Page 1






The Luminary Program

• A Custom-Designed Major graduate reflects • iSTAR in India

Alumnus Spotlight Evan Boucher, digital media ’09, is a character technical director at DreamWorks Animation. He is also a volunteer docent at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Evan has had his name in the credits of three feature films and is working on number four. Evan worked in the field in Montana and Wyoming with the Bighorn Basin Paleontological Institute to help with their research in 2013 and 2016. After a life-changing trip to South Africa in 2015, he created a number of original digital paintings to raise money for rhinoceros and giraffe conservation.



Finally, we are proud to have met

College. We hosted a culminating Pennoni Panel, “A

the Drexel Day of Giving challenge,

Tale of Two Mayors,” featuring former Pennsylvania

to match a $10,000 gift. We more

posed by Board Chair Greg Bentley,

Governor and Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and

than met that goal, and are grateful

former Mayor Michael Nutter. Recorded and edited by


Westphal students, the event ran as an episode of The Drexel InterView on partnering television stations nationwide and in Canada, as well as on YouTube. Also, a highlight was our May Taste of Honors event for parents and alumni at Drexel’s Washington, D.C. Center. Talks by Honors faculty were in the morning; museum visits in the afternoon, followed by cocktails back at the conference center. A delightful occasion.

to Greg and to the many who met his Peruse the magazine to learn more about the activities of the College. Contact me if you’d like to be a guest at a Lunch ‘N’ Learn or Dean’s Tea, or to suggest an event. We continue to hope for consolidation of our five units in an Honors House. Please help if you can by contacting Susan BarenPearson at

In the spring, we also launched our Luminary Program, with eight students in our first cohort. This summer, they took six interconnected Honors courses and pursued related co-curriculum activities. We hope this program – a model, we think, for the best sort of 21st-century education – will grow and provide highly motivated students with an intensive related co-curriculum activities. Scaled up as a minor or, possibly, a major, we hope this program — a model, we think, for the best sort of 21st-century education — will provide highly motivated students an intensive interdisciplinary supplement to their majors,

Paula Marantz Cohen Dean, Pennoni Honors College Distinguished Professor of English 215.895.1266

From the Dean

This has been a busy period for the Pennoni Honors

co-op, and civic engagement opportunities. Our Center for Scholar Development had exceptional success this year: a record 8 Fulbright fellowships, a never-before-won Truman, and a slew of other prestigious awards. We think this is owed, in part, to the new Aspire program, made possible by Pennoni Advisory Board member, Leslee Geltzer. We were pleased with the stunning exhibition that we brought to Drexel: Howard Pyle, His Students & the Golden Age of American Illustration, generously underwritten by Andrew Sordoni III with additional support from Chuck and Annette Pennoni, Abbie Dean, and D. Walter Cohen. The great Howard Pyle is now better known as an illustrator and gifted teacher; and Drexel, as the first school of illustration in the country. We held our Custom-Designed Major graduation in the A.J. Picture Gallery this year, with a musical presentation by three of our CSDN students and a stellar speech by the keynote, New Yorker writer Amanda Petrusich. Our Honors Program Medallion ceremony was, as always, short and uplifting. As one parent informed me: “It was the least boring event I’ve been to.” Praise indeed!. President Fry made a surprise visit and shook all our students’ hands. End of the term brings the STAR Summer Showcase, where our undergraduate research scholars discuss posters related to their summer work. It’s always a stimulating and joyful event.


Dean Cohen in her office

Contents Volume 2 • Issue 2 • Fall/Winter 2017

In Brief


Consider This


Alumni News




by Erica Levi Zelinger

by Erica Levi Zelinger

Scholarly Reflections

Room for Growth


Teaching City Hall


by Alina MacNeal


Engaging in Community


Seeing Things in a New Light by Erica Levi Zelinger

TED Ahead by Erica Levi Zelinger

by Dr. Kevin Egan

Dean: Paula Marantz Cohen PHC Magazine is published biannually by the Marketing & Media team of Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College.

Editorial Staff Editor: Erica Levi Zelinger Copy Editor: Melinda Lewis Designer: Diane Pizzuto

Comments? Contact us at

Administration Director, Administration & Finance: Ann Alexander Executive Assistant to the Dean: Karen Sams

Honors Program Associate Dean, Director: Daniel Dougherty Assistant Director: Eric Kennedy Program Coordinator: Julia Wisniewski





The Happiness of Teaching

What a Way to Go by Dave Jones

by Eric A. Zilmer


A Girl, Her Gilman, and a Pangolin by Erica Levi Zelinger


Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry Office of Undergraduate Research

Director: Kevin Egan

Associate Dean, Director: Suzanne Rocheleau

Assistant Director: Ana Castillo-Nye

Associate Director: Jaya Mohan

Pennoni Faculty Fellows: Chapin Cimino,

Program Manager: Emily Kashka

Kristine Mulhorn

Program Coordinator: Roxane Lovell

Visiting Fellow: Julia Novak Colwell

Center for Scholar Development

Marketing & Media

Director: Meredith Wooten

Director: Erica Levi Zelinger

Program Coordinator: Martha Meiers

Associate Director of Marketing & Media,

Fellowships Coordinator: Emily Coyle

Managing Editor, The Smart Set: Melinda Lewis Assistant Director: Brian Kantorek



You can make a difference! When you make a gift to the Pennoni Honors College, you support the tradition of an interdisciplinary education. Every gift counts. To learn more about how you can support the Honors College, contact: Susan Baren-Pearson 215.571.4907 3

In Brief



THE BASEBALL CARD TEAM: Pennoni Honors College HOME: Drexel University BORN: April 6, 2017, MacAlister Hall BATS: Left — THROWS: Left

The T206 Honus Wagner baseball card is perhaps the most iconic of all time. Baseball cards occupy a unique place in American culture – linking fans to players and teams. Using the Wagner card as a point of departure, this class, taught in Spring 2017, examined themes regarding the collection, valuation, and historical and cultural significance of baseball cards. These themes included the concept of fetishizing objects, the curation of collections, the role of baseball in American culture, and the growth of statistics/ sabermetrics in baseball.

COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY RECORD Year. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2016-17 Class Meetings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Students . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 # of Different Majors Represented In Class. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 # of Discussions Comparing the Baseball Card Market Bubble to the Housing Market Bubble. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Errors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . only a few

TRIVIA Due to his speed and German heritage, what nickname was given to Honus Wagner?



The Flying Dutchman

Often, bits of ourselves get caught – immortalized – outside of us, like pockets of ancient atmosphere frozen into the ice sheet, like DNA in amber. They can be incredible to behold, because they force us to reckon with what — or Who — once was.” — AMANDA PETRUSICH, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR, KEYNOTE SPEAKER AT THE 2017 CUSTOM-DESIGNED MAJOR GRADUATION 4


A TALE OF TWO MAYORS (AND FIVE DREXEL STUDENTS) Honors students produce the Drexel InterView


n honor of the 125th anniversary of Drexel University, an alliance of Pennoni Honors College initiatives – including The Drexel InterView, Pennoni Panels series, and Week of Undergraduate Excellence (in partnership with Drexel’s Office of Alumni Relations) – recently brought

former Philadelphia Mayors Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter to campus for a special on-stage event: “A Tale of Two Mayors: Philadelphia’s Past, Present, and Future.” As in several previous episodes of The Drexel InterView television series, undergraduate students from Dragon Productions recorded the live interview between the mayors and veteran show host and PHC dean Paula Marantz Cohen. Production Assistant Laurel Murr (Honors, Film & Video ’20) then edited content for an official episode for national broadcast and for placement on the show’s YouTube channel.  This episode and event came on the heels of a separate visit from Dr. James Giordano, acclaimed neuroethics researcher and Georgetown University professor. Giordano delivered an open lecture at Drexel upon special invitation from Brannon Blunk (Honors, Custom-Designed Major ’18), who also produced a companion episode of The Drexel InterView featuring the guest. The recorded interview conducted by Dean Cohen was entirely directed and edited by Rachel Tinkelman (Honors, Film & Video ’17) and Laurel Murr with support from Film & Video classmates volunteering their time and expertise. Both student-produced episodes are available on The Drexel InterView YouTube channel online.

Watch the episode at


OUR LUCKY DAY Figures from Drexel’s Day of Giving


T he number of hours in Drexel’s Day of Giving, designed to bring the community together and raise as much support for the University as possible in a single day.

$23,624 Amount raised for Pennoni Honors College

34 35

Number of donors who made a gift to Pennoni Honors College


PHC ranked 35 out of 82 “areas of impact” across the University – impressive considering our students, alumni, and faculty typically represent other Drexel entities.


The Bentley Challenge (a dollar-for-dollar match made by Greg Bentley, the co-chair of the Pennoni Honors College Advisory Board), bringing the total money raised to $33,624. 5

In Brief

During a brief intensive Arabic language course in Morocco after her first year of study, Alexandra Pickens, international area studies ’17, was eager to study in the Middle East. Allie set some goals: 1) learn Arabic. 2) travel to a spot where she could have complete immersion for foreign language acquisition. 3) find a way to fund said travel. Enter the Boren, a scholarship to study less commonly taught languages in world regions that are critical to U.S. strategic interests. “When you identify a position you’re passionate about and a language and country that can help you acquire skills necessary to excel in that position,” Allie says, “you put yourself in the best place possible to be a competitive candidate for the experience you want.” Allie applied and received the Boren to live and study in Jordan, where she’s gained the basic skills to speak confidently in classical Fusha and Ammea dialect. Now she’s looking for jobs where she can use this skill to help find diplomatic solutions to complex international problems. Her new goal: achieving fluency.

Accolades for Advising


eredith Wooten, PhD, Director of the Center for Scholar Development,

received an award from the Graduate Student Association in May for her outstanding work toward Drexel’s mission — in the classroom, lab, and community. The award was granted for Wooten’s “guidance and mentorship, along with [her] collaborations with GSA this year.” The Center for Scholar Development partnered with the Drexel Graduate College, Admissions,

and the Graduate Student Association in April and May to host two panels on going to grad school. The first panel, “Graduate School: Before, During, and After” discussed how to choose and get into the right graduate program, and tips for a successful graduate school experience once you’re there. The second, “Graduate School: Is it right for me?” — held during the Week of Undergraduate Excellence (see pg. 9), allowed panelists to share their graduate school experience and discuss how to make the most of an advanced degree.




ASPIRING TO GREATNESS Students gain insight from the Chancellor Emeritus of Drexel University College of Medicine


n May, a group of Aspire Scholars met with Dr. D. Walter Cohen, Chancellor Emeritus, Drexel University College of Medicine, along with Dean Paula Marantz Cohen of the Pennoni Honors College. Dr. Meredith Wooten, director of the program was on hand to

coordinate the event.

Not getting a nose ring was my form of rebellion.

Aspire Scholars is a small academic enrichment program that draws 10-15 promising sophomores, nominated from across the university. The interdisciplinary cohort exchanges ideas, works to clarify their goals, seeks opportunities for enriching the undergrad experience, and engages with prominent members of the Drexel community in intimate conversations about their experiences with leadership, failure, and success. The Center for Scholar Development piloted the program this past year in an effort to enhance the student experience and postgraduate success of Drexel’s high-achieving undergraduates. Aspire Scholars gained valuable insights about Dr. Cohen’s experiences

In India, everyone has a nose ring;

and varied professional and leadership positions. Dr. Cohen, a Pennoni

my mother tried forcing my sister

Advisory Board member, is a globally-celebrated leader in his field,

and I to get one, too.”

former chancellor and current Trustee of Drexel College of Medicine, former Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Dental School, and a


member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.


He also founded Drexel’s Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine


program, which is dedicated to developing the professional and personal


skills required to lead and manage in today’s complex health care


environment, with special attention to the unique challenges facing women in leadership positions.


In Brief


The number of incoming freshmen to the Honors Program

“Our incoming class of Honors students is among the largest ever admitted into the Honors Program,” says Dr. Daniel Dougherty, director of the program. “However, one important difference from the classes of the past is that every incoming Honors student this year

Dragons in The U.K. The British Conference on Undergraduate Research (BCUR) celebrates undergraduate research in all disciplines. This year’s conference at Bournemouth University in April was the first time students from institutions outside of the United Kingdom were accepted to the conference. The Office of Undergraduate Research supported the following three students to attend and present their work at BCUR: Nicholas Barber (Geoscience, ’18), Evan Bisirri (Biomedical Engineering, ’18), and Daniel Christe (Materials Science & Engineering, ’17). Of the experience, Evan says: “Attending BCUR … was an amazing experience. The diversity of backgrounds and breadth of subject matter covered was impressive; I was able to attend presentations with topics that ranged from physics, mathematics, and chemistry to art, literature, and social studies. Traveling to the UK

applied to the program and was selected based on a comprehensive set of criteria ranging from academic qualifications, to leadership and involvement in high school, to the all-important desire to be an Honors student and get the most out of the experience. We are transforming what is means to be an Honors student through a better-fit selection process and more points of connection with a highly engaged cohort of students.”

for the first time was great as well!”

All in a Day’s Work The Center for Scholar Development hosted the Institute for International Education (IIE) for a daylong workshop on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and Boren International Awards. The workshop, held in July in conjunction with the National Association of Fellowships Advisors (NAFA) biennial conference, was attended by more than 80 faculty and administrative staff from across the U.S. In recognition of the Center’s effort, Drexel was named as the sole university sponsor of the conference.

If there’s one thing I learned from the H

to improvise, how to accept spontaneou

to accept that change is one way to reali

into Drexel University as a pre-med stud

today knowing I will be attending The U Law School in the fall.” – DONNA KWON, BIOLOGY ’17, IN HER GRADUATION SPEECH AT THE HONORS MEDALLION CEREMONY


A RECORD YEAR FOR FELLOWSHIPS 2016-17 has been a record-breaking year for fellowships. So far this year, at least 80 students have been recognized by nationally-competitive fellowships and awards (estimated value coming soon). Major highlights and accolades include: NSF Graduate Research Fellowships + 4 Honorable Mentions

Showcasing Undergraduate Achievement

Fulbright student grants + 3 finalists

The Week of Undergraduate Excellence, the first-annual celebration of undergraduate achievements across disciplines and across the university, took place May 1-May 5. Through collaborations with colleges, departments, and units across the University, the Office of Undergraduate

GEM Graduate Associate Fellows

Research organized a week of events to allow students to showcase curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular excellence in a variety of formats. Events included a day-long symposium on Water, co-organized by the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and students in the BEES

NIH NRSA Ruth Kirchstein Graduate Fellowships

department; a showcase of Engineering student organizations; panel fellowships; a performing arts showcase to highlight student work in

Goldwater Honorable Mentions

dance choreography, theatre, and stage lighting; a new businesses forum

Udall Scholarships

conversations on topics such as STEAM, international experiences, and

to highlight new student businesses being incubated through the Close School’s entrepreneurship co-op; and oral presentations and poster presentations of student research, among many other events.

A record that puts Drexel among top U.S. universities

Gilman International Scholarships + 1 alternate

Honors College, it’s how

Boren Fellowship Alternates

us opportunities. How

Whitaker International Fellowship

ize our potential. I came

Freeman-Asia Award + 2 currently waitlisted

dent, and I walk out

William Penn Fellowship

University of Chicago Sophomore Honors student Glen Brown, electrical engineering, (right) at the William Penn Awards Gala, honoring our Honors College benefactor, C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni (left), the recipient of the 2016 William Penn Award. The award is the highest honor bestowed upon a business executive in the region by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

NSF East Asia Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship Truman Scholarship (Drexel’s first ever.) One of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships with only 60 scholars selected nationwide. 9




hat vision of Philadelphia does City

few of these fun classes, but this was the first time I got a

Hall represent?

job offer as a result.

That was the first paper topic I

over, and a few of us gathered to chat at the head of the

seminar this summer. I had never

table. At some point, I mentioned I was an architect and

taught in the Honors College before, and didn’t know what

used to teach in the Architecture Department at Drexel.

to expect. To my delight, the students responded thought-

Dean Cohen didn’t miss a beat.

fully and with enthusiasm. One wrote in the persona of a

“You should teach a class in the Honors College,” she said.

19th- century immigrant invited to a ceremony at City Hall.

I was astonished. “How about a one-credit course about

Another wrote of the multi-ethnic figures depicted on

a Philadelphia building?” she persisted. What would you

columns as “holding up” the city.

pick?” She seemed to be serious! My mind started to race.

I marveled at my luck. Here I was, getting to share my fascination with this magnificent yet flawed building with eager students. How did such a great job fall into my lap? Just two months earlier, it was I who was the student, a participant in the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood

There were so many great choices. “The Art Museum or … maybe City Hall. “Did you know City Hall is the largest masonry building in the world?” I replied. “And that it took 30 years to build?” “Perfect!” she said, and clapped her hands. “You’ll be

Partnership’s side-by-side class, titled “Shakespeare

great. I know it.” A week later we met for lunch and set my

and Masculinity,” taught by Honors College Dean,

start time. Summer session! I dived into preparations.

Paula Marantz Cohen. Side-by-side classes, led by some


We’d just finished discussing As You Like It, class was

assigned in my Pennoni Honors College

At its completion in 1901, after 30 years of construction

of Drexel’s best teachers, are open to Drexel Honors

at the exorbitant cost of 25 million dollars, Philadelphia’s

students and community members of the surrounding

City Hall was the largest city hall in America and the tallest

neighborhoods. They provide a rare opportunity for

building in the world. Clad in marble, with lavish interiors

people from different generations and walks of life to

and a decorative program of over 200 sculptures, the

share perspectives. As a Powelton resident, I’d taken a

building showcased Philadelphia’s wealth and civic pride.




Philadelphia’s City Hall was the largest city hall in America and the tallest building in the world.


n his essay, “The Civic Mission of the University,” political theorist Benjamin Barber laments the increased isolation and solitude of learning in American institutions of higher education. He notes, “[t]he point where democracy and education intersect is the point we call community,” but for far too long any real sense of community has been evacuated from the

university. Instead, he contends, colleges and universities often find themselves at the extreme of one of two poles: the purely speculative or the purely vocational. Both are isolating in their own way. That absence of community has significant implications for both democracy and for education – Barber identifies the social crises with which we are afflicted: apathy, prejudice, complacency, and selfishness among them. Yet, here at Drexel, we are witnessing a renewed

The position of William Penn on top

investment in the idea of education as a civic enterprise; this is an investment

of the tower (his hat once the highest

that is putting community back at the center of learning and Drexel at the center

point in the city) remains a powerful

of community. In fact, Drexel’s increasing commitments to civic engagement

reminder of Philadelphia’s origins as a

with local and global communities demonstrate its embracement of the

Quaker colony with egalitarian values.

communal nature of learning.

Yet City Hall was never considered

In that spirit, the 2017-18 theme for the Pennoni Honors College’s Symposium

a success. Its Second Empire Style

will be “Community.” Through the Symposium’s interdisciplinary course series

already was out of date by the time

and accompanying special events, students will be reintroduced to the centrality

it was completed, and its location,

of community in their education as future innovators, problem-solvers, entrepre-

at the intersection of Philadelphia’s

neurs, and citizens. Along the way, they will have the opportunity to learn about

two main streets, blocked vistas and

the ways in which communities mobilize to address problems, how they operate

snarled traffic. The building escaped

and flourish as civic enterprises, and the role that universities play as “anchor

repeated calls to tear it down only

institutions” in relation to surrounding communities. Dr. Julia Novak Colwell,

because of the exorbitant costs

visiting fellow for the Symposium, will help spearhead these efforts, along with

involved. Called a “monument to

faculty fellows Dr. Kristine Mulhorn, Professor and Department Chair of Health

Philadelphia’s insecurity” it has been

Administration, and Chapin Cimino, JD, Associate Professor of Law. The goal

seen as emblem of the city’s failed race

for the year is to also involve the local community through side-by-side classes

against New York.

and a culminating one-day conference that will highlight the work of students,

So, is City Hall a success or failure?

faculty, and community members. With that we hope to achieve what Barber

That is the next question on the

sees as an “indispensable condition” of education, namely that community is

(seminar) table.

both its beginning and its end.



Consider This

I don’t watch horror movies. Most involve demons, gratuitous gore, and unrealistic stupidity that makes


Get Out, blackne

By Byshera

you think the characters must have wanted to get murdered. I also don’t care for the trope of the black character (usually a man) dying first. There was something about Get Out that seemed more complex and even more dangerous than a masked man chasing teens through the woods. The film opens with a young black man walking down the street talking on his phone about how uncomfortable he is in an all white suburb. “Honestly same,” I thought as the audience laughed at his phone conversation. A car pulls up next to him and he immediately starts walking in the other direction. A figure in a metal mask puts him in a choke hold and abducts him. Great start, already terrified! Childish Gambino’s song “Redbone” transitions us into the next scene, repeating “Stay Woke” in the background as the camera pans over main character Chris’s apartment and to him. Now I don’t know too much about horror movies, but I do know about the portrayals of stereotypical black men in movies. They’re overwhelmingly hyper-masculine and entitled, but Chris is none of these things. He is a photographer whose artistic photos cover his apartment. He has a small dog that is more hair than dog. He is not the Birth of a Nation, King Kong, or The Perfect Guy type where you are constantly made aware that he is a threat. In fact, the movie signals he is the one threatened. The film references deer throughout. The first jump scare of the movie is when Chris’s white girlfriend Rose hits a doe on their way to visit her parents. The second time around, the doe acts as a visual metaphor for Chris’s mother who died in a car accident and bleeds to death by the side of the road. The connection between Chris, the deer, and blackness is only strengthened when Rose’s father, Dean, talks about how he hates deer. There are too many of them, they take up space, and having one less is always good. This might seem benign but it’s clear




ess, and horror

the film is playing with the term “buck,” often applied to black men. The movie revolves around the idea of hunter and hunted. To survive the hunted must outwit the hunter or die.

a Williams

Chris is the game and the spectacle. During an annual party at Rose’s family home, the neighbors poke and prod at Chris. Some ask about his physical strength, hobbies, and even make mention of his sex life and prowess. The hunters are studying their prey. The question might be “why not leave?” if these strangers are invading Chris’s space and making him uncomfortable, but as the groans of the audience suggested, this is an all too frequent discomfort. People of color often face this line of “curious” questions, wrapped in naïve and prying questions as an attempt to “better understand” the other. With Chris as the threatened, as opposed to the threat, another trope is uprooted. The white female damsel. Rose, the sweet, loving, funny girlfriend is aptly named because she is a thorned beauty. Usually, the white woman is the person with which we empathize and align, but Rose turns out to be one of many villains. She turns on Chris, revealing this trip to meet the family is actually a more complex ruse to trap him. She is the hunter. Chris fights in order to survive and when he does the whole theatre exploded with excitement! Everyone screamed, rooting for Chris. This moment is cathartic because it doesn’t happen in real life. Can you think of a time when a group of people were excited and happy to see a black man acting violently or fighting against whiteness? The film pushes us to be aware of all of the biases we have and makes us question any expectations we might have. It’s easy to say “I’m not racist,” because you think that being black equates to being “hip”, “fun” and “fashionable.” Many films turned black people into boogeymen and nightmares. It’s easy to watch the black boy die when you were scared of him. But this one shows the fear from a black person’s perspective. And there is nothing better than a theater full of people’s screams during the last scene. Byshera Williams is a junior English Major in the Honors Program. She is Assistant Editor for The Smart Set. This essay was originally published in full on on 6/8/2017.



SCHOLARLY REFLECTIONS STAR Scholars Arun Balaji and Mayank Patel share details about their 10 weeks at India’s premier engineering institution BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER

Mayank Patel (left) and Arun Balaji (right) at the Taj Mahal



For one Pennoni STAR Scholar and BS/MD student, Summer 2017 brought a cacophony of senses to a head while researching abroad. For another STAR Scholar, living and working in the birthplace of his parents was extremely rewarding. Biomedical engineering majors Mayank Patel and Arun Balaji spent the term doing research through Pennoni’s STAR Scholars Program at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-Madras) in Chennai. Here, the Honors students each reflect on their experiences. A group of monkeys on the IIT campus.



A shopping area in Chennai.

onkeys. Butterflies. Blaring horns.

often see herds of up to 30 together on my walk to the lab.

Nothing could prepare me for coming

Not only are there monkeys, but there is beautiful deer

to India. The experience is unlike any

all around and colorful butterflies. It’s almost like living

American can expect until he or she

in a zoo. Just outside the walled campus and its natural

actually does it. As soon as I deboarded

habitat is the lively city of Chennai with its crowded

the plane, I walked into a wall of heat

and humidity. With constant temperatures of at least 95

streets and constant noise. The work in the lab was great and everyone was so

degrees and high humidity, I’m constantly refilling my

friendly and willing to help. I was doing very interesting

oversized water bottle. Getting into a car to get to campus

work measuring muscle activity by detecting the change in

from the airport is bizarre, with horns constantly beeping

cell voltage.

and a total disregard for all road laws. The campus and living at IIT was amazing. It is a

Traveling is very easy and inexpensive in Chennai as the cost of an Uber ride is less than a dollar, and getting

complete 180 from Drexel and my home in Hatfield and

a driver for a day is only about $15 when split between

iSTAR allowed me to experience an entirely different

friends. I saw so much of India during my time there:

life for the summer. The campus is in the middle of the

I made it to Jaipur, Bangalore, Mahabalipuram, Delhi,

jungle! Beyond the heat and the A/C-less room, the time

Agra, and Mumbai by the time my research was over. This

there flew by because I was constantly being exposed to

was an experience of a lifetime, filled with adventure, but

new things. Monkeys are omnipresent on campus, and I’d

with a lot of learning!


Arun (left) and Mayank (second from the right) in front of Hindu carvings in the ancient historic town of Mahabalipuram.

The Shore Temple, a World Heritage Site in Mahabalipuram.



Mayank (left) and Arun (right) at the Lotus Temple in Delhi.

s a student accepted into the STAR program in Fall 2016, I made plans to do a project under a Drexel professor. Then, I heard about

Thermography and its medical applications. I spent my

the iSTAR India opportunity. I was immedi-

time at IITM designing and conducting an experiment

ately drawn to the program, having already

and then writing a paper based on the results for potential

lived abroad and traveled extensively in western Europe,

presentation and publication. My student mentors were both

as well as a few countries in Africa, eastern Europe, and

knowledgeable and approachable, and some have expressed

Asia. I knew about IIT Madras and its reputation as one of

interest in coming to Drexel to aid in their research.

the best engineering universities in the world. Further, the

Fortunately, my professor was very encouraging of my

school’s location, Chennai, is the birthplace of my parents,

plans to visit different cities in India. Since I did iSTAR

and while I have visited the city before, I have never lived in

with Drexel student Mayank Patel, we were able to travel

or gotten to explore Chennai.

to various locations in India together, and sometimes

Soon after arriving at IITM, I got to meet the professor


also with friends we made there. My experience was a

I would be working under at the Department of Applied

rewarding one – from figuring out how to deal with the

Mechanics: Biomedical Engineering Group, as well

punishing heat, to learning how to create my own project in

as the graduate students whose projects I would be

lab from start to finish, to visiting some of the ancient and

complementing. As part of the Non-Invasive Imaging

iconic sites in India, each step has been a unique challenge

and Diagnostics lab, my project related to Infrared

resulting in a very memorable experience.

Photos courtesy of Arun Balaji and Mayank Patel

Watch Maya's TEDxTalk here:

TED AHEAD How TedX helped launch my diversity platform, LABEL-LESS BY MAYA SHOWELL, PSYCHOLOGY ’20

I was in sixth grade, 11 or 12 years old, when I

at our high school! Immediately, Morgan and I jumped

watched a TED Talk video for the first time.

at the chance to spread our message. Since we were both

I don’t remember what it was called, but I recall being

in college, it was difficult to find time to get together and complete all the components of the application, but we did

sucked in immediately by the atmosphere the speaker

it! After a week, we got notification that it was accepted!

created. Quickly, I found myself watching as many TED

We were officially going to give a TEDxTalk! We titled our

Talk videos as I could. I became addicted. On my kid

talk “The Black Girls that Aren’t Black Enough” and created

version of a bucket list – purple construction paper and

a platform called “Label-Less The Movement” in an effort

thick black Sharpie – I wrote, “Present a TED Talk.”

to encourage others to be mindful of labels because they

For years, my friend Morgan and I had talked back and

can be used as a form of discrimination and preconceived

forth about social issues that we felt affected us during

judgement. Instead, we told people, take the time to get to

our hour-long high school study hall each day. The main

know someone for who they are and the content of their

issue we found ourselves coming back to was race. Morgan

character, not what they are.

and I were very involved in diversity and multicultural

We had about two months to meet with our advisor, prepare

clubs which put this issue on our radar. As two African-

the talk, and rehearse on our own. We wrote, edited, and

American students in a predominantly Caucasian high

altered our focus. We stopped trying to be perfect. Instead we

school we thought about the subject a lot. It all started

aimed to inspire and enlighten. It finally clicked for us!

as a simple observation: that people in our own race and

We only had two rehearsals on the actual stage before the

culture consciously and unconsciously judge us for acting

event. I’d seen the statistic: millions of people stream these

“too white” or “not black enough” when we are just being

events from all over the country and world. I’m not going to lie;

ourselves. Morgan and I passionately discussed and knew it

On April 2nd, I stood backstage shaking, but I reminded myself

was what we wanted to talk about if given the chance.

that we were spreading an important message to people all

Not too long into college, we were contacted by our alma mater, Ursuline Academy in Delaware, about an opportunity

around the world. And then went out there and we did it! Morgan and I hope to expand our message into a brand

for students, faculty, and alumnae from the school. TEDx

so that our ideas can continue to spread. I will forever be

had recently created a new conference called TEDxYouth@

grateful for this experience. It was honestly life-changing!

Wilmington and we were told we could apply to give a talk

I am, You are, We are … Label-Less.


There, atop South Africa’s Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, where the moisture condenses to form a “tablecloth” of a cloud and some climbers express dizziness or lightheadedness, Mik Schulte speaks with clarity. On a travel-integrated course to South Africa in 2013 – drawing upon a Symposium course about museums, nature and narratives of Africa’s southernmost country – Mik chatted with Dr. Kevin Egan, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry, about his Drexel studies and his general goals toward working to make corporations more socially responsible. The more Mik spoke, Dr. Egan says, the more he seemed a good fit for Pennoni Honors College’s Custom-Designed Major (CSDN) program. His maturity, motivation, and ability to express himself with confidence made him an impressive student, but his vision for what he wanted to accomplish – cutting across multiple disciplines – made him an ideal candidate for CSDN.


Mik returned to Drexel and took his education plan into his own hands, finding CSDN as an incubator, allowing him the flexibility to experiment, to nurture an idea exchange, and to spark his passion for interdisciplinary learning. “CSDN gives you the space to focus on things that you are passionate about in college that there isn’t traditional coursework for,” Mik says. Mik combined courses in environmental science, business, and independent study courses, to develop a major in corporate policy and environmental risk management, allowing him to gain a better grasp of how business entities could manage the social and environmental impacts of their work, along with the risks they produced. He found a niche within the major: water became his “problem space”. “CSDN is the academic equivalent of the professional development you get out of co-op,” Mik says. “At Drexel, we always think about our careers, but having an equally

One Custom-Designed Major graduate expresses gratitude for his incubation period BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER


academic side of that is great. It’s not about training for co-op — it’s about training for life.” Prior to graduating in June 2015, Mik worked with Dr. Rick McCourt from the Academy of Natural Sciences on his senior capstone project examining the impacts of harmful algal blooms on the water supply for Toledo, Ohio on Lake Erie.


Green Infrastructure,” but he enjoyed being on the other

CSDN gives you the space to focus on

side of the table.

things that you are passionate about.

people who are 24 or 26 and what they are doing because

“We have a tendency in college to not care or ask about our assumption is that they aren’t doing anything yet. I’m

Mik’s capstone focused on the water quality concerns, the

not saying I’m an expert, but coming back and talking lets

social impacts of the water shutoff in 2014 that left more than

students learn from someone who is closer to them in age

400,000 people without drinking water, and how companies in

and lets you realize, ‘This is someone I can be.’”

the Great Lakes region have worked together with government

Mik’s pragmatism is guided by his idealistic goals, Dr.

regulators and citizens to be good corporate water stewards.

Egan says. “Mik wants to better the world, but he under-

“My capstone was very directed. It got me into grad

stands the realities — as frustrating as they may be — of

school. It got me this job. It was invaluable.” The job Mik refers to is analyst at the World Bank. He says

doing so in a world governed by bureaucratic wrangling.” CSDN made Mik think about his learning plan deliberately

that if he could write his own job description, he’d be doing

and he has nothing but praise for Egan’s help. “He is the

exactly what he’s doing: coordinating the water and agriculture

reason why CSDN prepared me,” Mik says. “It’s not CSDN.

global solutions group, making sure that global knowledge

It’s Kevin. He really had an impact on my career.”

is being dispersed across the bank’s portfolio and supporting greater food production while using less water to do it.

And you should listen to Mik because he’s over 6 feet tall and outspoken, and in another lifetime, he says he

Dr. Egan invited Mik back to campus recently to give

would have made a good reality show villain. But in this

two presentations to his Symposium students who were

life, he’s ruthlessly, cheerfully driven to good and credits

studying water as part of their Symposium theme. Not

the Honors College for making him ask, “Why does this

only was Mik eager to share about “Gender Sensitive and

matter? What is the theoretical underpinning of what you

Culturally Respectful Water Investments” and “Investing in

are talking about?”





here’s no special cloak worn or handshake

How the new Luminary Program supports students in their intellectual and personal development BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER

Eight Honors students: Karim Chen (product design ’19),

performed when a group of eight Honors

Katielee Cummings (CSDN, cognitive neuropsychology,

students unceremoniously convened for a

’19), Julie Knerr (health services administration ’18), Aydan

half-dozen courses this summer to explore

Malkoc (finance and business analytics ’19), Abigail Martin

topics across the humanities, scientific inquiry, society and

(biomedical engineering ’19), Shayna Singh (biological

culture, and arts and creativity.

sciences ’19), Joseph Snyder (international business ’19),

The group chatted about sidewalks and Plato, statistics

and Heather Tanner (secondary education ’19) say they saw

and Pasteur, Shakespeare and parks. There’s the passionate

themselves as creating a body of curious minds, learning

and proactive health services administration student, the

with others outside their majors to enrich their knowledge

biomedical engineering student who sat back and listened,

base and think from fresh perspectives.

the confident and goal-driven international business

“The Luminary Program is for students who want to get

student. And there’s the junior product design major who

the most from their Honors education and pursue what we

jokingly labeled himself a troll. But really, he’s a lot like the

see as essentially ‘an Honors Program within an Honors

others: utterly enthusiastic about intellectual exploration,

Program’, says Dr. Daniel Dougherty, director of the Honors

open to discovering others’ perspectives, and determined to

Program. “These students have risen to the challenge of

apply his learned skills to his education, career, and life.

learning for sheer joy of the pursuit of knowledge and are

This variegated crew, a concentrated group of intellectually stimulated students, was part of the first cohort of the Luminary Program, an application-based 24-credit specialized

complementing their education in a way that is not possible anywhere else at Drexel.” The Luminary summer term involves six interconnected

and unique plan of study that challenges students to an even

courses taught by Drexel faculty, Dr. Lloyd Ackert; Dr. Bill

higher degree through a balance of structured curriculum and

diCanzio; Daniel Driscoll; Dr. Bruce Eisenstein; and Dr.

self-designed co-curricular experiences.

Dougherty. Once a week, the group also had a working lunch


“I felt at the most productive period of my educational life, and that says something.” with Dr. Paula Marantz Cohen, dean of Pennoni Honors

my foundation of practical business knowledge with the

College, when they read additional work and related it to the

theoretical topics taught in Luminary will add another

themes and readings being addressed across the program.

dimension to my passion for business.”

“We see the Luminary Program, in conjunction with

allows Luminary students to learn “that ‘how things are’ is

century,” says Dean Cohen. “It’s a way for highly motivated

always to some extent subject to debate — that we can ask

and talented students to supplement their intensive course

questions about what or who leads us to see or interpret

of study, and their co-op and community outreach experi-

things in particular ways.”

ences, with interdisciplinary, discussion-based work. Our

“At Drexel, a lot of student energy and work is aimed at

ultimate goal is to help students ‘learn how to learn’—which

future opportunities like co-op and career, and for sure

will serve them in whatever field they pursue.”

this is a strength of Drexel,” says Driscoll. “But I often

The term also integrated related co-curricular activ-

encounter students who wish there was a chance to slow

ities, like travel to Washington, D.C. to the National

down and be able to do work that, while still rigorous, is

Air & Space Museum and a private tour of the Library

more open-ended or exploratory — the kind of thing that

of Congress with the Chair of Astrobiology. A trip

may not appear to directly translate into their major or

to New York included a visit to the apartment of art

intended career but nonetheless helps them develop as a

collector Abbie Dean, co-chair of the Pennoni Honors

thinker, and which invariably becomes a part of who they

College Advisory Board, and seeing the Broadway show,

are and how they do other work.”

“Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812,” a musical adaptation of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace.” “I had no idea that astrobiology existed as a field, but I am now intrigued by how it applies to our history and society,”

The opportunity to talk about the humanities, Aydan Malkoc says, allows the cohort to discover the limits of their intellectual and practical abilities. “I felt at the most productive period of my educational

says Abigail Martin. “Exploring these cities allowed us to

life, and that says something,” Aydan states. “I discovered

gain additional cultural and social capital.”

the limits of my comprehension and time organization

The Luminary Program, while challenging in its own right, provides students with a break from their major require-

skills; and worked to better them every day.” As a secondary education major with a concentration

ments. Julie Knerr says she’s seen great improvements in her

in physics and math, Heather Tanner was most intrigued

analytical reading, writing, and synthesis abilities. Joseph

by the Luminary’s interdisciplinary learning aspect. “My

Snyder says he has made a stronger connection between his

research is based on how different fields can work together,

major in finance and subjects in the liberal arts.

so I was excited to have the time in my schedule to hear

“Drexel takes a very practical approach to education,” says Joseph. “As a LeBow student, I’ve grown accustomed


This type of education, says instructor Dan Driscoll,

Drexel’s other offerings, as a model of education for the 21st

thoughts and ideas from people in different disciplines.” The Pennoni Honors College is continuing to recruit

to studying with the intent to implement the skills I

the next cohort of Luminary students to start in the coming

learn directly into my co-op and eventual career. While

academic year. Applications from Sophomores,

I have enjoyed this method of education, I was drawn

pre-Juniors, and Juniors are being accepted through the

to the Luminary Program because I believe combining

Honors Program.



Meet the Luminaries

Walking the Brooklyn bridge, spanning the East River from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

The Luminary cohort standing together on the stunning roof deck of Pennoni Honors College Advisory Board Co-Chair Abbie Dean's penthouse apartment in Tribeca. Overlooking NYC's fantastical architecture including One World Observatory and 56 Leonard Street (Jenga building).


A quick, cheeky selfie on NYC’s infamous High Line before departing back to Philly.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Some of Abbie Dean’s various art pieces and art and design literature curated from all points of the globe including a portrait of Mao Zedong as a child, an expansive film camera collection, and an embroidered garment from Azerbaijan.

Luminary students posing in the Smithsonian American Art Museum after a trip to the National Air and Space Museum in a quest to gain more social and cultural capital.

The Luminary cohort posing in front of the Capitol building, home of the U.S. Congress. The cohort included (from left to right): Aydan Malkoc, Julie Knerr, Shayna Singh, Katielee Cummings, Karim Chen, Joe Snyder, Heather Tanner, and Abigail Martin.

Library of Congress Astrobiology Chair Luis Campos tells Luminary students about his fascination with and scientific inquiry about space at an early age. He shared objects crafted during his childhood, and a very moving DREXEL.EDU/PENNONI poem he wrote in primary school dedicated to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster during a tour of the Library and his office.

23 The spectacular Reading Room inside the Library of Congress.

An inspiring quote by Sir Francis Bacon that resonates greatly with the actions (reading, conferring, and writing) of the Luminary Program.


As it turned out, the Zweig class became one of my greatest teaching moments. Why? Teaching uncharted territory made me focus and engage. Honors students take their classes seriously and this passion motivated me to bring my A game every week. But primarily it was the students in my class that shaped the experience. Honors students are inquiring and like to participate. But they are also humble and respectful. There was not only an international flavor present in the classroom, but a diversity of opinions related to the multitude of different

Discovering my best self while instructing Honors students

majors present. The 20-student class


desperately get away from lecturing and


size was ideal. It made me want to try to create a coffee shop ambiance. It

or the last 19 years I have

Paula also informed me that my

served as the Athletics

class would not have to be curricu-

Director at Drexel University.

lum-based; I could choose any topic

Athletics can be the front

seemed to me that the students liked it, since they interacted freely. As a result, I became more inter-

of my liking. What would you choose

ested in the question than the answer,

porch of our University and a catalyst

if you could teach anything? It’s

and less the students’ opinions as

for its aspirations. What a privilege

an excellent question, one that can

compared to my own. I was sad when

it is to work with student athletes

lead to self-exploration, as it did for

the class was over, but I was hooked!

and to help grow athletics to become

me. For the spring quarter of 2016 I

a vibrant and dynamic part of the

decided to pivot from my past clinical

“The Rise of ISIS,” another new course

campus that touches upon the pulse of

psychology and sports management

for me. First and foremost, I like to

our University’s heartbeat. I also hold

focus to teach a literature course on

teach critical thinking and I used this

the title of Carl R. Pacifico Professor

Stefan Zweig’s novella, Chess Story.

topic in class as a metaphor to accom-

of Neuropsychology and I am a

Unbeknownst to many, the Austrian

For the 2017 spring quarter I taught

plish this. Our graduates have to be

Licensed Clinical Psychologist. I enjoy

author Zweig (whose prose and

excellent problem-solvers, and Honors

publishing books, articles, and op-eds

wit were famously covered in Wes

students are keen to learn through

on the topics of sports psychology and

Anderson’s movie The Grand Budapest

experience and to reflect on doing.

the psychology of terrorism.

Hotel) committed suicide while in

At the same time I was teaching

As a full-time administrator, I

exile in Brazil the day after he sent

the ISIS course, I was also retained

do not have to teach. But recently,

his manuscript to the publisher. I

by Pike County District Attorney’s

Dr. Paula Marantz Cohen, Dean of

proposed to the class that we should

Office as the mental health expert in

Pennoni Honors College, asked me

conceptualize Zweig’s 90-page

the trial of Eric Frein, who killed a

to be part of the College. Over the

masterpiece as the most elegant and

Pennsylvania state trooper in 2014 and

years Paula and I “bumped” into each

mysterious suicide note ever written.

was sentenced to death in April 2017

other at various functions around the

“Game on,” the students agreed.

(after being convicted of terrorism

University. I admire her work and her

and murder charges). I was evaluating

intellect, and thus I took her query

the defendant in prison and assisting

seriously. What also intrigued me

the DA with the case within the same

was the vision Dr. Daniel Dougherty,

timeframe that I was teaching class. We

director of the Honors Program,

used this real-life scenario in class as

and Dr. Cohen had for the College: a

a springboard to discuss homegrown

modern take on higher education that combines personal exploration with innovative teaching, all in a dynamic, intellectual, and fun environment.


What would you choose if

Our “Zweig’s Chess Story” class visits Eastern State Penitentiary to discuss the psychology of incarceration. At its completion, Eastern State Penitentiary was the largest and most expensive public structure ever erected, and quickly became a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.

The novella Chess Story takes place entirely on a passenger ship during the 1940s. To experience the golden era of majestic passenger ships, I rented a private motorboat and we went on the Delaware River to get a close-up look and “feel” of the mothballed USS United States. An epic chess match on a transatlantic liner unearths a psychological thriller of persecution and obsession. The ship can be seen as a literary as well as a psychological symbol. It creates a psychological density, there is no place to escape from it, and represents a miniature world … like a chessboard.

vis-a-vis international terrorism, as well

arts, and especially their evolving

as the morality of the death penalty. In

relationships with each other.

this case, our classroom became a real

at Drexel University. For 10 years I

complicated social topics in a safe and

directed the PhD program in clinical

supporting environment. We’d discuss

psychology. In 2001, I founded the

it one day and then read about it on the

Sports Management major. And I

front page the next day. It was fasci-

have been fortunate to be recognized

nating pedagogy.

for my teaching. But the Honors

I’ve already begun planning for Spring

Senior Maggie Fedorocsko, a student in my ISIS class, presenting her final project; a 4-minute TED talk on Saudi Arabia and its link to international terrorism.

experience for me in a different way.

use my neuroscience expertise, since the

It has self-actualized me as a teacher

brain manages music. I have learned

and as a person. I give all the credit

that our Honors students are most

to Drs. Cohen and Dougherty and the

intrigued with interdisciplinary inquiry.

students they recruit. The Honors

Combining the art of music and the

College allowed me to engage in a

science of the brain is a great example.

different paradigm of teaching. At the basis of learning is curiosity.

how does the brain process sounds to

It cannot be faked; it has to be

experience music? And from a cultural

genuine. I cannot wait for spring

viewpoint why does an entire species

quarter of 2018 when I introduce

of humans play and listen to music?

myself and start off with: “Can

Can music be essential to experiencing

you conceive of music being more

human life? And why is there music?

important than language?”

I find the fact that our brains are exquisitely tuned for music fascinating and I plan to immerse the class with this scientific mystery. I believe that for our students to be successful,

you could teach anything?

College has been an awesome

2018: “The Psychology of Music.” I’ll

From a neuroscience perspective,

For my Psychology of Music course, I might just bring my guitar to my Honors class.

I have some experience as a teacher

live society where we debated these

regardless of what major, they must navigate the sciences as well as the

I can’t wait to hear the students’ responses. Dr. Zillmer’s books include “Principles of Neuropsychology,” which has been used in more than 500 Universities worldwide. “The Quest for the Nazi Personality” has been summarized as the definitive psychological analysis of Third Reich war criminals. “Military Psychology” examines the psychological contexts involved in geopolitical events. Dr. Zillmer is also the coauthor of the “Tower of London-Drexel test” and the “d2 Test of Attention.” His work has been translated into Czech, Chinese, Korean and Portuguese.



A GIRL, HER GILMAN, AND A PANGOLIN One fellowship recipient’s hands-on work with the most trafficked mammal in the world BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER


tail slap in the face by a starved pangolin is

Motivated by her career goals of working with endan-

enough to ward off jet lag. That’s the first

gered species, Ashleigh sought to secure a co-op at SVW,

lesson Ashleigh Jugan learned on the night of

positioned in a crucial location in Vietnam for pangolin

her arrival in Cuc Phuong National Park for a

trafficking networks. The center, however, relies heavily on

six-month co-op with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW). It

volunteers and donations and requires a fee from unpaid

was hard to see the animal suffering, but Ashleigh jumped

workers to cover housing, food, and care for the animals at

right in; the vets and volunteers enlisted her to record,

the center.

identify, feed and administer health checks for 113 of these

But Ashleigh didn’t have the means to sustain herself on

scaly, anteater-like animals – the most the non-profit had

an unpaid co-op in Vietnam for six months. She grew up in

ever saved.

a family that struggled financially, burdened by her father’s

Four years prior, the senior environmental science major had never heard of the most trafficked mammal in the

health and his medical expenses. Where attending college had seemed like a miracle,

world. In 2014, Ashleigh’s boyfriend Nick read an NPR

traveling the world and doing work she’d been dreaming

article about the endangered species and asked her if she

about, seemed nearly impossible.

knew about the pangolin. She was unaware – and dismayed

Ashleigh began working with the Pennoni Fellowships

– to read that it is considered a high-end delicacy and status

Office two years ago to apply for a myriad of scholarships

symbol in Southeast Asia and China. Ashleigh later had a

to cover her education and living expenses. She’s now

chance encounter with the nocturnal animal on a trip to

garnered three: the Gilman International Scholarship, the

Bali, where staff at a zoo let her touch one. So intrigued by

Freeman ASIA, and the Udall.

the soft-bellied animal, and yet bothered by the unethical

The Gilman Scholarship and Freeman ASIA award are

hands-on experience, Ashleigh began researching programs

programs intended to increase the diversity and impact

where she could study the species’ behavior and stressors.

of well-qualified students studying abroad with financial

Which is how she found SVW, a non-profit organization

need who will benefit academically and professionally from

that focuses on the conservation of threatened native

the international experience. The Udall Undergraduate

wildlife through rescue, rehabilitation and protection.

Scholarship is awarded to the nation’s top undergraduates

“You see elephants, pandas and rhinos in the news all the

committed to improving the environment. Ashleigh will

time,” Ashleigh says, “and these flagship species earn a lot of

join an active community of Udall Scholars and alums

money for conservation. But here we have the most trafficked

working across the country to address some of our most

mammal in the world, and no one knows it even exists.”

difficult environmental challenges.


“...Here we have the most trafficked mammal in the world, and no one knows it even exists.”

“Ashleigh took a risk by foregoing an established co-op and applying for external funding to support her unpaid co-op,” said Dr. Meredith Wooten, director of the Center for

to observe.” Ashleigh parlayed her love of animals into an environ-

Scholar Development. “And that risk paid off. She received

mental science major at Drexel, with a concentration in

two merit scholarships, making her the second Drexel

ecology and conservation. As a freshman, she partici-

student to receive a Freeman-Asia award since the program

pated in Pennoni’s iSTAR Scholars Program, conducting

was established in 2001 and the first Drexel student to

research on mine drainage in Oulu, Finland. She serves

receive both awards in one year!”

as program chair of the Office of Undergraduate Research

The ambitious student grew up in a very small, rural town

Leaders and a member of the Office’s Supernova fellows.

outside Reading, Pennsylvania, and moved with her parents

She is a STAR peer mentor, an Honors student, and in

to Amherst, Massachusetts at age 14 for better schools and

addition to the Gilman and Freeman awards, Ashleigh is

a better life.

the recipient of such academic honors as the NSF funded

When Ashleigh’s family lived in Reading, her father was

Drexel Study Abroad in Cameroon, a three-week field

being treated at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania.

course to study large mammals in their natural habitat.

So, every few weeks, her parents would take Ashleigh’s

She was also finalist for the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings

brother and her to the Philadelphia Zoo following his

Undergraduate Scholarship.

appointments. No matter her father’s pain, it was a chance


graceful they were in the water, always so playful and fun

“While working with animals in a remote village in

for the family to be together – and she and her brother

Vietnam was not glamorous, the opportunity to gain

always made a beeline for the otters. “The zoo never got

firsthand experience with wildlife conservation and

old,” she says. “We loved watching the otters – how fast and

rehabilitation has already allowed Ashleigh to form new


Bringing the World Within Reach Studying abroad – especially twice – isn’t cheap. All the more reason to apply for a Gilman Scholarship, says Madeline Demas (CSDN, Digital Storytelling ’18). The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study and intern abroad and the countries and regions where they go by offering awards to U.S. undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints. connections with experts in the field and to develop new and clearer postgraduate plans,” Dr. Wooten says. When she graduates in June, Ashleigh will pursue a PhD in conservation biology. She’s also applying for Fulbright and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Her eventual goal is to work in some sort of leadership position, advising national or international organizations such Fish and Wildlife Services, International Union for Conservation of Nature or even the U.N. And it was because of these grants, Ashleigh says, that she was able to make a difference. And have the most rewarding experience of her life. After four weeks of treating pangolin wounds and eye infections, Ashleigh and a team of five SVW volunteers and staff packed up 53 pangolins on a bus and drove for two days to a national park, fed them a final meal, and released them into the night.

Madeline is one of 13 Drexel students to receive the scholarship since the Fellowships Office made it a priority award in 2015. Recipients receive up to $5,000 and are eligible to receive a Critical Need Language Award up to an additional $3,000 for studying a “critical need language” while abroad. Madeline’s passion for East Asia pulled her back to South Korea after completing a term abroad during her pre-junior year. “I knew that if I wanted to seriously nail down my confidence in Korean, I would have to return and partake in an intensive language program,” Madeline says, “but the Gilman Scholarship was pretty much the only reason I was able to go back to South Korea.” For Kacy Reitnaur (Environmental Science ’20), her Gilman to study tropical biodiversity and conversation abroad in Equatorial Guinea in Winter 2017, was her first trip out of the United States. “The program also aims to support a diverse range of students who have been traditionally under-represented in education abroad,” says Dr. Meredith Wooten, director of the Center for Scholar Development. “In addition to expanding their horizons, the experience of living abroad and learning about new cultures

For more information or to donate to Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, visit


helps prepare these students to succeed in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world.”



PHC’s Dean Emeritus on his last class as a Drexel professor BY DAVE JONES, PENNONI HONORS COLLEGE DEAN (2009-2014)


his past spring, having decided to retire at the end of summer, I taught my last course at Drexel as a full-time faculty member. It was an Honors course of a type I’d never tried before: a one-credit, one-hour-a-week intensive study of a single great work. In my case, cinema being my specialty, our object of study was John Ford’s great

Western movie, “The Searchers.” Despite its format being new to me, the course turned out to be the best teaching experience I’ve had in my 40-year Drexel career: the most focused, most fun, and probably most effective. Only one student had seen the film before, and that had been some time ago. In the first class, we looked at the film’s opening 10 minutes, and then I asked the students what they could perceive about the characters, and why. It was an excellent exercise for learning how skilled directors establish characters and relationships early on in a movie. Honors students being bright and attentive,

Dr. Dave Jones served as the Dean of the Pennoni Honors College from 2009-2014. The Cinema Studies scholar directed, produced or wrote 11 films. He also authored three books, wrote three chapters for other books, and wrote numerous reviews and articles.

they perceived quite a bit about the characters and guessed some developments that would occur later. I then asked them to view the whole film on their own, online, via Hagerty Library screening, so that for the remaining nine weeks they would “know” the whole film. For most of those weeks, we screened and discussed in detail each remaining segment in the film, sequentially. Because “The Searchers” is, cinematically, both flawed and brilliant (flawed in minor ways, brilliant in major), we often discussed cinematic technique. The film roughly reflects the process of America’s westward expansion, so history became a secondary topic. And, notoriously, the film depicts racism in an honest but unsettling way — yet includes a model for rising above it. We never were at a loss for things to discuss. You can’t know a truly great film well after only one viewing. So, I required another online viewing about midway through the course. For our last class, I found a time when most students could meet for a three-hour period for which an excellent screening room in Westphal’s Cinema & Television Department was available. This was so that the students could watch the film closer to how it was meant to be seen: on a large screen, which is the only way to experience the deep aesthetic pleasure that the film offers. Thus, including the scene-byscene screenings in class, students had seen the film four times by the end of the course. They now knew the film well, probably better than they knew any other film, and they didn’t seem to mind. It was a great teaching experience for me, but it also provided another sort of satisfaction. Since the Honors Program was established, and especially after it became part of an Honors College under Dean Mark Greenberg, the College has



Refelction Looking back upon the desert horizon, memories of the past – of struggles, (Drexel) family, and experience, Dave Jones will go off into the distance, leaving us to take care of the homestead without his guidance and protection.

experimented with imaginative ways to give Drexel’s best

The course I taught last spring was under a rubric

students, regardless of major, the kind of experience of the

recently created by Dean Paula Marantz Cohen and

humanities that educated people need.

Honors Program Director Daniel Dougherty. The intention was to give faculty and

The core of the Honors curriculum

students an opportunity to discuss

is the three-credit colloquium on topics selected by Drexel’s best faculty. Another innovation was to provide first-term freshmen Honors students with early exposure to seminarstyle, interdisciplinary learning; students were assigned randomly

You can’t know a truly great film well after only one viewing.

a single great work (usually a work of literature) in depth, but with a time commitment (one hour a week) that would allow students to fit such a course into their busy schedules. It certainly worked well for me and

to seminar sections, and studied a

my students, and I’m grateful to

topic of the instructor’s choosing

have had that as my last teaching

with students from other disciplines.

experience as a full-timer. But in

Then came The Great Works Symposium (now just called

addition, I find it satisfying to reflect on having been a

The Symposium), which offered a year-long, four-term

part of the Honors College’s continuing experiment with

examination of a single topic or issue from a wide range of

innovative ways to teach humanities at Drexel.

disciplinary perspectives.



Alumni News

Leslie Barr cooking Pasta e Fagioli with

Brittany Bisceglia with her son, Samuel

Nathan Heckman, president of RadiantSail,

her daughter, Stella, at the Westtown

Joseph Bisceglia

a management consulting company in Oman, enjoying lunch with one of his clients.

International Festival in Chester County, Pa.

Leslie A. Barr (nee Spangler), bioscience and biotechnology ’98, is a science teacher at Westtown School, head of a Scientific Research class where upper-class students create their own research projects and pursue these over the course of their senior year. She is developing a new molecular biology curriculum for advanced students in the 2017-18 school year. She lives with her husband, daughter Stella, and her great-grandfather. 

Columns”. He is funded by the National Defense Science and Engineering (NDSEG) Fellowship Program, administered by the American Society for Engineering Education. Fratamico is working as a structural engineer and new product development for New Hudson Façades, an innovative architectural façade startup based in Boothwyn, Pa., that designs, engineers, manufactures and installs custom curtain wall systems on world-class buildings.

Brittany Bisceglia (nee Tress), digital media ’08, gave birth to her son, Samuel Joseph Bisceglia, on March 24, 2017. Congrats! 

Bryan Fyalkowski, sport management ’14, is assistant director of media relations at Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers.

Ilina Crouse, electrical engineering ’09, is an E3000 and Electrical Solutions Bid Manager at Siemens Energy in Alpharetta, Georgia. She was married in 2005 and gave birth to Anna in 2011, Milena in 2013 and Jason in 2015.

Nathan Heckman (Honors, Architectural Engineering, Civil Engineering, Engineering ’04) is president of the management consulting company RadiantSail which is based in Oman. Now in its seventh year, RadiantSail has built a dynamic team of seasoned professionals and delivered dozens of projects across seven countries in the Middle East. Building upon the “problem solving” skills that he learned while at Drexel University, Nathan has had the privilege of supporting the continued development of healthcare and education systems in the region. 

Katherine Devanney, psychology ’13, passed the Delaware bar. She is now an associate attorney at Richards, Layton, and Finger, P.A. in Wilmington, DE in the bankruptcy and corporate restructuring department. Dave Fratamico, architectural engineering ’12, defended his PhD thesis in July entitled “Experiments, Analysis, and Design of Built-Up Cold-Formed Steel


Shelby Vittek, liberal studies ’14, is the Associate Editor for New Jersey Monthly.

In Memorium

Karen Shollenberger (BS/ MS in Science and Technical Communication ’17) passed away August 9, 2017 at 23 years old after a 13-year battle with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She was a member of the Pennoni Honors College and the Gamma Sigma Sigma sorority and worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

Spread the News! Please send your alumni announcements to and let us know what you’ve been up to. Include your name, major, graduation year, and share with us your career stories, promotions, marriages, births, etc.

Alumnus Spotlight Alisha Strayer, Architectural Engineering & Civil Engineering ’11, is the Operations Supervisor (Engineer) at General Dynamics Electric Boat as well as Owner and Master Instructor at Body By Bliss Pilates. She married Christopher James Bliss in September.

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We in the Pennoni Honors College hope to send you off into the world with an important gift: an understanding of what it means to value the ‘life of the mind.’ I also hope we have taught you that education is never-ending, that its incompleteness is its joy and ultimate purpose: it breeds a continued hunger to learn more. It’s a sublime kind of dissatisfaction. And it’s priceless because you don’t have to have lots of money or worldly success to engage in it.” — DEAN PAULA MARANTZ COHEN

Philadelphia, PA

Profile for Pennoni Honors College

PHC Magazine Fall/Winter 2017  

The official magazine for Drexel University's Pennoni Honors College. This month: saving pangolins, the new Luminary program, reflections fr...

PHC Magazine Fall/Winter 2017  

The official magazine for Drexel University's Pennoni Honors College. This month: saving pangolins, the new Luminary program, reflections fr...