Honors students’ research brings the unexpected
02.20.2015 | By Andrea Vasquez
HOUSTON – Five San Jacinto College Honors program students will present at this year’s National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at Eastern Washington University.
NCUR is an interdisciplinary conference where students representing universities and colleges from all around the U.S., and internationally, will present their research and creative works in oral, poster, and performance/visual arts presentations. Institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, the University of Texas, and Texas A&M University are usually represented. Last year, out of 465 higher education institutions represented at the conference, fewer than a dozen were community colleges. Most students who present their research are seniors from research universities. This year, more than 3,700 abstracts were submitted and five San Jacinto College Honors students were chosen to present their work.
“Having five students chosen from San Jacinto College is truly amazing,” said Dr. Eddie Weller, San Jacinto College Honors program director. “This is the type of research you often see among seniors writing an Honors thesis or first or second year grad students. Few community college students are ever selected to present their work. Yet these research and writing skills will help prepare them for their work at any university and then in their chosen careers.”
Music student Mary Grace Pruet chose to research the late comedian Bill Hicks. “Researching Bill Hicks was entertaining, thought-provoking, and fascinating, so it really didn’t feel like I was working on something for class,” said Pruet. “I especially loved how he ditched the idea of slapstick humor and picked up the idea of philosophical thoughts. While watching footage from some of his performances, it was so interesting to see him go into these ‘comedic sermons’ that involved deliberately aggravating his audience and winning them back,” added the 20-year-old. Although she has also presented her paper at last year’s Great Plains Honor’s Council, Pruet is looking forward to seeing the other presentations at NCUR. “I like thinking that if I’m this excited about my paper, that means other people have cool papers that they’re also super psyched about.”
Jeffery Hallinan took a different approach by taking a look in his own back yard. Being a Pasadena native, the Pasadena Livestock Show and Rodeo (PLSR) is an annual event the local community enjoys. However, he wanted to look into the origins of the rodeo to find out exactly why they started the event.
“My history professor, Mr. Turner, told me that a sign of a good paper is something that’s controversial and gets people talking,” he said. “The more research I did, the more I realized what that meant. Basically, all of the original organizers of the PLSR weren’t ‘cowboys’ at all. They were chamber of commerce members who fostered that cowboy persona and created the event in order to preserve their status as a small town, separate from Houston, who had been annexing smaller cities since 1948. That ‘cowboy’ mantra still lives on, and Hollywood even took notice in the 80s by making ‘Urban Cowboy’ filming all around Pasadena. I’ve grown up here all my life, but I never asked ‘why’ until now.”
At 38, Hallinan is taking full advantage of this fresh start at the College. Being an Honors student is something he always knew he was capable of. “I always wanted a degree, and after 20 years of working shift work as a plant operator, I decided it was time to do this for me. After a while, you realize money isn’t everything. Do what makes you happy because you’re going to have a better life no matter what.” Hallinan plans on teaching history at the college level.
Both Pruet and Hallinan agree that the San Jacinto College Honors program pushes its students to their full potential. Not only does it have obvious academic benefits, but the friendships and camaraderie prove to be one of the best support systems. “You don’t have that feeling of direct competition against each other; it’s more like we’re all going to help each other succeed together,” said Hallinan. “The honors program did this nice knitting of people that is very beautifully put together; all you have to do is give them a little bit of your time to get that in return,” added Pruet.
Along with Pruet and Hallinan, Dirk Johnston, Danielle Rivers, and Emilia Herrera will all present their research papers at the 2015 National Conference on Undergraduate Research.
For more information on the San Jacinto College Honors program, visit sanjac.edu/honors.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.