Senior Spotlight: Megan Schaffner

Author: Gigi Speer, sophomore

The Senior Spotlight Series is an opportunity for Rose Hill Honors students to interview their peers in the Program and share the conversations with the broader community.

For this article, sophomore Gigi Speer interviewed Megan Schaffner, a senior Honors student majoring in English with minors in Marketing and Philosophy.

G: What made you choose your disciplines of study?

M: I’ve always loved books, so an English major felt like a natural choice to me. My marketing minor came a little later when I got interested in how companies communicate with their audiences and how that can affect the publishing industry. And with four philosophy courses in the old Honors curriculum, you only need one more class for a minor. So, like many Honors students, I chose to take a fifth philosophy class in order to do so. It’s been really interesting! I definitely wouldn’t have done a philosophy minor if I wasn’t so close to it, but I’m happy I did. 

G: Tell me a little about your internship!

M: I work at Beaufort Books, which is a small independent publisher all the way downtown [Manhattan].  I help the editors there with book schedules, manuscript edits, and basically whatever else they need!

G: What is the commute like? 

M: It’s not too bad.  I take a ram van for an hour and then a twenty minute subway. I sleep in the van which helps and the intern hours are 10-5 which is super nice.

G: Is this something you would like to do after you graduate?

M: Definitely!  I want to go into publishing, hopefully doing editorial stuff, so this is a good way to get a feel for the industry.

G: Is this your first time working for a publisher?

M: It is!  Over the summer, I worked for a literary agent, which was great but it dealt a lot more with the business work like finalizing book deals.  I really want to work with the actual text of books, so I’m hoping I can do that with this internship.

G: So you’ve been writing Senior Spotlights for the past two years as part of your role on the Student Activities Council.  Has writing these articles been helpful in directing your interest?

M: Yes, I think working with the Web Presence committee of SAC has  helped me a lot in general. I’ve gotten to think about the different forms of social media marketing, which is a little bit of what I’ve been doing at my internship now. So the web presence and marketing minor has been really helpful and have given me the chance to do some trial and error, figure out what I like, and figure out what works.

G: Do you have a favorite Honors memory teacher or book?

M: Yes! I love remembering the first two years of the Honors curriculum, all struggling together. I think back to freshman year, with all of us huddled in Alpha House cramming for Dr. Miller’s exams. My one friend, who wasn’t in Honors, would come with me and be my unofficial philosophy tutor. Even now, although I feel old, I like doing extra-curricular activities  with the whole Program. The book exchange last year was so sweet—people put in such an effort to figure out what their person would like to read. I got Educated, which I was really excited to read, and I was given a hardcover edition which I thought was so nice. Little things like that remind me that people are enjoying [Honors], that things are continuing, and that there will be a lot of activities still going on after I leave.  I feel like a proud mom!

G: Favorite Honors professor?

M: I really love Dr. Keller. I had her for Early Modern Lit, which is the time period I really like. Reading Shakespeare with her was the best thing ever because she really pushed us to keep thinking.  She wanted to know more than just the things that stood out to you; she wanted us to figure out why they did and how they fit into the larger scale of what we were learning. Having that practice in my head moving forward to other English classes has been helpful, since it has rewired my brain to think more.

Senior Spotlight: Kristen Cain

Author: Gigi Speer, sophomore

The Senior Spotlight Series is an opportunity for Rose Hill Honors students to interview their peers in the Program and share the conversations with the broader community.

For this article, sophomore Gigi Speer interviewed Kristen Cain, a senior International Studies major with a concentration in the Middle East and North Africa.

G: Where are you from?

K: The Poughkeepsie area [of New York].

Kristen in Morocco last spring.

G: So I know that you were just abroad.  Do you plan on travelling more?

K: I traveled abroad last spring in Morocco, which was perfect since I study both French and Arabic.  It was my first time travelling out of the country. I got lots of practice interning at a refugee organization and teaching English classes, which was really cool. I just found out last week that I got accepted into the Peace Corps, so I’ll be in Morocco for another two years working in youth development, teaching English classes, running after school programs, summer camps, and depending on the area, running some female empowerment programs as well.

G: Was there anything from Honors that came to mind when you were in Morocco?

K: Having a small community of thirty people in the program and classes that all relate like our interdisciplinary schedule reminded me of Honors. The other students were mostly American and there was one other Fordham student, but some were from China and Germany as well.

 G: Is there anything that you brought back that you really loved from Morocco?

K: I got really into their mint tea. Not just the tea itself, but the culture. Sitting and having tea with people is such a good way to get to know them. I’ve definitely been trying more Mediterranean stuff like couscous. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do before I went, and once I was there I got really interested in refugees, so I decided to write my thesis on it along with youth development and education. Most of the refugees are from West Africa and Sub Saharan Africa, and the government wasn’t really receptive to them; most of them were homeless or living in crowded apartments, whis is obviously not a great environment.

G: Are you still interested in refugee resettlement?

K: I’m interning at the International Rescue Committee, working in refugee resettlement, working with refugees coming into the U.S. They have offices throughout the country, and we help them their first 90 days, enrolling in food stamps, SNAP benefits, and trying to find apartments in New York. It’s not a great program, but its better than what they have in Morocco. I get to use my language skills, which is cool since I haven’t been able to practice since being in Morocco.

G: What will you miss about Honors?

K: I definitely like the community, especially freshman and sophomore year when we all spent so much time together. Every seminar class was people you knew, so you felt more comfortable talking to people.

G: Has there been any teacher that has had a big impact on you?

K: There’s been a lot of really good professors. From freshman year, definitely Professor McGowan.  I feel like everyone says their Ancient Literature professor is the best, but he can truly make any topic interesting.

G: Do you have a favorite memory from Honors?

K: I loved going to the Classics Halloween party with my class freshmen year; I dressed up as Athena.  At the same party, Devin D’Agostino came in a blow up T-Rex costume—which he’s worn multiple times—and put a Greek robe over it to be Oedipus Rex.

Senior Spotlight: Onjona Hossain

Author: Gigi Speer, sophomore

The Senior Spotlight Series is an opportunity for Rose Hill Honors students to interview their peers in the Program and share the conversations with the broader community.

For this article, Gigi Speer, a current sophomore in the Program, interviewed graduating senior, Onjona Hossain. Onjona is a biology and philosophy double major in the Honors Program.  She is currently preparing for medical school and has a plethora of different achievements. I interviewed her to learn more about these accomplishments, in addition to the many other things she’s done with her time here at Fordham.

Onjona Hossain, Honors Class of 2020

Gigi: What has been your favorite Honors memory?

Onjona: My favorite Honors memory is the freshman Scavenger Hunt in Central Park. As a native New Yorker, I had no idea about all the different sights to see at Central Park and so it was nice to finally get to explore my city. It was also a great opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and spend the day with other Honors students who I had never spoken to before. It was also fun because I love competition and this event brought out all of our competitiveness.

Gigi: What has been your best internship or volunteer experience while at Fordham?

Onjona: Through International Samaritan, a non-profit, Jesuit organization, I volunteered as an EMT in Guatemala on a medical mission the summer after my freshmen year. As a volunteer, I helped organize a makeshift clinic including a triaging station, physician consult area, pharmacy, and distribution center. I also spent time as a medical scribe to Guatemalan and American physicians to improve efficiency. This allowed me to learn from two unique cultural and practical approaches to medicine. My time in Guatemala reignited my passion to provide medical care to those underserved and taught me that basic treatments can make huge impacts on others’ wellbeing and health. I was so inspired my trip, I began a subchapter of International Samaritan at Fordham for other students to participate in. 

I also really enjoyed my Patient Advocacy Volunteer in Emergency Research Services (PAVERS) internship. As a patient advocate for the Emergency Department at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, I aided physicians and nurses in patient transport and care, observed initial assessment of patients in the ER and interacted with patients as they awaited treatment. When I wasn’t making beds, distributing blankets and food, I found myself engaging in conversations with patients about not only their complaints and illnesses but also their personal lives and backgrounds, which not surprisingly often influenced the reasons for which they were seeking care. 

Gigi: What have you enjoyed getting involved in on-campus at Fordham?

For the second straight year, I am the Editor-in-Chief of the Fordham Undergraduate Research Journal (FURJ). After being a Peer Review Staff member and Peer Review Editor, I wanted to become Editor-in-Chief to channel my creativity and take initiative in sharing research and knowledge. In 2018, I became the first junior to become Editor-in-Chief of FURJ and, under my leadership, this year FURJ published two volumes in print for the first time, a testament to its growing demand.

I am also the President of the Minority Association for Pre-Medical Students (MAPS). MAPS increases minority matriculation into professional health-related programs. Through my leadership role in MAPS, I solidified my commitment to encouraging diversity in the health professions. I always admired diversity of health professionals, but now I actively promote and increase it. 

Gigi: How have you grown as a person throughout your time in the Honors Program?

Onjona: Majoring in biology was an easy choice, but it was not until my second semester in the Honors Program that I chose to add a major in philosophy. Ancient Philosophy was my most difficult course, but I felt intellectually challenged, and I knew discomfort meant that I was learning. I chose philosophy to further enrich my perspective on the world and to question my pre-existing ideas. In addition, being part of the Honors Program allowed me to explore courses in the humanities as they relate to all topics, even medicine. Reading authors like James Baldwin helped me recognize my passion for literature. I make the most of my Jesuit education at Fordham through leadership, volunteer work, discourse, and giving back. At Fordham, I reaffirmed my passion for medicine and am becoming the best version of myself. The Jesuits emphasize education and commitment to giving back to the underserved. I carry out this mission as I serve my community as an EMT on campus, a peer mentor for freshmen at the pre-health symposium, and as an educator at Khan’s Tutorial. I hope to practice patient-centered care with the mission of relieving human suffering which is in line with the Jesuit tradition of Cura Personalis and caring for the whole person. In my career as a physician, I will continue to be a woman for others and cultivate the Jesuit values and traditions of service through discovery, wisdom and education. At Fordham, I learned the importance of self-reflection and caring for the whole individual, qualities I will continue to cultivate as a practicing physician.

Gigi: Which Honors professor made the biggest impact on you?

Onjona: Professor Mary Callaway made a great impact on me because she changed the way I viewed my entire college education and experience. She taught me that college doesn’t just give us the tools to engage in civil discourse and live a successful life, but this is exactly what life is all about, engaging in civil discourse with others whether it be in an interdisciplinary seminar or a casual conversation with a peer. It changed my perspective on my education. College was not merely a stepping stone, but an end in its own right.

Gigi: What will you miss most about Honors?

Onjona: I will miss Alpha House the most. As a commuter, I really appreciated having 24/7 access to Alpha. I remember on overnight FUEMS shifts, I would camp out in Alpha House. It’s always nice to intermingle with other Honors kids there as well.

Gigi: Is there anyone you would like to shoutout?

Onjona: I would like to give a shoutout to Honors Program Director Dr. Eve Keller for seeing potential in me from even before we officially met.

Senior Spotlight: Rosie McCormack

Author: Gigi Speer, sophomore

The Senior Spotlight Series is an opportunity for Rose Hill Honors students to interview their peers in the Program and share the conversations with the broader community.

For this article, Gigi Speer, a current sophomore in the Program, interviewed graduating senior, Rosemarie (“Rosie”) McCormack. Rosie is an International Political Economy (IPE) major with a double minor in English and Peace and Social Justice.  Rose is a senior in the Honors Program and is currently a Strategic Planning & Policy intern at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. She was interviewed by Gigi Speer (Honors sophomore) for this post.

Rosie McCormack, Honors Class of 2020

Gigi: What has been your favorite Honors memory?

Rosie: I was in Gabelli [Business School] during my first year, so I joined Honors as a sophomore. My favorite memory is from Early Modern History when Professor Myers jumped up on the table and sang every single verse of Ghost Riders in the Sky by Johnny Cash. Devin D’Agostino, dressed in an inflatable T-Rex costume, jumped up and joined him for the last chorus (it was Halloween). 

A less silly favorite memory is when Dustin Partridge took the Honors Science I students to the green roof of the Javits Center – it was a cool thing to see. 

Gigi: Which Honors professor has made the most impact on you?

Rosie: Susan Greenfield is probably my favorite professor at Fordham. I had her for Early Modern Literature, and I loved her teaching style. She reminds me a lot of my favorite English teacher from high school, and she’s one of the few teachers I’ve had who I felt really pushed my writing to be better. I took her Homelessness service-learning class last spring, and it was my favorite class in the past 4 years (take it!). She’s on sabbatical this year, and I’m so excited to be working as her research assistant while she’s working on other projects. 

Gigi: What has been your best internship or volunteer experience while at Fordham?

Rosie: My favorite internship is the one I have right now, as a Strategic Planning & Policy intern at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. A few years ago, New York County received criminal forfeiture funds from some foreign banks on Wall Street, and DA Vance decided to use the funds to start the Criminal Justice Investment Initiative (CJII), which increases community and alternative-to-incarceration programs in New York to help keep people out of the criminal system. The SPP office runs that initiative. I spend a lot of time researching the progress of current programs (like the progress states have made on testing their rape kit backlogs) and writing literature reviews to help develop future programs (like a program to support sex-trafficked NYC youth). It’s really cool to work for the government but be a part of trying to reform the system, rather than just being a cog in the machine of prosecution. 

I’m involved in a lot of areas on & off-campus! My main activities at Fordham include serving as Vice President of the Humanitarian Student Union and co-founding and leading the Our Story program, which is a student storytelling event. I also do work-study in Fr. McShane’s office and have been an Urban Plunge Leader throughout my time at Fordham.

Gigi: Do you have any favorite authors?

Rosie: Some of my favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver and Anne Lamott!  I also really like Abraham Verghese, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, John Boyne, although I admit I’ve only read one of each of their books…

Gigi: Anything you still want to try/change in the Honors Program, Fordham, or New York City in general?

Rosie: I wish I could have been a part of the new, justice-based Honors curriculum! Learning more about social justice has been a huge part of my Fordham experience, and I think it’s so cool that Honors has taken up that banner in a substantial way. I hope Fordham will always educate students to think critically about systems of oppression and work as an institution to better the New York City community.

Gigi: What will you miss most about Honors?

Rosie: I will miss being around other students who are motivated. In some non-Honors classes, I feel like there are only one or two students who you could count on to be present and participate, and in Honors almost everyone had something they wanted to contribute. 

An Engineer’s Praise of A Liberal Arts Education

Author: Daniel Joseph, senior

With the help of the Honors Program Ambassadorial Grant, I was lucky enough to attend the national conference of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers last October, along with 8,000 other undergraduates from around the country. While I was there, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend talks and workshops by industry professionals and leaders, network directly with hiring managers and engineers, and meet other incredibly bright students. To cap it off, the career fair featured almost 300 companies from around the country seeking to snap up young and developing talent for both internships and new-graduate positions. 

To be honest, I was a bit intimidated. The students I talked to were aiming at aeronautics internships at Boeing and SpaceX, or software engineering positions at Google and Microsoft. I began to think that knowing I’d want to pursue Computer Science, choosing a liberal arts school like Fordham might have been a mistake.

However, my anxieties were unfounded. In an impromptu interview with a hiring manager, it was my time and experience in the Honors Program that differentiated me from the thousands of other qualified candidates at the conference. My interviewer had also attended a university with a Great Books program (they began with The Iliad, too) and we mostly talked about everything other than software engineering. Even Larry Stempel’s music history class came in handy — as he always promised us it would. She expressed that she was thrilled to have found a candidate that both knew what they were talking about technically, but could also hold a conversation and was obviously excited about continual learning and approaching situations from a variety of perspectives. I cannot help but credit the Honors Program for honing those latter aspects. 

I am incredibly grateful to the Honors Program both for helping me to get to the conference all the way across the country, and for helping mold me into a person that could stand out from the crowd.

Senior Spotlight: Stephen

Author: Megan Schaffner, junior

The Student Spotlight Series is an opportunity for Rose Hill Honors students to interview their peers in the Program and share the conversations with the broader community.

For this article, Megan Schaffner, a current junior in the Program, interviewed graduating senior, Stephen Lebak. Stephen is majoring in Mathematics and minoring in Computer Science.  He has been a dedicated member of the Fordham Pep Band since his freshman year and will begin an exciting job with Boeing after graduation this May. Within the Honors community, Stephen has become well-known and loved for his incredible baking.

Megan: Was there something that drew you to your major and minor?

Stephen: I did come in as a math major, but just as a math major. I had little to no interest in computer science [originally.]  When Fordham made my first semester schedule, they put me in an introductory Computer Science course… I had a really good professor and she got me interested in the material. I felt like I understood it and enjoyed it, so I kept taking classes and tacked on the minor.  I nearly switched to the major, but a lot of what makes computers run is based on linear algebra and math in the first place, so it seemed more logical for me to follow the math major.

Megan: I hear you will be working with Boeing after graduation.  I am curious to hear more about that.

Stephen: [My interest in them] is something that’s come up over the past couple of years.  The team I’ll be working on specifically programs flight simulations, which are then used to train air-force pilots.  A lot of jobs in the contracting/defense industry are perhaps not as ethical as one might hope. So, especially after coming out of a Jesuit school [where there is an emphasis placed on ethics and justice], I was lucky to find [a job aligned with those values].

Megan: And where will you be?

Stephen:  The job is in St. Louis.

Megan: Are you from around here?  

Stephen: Yes, I’m originally from Queens; I went to high school in New York and lived with my grandparents then.  Before that, I was in Boston, where my parents still are.

Megan: So is the move to St. Louis a daunting task for you or is it not too big of a deal?

Stephen: It depends on the day.  I will certainly say that sometimes it’s really exciting—I get to go to a new city, start from scratch.  On other days, I’ll ask [myself], “What am I getting myself into?” It basically is a full overhaul. I do know one person there, but that’s really it, so it will be completely new.  It’s exciting though; it should be fun.

Megan:  I’ve also been told that you’re quite the popular baker, so I was wondering if you’d want to talk a bit about that?

Stephen: [laughs]  Who told you that? Okay, so this goes back to my late high school days.  Every now and then I would bake cookies, except I lived with my grandparents and my grandfather immediately would go on a diet and my grandmother wouldn’t eat them either! And then I’d have all of these cookies.  So I would bring them to school, feed my lunch table, all that kind of stuff. That carried over to Fordham, [especially] last year and this year, since I live in an apartment where I have my own kitchen. It’s the same logic: I’ll make a batch of cookies and I can’t eat all of them.  So I go around, distribute them to friends, many of whom I have met through Honors, one way or another. It’s also a great way to see people and catch up, talk—and then they get a cookie out of that.

Megan:   Do you have a signature baked item?

Stephen: Yes, chocolate chip cookies are my signature.  Not particularly fancy, but a classic.

Megan: And well-loved by all!  So, in terms of Honors, do you have either a favorite thing about the program, or a favorite memory, looking back now that you’re just about done?

Stephen:  There’s definitely a few!  I would say the fact that you’ve got 13 kids per class, really.  The fact that you can have really close discussions in basically every single class because of that [is really special].  Also, the nature of the class brings everyone together really fast. By the end of the first year, my [cohort] was very tight-knit.

Megan: Yeah, that’s really great!  Do you have a favorite Honors professor?

Stephen: I have different ones for different reasons.  First semester, I absolutely loved Dr. Harry Nasuti. He’s wonderful.  He would tell us about back in the day when he was the director [of the Honors Program].  He told our class the first day, “These are going to be your best friends” and I told him two years later, “Dr. Nasuti, you were 100% right.”   

All [of the Honors professors] have been good—we’re talking about the best of the best of the best.  I had Professor Nick Paul for Medieval History and no matter what the subject was, he was able to make it fascinating.  The way he talked about everything would make it seem so interesting and you would get just as invested as he was in the subject

Megan: What’s one thing you’ll miss most about Fordham?

Stephen: I have thought about that one a little bit because Pep Band season just wrapped up.  The [women’s basketball team] won the A10, so we went to the NCAA tournament in Syracuse and that was basically my last game.  Other than Honors, Pep Band was a really good group for me; I met a lot of my close friends there. I’ll also miss the Honors Program.  I’ll miss having a community around me of people of that caliber of intelligence and being able to hold discussions with them about virtually anything—that’s going to be something that I don’t think I’ll be able to find outside of Fordham or really anywhere.  So I’ll certainly miss that.

In terms of what I’m excited about, I’m moving out to St. Louis and I’m starting from scratch.  I’m excited to start over and build up a great group around me, or try to! I think it’s something that certainly daunting as a task, but it’s one of the most rewarding things.  I’ve done it twice now—once in high school and once at Fordham—and it really is just so rewarding. And I think Fordham prepares you well to do that by teaching you to care for the whole person, teaching you how to think and connect, and giving you the knowledge base to be able to connect with other people.  It all prepares you well, and I think it’s prepared me well to do that [in St. Louis].

Honors Summer Internship Fellow: Andrew

**This is the third post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2018 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.**

Author: Andrew Seger, senior

I am grateful to have received the Honors Program Summer Fellowship, which afforded me the opportunity to learn from and work alongside some very hardworking journalists writing in the field of global affairs news and analysis at the Council on Foreign Relations. In this very consequential time for U.S. politics, our country’s role as a leader on the world stage is increasingly coming under question. As one of the world’s premier think-tanks, CFR is a rendezvous for scholars and diplomats who lead the charge at carefully analyzing, sometimes criticizing, and constantly learning from U.S. foreign policy actions and blunders.

As an intern with CFR’s editorial team, I worked with established journalists and writers who contributed news and analysis content to CFR’s website. As my capstone intern project, I worked throughout the summer on producing a published interview on the current state of Libyan politics with Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

My internship at the Council on Foreign Relations was any political junkie’s dream summer job. As an International Political Economy major, the internship supplemented and built upon everything I’ve learned in three years of studying politics and global affairs. It was also complementary to my growing knowledge of world history and political philosophy, subjects the Honors Program first sparked my interest in years ago. Again, I am grateful to Dr. Keller and the Honors Program for affording me this opportunity to work and learn at the Council on Foreign Relations, and I look forward to building upon this experience in the future.  

Andrew Seger, 2018 Honors Summer Internship Fellow

Senior Spotlight: Katie DeFonzo

Katie DeFonzo is a graduating senior in the current Honors class who is incredibly involved on and off campus.  Double majoring in History and Spanish and minoring in Medieval Studies, Katie works as a research assistant for The Bronx African American History Project through Fordham’s history program.  She also gives tours of the Fraunces Tavern Museum in Manhattan, acts as an ESL tutor at St. Rita’s Immigration Center, works on both the Copy Editing and Peer Editing staffs of the Fordham Undergraduate Research Journal, leads retreats through Campus Ministry, plays second violin in the orchestra, and sings in the Schola Cantorum.  Finally, she has been involved with the Honors Service and Social Justice Committee since its beginning and has become one of the committee’s chairs, passionately helping to plan events that allow Honors students serve their community.

I had the chance to speak with her about Honors, her role in the Service and Social Justice Committee, and her post-graduation plans.

 

From your time in Honors, do you have a favorite event or a favorite thing about the program in general?
I really like sophomore year, being able to go to the [AJCU] Honors Conference.  In terms of my favorite part about the program in general, I like how cohesive it is and how you can see a lot of continuity between classes; I love when something we are talking about in literature comes up in my history class.  I’m really looking forward to the Last Lecture tomorrow and I love the community and the events we have, like the Christmas party and the barbeque. I like how it’s more than just a learning community — it’s a community of friends in a lot of ways.

So you mentioned that you’ve been a chair of the Service and Social Justice Committee basically since its beginning.  How did you become involved with that project?
Sophomore year when Dr. Keller became the director of the [Honors] program and started the Student Advisory Council, she asked us what we wanted to see, which was really nice.  Someone put forth the idea that there should be a committee for service and social justice and that seemed really interesting to me so I put my name on the list. My junior year I became a chair [of the committee] and started to help plan the events that we do.  It’s been really rewarding and I’m happy that I became involved with that subcommittee in particular.

What is your favorite event that you’ve done with that group?
We’ve done a lot of different things, but I really like one program we did earlier this year, which involved distributing food to residents in an apartment complex in the Bronx with Meals on Wheels.  That was really special because we got to meet and deliver food personally to each resident so we could see immediately where our help was going.

What are your post-grad plans?
I’m going to Catholic University in Washington, D.C. for their dual Masters degree program in history and library science.  I chose [that program] really because of the internship I had over the summer at the Museum of American History in D.C.; I realized how important not only a knowledge of history is, but also how being able to make that history accessible to people really matters.  I think that this dual Masters degree program will be a great way to do that.

Senior Spotlight: Bernadette Haig

Author: Megan Schaffner

Bernadette Haig, Honors Senior

Bernadette Haig is a Rose Hill Honors senior with a double major in Engineering Physics and Classical Civilizations. A woman of motivated curiosity with a clear love of learning, Bernadette has participated in many research projects in different areas of physics, while also studying Latin, Greek, and the ancient world. I had the opportunity to speak with Bernadette about her double major, her experiences inside and outside of Honors, and her plans for after graduation.

 Continue reading for an in-depth interview with Bernadette!

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M: What made you decide to pursue a double major?

B: What really got me into the Classics major was the Honors Program.  Professor McGowan taught my first class in the Honors Program at 9:30 in the morning in Alpha House, Ancient Lit, and he just so clearly loved what he was teaching; that was probably one of my favorite [classes.]  He said that I should consider a minor in classics and I thought, “Well, why not!”  So I started taking a couple classes. Second semester freshman year I took Roman Art down at the Lincoln Center and loved it, and then sophomore year rolled around and I took a couple of classes in Latin and thought, “Wow this is amazing, I’m going to keep taking this!”  The classes started to add up and I had wanted to take Greek too because it was just on this strange bucket list of things I want to do over the course of my life – learn a little bit of Latin and Greek. By the time I got into junior year, I started Greek, kept taking Latin, and took the study abroad class Ancient Roman Cities. At that point, my advisor told me I was close to finishing a major so I decided to complete the requirements.

It’s been a lot of fun; it’s something different.  Obviously I adore physics, that’s what I’ll be doing with my life I hope, and I will probably never come back to this again in a concrete way. But I’ve just so enjoyed it — tackling ancient texts just for the purpose of doing so.

 

M: What is your favorite thing about the Honors Program?

B: I would say my favorite thing about Honors as a whole is the breadth of the curriculum because I’ve been exposed to things in Honors that I know for a fact I would never have taken on my own.  Even first semester taking art history, art was so not my thing, but the more we started to be in the class and learn about what art history really was, the more I started to love how peoples’ cultures are reflected through their art – their values, their customs – and how much you could learn from reading art if you knew what you were doing.  But I never would have taken that on my own, and [the same goes for] the few philosophy classes that I’ve taken through the Honors program – not that I don’t find them interesting, but as a physics major I probably never would have taken [these classes] on my own if I didn’t have to.

What I also love is the critical environment.  If you blurt something out in a seminar class, you better be ready to defend it.  You can’t have a half-formed opinion, which is kind of frustrating but also for me I’ve found that it forces me to have really fleshed out ideas, and that has carried over even outside of the Honors Program.  I find myself wanting to really engage with my own opinions critically, and this is something that I’ve really found to be beneficial.

 

M: What was your favorite internship/research project you did during your time at Fordham or one that taught you a lot?

B: The two major projects that come to mind are the ones that I’ve done this past summer and then the summer before.  The summer before my junior year I was here at Fordham doing research in the physics department and we were using Raman spectroscopy to look at cancerous tissue compared to healthy tissue to see if the signature looks different in healthy tissue as opposed to cancerous tissue.  We were working with Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan and they essentially gave us people’s cancers to study.  They wanted to include the project that we were developing into a surgical robot so that if they were going to do robotic surgery, they could check to see that the margins were clear to make sure they removed all the cancer, and do that without excising the tissue and sending it to the lab; they have to do that all while the patient is still under anesthesia and it takes about 45 minutes.  So we developed a new probe that was much more precise than some of the other [tools] that my professor had worked with in the past.  That was really exciting because this was my first experience with “real” research, working on something that was going to matter.  Our research is going to be published in a journal called Review of Scientific Instruments and so the probe that we developed is really the focus of the research so that will be really cool; I don’t know when it will be published but it is still really exciting.

This past summer I was doing completely different work out at the Fermilab in the Chicago area.  It’s a particle physics lab and I was working on a piece of equipment in their neutrino beam line that was malfunctioning.  Basically I got there and they said to me, “Your project for the summer is going to be to figure out why this thing is not working and what we should do about it.”  It was a really cool project and I got a lot of training and got to go down into the ground 300 feet underground to work on this piece of equipment.  In order to look at it and install what we needed I had to take a huge elevator down and it was really exciting but also very frustrating because I had to deal with a lot of real workplace issues, like my supervisor was not the most helpful person and would sometimes disappear or did not know the project very well because he was new to the department.  Everyone was very nice and it was a great place to work because of the general atmosphere, but I did encounter a lot of those logistical issues. I would say that those taught me a lot about working in general outside of academia, which was again really frustrating but really cool.

Neither of those projects are in fields that I will be going into, so it has been neat to do research that’s a little outside of where I want to go because I will probably never get that chance again.

 

M: How do you think Honors has influenced your opportunities and decisions throughout college?  Is there anything that you learned in Honors (information or a skill) that you have seen specifically come into play in your non-Honors/work experiences thus far?

B: I would say the critical thinking has been the biggest chance that I’ve seen in myself in terms of when I evaluate myself as a student.  Being more critical about the information that I’m hearing or the things that I’m working on, and not just accepting things at face value and if I have an opinion formulating it really carefully and making sure that it’s something that I really do believe as opposed to something I’ve just always assumed.

I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to all of the interests that I’ve developed through Honors, but like I said about Classics, it’s been really great to just do something for the fun of it.  I’ll probably never come back to Latin or Greek, which on the one hand is kind of sad, but on the other hand has been really, really neat. I feel like that has made me a more curious person.  The fact that I have been exposed to all of these different things and found them very interesting everywhere I’ve gone has made me more inclined to try new things.  I knew coming into college I wanted a broader undergraduate experience and that I wanted to be exposed to things outside of my own field and so Honors has honestly been perfect for me – it’s everything I could have ever wanted out of a college experience.

 

M: What are you looking forward to?  What are your plans for after graduation?

B: I’m going to graduate school for a Masters degree in aerospace engineering and right now the best offer on the table is Stanford – I’m still waiting to hear back from a couple of other schools but I’ll be going out to visit Stanford next week and they have a lot of cool projects going on there.  They have an aerospace robotics laboratory, which is everything I could have ever wanted; it has my name written all over it.  But like I said, I’m still waiting on a couple of other schools so I just want to evaluate all my options and go out and visit to see the environment and make my decision based upon those factors also.

There are certain things that I’m a little worried about leaving Fordham — I’m really involved with Campus Ministry and I have experienced so much personal spiritual growth through that ministry so I’m a little concerned about what will happen to that part of me when I leave Fordham.  I will obviously miss Fordham a lot; it’s been such a great place for me and has ended up being exactly the place I needed to be.  I’m sure I won’t be gone for good!

Senior Spotlight: Santiago Sordo Palacios

Santiago is a Mathematics-Economics major from Chicago, Illinois. He will be working as an Associate Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago after graduating in May. His Honors Senior Thesis explores whether there is a game theoretical model to explain political instability in Venezuela under Hugo Chávez.

 

Why Fordham/Why Honors?

Santiago chose Fordham because he was attracted to the Jesuit mission of the school, and because of two excellent campus visits. (On one visit, even though Fordham was closed, an admissions officer set Santiago up with a private tour of campus.) Santiago was excited to be invited to join the Honors Program because he knew its community and the experience of its curriculum would enrich his time in college. And they have!

 

Favorite Honors Class

Santiago’s favorite honors class was Religion in the Modern World with Dr. Kathryn Reklis. Analyzing what religion means in the modern world challenged his assumptions and pushed him to think in ways he considers “eye-opening.” Santiago believes that this analytic approach has helped him think more critically in his major classes, too. He seeks to assess, not merely accept, what he’s taught.

 

Other College Involvement

One of Santiago’s favorite extracurricular activities has been leading Fordham’s retreats. During these weekend trips, he’s been able to interact on a spiritual level with different kinds of people with whom he shares classes and a social life, and this, he feels, has both enriched and expanded his Fordham experience.

 

Feelings about Moving On

While Santiago will miss New York City, he is excited to be moving to his hometown and starting an engaging job with the knowledge that he is leaving college with a really strong and diverse set of skills. The strong liberal arts background of Fordham Honors will bolster his economics and mathematics skills, and he feels confident he’ll be able to apply all of this in his new job and professional future in Economic policy or research.