in disability and music education research. Her work in London will significantly inform her Honors thesis, which will be centered on accessibility in music classrooms for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. In the future, Grace plans to apply to the Fulbright program, pursue a master’s in music education, and continue to advocate for the Deaf community. 

williams-xaiver.jpgXaiver Williams (Music Education)
“The Role of Black Male Educators in the Lives of Black Male Students: Identifying Best Strategies for Decreasing the School-to-Prison Pipeline in the Commonwealth of Virginia”
Faculty mentor: Dr. Timothy Thomas, Associate Professor, Educational Foundations and Exceptionalities
Hinshaw-Daniels Hillcrest Scholarship

Xaiver Williams’ Hillcrest project focuses on the problem of Black male students winding up incarcerated: the school-to-prison pipeline. Some of the contributing factors to this problem include inadequate funding, increased policing in schools, poverty, and a lack of resources. As a future Black male educator in Virginia, Xaiver wants to understand this issue more fully and seek solutions within the public education system. Using his Hillcrest funds, he will produce a podcast series in which he interviews Black male teachers from around the commonwealth about their strategies for empowering Black male students and ideas for slowing down the pipeline. Podcasting is an accessible form of media and he hopes the series will serve as a resource and supportive network for current and future educators in Virginia. This project will form the centerpiece of his Honors thesis. As the current Student Representative to the JMU Board of Visitors, Xaiver is gaining high level experience in educational administration. Longer term, he plans to use this experience as a leader in public education in Virginia, first in the classroom and then in senior administration and beyond. 

Sincere thanks to the members of the selection committee: Violet Allain (Honors Advisory Council), Chip Bolyard (Philosophy), Betsy Herron (Nursing), Susan McGhee (Honors Advisory Council), Christopher Rose (Biology), and Margaret Witherspoon (Honors Advisory Council). Meredith Malburne-Wade, Director of the Office of Fellowships and Awards, assisted greatly during the application process. Hillcrest Scholarships are administered by Jared Diener, Director of Honors Advising and Global Initiatives.


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Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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