Pannell Scholars bridge the arts, humanities, social studies and STEM in 2017 projects

Engineering students honors project
Ryanna Runyon (left) and classmate Clara Rogers work on a joint engineering project during the 2017 Honors Summer Research Program.

Nine lucky sophomores will spend an entire year delving into a research project of their choice, thanks to Sweet Briar’s Anne Gary Pannell Merit Scholarship. Sponsored by the Honors Program, the scholarship rewards first-year students of exceptional initiative and ability with the opportunity to explore an area of interest more fully during their sophomore year.

The 2017-2018 Pannell Scholars are Casey Atkins, Gwendolyn Bekisz, Kayleigh Bekisz, Jessica Bell, Jordan Elliott, DaZané Cole, Raven Minyard, Ryanna Runyon and Macey Stearns.

Sweet Briar students are known for their wide range of academic interests, and Pannell Scholars are no different. From Scottish folk music to the Great Famine, from sound localization to modern medicine, diversity is the unifying element for the Class of 2020. Some, like Atkins and Kayleigh Bekisz, are using the opportunity to explore possible career choices, while others, like Gwendolyn Bekisz, want to satisfy an intellectual curiosity that goes beyond the classroom.

“I’m proud of our Pannell Scholars because their projects are challenging, interesting, creative and meaningful,” said Bethany Brinkman, chair of the Honors Committee and an assistant professor of engineering. “I look forward to hearing them present their findings in the spring.”

Pannell Scholars receive a merit award of up to $3,000, which is applied to their tuition. In addition, each student receives funding to support her proposed project. While the maximum budget is $3,000 per project, budgets usually range from $750 to $1,000. In many cases, those funds are used for travel expenses. Several scholars in this year’s class are planning trips, including to Yale University, Boston and Georgia. Two will travel abroad — one is going to Scotland; the other is flying to Dublin, Ireland.

Here’s the complete list of abstracts:

Casey Atkins: Modern Medicine: A Comparison of Osteopathic Practices to Traditional Allopathic Care”
“The purpose of this project is to perform a firsthand comparison of osteopathic practices to traditional allopathic medical practices. By comparing the two fields of medicine through observation and hands-on shadowing, I hope to find out why osteopathic medicine has risen in popularity over the past few years and how osteopathic physicians are viewed by patients in rural communities. In addition, I want to see if osteopathic medicine has benefits over the traditional family practice many people are accustomed to or if the recent residency merger of the two fields should be taken a step further to combine the two disciplines. Answering these questions will allow me to look into the lifestyle of each type of physician: D.O. and M.D. respectively, as well as find out which type of doctor I would like to become in the future.”

Atkins is a biochemistry and molecular biology major with an economics minor from Newport, Va.

Gwendolyn Bekisz: “Play Me a Song of Time Gone By: A Study of Scottish Folk Music in The Early 20th Century”
“I believe this project to be worth pursuing because music is an important part of culture, which in turn is an important element that can further understanding of the people to whom the culture belongs. Music can reflect what a person believes and feels; it can convey emotions, tell stories and legends, be a form of cultural identity, and aid in rituals, which makes it an incredibly powerful cultural medium. From an anthropological viewpoint, to be able to compare the elements of the past and their relation to the present is necessary to understanding why we as humans are at the point we are today. By studying folk music, one can examine the very nature of the individual, and how each individual relates to the culture as a whole. Relating this to music style, each Scottish folk musician has his or her own variation of musical technique, which makes up the structure of what the music as a whole means and how it sounds. What I want to accomplish in this project is to further the understanding of culture through music, and to emphasize the important influence that music has on humankind.”

Bekisz is an international affairs major from Warrenton, Va.

Kayleigh and Gwendolyn Bekisz with friends
Kayleigh (second from left) and Gwendolyn Bekisz (right) with friends at Sweet Briar’s branding celebration after Opening Convocation in August

Kayleigh Bekisz: “Rare Books and Where to Find Them: The Keeping of Special Collections”
“My Pannell proposal is dual-faceted. I would like to obtain information relating to the fields of archives, special collections and rare book collections. I will do this by conducting interviews via survey, email, telephone and face-to-face discussion whenever possible. The information that I will obtain will help me to gain more knowledge about my future career and expand the knowledge base with respect to the future of the field. During this first part of the project, I will ask questions relating to the responsibilities of the field, the potential issues of the future, and the overall goal and importance of working with and preserving rare materials.  The second part of my project will be practical. I will explore the collections of libraries with particular focus on unique religious texts. Examples of these include the Gutenberg Bible, The Book of Kells and Gaelic mythology texts. This part of my research will give me hands-on experience in the culture of library systems that deal with delicate items. I will explore the contrast between standard library issues, and those of rare books and materials. For example, special collections may place more importance on preservation than public access, which is typically a focus in a standard library.”

Bekisz is a government major from Warrenton, Va., who is also pursuing an Arts Management Certificate.

Jessica Bell and Jordan Elliott: “Saving the Sea through Artistic Expression”
“When the Pannell project opportunity was first offered to me, I knew that I wanted to combine both my love of the ocean and my love of art in some meaningful way. After meeting up with one of my classmates, Jessica Bell, we decided that we wish to undertake a group project during our sophomore year focused on creating art that raises awareness for marine life and issues, facilitated by a directed study in the fall and further independent work in the spring. Professor [John] Morgan from the studio art department has agreed to supervise our progress and undertake another semester of directed study with us in Fall 2017, as well as continue to be a point of contact for us in the spring leading up to our final show. In order to do this, Jordan and I have decided that our final showcase will be subdivided into categories for each of these issues — habitat loss, global warming and overfishing. We hope to complete several pieces for each of these issues, some of which may have surrealistic elements, but will still convey the importance of raising awareness to what is happening in our oceans. We also wish to complete a category of works focusing on the Cownose Ray.”

Bell double-majors in psychology and studio art, with an intended double minor in art history and English and creative writing. Her hometown is Blackstone, Va.

Elliott is a classics and studio art double major with an art history minor from Canal Winchester, Ohio.

DaZané Cole
DaZané Cole

DaZané Cole: “Veterinarians and Suicide: Exploring a Hidden Issue”
“The Centers for Disease Control state that ‘veterinarians are believed to be at increased risk for suicide compared with the general population.’ While research has started, there isn’t much readily available data on the occurrence of suicidal behavior and the risk factors associated with the profession or the practitioners. The purpose of this project is to explore and gather more data on suicide in the veterinary profession, focusing more closely on veterinary students and affiliates. To fully explore and investigate this issue, I will conduct a research survey, shadow and interview veterinarians and combine the mental health resources available into an easily accessible document that can be widely disseminated.”

Cole is a biology and psychology double major from Hartford, Conn.

Raven Minyard: “Modern Fairy Tales: Writing a Young Adult Fantasy Novel”
“I believe the Pannell Scholarship is the perfect opportunity for me to finally begin writing a novel. I plan to double major in English/creative writing and history, and my project will reflect on both of those subjects. The story I intend to write will involve the Celtic folklore of the fae — fairies, elves, trolls, etc. — which I will investigate intensively as I prepare my project and begin outlining the novel. I will decide which creatures and myths to develop in story and how I will put my own, modern touch on them. By investigating the Celtic folklore and fantasy novels suggested, I will be able to further explore the legends I want to include in my novel. The folklore will allow me to understand how the fae were originally viewed, and the novels will allow me to see ways in which authors transform well-known mythology and legends into their own, new versions of them. Because my novel’s intended audience is young adults and teenagers, this will help me in developing a plot that will pique their interest. The novel will be set in modern-day America rather than medieval Ireland, and therefore the story I tell and legends I include must reflect today’s world. I must know enough original folklore in order to make the creatures recognizable, and I must understand how to make the legends new and original in order to make the story my own, rather than simply repeating legends people have already heard.”

Minyard is an English and creative writing major from Hohenwald, Tenn. She is planning on another major — or a minor — in history.

Ryanna Runyon: “Improving Sound Localization”
“My little brother has microtia atresia, which means he only has hearing in one ear. However, he has a mild to severe hearing loss in that ear. He describes his hearing as ‘like having cotton’ in his ears. He has always had a hearing aid, but because he can only wear one, he can’t localize sound and ends up having trouble in social situations. Also, I plan on going into biomedical engineering research and hope to focus on audiology. This project will help me see if this is what I want to do after college. My goals for this project are to learn more in depth about how people hear, how the technology in hearing aids works, and potentially find a solution to help not only my brother, but other people with hearing loss localize sound better. I plan on working closely with my brother to have the perspective of someone with hearing loss, so that my project stays targeted towards that group of people. This is important because hearing loss is one of the disabilities that can often be overlooked, or seen as someone not trying or not paying attention when in fact they are having trouble hearing and communicating with the people around them. I am hoping to make this a little easier for this group of people.”

Runyon is an engineering major from Knoxville, Tenn.

Macey Stearns: “Irish Crocheted Lace and the Great Famine”
“I plan to study Irish crocheted lace from three interlocking angles. I first plan to study the origins of all Irish lace, but focus mainly on the crocheted variety. I will learn of the differences between multiple forms including Carrickmacross lace, Kenmare lace, Limerick lace and Clones lace. I then plan on studying how the lace became a famine relief effort during the Great Famine, and its subsequent effects on the Irish peasantry. Finally, I will create some samples of lace inspired by the styles of lace that were popular with the women of the upper class during the Great Famine. My final results will include an investigative essay on the origin and evolution of Irish lace and its eventual effects on the peasantry of Ireland and Ireland’s economy as a whole. In addition to the essay, I will have various pieces of lace inspired by the works that would have been made during the Great Famine in the 1840s and 1850s, including a matching collar, and cuffs.”

Stearns is an archaeology major with a minor in English and creative writing. Her hometown is Vienna, Va.

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