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A United Effort at Tybee Beach

In what has become a semester tradition, thirty-seven honors students from the Armstrong and Statesboro campuses once again joined forces to “fight dirty” in a clean-up of Tybee Island’s  North Beach. This was the third time honors students have joined forces to clean up the beach, and the second time as a consolidated program.  The group that came out September 8 was the largest Honors Program group yet, and many first-year students were among their number.  The clean-ups are a tradition that is growing.

Students from each campus have coordinated these clean-up events through Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers, a local non-profit organization. The group hosts beach clean-ups for the general population as often as every week during beach season as well as organizes events for volunteers from specific organizations.

Armstrong Campus student Grace Powers (cell & molecular biology ‘19) has participated in this event all three times and has had a great experience with Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers. “They are a fantastic group of conscientious volunteers who really make an impact on our beach community and give people access to an easy way to serve their community,” said Powers. “Just in the short time I’ve been involved in these semesterly events, I’ve seen firsthand the difference they make, and I am proud to be a part of the group!”

In addition to picking up trash, the volunteers sort and count the items they collect to determine what the city and local companies can target to help prevent future beach litter. The number one littered item they have collected on Tybee is cigarette butts: over 190,000 over the past two years. Cigarette butts are dangerous to sea life for two reasons: they leach toxins when wet, and their filters are plastic so they do not degrade. For this reason, Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers provides a separate tray in each collection bucket specifically for cigarette butts so they can be recycled separately.

For many students, the beach clean-up provides a break from the norm of busy school and work schedules. Armstrong Campus student Noah Keeth (cybersecurity ‘20) said, “As honors students, we invest a lot of time in ourselves through studying and self-development. An opportunity such as the Tybee Beach Clean-Up is refreshing as it allows us to step away from ourselves and simply give our time to enhance the quality of the community.”

Statesboro Campus student Hannah Dorough (psychology ‘18) shares a similar sentiment. “Not only do we get to help keep the Tybee community beautiful, but we get to do so in the company of our fellow honor students,” said Dorough. “Knowing the reason behind our beach clean-ups and seeing the direct impact makes it all the more valuable.”

With such a successful event, Honors Program students are looking forward to continuing this tradition in the spring and in future semesters.


Where in the World is Sophia Fleri?

Study abroad advocates claim that taking one trip will only convince students that they need to go on another.  Sophia Fleri (mechanical engineering ’20) needed no such convincing as she spent this past summer going on her third and fourth study abroad experiences.  After her freshman year, she travelled to Argentina.  Then it was off to Romania after her sophomore year. And this year she participated on the trip to Shenzhen, China and Munich, Germany, spending a total of nine weeks outside of the country.

Fleri’s courses in China were her first history classes not focused on American or European history. “I took a history course that was not taught from a Eurocentric standpoint. The course had an appreciation for the worldview, and I was able to learn more about the culture I was visiting while living there,” Fleri said.

Spending four weeks in Asia for the first time had its challenges. Fleri had to adapt to a culture with more differences than similarities to her own. “The language was extremely difficult to grasp, let alone read. Typically, the countries that I have visited have spoken a romantic language. I have studied both Spanish and French in elementary and high school, so picking up these languages was not difficult,” Fleri said. “Chinese’s use of characters rather than an alphabet made it difficult to understand. I had to rely on gestures, facial expression, and body language to get by. Despite our lack of knowledge of the language, everyone was very kind when communicating and curious about us.”

Finding their way in unfamiliar surroundings, Fleri and her peers slowly became accustomed to the unique and special qualities of Chinese culture. “Navigating and understanding signs became easier. Cultural norms became more apparent to us. We learned to order enough food to share between ourselves rather than individual meals. These are all attributes of a culture that you absorb through experience,” she said.

The trip also included seeing many historical sites in China, and Fleri went to several landmarks such as the Buddhist Feilai temple, the Xi’an City Wall, the Love Tree in the Emperor’s Hot Springs Garden, the ruins of the Terracotta Warriors, and the Lotus Mountain Park.

After wrapping up her first summer term in China, she moved on to Munich, Germany where her courses focused on environmental studies, specifically Germany’s efforts to promote and to use renewable energy.

“Going on this trip was an experience of a lifetime. I not only experienced a new culture and a new language, but I found an environment that I had been searching for. Everything was centered on the environment with parks in every big city, populated with people relaxing, exercising, or working. People were active, either biking to work or to the store; there were recycling bins in front of every house,” she said.

Fleri found the city to be at the scale of the individual and walkable. “We walked anywhere and everywhere, to go to the grocery store, to a nice restaurant, to parks, to museums, to festivals, to historical landmarks, and to churches,” she said. Given the city’s extensive public transit, Fleri and her peers were not limited to one area and took the opportunity to explore every aspect of the city.

While living in Germany, she felt closely connected with the country. She adapted quickly to the language which eased navigation and communication. The city itself was different for Fleri because of the mélange of historical styles in the architecture.

“The buildings were centuries old with their original facades. It was a society rich in history and progress. I wanted to speak the language and know their trends and culture so much more deeply. I hope to live there one day and work in a place that values environmental sustainability as much as I do,” Fleri said.

Studying Abroad has become an important aspect of Fleri’s education, helping her gain cultural awareness, flexibility, and cross-cultural communication. And she knows these skills will be useful beyond graduation once she’s in her career.

Fleri hopes students will take advantage of the opportunities abroad. “Go. Go now. Go unquestioningly and quickly. There is so much more to learn about the world that you never knew existed. It helps you learn first-hand about things you would study in the classroom. It is never too late to go,” Fleri said.

In the Gallery and Behind the Scenes: Honors Art Majors at Ovation

Taking art from the studio to the gallery is every art student’s goal. For Georgia Southern’s scholarship recipients in the Department of Art, the annual Ovation Showcase at the Blick Gallery in Savannah is a highlight of every fall.  This year, two Honors Program students were among the participants in the event. Marian Trainor (3d studio art ’18) presented projects from her honors thesis and personal work, while Megan Tanner (art history and French ’21) had the opportunity to work behind-the-scenes with the curation process.

Trainor has participated in previous exhibitions, and at every event gains feedback from an audience of other artists and the interested public. She has been working on her thesis for the past year, creating sculptural and mixed media objects. Trainor credits her sculpture professor Dr. Marc Moulton with guidance and motivation in developing her work.

“If left to my own devices, I would probably never have shown any of my work at all over the years. Luckily, my professors keep me from being too much of a hermit,” she said. “Showcasing my work is a very valuable reminder that the work you make deserves to exist, especially with an audience that is not concerned with preserving your feelings.”

The fear of presenting can hold artists back, because one becomes emotionally connected to their work. Yet, differing appreciation and suggestions towards a person’s work can help an artist grow and evolve. Trainor said, “The experience of letting someone into your work is nerve-wracking, but overall it’s a positive experience.”

While Trainor submitted pieces to be showcased, Tanner gained experience working with Dr. Elsie Hill, designing the exhibit space. From planning to execution, Tanner developed professional relationships with the artists, her peers in the department, while trying to accurately represent their work in the space provided.

“The overall process was very fun. We had to transport all the works to the Blick Gallery in Savannah, unpackage them, and set up the exhibition. We had to decide which works and objects looked best next to others and on which wall,” she said. “Each object had to be hung, which meant deciding how high and low and object must be. We also found locations in the gallery space for the two 3D pieces. The pedestals for the 3D pieces needed to be in the best position in relation to the other objects on display.”

Tanner’s work with Dr. Hill gave her the opportunity to see the potential of museum curation. Museum work allows the curator to engage with and to educate the public through different art forms. Tanner was able to implement ideas and knowledge from her art history courses, into a professional setting. “This particular experience has really benefited me because it was able to expose me to the possibility and experience of curation,” she said.

This opportunity gave each student more insight to the art world beyond the classroom, and Tanner advises other students to take advantage of these opportunities. “For art students, any exhibition is a great way to allow yourself to be recognized by others within the community, whether it be your peers, your professors, or a committee,” she said.

Summer Research at a Children’s Hospital

Catie Shipp presents her research.

Finding the perfect summer research experience sometimes requires asking the right questions of the right people. Catie Shipp (psychology ’19) did just that and participated in a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She was one of 129 students selected from a pool of almost 1400 applicants, and in her time there, she gained valuable hands-on research experience. She found herself working at a high level on various research projects and has been asked to return next year as the clinical research coordinator within the Department of Developmental Disabilities and Behavioral Pediatrics.

The program paired each fellow with a mentor, and Shipp worked with Dr. Anna Esbensen. With her mentor’s guidance, Shipp worked on four of her ongoing research projects. “These projects aimed to improve sleep and behavior, and also to test cognitive measures for school-aged children with Down syndrome. I took on a variety of roles throughout the summer which included creating data sets, entering data, scoring psychological assessments, creating and prepping research folders, organizing protocol, creating visual schedules, creating stimuli for research visits, and preparing recruitment for future and ongoing studies,” Shipp said.

Her work culminated in a capstone project, presented at the University of Cincinnati SURF Research Symposium. Shipp researched a topic in her field of interest while gaining professional networks. “The SURF program provided many outside opportunities for students to learn and to connect with fellow students within the program. For instance, I attended a professional development workshop, a networking mixer, and a SURF summer picnic to name a few,” she said.

Working in a top tier national hospital provided Shipp with countless opportunities to shadow top-ranked professionals. She said, “I was so fortunate to observe amazing psychologists within the department who were so willing to let me see what their job entailed and were always eager to answer my many questions that I would have after each visit. I also learned and observed evaluations, assessments, and treatments performed by various mental health professionals.” Internships provide the necessary skills for students to succeed in a future career or trade.

Both Dr. Esbensen and Emily Hoffman, the clinical research coordinator, with whom Shipp worked with daily, had an impact on Shipp’s overall experience this summer. They gave her the freedom to work on large projects, trusting in her work ethic and knowledge about the material. “My mentor, Dr. Esbensen, never ceased to amaze me with her hard work, intelligence, and passion for the work she did. She was so encouraging and informative, and she really helped me to feel confident about my future. Further, Emily Hoffman was an amazing role model to me. It seemed like she always had all of the answers,” she said.

Shipp’s appreciation for her mentor was reciprocated. Dr. Esbensen appreciated Shipp’s dedication and enthusiasm that contributed to the research. “Catie met and exceeded the high standard set by prior SURF students. Her efforts on our project measuring behavioral and cognitive outcomes for children with Down syndrome were invaluable to our team. She supported our recruitment efforts, our ability to conduct day-to-day evaluations of research participants, and our ability to analyze clean data,” Dr. Esbensen said.

“Catie was able to quickly and independently perform assigned tasks with a limited need for supervision. She asked insightful questions about tasks and was clear and confident in her communication, and she demonstrated a level of professionalism beyond her schooling,” Dr. Ebensen said.

This fellowship allowed Shipp to push herself and to discover new passions. Before this summer, Shipp was unsure about what her future after Georgia Southern University held. “Upon entering this position, I had never considered working with children with developmental disabilities,” she said. “To be honest, it was a part of the field that really intimidated me because I knew little-to-nothing about it. However, with the amazing guidance of both Dr. Esbensen and Emily, I have acquired a new interest that I am really considering pursuing upon graduation.”

One lesson Shipp took from her time at the hospital was to take risks. She would have never known about this fellowship if she did not directly email the head of the Clinical Psychology Department. This fearlessness to reach out gave Shipp an unforgettable experience as well as a career in a field of interest. Shipp hopes that other students will take advantage of the resources on campus that will lead them to experiences during and after college.

“I would encourage all students to look for opportunities to gain whatever hands-on experience that they can. I learned so much about the field of psychology, the professional world, and about myself as a worker and a student that I would never have learned by only taking my scheduled classes. There are so many opportunities out there, but you definitely have to be bold by communicating to those who can help you to get those positions,” she said. “Further, these positions lead to amazing relationships and skills that are so important, and overall these experiences are so helpful in the long run. So I would just encourage everyone to be on the lookout for opportunities, and to not be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone to chase after your career goals.”

Supplying New Ideas

Hannah Dorough, center at front of stairs, with her team at HD Supply

This past summer, Hannah Dorough (psychology ’18) found career inspiration on her internship with the Human Resources Operations team at HD Supply in Atlanta.  To call it a summer internship is to stop too soon, however, as she continues to work for the company as a remote human resources coordinator while finishing up her final semester at Georgia Southern.

During the summer Dorough worked primarily with Community Affairs. “I was responsible for complete management of the initiatives and strategic relationships of the Community Affairs department,” she said. “I worked on project committees to implement compliance strategy.” This semester she is able to work remotely from Statesboro, occasionally traveling to Atlanta, to participate in and lead corporate events.

HD Supply is an industrial distributor across North America. The company provides a range of services and products for a variety of business needs, such as the newly constructed Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.

While on her internship, Dorough was given the freedom to design and plan her own projects such as Take Your Child to Work day, donation drives, and lunch-making events to feed children in Atlanta. She focused on creating events for the betterment of the employees as well as the local community. “I created the company’s first employee resource group built around volunteerism to increase retention and promote recruitment to different markets of individuals,” Dorough said.

Dorough found herself drawing on her coursework in psychology and human resource management, taking knowledge gained in the classroom and using it in a professional setting. “I was impressed by how much my undergraduate research transferred into workplace skills. After a couple of days on the job, I felt fully competent,” she said.

She also found herself drawing on experiences gained as an honors student. For two years, Dorough worked with the Student Advisory Board (SAB). This program created events for the freshmen to build and to develop their friendships in the Honors Living Learning Community. She was also a vital member of the student consolidation committee, a group of students who had the opportunity to present research on the Statesboro-Armstrong consolidation at the 2017 Southern Regional Honors Conference. “My leadership roles within the Honors Program have translated well to the workforce, giving me confidence to work with professionals in this field,” she said.

Dorough also found a mentor through this internship in her boss, Christine Burrell. “Christine is the director of HR Operations, and my team consisted of some of the most powerful and intelligent people in the industry. My boss quickly taught me the importance of believing in yourself and your competencies. She has been a driving force in some of my career decisions, and as the Chief HR Officer she is living proof that you can climb the ladder if you work hard and treat others kindly. By having a strong support system, I was able to show myself my worth and to see the true value of human resources,” Dorough said.

The range of projects Dorough worked on this summer was diverse; however, she found her work with corporate social responsibility to be the most rewarding. She was able to affect the work lives of HD Supply employees. “I was recognized by the CEO as an embodiment of the company’s values, as my work played an integral part in forming more of an intimate ‘work family’ environment within our large, new headquarters building,” she said.

While summer may have ended, Dorough’s work with HD Supply continues. “I am doing the same exciting work that I did during my internship, but now as a part-time employee,” she said. And when she graduates a semester early in December, she will have valuable experience to take with her.