Carnegie Mellon University
February 18, 2015

Students Thrive in First Senior Honors Fellowship Program

Students Thrive in First Senior Honors Fellowship Program Students Thrive in First Senior Honors Fellowship Program Writing a thesis is no small task. And, seniors in Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Senior Honors Program typically research and write their theses during their final year – at the same time that they are taking classes, participating in internships and planning their next steps.

In order to give select students a head start on their theses development, the Dietrich College introduced the Senior Honors Fellowship Program last year. Four outstanding then-juniors took part in the program’s first offering and are now, months away from graduation and putting the finishing touches on their projects, which ranged from relationship research to anthropology and ethnography studies.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how the first group of students in this brand new program seized an unchartered opportunity and ran with it,” said Brian Junker, associate dean for academic affairs in the Dietrich College. “It has been really satisfying to watch these four talented individuals and their projects develop over time. The intensive summer research portion gave each of them, in different ways, more exposure to their topics, the ability to dig deeper into their research and to end their undergraduate careers with excellent and thought-provoking work.”

One Hyuk (John) Ra, a biological sciences and psychology double major who plans to attend medical school, examined the relation between volunteerism and health in older adults. Ra wanted to expand existing research to include cognitive functioning. His project helped him realize that while he still wants to attend medical school, he’d like to continue studying the relationship between cognitive functioning and impairment through clinical research.

“For any student wishing to pursue an honors thesis within Dietrich College, the opportunity to dedicate 10 weeks of full-time work towards thesis preparation is truly invaluable and will only make for a higher quality final product,” Ra said.

Psychology Professor Vicki Helgeson, Ra’s faculty mentor for the program, saw first hand how the experience influenced Ra.

“John is now thinking that he wants research to be part of his career as a physician,” Helgeson said. “CMU is a premier research opportunity.  This is a great way to give undergraduates a solid research experience.”

Brooke Feeney, associate professor of psychology who advised Jaclyn Ross on her project that investigated the role of power in resolving conflicts within romantic relationships, also believes the program enables students to develop the skills they need to be successful in graduate programs and in their future careers.

“I have been excited to watch my honors student transform from a strong undergraduate student into someone who is already performing on a graduate-student level,” Feeney said. “She is currently receiving multiple offers for admittance into Ph.D programs.  It is exciting to play a role in helping students become sophisticated researchers, learn and grow, become competitive in the top graduate programs, and reach their career goals.”

The students’ projects received financial support from more than 60 donors, and the funding covered 10 weeks of full time research and project-related expenses.

“Finding the identity of my project during the summer months prepared me to work more effectively and meaningfully during the subsequent semesters,” said Christophe Combemale, an ethics, history and public policy major who researched the institutional paradigms of Renaissance France’s early centralized monarchy. “I would undoubtedly recommend the program to anyone interested in pursuing independent research. Students interested in completing a senior thesis will benefit from the additional summer period to more rigorously define or expand their research, and projects that would not fit into a conventional thesis may be feasible with the resources and time provided by the fellowship.”

Minnar Xie, a bachelor of humanities and arts student majoring in art, psychology and human-computer interaction, also participated in the program. Xie’s project focused on Bhutanese and Nepali refugees in Pittsburgh and third country resettlement.

Current Dietrich College juniors interested in participating in the 2015-16 Senior Honors Fellowship Program are invited to apply by March 2, 2015. (Note that the application is part of the Senior Honors Program.)

In addition to the Dietrich College, the Senior Honors Fellowship Program is made possible by partnerships with the Undergraduate Research Office and Alumni Relations.

Learn more about the program.

Give to the Dietrich College Senior Honors Fellowship Program.