Honors College Students Win Undergraduate Research Awards

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Three recent honors graduates of the University of Arkansas have received Undergraduate Research Awards, which are awarded annually by the university’s Teaching Academy. The winning papers, all based on Honors College theses, will be published in Inquiry, the university’s undergraduate research journal, and each of the students will receive a $1,000 prize from the office of the provost. The Honors College has given $1,000 in research funding to the students’ faculty mentors.

Barbara Bennett Shadden, University Professor emerita in the communications disorders program and editor of Inquiry since 2006, said she is seeing a growing trend in interdisciplinary work submitted for the award and the journal.

“Students are coming from a number of different backgrounds and drawing on both their majors and minors,” she said. “This year’s manuscripts were really well done. It was hard to make decisions.” The winners of the 2011 undergraduate research award include:

Annie Fulton

Annie Fulton, of Olathe, Kan., who earned a bachelor of science degree in architectural studies with minor in geography, magna cum laude, from the Fay Jones School of Architecture. Her study is titled “Industrial Evolution: A Comparative Case Study of the Transformation from Industry to Leisure in the Ports of San Francisco and Oakland, California.” Her faculty mentor was Kim Sexton, associate professor of architecture.

Annie Fulton’s research focused on two questions: how is it that the ports of two great American cities of about the same age and on the same West Coast bay have come to utilize their waterfronts so differently, and in what ways could the successful redevelopment of the port of San Francisco serve as a model for the port of Oakland?

Her case study, which involved on-site observations about daily use of the ports, visual documentation, and interviews with city planners, port commissioners, architects and developers, was supported by two research grants and one research travel grant from the Honors College. Her thesis concluded with specific recommendations for the continued development of Oakland’s Jack London Square, ranging from the embrace of the Green Movement as a catalyst for urban development to improvements to a thoroughfare connecting the port and downtown area.

“As a mentor, I was very impressed by the initiative Ms. Fulton exhibited not only in formulating her project but in conducting research independently and far from campus,” Sexton wrote in a letter commending the project. “Studies like this are part of global efforts of the design profession, partnering with hard sciences and social sciences, to improve and save ‘obsolete’ areas of cities and towns.”

Zoe Teague

Zoe Teague, from Jonesboro, received a bachelor of science degree in environmental, soil and water science, from the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences. Her study is titled “Implementing a Food Waste to Compost Program at the University of Arkansas: An Economic Feasibility Analysis.” Her faculty mentor was Jennie Popp, professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness.

Over the course of two and one-half years, Zoe Teague played a leading role in an effort to turn food scraps from campus dining halls into rich compost for use on experimental plots at the University of Arkansas Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Her involvement began with a feasibility study on campus composting, conducted with four other students, that enabled the university to buy two “gently used” Earth Tubs capable of composting up to 150 pounds of organic material daily.

Teague visited the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, an Earth Tub user for many years, and subsequently raised the $13,000 needed to support the project. Her paper compares the benefits and costs of composting two different amounts of food wastes (from one dining hall and all three dining halls, respectively) as opposed to sending the waste to a landfill.

“Zoe worked for weeks with Facilities Management, Campus Housing, Chartwells, Walmart, the City of Fayetteville and others to place dollar values on market costs and benefits and to identify on a qualitative basis the non-market costs and benefits,” Popp wrote in her letter of support. “Her work is truly multidisciplinary and highly collaborative.” Teague’s research was supported by a Statewide Undergraduate Research Fellowship grant and a grant from Bumpers College.

Andrew Walchuk

Andrew Walchuk, from Conway, earned a bachelor of arts degree with majors in political science, international relations, European studies and Spanish and minors in Middle East Studies, Arabic, and economics, summa cum laude, from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. His study is titled “Immigration and the Extreme Right: An Analysis of Recent Voting Trends in Western Europe.” His faculty mentor was Jeffrey Ryan, associate professor of political science.

Recognizing that Europe’s immigrant population continues to grow, and that far-right parties campaigning on nationalistic platforms opposing immigration have seen great electoral success, Andrew Walchuk posed the question, what is going to happen to these far-right parties as we move into the future? His approach, which required a crash course in advanced statistical analysis, studied two cycles of European Parliament elections in Spain, Austria, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Walchuk hypothesized that xenophobic voting for far right groups would initially grow, then stabilize or possibly decrease once the immigrant population had expanded to the point that non-immigrants no longer viewed them as “outsiders.” In fact, his analysis found that as the immigrant population increased, support for the far right actually decreased. His findings showed support for the theory that expansion of the immigrant population can lead to increased interaction between the two groups, weakening stereotypes perpetuated by the extreme right.

Ryan praised Walchuk’s effort: “From my perspective, not only as an adviser but a scholar as well, Andrew Walchuk’s thesis is an exemplar of how undergraduate students can conduct first-rate scholarship when they commit themselves fully to the endeavor.” Walchuk’s research was supported by SURF grant funding.

Each submission for the award is independently reviewed by at least two faculty members, with the final selection made by a committee of 10 members of the Teaching Academy.

“This is a labor of love for the faculty reviewers,” Shadden said, adding, “It’s really a challenge to make these decisions, because the reviewers become advocates for the papers they read.”

“I’m proud of these honors students and their faculty mentors, who helped them to conduct and publish undergraduate research at this very high level,” said Bob McMath, dean of the Honors College.

The three papers will be published in the 12th volume of Inquiry, due out this fall.


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