Wofford student Will Prosser is in Prague, attending an international Bonhoeffer conference centered around the German theologian’s letters and papers from Nazi prison. Half a world away, fellow student Sam Hall is out in the hot summer sun, collecting ants in the Upstate of South Carolina.
What do these events have in common? They’re both part of Wofford’s Community of Scholars, a summer research program directed by Dr. Charley Kay that is now in its third year. It’s not just any research program, though. As is literally the case with Hall, it encourages students to get their hands dirty in real research.
“It is a genuine research program,” said Kay, a professor of philosophy. “There are other programs around the country where students do research-like things, either to assist a professor or simply to do a project that’s in the methodology of research but not really new or original. But these are all original projects. They’re things that haven’t been done before. And, at least in theory, they’re all publishable if they’re successful.”
Case in point, the research done in the first year of the program by students Kimberly Smith, Megan Crowley and Cameron Corbin with Dr. Dave Pittman, associate professor of psychology, involving rats and dietary fats. Their work recently was published in the Chemical Senses Journal, and it has helped all three students move on to higher levels of study.
“It’s really amazing some of the things these students have accomplished,” Kay says, “and this is a community. They’re all working on research full time for the summer. There are a wide range of topics here. The different projects may not have a lot in common in terms of research to talk about, but the students can talk about methodologies and how things are similar and different.”
Prosser, who flew to Prague July 21, chose Bonhoeffer because “he is among a handful of most admired Christians of the 20th century.” Hall chose her ant project because of some prodding by John Moeller, associate professor of biology, and because of her lifelong passion for insects. She may not be traveling to exotic cities in Europe, but she does use Google Earth to find anthills in the Sandhills.
“I think it’s a great program,” Hall says. “I would like to do research later during grad school and even after grad school, so this is definitely an advantage in terms of applying for grad school but also simply for the experience itself. I’ve gotten experience working with other professors and students from other colleges who I’ve collaborated with on this project. This program has also taught me that there is a lot more in research than I could have possibly thought before. In science, your projects are reviewed by peers and aren’t automatically accepted as valid or correct. It’s been a great experience so far.”
The program, which varies in size and scope from year to year, is in the third year of its funding from the Fullerton Foundation (with matching funds from Wofford). But Kay has completed a grant request to extend the program. He says the structure of the program, or lack thereof, makes it a success.
“We don’t have a lot of bureaucracy,” he says. “One of the nicest features of the program is that the time from concept to acceptance and then project is very short. You find out within a month whether you’re in or not. If you apply to a big grant agency it might take a year or more. For undergraduate students, a year or more is forever.”
Whether a student is in an air-conditioned building in Prague collecting notes or a sweltering field near Spartanburg gathering ants, the program is something that will stay with them forever. And that’s what higher education is all about.
Fellows of the 2008 Community of Scholars
1. A.K. Anderson, Belief Amidst Bombshells: Western Christian Public Thought, 1900-1965
a. Will Prosser, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Problem of Evil
b. Kathryn Hall, Modern Vatican Patronage in Rome: Addressing Spatial Worship Needs through Modern Innovation
2. Kara Bopp, Examination of Cognitive Training in Older Adults with and without Alzheimer’s Disease
a. Danielle Rekers, Portraits of Alzheimer’s Disease in the Upstate
3. Mark Byrnes, The “Great Debate” over U.S. intervention in World War II
a. Jacob Henerey, Black Slave Owners in South Carolina
b. Katherine Campbell, The Symbiotic Relationship of Science and Art in the 16th Century
4. Mathew Cathey, Packings of Conformal Preimages of Circles
a. Ka Yan Chan, How Much Money Will You (or your parents) Need for Your Education? A Study in Mathematical Budgeting Models
5. G.R. Davis, Coping with stress in arid environments: Animal behaviors in southern Africa
a. Travis Boyd, The Effects of Over-the-Counter Stimulants on Appetite and Weight Gain in Laboratory Rats
b. Brandon Hunt, The Effect of Shifting Photoperiods on Appetite in Laboratory Rats, a potential animal model for the study of effects of shift work on humans
6. Trina Jones, Soulless Personalities
a. Mary Francis Dassel, Sacred Emptiness: A Comparative Study of Apophatic Discourses in Meister Eckhart and Nagarjuna
b. Blake Ruble, The AIDS pandemic in Africa and the Humanitarian Response
7. John Moeller, Collective adaptation in behavior of ants
a. Sam Hall, Stridulation patterns of the Velvet Ant
8. David Pittman, The effect of high-fat diet on gustatory responses to fatty acids in obese-prone and obese-resistance rats
a. Molly McGinnis, Effect of the benzodiazepine, chlordiazepoxide (CDP) on the normal feeding patterns of water restricted rats across sweet, salty, sour and bitter tastants.
b. Lindsey Richardson, Effect of benzodiazepines on the consumption patterns of various taste stimuli (sweet, sour, salt and bitter) in water-replete rats
9. Tracy Revels, More Than Three-Pipe Problem: Creating a Sherlockian Pastiche
a. Lindy Bunch, Mary I: A portrait in words
b. Kemper Wray, Homage to the Square: The Bauhaus Influence in the Art of Black Mountain College
10. Anne Rodick, Entertainment, Education, Economics: A Preliminary Exploration of the Victorian Public Lecture Circuit
a. Vanessa Lauber, Returning Presidential Scholar
b. Sara White, Redundant Women: Changing Gender Roles in Victorian England
11. Deno Trakas, Because Memory Isn’t Eternal: A Story of Greeks in the Upstate of South Carolina
a. Leia Boudet, Reconstructing National Identity: Forced Immigration and the Turkish-Greek Population Transfer of 1923
b. Sara Khalil, One Wonder of the World to Another: Transitions of Egyptian Immigrants
c. Jessica Miller, Understanding the Experience of Undocumented Hispanic Immigrant Women in the American South