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Advancing research

Honors scholars are doing work that’s making an impact well beyond the Mount’s campuses.

May 14, 2018

MSMU Honors scholars at the 2018 Western Regional Honors Council Conference, where they presented their Honors research alongside scholars selected from across the western U.S.
MSMU Honors scholars at the 2018 Western Regional Honors Council Conference, where they presented their Honors research alongside scholars selected from across the western U.S.

What’s researched at Mount Saint Mary’s most certainly does not stay at Mount Saint Mary’s. Studies led by MSMU students and faculty often create real-world impact. A new case in point comes from recent research conducted by the University’s graduating Honors scholars.

As part of the requirements for Mount Saint Mary’s Honors program, scholars spend their senior year working on their Honors theses. As students have finished their work, several of their theses have attracted the attention of prestigious conferences, graduate programs and outside institutions.

On April 14-15, five Honors scholars presented their findings at the Western Regional Honors Council Conference, alongside students and professors from Honors programs at 42 colleges and universities representing 13 states in the western U.S. The conference was hosted at Chapman University, in Orange, Calif. MSMU’s Honors scholars presenting at the conference were:

  • Jacqueline Aguilar ‘18: "Understanding Sexual Violence Through the College Woman"
  • Michelle Timoteo Balingit ‘18: "EntrepreneHERs: Women in Business”
  • Francesca Angelina Martin ‘18: "Ethics and Business Leadership in the 21st Century: A Philosophical Approach”
  • Samantha Meisenhelder ‘18: "Preemptive Opioid-sparing Pediatric Pain Protocol”
  • Mariana Porras ‘18: "A Study of the Impact of Mentoring Relationships for the Advancement of Latina Graduate Students”
  • Dr. Michelle Melendres ‘03: "Best Practices in Preparing First-Generation Students in Global Awareness and Understanding: A Spotlight on Travel Immersion"

“I am so immensely proud of our graduating Honors scholars for their hard work, perseverance and poise throughout this entire process,” said Michelle Melendres, EdD, director of the Mount’s Honors program. “Our sophomores and juniors are excited to follow in their footsteps and are already preparing for next year’s conference at Montana State University.”

The conference also included a keynote address by Angela Davis, the longtime activist, educator and author. The talk afforded a particularly timely opportunity for MSMU’s students. Davis’ book, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle,” is the current Common Campus Read being discussed by the entire Mount community.

MSMU Honors scholar Ava Rutter ’20 asks a question of iconic activist, educator and author Angela Davis during the 2018 Western Regional Honors Council Conference.
MSMU Honors scholar Ava Rutter ’20 asks a question of iconic activist, educator and author Angela Davis during the 2018 Western Regional Honors Council Conference.

Moving forward
Several Honors scholars have already found new ways to expand and apply their research. Mariana Porras’s Honors thesis was selected for inclusion in the inaugural issue of Collectif, the Center for the Advancement of Women’s online anthology of original writing created by University faculty and students. Porras’ work is now moving toward journal publication, too.

This fall, Porras and Jacqueline Aguilar will have the chance to continue their studies as graduate students at Columbia University, and Francesca Martin has been accepted to attend Cal State Los Angeles in pursuit of a master’s degree in philosophy. Meanwhile, another Honors scholar’s thesis is already making a difference in the healthcare realm.

Samantha Meisenhelder’s work studied the growing crisis of opioid over-prescription among children. Specifically, she created a case study to assess the pain protocol currently utilized Shriners Hospital for Children, Los Angeles. Guided by her research, Meisenhelder recommended improvements to Shriners educational materials and pain charts, making them more user-friendly and more understandable for children. She also created bilingual English-Spanish versions of those materials to aid children’s Spanish-speaking families — an important effort given that 60 percent of Shriners’ patients are Latina/o.

Recently, Meisenhelder learned that her suggestions would become reality. Rick Bushnell, MD, director anesthesia at Shriners Hospital for Children, Los Angeles, notified Meisenhelder that not only will the Shriners’ L.A. hospital adopt her updated pamphlets and charts, but her improvements will be implemented at all Shriners Hospitals nationwide.

“The Honors Program has taught me how to push myself more than I ever have,” Meisenhelder said. “Dr. Melendres has given me experiences and knowledge that I will take with me into my future as a physician assistant and as a female leader. She and my cohort have taught me to have confidence in myself in all that I do. I would not have had the opportunity to be published by a renowned hospital if it wasn't for the Honors program.”

Next up for several of the Mount’s Honors scholars this May: An immersive experience in Brazil and Argentina as part of Melendres’ annual global immersion trip through the Department of Social Work’s global initiatives. There, students will explore the contrasting forces of poverty and privilege, and study local efforts to create sustainable development and promote peace initiatives. Follow their journey on the Honors program’s Instagram account.