Honor Bound Spring/Summer 2023

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Going Dutch:

Honors students study the differences in social justice policies between Amsterdam and Philadelphia

PLUS:

• Drexel’s first KnightHennessy Scholar

• Playing at Pennoni

• Applying the university experience to the world of augmented reality

FROM DREXEL UNIVERSITY’S PENNONI HONORS COLLEGE • SPRING/SUMMER 2023

Student Spotlight

Rebecca Graubart, custom-designed major ’26, knew for years she wanted to study abroad because she loves to travel and experience different cultures. Her minor in Spanish and her major, focusing on health sciences, natural sciences, psychology and global healthcare, allow her to examine the overlap between healthcare and Latin American culture and play into her passion for travel. The hardest part about studying abroad, she says, was deciding where to go. Ultimately, Graubart, who is on the pre-physician assistant track, chose Drexel’s Healthcare in Latin America program with the International Center for Development Studies in Costa Rica because she could take classes in healthcare while also improving her Spanish skills.

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

From the Dean

The Pennoni Honors College is in full swing. Bentley hums with life, after the stalled period of the COVID pandemic and the slow start last year as we acclimated to face-to-face learning and socializing. Students now work on jigsaw puzzles in front of the fireplace in the Annette Pennoni Living Room (see page 27), gather around the piano in the corner of that space (brought in and tuned for our recent Opera Night (see page 8)), attend Honors colloquia and Great Works courses in the seminar rooms and meet in study groups and informal chats on the comfortable chairs that spot the first floor and the second-floor Collaboratory.

We have ramped up our programming and find attendance is robust. We have embarked on the second year of our Teagle-supported Program in Civic Foundations, which we plan to scale up further next year. Our 2023 STAR students have now been selected, and we have learned who has received fellowships (a big first triumph) this year is by Darrell Omo-Lamai, BS/MS materials science ’13, Honors, who received the Knight-Hennessey Fellowship at Stanford, and Sky Harper, chemistry ’24, Honors, who received the Truman Scholarship (see page 10).

Aspire students are drafting introductions to potential mentors, and we have organized a variety of Pennoni Panels and Wednesdays at Bentley events for students, faculty, and community members. We also offered an innovative series of structured, moderated conversations under the new “Can We Talk?” initiative (see page 24). Meanwhile, Pennoni Playground is helping students relax with a variety of fun activities and accompanying food (see page 27)!

It’s clear students crave in-person engagement and seem to be happier and more productive as a result of it. We are so grateful to our benefactors for helping to support our programs and events. Budgets are tight here, as at many universities, and we hope you will continue to be generous. Pennoni is a happy place, which makes it a great place to learn!

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Dean: Dr. Paula Marantz Cohen

Editorial Staff

Editor: Erica Levi Zelinger

Copy Editor: Dr. Melinda Lewis

Designer: Isabella Akhtarshenas

Graphic Design Co-op: Felicia Wolfer

Administration

Director of Administration & Finance: Ann Alexander

Executive Assistant to the Dean: Karen Sams

Director of Strategy: Dr. Melinda Lewis

Honor Bound Magazine is published biannually by the Marketing & Media team of Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College.
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Comments? Contact us at pennoni@drexel.edu
ERICA LEVI ZELINGER
17 Augmenting His Reality
In Brief 12 Laying the Foundation
Contents Spring/Summer 2023 2

Academic Programs

Director: Dr. Kevin D. Egan

Associate Director: Dr. Katie Barak

Associate Director, Honors Program: Julia Wisniewski

Program Manager: Lauren Davis

Academic Advisor, Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry: Charlotte Shreve

Marketing & Media

Director: Erica Levi Zelinger

Associate Director: Brian Kantorek

Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs

Director: Jaya Mohan

Associate Director: Leah Gates

Associate Director: Kelly Weissberger

Associate Director: Emily Kashka-Ginsburg

Assistant Director: Cara Fantini

Program Manager: Roxane Lovell

Program Manager for Outreach: Rachel James

Support

You

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the
Pennoni Honors College
the Honors
Fike Nannery sef82@drexel.edu 989.576.1309 30 20 Piloting a New Program BY EMILY KASHKA-GINSBURG AND JAYA MOHAN Going Dutch 24 Can We Talk? ON THE COVER Alumni News
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
College, contact: Sarah
27 Pennoni Playground
BY ERICA LEVI ZELINGER
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Front cover: photo courtesy of Priyani Sharma; Back cover: photo courtesy of Jana Lenart

In Brief

10 Honors Students Attend the Largest Conference for Women in Engineering and Technology

With the help of Pennoni Honors College, the Drexel chapter of Society for Women in Engineers was able to support 10 honors students to attend the WE22 National Conference in Houston in October. Students attended networking events, a career fair, information sessions, and even interviewed with engineering companies, gaining invaluable experience.

Jillian McCarthy, environmental engineering ’25, attended a Resiliency from Coast to Coast session and she waited patiently to talk to the presenter afterward.

“She then invited me for lunch the next day to further discuss what it takes to work as a professional ocean engineer,” McCarthy says. “She happily answered all my probing questions and shared her personal information with me so I could keep in contact with her. To me, this interaction was more than just an opportunity to expand my network — it gave me a newfound sense of confidence in my desire to pursue a career in coastal work.

For Elizabeth Le, civil and architectural engineering ’24, it was especially beneficial to meet other professionals of color to discuss the dynamics of being one — if not the only — minority in a workplace dominated by men.

“I related to their experiences, and it was very uplifting seeing other minorities overcome even more difficult situations than what I’ve experienced — especially since I’ve barely started my career and have thought of giving up before because I am unable to deeply relate to anyone in my office," says Le. "I learned that it’s easy to give up, but in the end making it far into my career would be the best win.” —Karli Akin, materials science and engineering ’23

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Conference-Con

Building Civic Foundations

Dr. Kevin Egan, Pennoni Honors College’s director of academic programs and Lauren Davis, Pennoni’s assistant director of academic operations, presented "Program in Civic Foundations—Explorations and Examinations of American Civic Space" at the American Association of Colleges and Universities Conference in San Francisco in January.

Talking Candidly

Cara Fantini, Pennoni’s assistant director of Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs (UREP), presented about UREP’s Candid Conversations series during Drexel’s Annual Critical Conversations in Urban Education (CCUE) 2023 Social Justice Leadership Summit.

Picked to Present Research

As a physical therapy student attendee and platform presenter at the American Physical Therapy Association’s CSM conference, I had an incredible experience that left me feeling inspired, grateful and excited for the future of our field. The education sessions were phenomenal, covering a wide range of topics that showcased the latest research and best practices in physical therapy. I particularly enjoyed the sessions on acute care and geriatrics, which were relevant to my interests and provided me with new insights and perspectives.

The poster and platform presentations were also impressive, with researchers and clinicians presenting their work on a variety of topics. It was exciting to see the latest research in our field, and I enjoyed sharing my research with Dr. Annalisa Na on clinician perspectives on identifying and assessing pain among community-dwelling older adults living with dementia.

The exhibit halls were also a highlight, with dozens of vendors showcasing the latest technology, equipment and resources for physical therapists. It was inspiring to see how much innovation is happening in our field, and how these advancements can ultimately benefit our patients.

But what truly made the conference special was the people. The energy and enthusiasm of the attendees were contagious, and it was clear that everyone was there because of their passion and dedication to physical therapy. It was inspiring to see so many individuals working together to advance the field and improve patient care.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this conference and to be a part of such an amazing community. I am especially thankful for my research mentor, Dr. Na, and the Drexel DPT faculty for their guidance and support on my journey. Their mentorship has helped me grow as a student clinician and researcher and has prepared me to make a positive impact in our field.I can't wait to see what advancements and breakthroughs the future holds for our field, and to be a part of it all! —Amy

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Health sciences student Amy Kwok attends and presents at a conference in her field.

In Brief

Drexel Students Host First-Ever Youth Conference on Climate

In an era demanding environmental action and equity, students are advancing community-centered climate solutions through collaborative research, education, civic engagement and public programming. Over 130 delegates from across the country came together in September for America’s first ever Local Conference of Youth (LCOY USA), hosted at Drexel and the Academy of Natural Sciences. The three-day conference was organized by Drexel undergraduates along with a team of youth organizers across the country.

Delegates at the conference drafted the United States’ National Youth Statement on Climate, representing the voice of a young generation and its climate demands to help protect future generations. The national statement was submitted for inclusion in the Global Youth Statement, which was later presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. LCOY organizers also traveled to Washington D.C. to present the outcomes of LCOY USA to Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and a member of the National Climate Taskforce.

“Organizing America’s first-ever LCOY USA was a complete moonshot idea, and the initial buy-in we received was based on the belief in our mission to amplify young voices — not only in climate action, but in general in the United States,” explains Atharva Bhagwat, a fifth-year custom-design major studying computing technology for sustainability and society. “We hoped to connect youth activists not only with each other, but with the global movement in climate action. It was surreal to see this idea come so far and become reality.”

Last year, Bhagwat and fellow LCOY co-organizer Sarah Wetzel, BA/MPH, public health ‘23, traveled to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow with funding from the Pennoni Honors College and Office of Global Engagement. The students built on this experience to team up with youth from across the United States and organize the first LCOY USA.

When applications to become a delegate opened in early August, numerous responses poured in from both Drexel and across the country. In the end, the LCOY team selected over 130 delegates from 24 states to attend.

“When we were reviewing delegate applications, we were only reading a few words about these individuals,” says Bhagwat. “They were all very impressive people, but to actually see them — having traveled from across the country to be here in person — was noteworthy. When you put a group of climate activists in one room, there’s bound to be striking and engaging conversations going on. Being in that environment was rewarding."

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Drexel students and LCOY organizers Atharva Bhagwat (top) and Sarah Wetzel (bottom). Photos courtesy of Diego Lopez.

Going for Gold

Four Drexel students have been selected as Goldwater Scholars this year, a new record for the institution. The Goldwater Scholarship honors juniors and seniors who have distinguished themselves as emerging researchers and are committed to pursuing research careers in STEM. Students must be nominated by their institutions to apply, and Drexel selected five exceptional nominees from a competitive pool of applicants last fall. Nominees spent three months working closely with a UREP advisor and faculty mentors to revise their applications for the national competition. Nationwide, the Goldwater Scholarship selected 413 Scholars from 1,267 nominees put forward by 427 colleges and universities. Drexel’s newest Goldwater Scholars are:

Put it in Writing

In teaching his English 100: Introduction to Composition course, writer Marek Makowski, chose not to teach from decades-old anthologies and dust-collecting artifacts, but from new writers. He wanted to push his students out of their high school bubbles and he gave them a lesson he’d recently learned himself: Explore the everyday object; chairs have as much importance as philosophy or love. He then wrote about their writing in a 2021 essay, “Who are the Writers Now?” featured in The Smart Set, Pennoni’s online arts and culture journal. Makowski’s essay was recently listed as a notable essay in Best American Essays.

“These were 18-year-olds used to writing about symbols and deeper meaning in long high school essays they hated,” Makowski wrote. “They were used to typing extra words in each line to fill out each page. They were trained to write like robots, without style or voice, without histories or heartbeats in the fingers that pressed the keys, machines for consulting SparkNotes and producing what they thought their teachers wanted them to say.”

Read the essay in full here:

Putting Their Research on Display

Pennoni Honors College’s Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs supported several students by arranging and funding accommodations as well as $250 travel grants for expenses to the National Collegiate Research Conference, hosted by Harvard University each year to promote and celebrate undergraduate research. This January, along with attending keynote speaker sessions and workshops, Honors College students presented the following posters:

Alyssa Kemp, BS environmental engineering ’25 “A Community-Focused Analysis of Heat Mitigation Techniques in Hunting, Park, Philadelphia”

Nicole Marie, BS psychology ’25, College of Arts and Sciences

“College Students’ Perception of School-Based Mental Health Services: A Scoping Review”

Kejsi Ruka, BS global studies ’24, College of Arts and Sciences

“Corruption in not an Equal Opportunity Institution: A Gendered Analysis of Anti-Corruption Training”

Nawal Syed, BS biological sciences ’25, College of Arts and Sciences

“Sex-Related Differences in PACAP Expression in the PVT of Rats”

Alex Zavelny, BS computer science ’25, College of Computing and Informatics

“Deep Learning Tools for Finding Bias in Shark Tank Venture Capital Decision Making”

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Marley Downes BS/MS materials science & engineering ’24, Honors Olivia Jones BS/MS biomedical engineering ’24, Honors Julian Marmo electrical engineering ’24
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Stefan Wagner computer science and mathematics ’24

In Brief

A Night at the Opera

One of the highlights of the winter term was Opera Night with the Academy of Vocal Music (AVA). The AVA is among the premier graduate schools in opera in the country; its students go on to the world’s great opera houses — since 1980, over 50 have joined the Metropolitan Opera’s roster alone.

The AVA performance in the Annette Pennoni Living Room at Bentley Hall consisted of great arias alternating with famous showtunes. Highlights included fourth-year tenor Zachary Rioux’s jaunty rendition of the aria from Verdi’s Rigoletto, “La donna è mobile (woman is fickle)”, thirdyear baritone Benjamin Dickerson soulful “Some Enchanted Evening” from Richard Rogers’ South Pacific; first-year mezzo-soprano Jenny Anne Flory and fourth-year soprano Emily Margevich’s sprightly duet, “Barcarolle,” from Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann; and fourth-year soprano Yihan Duan and Zack Rioux romantic excerpts from La Bohème

by Puccini — a duet that had some of our students gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. (Duan, a native of China who came to the U.S. to study at the AVA, is currently a semi-finalist in the hugely prestigious Metropolitan Opera competition whose finals are coming up soon.) The evening concluded with a rousing rendition by all five singers of “Wunderbar” from Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate

The performances were accompanied on the piano by the incomparable José Melendez, who played without break for the entire hour-long program.

It was an inspiring event — an introduction to opera for many students. Those present for the concert sat enthralled and those who were coming in and out of Bentley Hall stopped in their tracks. Truly an evening to remember!

Keyed Up

In preparation for A Night at the Opera, Pennoni had the piano moved from the first floor student kitchen to the Bentley Hall lobby and had it retuned. In turn, we now invite students to sit down and play (as long as there are no classes in session!) and now showtunes, Billy Joel and movie soundtracks resonate often throughout the College.

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Pure & Simple

In partnership with Drexel Hillel and Judaic Studies, Pennoni brought in writer and translator, David Stromberg to read from his new translation of Simple Gimpl, the Definitive Bilingual Edition. One of the most influential stories of the 20th century, Nobel Prize laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Simple Gimpl is the story about a hapless yet charmingly resilient baker named Gimpl, who resists taking revenge on the town that makes him the butt of every joke. Stromberg read excerpts from his new, gorgeously produced, bilingual edition of Singer’s classic, and answered questions about his translation process, his work with the Isaac Bashevis Singer Literary Trust, and his own background and research.

“That was one of the best events I’ve ever attended — anywhere,” said assistant teaching professor Toni Pitock of Drexel’s Department of History.

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A Knight to Remember

Darrell Omo-Lamai, BS/MS materials science ’23, Honors, was named a recipient of the Knight-Hennessy Scholars program at Stanford University. This interdisciplinary leadership program for graduate students selects only 158 finalists from more than 11,000 applicants, from which a final cohort of 100 Scholars was selected. Darrell will receive up to three years of funding for his graduate studies at Stanford and participate in a variety of cocurricular and leadership development activities with other Scholars. He had already been accepted to Stanford’s doctoral program in materials science, where he hopes to continue his research on sustainable energy storage solutions. During his time at Drexel, Darrell has been an active part of Pennoni, being selected as a STAR Scholar, an Aspire Scholar, and a student ambassador for Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs.

Speaking the Same Language

Drexel set an institutional record with 12 applicants and two semi-finalists — including one recipient — this year to the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. CLS offers 6-10 week intensive summer language institutes in critical foreign languages for undergraduate and graduate students. The program is part of a U.S. government effort to expand dramatically the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Languages applied for include Korean, Hindi, Turkish, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese and Japanese. Andrea Eleazar, public health ’23 was selected for Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of Indonesia. During her time at Drexel, Andrea participated in the Honors Program and was a 2020 STAR Scholar, a 2020-21 Aspire Scholar and a UREP ambassador.

AIM FOR THE

SKY

Sky Harper, chemistry ’24, Honors, has been selected to receive the prestigious Truman Scholarship, which invests in college juniors pursuing careers in public service. About 60 Truman Scholars representing all 50 states were selected from a nationwide pool of more than 700 students nominated by their institutions. He was also featured on Forbes.com for this accomplishment. Sky was previously recognized nationally for his leadership in research and public service when he received the Goldwater Scholarship and the Udall Scholarship last year. At Drexel, he is an active member of the Honors program and has participated in STAR Scholars, Aspire Scholars, and the UREP student ambassadors.

In Brief
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Analyzing the Affordable Housing Crisis in West Philadelphia

The Center for Civil Discourse continues its popular, longstanding Pennoni Panels series — free and open to the public — where select experts offer a range of opinion on hot-button and controversial topics in front of an enthusiastic audience. A recent installment, “Exploring the Affordable Housing Crisis” — in collaboration with the Office of University & Community Partnerships and the Office of the Provost — was no exception. The scheduled panel discussion was initially disrupted by protestors (including students of Pennoni Honors College, allied with Drexel for Justice on behalf of community neighbors seeking affordable housing in Philadelphia).

Dr. Ayana Allen-Handy and four panelists representing this work found themselves confronted by the student activists, standing one by one to raise concerns related to a weeks-long sit-in at Main Building. Dr. Allen-Handy, the panelists, and audience all listened to the frustration and demands voiced by the protestors, who eventually dispersed and the discourse got underway.

The ensuing panel discussion uncovered complexities in affordable housing, the relationships between neighborhoods and educational institutions, the realities of political and financial constraints, and how key advocates can work to effect and sustain positive change.

“UC Townhomes is scary to most people like me who work in this space because we knew it was coming,” says panelist Tya Winn, executive director of Community Design Collaborative, a non-profit that partners with communities to strengthen neighborhoods. “It was not a surprise. And there’s six more right behind it. So what is the precedent that we set? And what are we going to do next time, because the next time is going to be in six months.”

Scan the QR code here to view the event and protest in full — and please join us for a future installment of Pennoni Panels. —Brian

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Laying the Foundation

Pennoni’s Program in Civic Foundations serves as groundwork for two psychology majors

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Among the audience members at the Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities at President Lincoln’s Cottage historic site and museum in Washington, D.C. in October were Alexandra Goodin, psychology ’25, and Lex Gorman, psychology ’25, both from the first cohort of Pennoni’s Program in Civic Foundations (PCF).

In his lecture, titled “The Question of Reparations: Our Past, Our Present, Our Future,” Andrew Delbanco, the president of the Teagle Foundation, addressed reparations for slavery in the United States.

“The populist anger emanating today from both left and right present an opportunity to turn antagonism into alliance,” Delbanco said in his powerful address, the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

And Delbanco’s sentiment was apropos to the two Drexel students in the PCF, funded by a Teagle Planning Grant, not just because of the Teagle connection but because he reinforced the spirit of the program — learning from the ideas that have shaped America’s civic space in order to reflect on the challenges of the future.

The 2021-22 pilot cohort of 15 students engaged in concepts of community, identity, and the systems of power that frame our current civic landscape — while all around them society experienced political upheaval and a milestone moment for activist movements.

Trips to local institutions like Eastern State Penitentiary and the Museum of the American Revolution, allowed students to develop connections between their classroom experience and topics such as prison reform and economic inequality.

“Alexandra and Lex were chosen to attend the speech because of their ongoing and active engagement with the Honors Program,” says Dr. Kevin Egan, director of Pennoni’s Academic Programs. “All the students who took part in our inaugural cohort are outstanding representatives of the Program, and Alexandra and Lex have carried that through by serving in a number of different capacities on behalf of the Program. They have really embraced the kind of involvement we hoped to cultivate in participating students.”

While Alexandra and Lex are both sophomore psychology majors, their interests and career goals diverge — and yet the Program in Civic Foundations provided a lens through which they both could examine their coursework and society.

“This program has given me such a well-rounded awareness of social justice and being able to engage in the current social climate,” Alexandra says. “For the STEM students in the program, they wanted to make sure they didn’t lose the humanities aspect of their education. For me, the program so naturally complements the psych major. As I was learning about these civil rights and social justice topics, I was thinking about them from a psychological standpoint and how they were manifested.”

Lex, who Alexandra describes as very intentional and articulate, was intrigued by the program because she’s always had a strong interest in civil rights and social justice.

“I was excited to be with people who had the same excitement and interest in politics and the basis of democracy,” she says.

Originally from Connecticut, Alexandra wanted to gain a particular awareness of and be a part of the Philadelphia community.

“I volunteered at schools and a local library in high school, so I was drawn to this program not just for the lessons in civic engagement but because I was going to be a part of a new and different community. I am interested in working in impoverished school districts or low income communities, and this program has given me a solid foundation for my future career.”

Alexandra, who Lex admires for her organizational skills and sense of self, is now considering career options — she’s contemplating getting a master’s and PhD in clinical psychology or mental health childcare. Lex is thinking about a research career in forensic psychology or law school.

Another benefit to being a part of this program, Alexandra adds, is being given the space to talk and take the conversation in whatever direction the cohort needs to.

“We had a mutual respect. It was about our knowledge and our interpretation of the texts,” she says. “I hadn’t experienced anything like this before. It was really helpful and empowering when you’re a first year and at the most vulnerable time in your life.”

Career Clarity

One Aspire Scholar’s professional trajectory is anything but straight … and that’s ok with him

Junior Elias Gkouveris was walking with a friend after class, talking excitedly about a pre-law course he was taking.

“Wait, didn’t you just say you were going into computer science,” the friend replied. “Make up your mind.”

But Elias isn’t sure he has to.

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“Ambition can’t wait … but maybe there should be an asterisk,” Elias, physics ’25, jokes. “I have ambition. The ambition is there, but I try to approach these things as if I was going to have a career in all of them. I’m not getting enough information if I don’t delve into each.”

When Elias was accepted into Pennoni’s Aspire Scholars Program as a sophomore, he had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted his future to look like: Get a bachelor’s degree in physics, go to grad school, get a PhD in theoretical physics, find a job as a professor, focus on his own research.

But he applied to the program because he’d become so rigid in his physics intentions, and had all these other passions. Then he started asking himself if physics was, in fact, what he wanted to do. Would he be fulfilled?

“Aspire was there for me to figure it out more,” he says. “If I’m asked what I want to do — in my mind, I understand. But it’s hard to express. I know what I want, but I couldn’t describe it. I wanted to be able to describe it.”

Elias’s path at Drexel has not been as clear cut as some of his classmates. He started off as a mechanical engineering major. He’d taken engineering in high school and had a strong desire for both theoretical and hands-on knowledge. But by spring of his first year, Elias switched to physics; he started to realize through club involvement that engineering is an application of physics and he actually gravitated toward the “why” of it all.

The 2021-22 Aspire Scholars program further allowed him the time to pause and reflect and then to develop and clarify his goals, working with a group of 14 peers to receive guidance and mentorship from staff and faculty.

“I had been coming at physics from the point of view of becoming a professor, working at a university,” he admits. “I started looking around while I was in my physics classes … putting myself in the shoes of the professor teaching and thinking, ‘Did I want to be doing what he is doing right now?’”

What was most comforting about Aspire is that no matter the major, he was surrounded by students who were looking for the same clarity.

“It was nice to know there were people going through the same thing,” he says. “You don’t realize how many students don’t actually have focused career goals.”

Aspire pushed Elias to have more intentional conversations with his peers, club members and family. Chats with students in the Society of Physics, Drexel Gaming Association, Audio Engineering Society — even Drexel’s Taekwondo Club — gave Elias a

Ambition can’t wait … but maybe there should be an asterisk. “ “ 15
Ambition can’t wait … but maybe there should be an asterisk.

chance to make connections in and out of his field. An informational “interview” with his uncle, once an engineer and now a patent attorney, led him to see the benefits a physics background could bring to a career like law. So Elias joined the Biddle Law Society. He enrolled in a law class. He applied for law co-ops. He began thinking about patent law and how he could keep up to date with new inventions and theories in physics, but look at the field from a different vantage point.

But law, he acknowledges, might not be the final choice. Computer science, as his friend confusedly pointed out, is also a career contender.

“My plans for the future have significantly changed over my time as an Aspire Scholar,” Elias wrote in his final Aspire project. “There are many unknowns about it, and I’m a lot more open to changing things about my career now than I used to be.”

Passion Plans

sions and current passions led me to where I academically am today and are valuable to my career moving forward despite if they are related to my career field or not.”

“I realized that all of my passions in the past that have been seemingly unrelated have led me to be the person that I am right now,” Eva says in a video voiceover. “I can define some of these things as passions even though they were just for specific times in my life. All of those past pas-

Skills that work across disciplines, Kraus discovered, make her well-rounded, a better job applicant and a trail blazer.

“I’m not scattered … I’m just diverse.”

Fellow Aspire Scholar, Eva Kraus, biomedical engineering ‘25, narrated a final video project that she wrote, sharing a similar sentiment as Elias Gkouveris.
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Augmenting His Reality

Augmenting His Reality

The idea for a former STAR Scholar’s recently acquired company started right here at Drexel

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Going Dutch

Students learn first-hand about the difference in social justice policies between Philadelphia and Amsterdam

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Photo courtesy of Jana Lenart

She was struck by the beauty of the Dutch landscape, with its winding canals and picturesque villages, Priyani Sharma wrote about her winter break trip to The Netherlands. But her reflections hardly read like a typical travel journal. They also serve as an analysis of the social welfare and progressive policies of the European nation.

“I think The Netherlands has one of the most progressive systems in the world with women leaders being at the forefront of government; gay marriage has been legalized in The Netherlands since 2001; they place emphasis on the beautiful built environment and spaces for social housing; the integration of diverse communities through housing policies shows social cohesion; green and environmentally sustainable policies give priority to bikes, a well-established waste management system encourages individual responsibility; and the list goes on,” Sharma wrote.

Charged with writing thought pieces following their fall term of Global Classroom and an intensive course abroad to The Netherlands, Priyani and eight Honors Program students described similar sentiments about their observations of Amsterdam and the Dutch countryside: diverse, tolerant and clean.

The junior global studies major peppered her write-up with cultural reflections, lessons learned about herself and tips for visiting, but the most meaningful ruminations showcase the similarities between the structures and systems in the U.S. and the European country and the differences in how they approach societal issues.

The Honors students wrote their culminating papers for Just Cities, a classroom partnership between Drexel and The Netherland’s Hogeschool designed to incorporate a global dimension to a course on social justice policies in Philadelphia and Amsterdam. Conceived and co-taught by Cyndi Rickards, associate teaching professor of criminology & justice studies, and director of the justice studies program, the course explores how issues such as employment, immigration, race, education, health care, and policing support healthy communities or perpetuate injustice.

Excerpts and images from some of their reflections detail the complexity: praxis of justice:

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Photo courtesy of Priyani Sharma

Erika Garro, materials science & engineering ‘23

I think around halfway through the trip I realized that even though they may have better systems [in the Netherlands] than the United States in many ways, that does not necessarily mean that they should stop trying to make improvements to their own systems just because they have things a bit better than we may. Instead, I just felt disappointed in the way the United States and Philadelphia handles things with such a clear disregard for the people they are meant to serve.

The city as a whole, however, felt much less rushed than it does here. People walked a bit slower and seemed to enjoy their days out in the cold, whereas here everyone is rushing around one another. It was nice to feel safe walking around in the middle of the night while we went out exploring, and I found myself looking over my shoulder a bit less as the trip went on as compared to living here on campus.

Meghan Peng, biological sciences ‘23

Listening to the speakers was one of my favorite parts of the trip since I got to see all of the new ideas I was learning in action when we were walking around Amsterdam. One of the speakers that surprised me the most was the police at the Hague. I was so used to seeing the police around Philadelphia approach people with suspicion or hostility that hearing about the Dutch approach towards community building and approaching with low aggression opened my eyes to alternative methods of policing. Especially with the relevance of the World Cup in certain communities in the Hague, it was interesting to hear about how the police could capitalize on existing community relationships and trust to help manage potentially riotous crowds.

It was also interesting to learn about how the voting system operates in the Netherlands and how too many choices could potentially slow down the political process. For example, the newly elected government officials took office 10 months after they had won their elections because certain compromises couldn’t be reached. This voting system can also dissuade younger voters from participating in the political system. Hearing about this system gave me a new perspective on our bipartisan system, as learning about the candidates in only two parties can be overwhelming for me. It was also nice to learn about the students’ perspectives on these issues and how these social issues impacted their daily lives.

Photo courtesy of Cyndi Rickards Photo courtesy of Cyndi Rickards
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Photo courtesy of Meghan Peng

Jana Lenart, biological sciences ‘24

The greatest shock was simply the difference in cleanliness and safety of their public transit system relative to ours in Philadelphia. The train and metro stations were clean, with very little debris and waste to be found. It smelled pleasant and appeared very well maintained. The station was also well populated with both travelers and transit personnel, many of whom were quiet and respectful — a drastic change from my experiences with Philadelphia’s SEPTA transit system. Relatively speaking, I felt safe and like I could let my guard down more than I would ever feel comfortable with back at home. In continuing to utilize the transit throughout the week, it was also clear how much more efficient and reliable the trains were and simplicity of use and accessibility. The city as a whole was also structured in a way that was friendly to a variety of commuters and emphasized the safety of everyone from drivers to bicyclists and pedestrians.

One of the things that impressed me the most was how the Netherlands has handled the challenges that arise with heavy drug users in the community. Instead of criminalizing drug use, they have implemented a harm reduction approach, which focuses on reducing the negative consequences of drug use rather than trying to eliminate it completely. This approach has been successful in reducing the number of drug-related deaths and HIV infections, and it was enlightening to learn about a different approach to a complex issue … It was very impressive to me because Amsterdam is considered a central hub for the global drug market and even then, they were able to manage the problems that arise with addiction with effective stakeholder integration. Since the drug epidemic is a prolonged and fatal societal issue in the United States, there is much learning we can do from the Dutch systems.

Erica Miller, construction management ‘25

The social aspect of the trip was great. I loved having the previous connection with the Dutch students from when they visited Philly. It was rather easy to talk with them because we all were so curious about each other’s way of life. I learned the most through casual conversations at dinner next to “the Dutchies.” I also appreciate that the Dutch students say things straight forward so as to not beat around the bush. This is something different from American culture but informative and efficient. I learned that even with a bit of a language barrier, people will always find a way to communicate and have much in common.

Photo courtesy of Priyani Sharma Photo courtesy of Cyndi Rickards Priyani Sharma, global studies ‘24

Can We Talk?

A group of Honors Program students studied civility and then put to practice what they learned

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Can We Talk? was a discussion that was truly like no other that I have every had with other college students. This was the first real discussion I was able to have with others close to my age and from different backgrounds where I felt I was in an environment that was safe enough for me to share my opinions as well as be able to learn from others. All ground rules set in place were effective in maintaining a productive and respectful discussion. I valued most the ground rules of listening to each other and the ability to admit you learned something new or if you were wrong. I appreciated these rules the most because that is where the conversations I have witnessed in the past have gone wrong; one does not listen to the other and egos and pride were so profound that no one could admit they were wrong. They allowed us to respectfully disagree with

Many of the political conversations that Elisabeth Dumont has witnessed during her time at Drexel have been very one-sided and volatile. These discussions often involve a lack of listening and were grounded in a goal to outwit the “opponent.”

So, Dumont, a senior nursing major from Southbury, Connecticut, was intrigued about a new class that teaches Honors students how to engage in tough conversations.

As part of that class, she also took part in Can We Talk?, a student dialogue presented by Pennoni’s Center for Civil Discourse that brought together about 130 students from Drexel and three other campuses. Now in its seventh year, the Can We Talk? initiative began in 2017 at the University of Pennsylvania.

The course helped students explore different concepts of civility and how they influence interactions in workplaces, families, online and in the work of democratic self-governance. The Honors students then got a chance to put the course concepts to work at two Can We Talk? forums held during the fall term.

On an evening last November, Bentley Hall buzzed with activity as students from Drexel, UPenn, the University of Virginia and Point Park University came together — in person and on Zoom — to talk about issues ranging from gun control to immigration to Kanye West.

one another rather than have to sit politely and listen. These rules can also apply to the real world because staying quiet in certain conversations where you disagree can lead to resentment and further brewing of the issue in one’s mind.

Our most productive discussion revolved around our thoughts on gun control laws as well as the media’s role when reporting gun violence. Some members of my group believed guns, particularly military grade machine rifles should not be allowed in the hands of the public, while others believed it wasn’t necessarily the guns that were the root of the issue, but rather the people who own them. We ultimately came to the agreement that background checks should be a priority when one wants to buy a gun. This will ensure public safety as well as safe intention towards the gun’s use. Regardless of point of view, each member

listened attentively to one another and was willing to hear out multiple opinions which either contributed to theirs or differed.

I would also like to point out the professionality maintained by the moderator. In addition to this, she actively listened to our statements to the prompts and guided our answers further along with questions. Although my group was able to speak fairly well with one another, our moderator did an excellent job with facilitating discussion, keeping it on topic, and asking us thoughtful questions in order for us to critically think about our statements to the prompts.

Overall, this discussion was incredibly civil and professional, and provided a safe environment for all to share their thoughts. I will definitely take everything I have learned and the conversational skills I have gained through this discussion into conversations I may have in the future.

That is where the conversations I have witnessed in the past have gone wrong; one does not listen to the other and egos and pride were so profound that no one could admit they were wrong.
—Elisabeth Dumont
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Here are Elisabeth Dumont’s reflections from a paper she wrote about the event:

I feel I have rarely experienced an environment outside my immediate family where my opinions are welcomed or explored for understanding, and have experienced multiple environments at Drexel where positions I agree with (or do not agree with, but nevertheless understand and have some measure of sympathy for) are held up in caricature or derision, which has made it difficult to risk sharing my opinions or raising other opinions I don’t necessarily agree with, but think are relevant to or missing from the conversation, for fear of the response (which in fairness, in absence of ever raising my opinions, could also be an exaggerated fear).

After we closed for the evening, two of the other members of our discussion group actually came up to me separately to thank me for sharing views they didn’t expect to hear and were really kind and encouraging. I left very glad to have had the opportunity to engage in productive discussion gaining better understanding of others, and helping others to understand my perspective and other perspectives not present in the room.

One of the ground rules that I started using throughout the conversations was listening. When others are talking, I tend to focus on building my arguments rather than fully listening to them and their argument.

Having a moderator present was a great aspect of our conversation; I wish I could have a moderator with me for all my social interactions. Our moderator was responsible for managing a lot of the things that bring me anxiety in conversations, like filling the space when the conversations fall silent, comprehending and retaining the main points of what others say, and creating space for us to unpack difficult or misunderstood concepts. Having a moderator felt like a weight was lifted off my brain, and I think made everyone more comfortable sharing what they really thought. Having a referee of sorts meant that even if things became uncivil or uncomfortable, there was someone there to get the group back on track and avoid blaming individuals.

Growing up outside of D.C., I have been surrounded by political conversations my whole life. Never did I think I’d be able to have one that didn’t end in frustration and anger.

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Playingat Pennoni

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Pennoni Playground — an enjoyable objective — or an alliterative initiative — began in Fall 2022 just as Damian Mozier’s college career got underway.

Created to encourage students to play and experience joy, the aim is to make Pennoni Honors College’s home in Bentley Hall a place where students come to decompress, make new friends, grab study snacks, and have fun — with no strings attached.

The Playground team of Brian Kantorek, Dr. Melinda Lewis, Karen Sams, Julia Wisniewski and Erica Zelinger, informed by a survey of College students, began planning events involving crafts, games, live animals, low-pressure networking and activities where you can just stop by.

Damian, biomedical engineering ’27, acknowledges that playtime is just what he needs to unwind from his schedule jam-packed with classes and exams.

“College is so full of work and stress that it’s important to remember that there are other things in life that matter,” he says. “If I don’t take the time to relax and let my brain rest, I run the risk of burning out.”

The playful concept was introduced at Welcome Week and the Playground team rolled out a calendar of fun in autumn with pumpkin painting, Game Night (everything from bocce to bingo and Risk to raffles), Movie Night, Trick or Treating, and the beloved Philly Goat Project, a local non-profit that parades its Nubian and Nigerian Dwarf goats to Bentley’s front lawn for photo opps, feeding, petting and livestock learning.

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During winter term, students came out in record numbers for Pennoni Playground’s Meet-Up & Mocktails. Whether it was the Dean’s Fizz, Class in a Glass, Enrich de Mint, Discourse Daquiri or Writer’s Mock, students were eager to sip a beverage and make casual conversation with others.

“I absolutely loved the mocktail event,” Damian says energetically. “The drinks were creative, and my friends and I had a blast. It was something low-commitment we were able to pop into and just relax while getting a chance to talk to some new faces.”

The college also handed out candies and snacks in the Bentley Lobby to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and a small group worked with Michele Rattigan, in Drexel’s College of Nursing & Health Profession’s Creative Arts Therapies Department, to learn how to be your own best cheerleader because, as Michele says, “self-compassion isn’t selfish!”

For Valentine’s Day, students blossomed at a bouquet-making workshop and in March they got their Bob Ross on with a Paint & Sip session. Masterpieces included the Matador, a duck holding a baguette, cats and attractive abstract designs.

“We believe all Drexel students need to step away from schoolwork once in a while and play,” says Erica Levi Zelinger, Pennoni’s director of marketing and media. “Play cards. Play ball. Play well with others.”

More impromptu programming included a pre-Super Bowl party with trivia (Dean Paula Marantz Cohen came out sporting an Eagles jersey), Pi Day with a special delivery of Philly’s favorite — Tastykakes, and adding jigsaw puzzles to the Annette Pennoni Living Room.

And Pennoni students seemed anything but puzzled over the growing number of puzzles that kept appearing in their space. It seems each time a new cardboard creation appears on the shelves of the Annette Pennoni Living Room, students piece together pictures of — dragons and Where’s Waldo? — even a clear puzzle and a co-op-painted image-turned puzzle of Bentley Hall.

Abracadabra — spring term included a magic show with English professor and man of mystery, Fred Siegel; what was supposed to be yoga on the Bentley lawn (but got moved inside because of rain) with the Honors College’s favorite Karen, Karen Sams; and an old-fashioned Bingo Night with gift cards and raffle prizes.

“No matter how old you are who doesn’t like a good magic show or a chance to play games with their friends?” jokes Damian. “It’s not just about recharging either. ‘Play’ is a great way to foster new relationships and get to know those around you in a non-academic environment where you have more freedom to let loose.”

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We believe all Drexel students need to step away from schoolwork once in a while and play. Play cards. Play ball. Play well with others.

Piloting a new Program

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the Undergraduate Research & Enrichment Programs

team ran a pilot of the Research Fellowship Supplement Program (RSFP) this year in collaboration with the Steinbright Career Development Center to support students who apply for the DAAD Research Internships in Science and Engineering (RISE) program.

DAAD RISE is a summer internship program for undergrad students in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences and engineering to work with research groups at universities and research institutions in Germany.

As a full-time, funded research internship, DAAD RISE is a good fit for students who would like to fulfill their co-op requirements while also gaining research experience outside of Drexel. However, in the past, receiving co-op credit for RISE has been a challenge for two reasons: 1. As a summer-only program, RISE is not, on its own, long enough to fulfill the 4-month minimum duration requirement for most programs’ coop cycles; 2. RISE does not notify recipients until February or March. Students had to sit out of Drexel co-op’s A & B Round while they waited to hear whether they had been accepted to RISE, which was a barrier to application for many students.

The RSFP aims to alleviate both of these concerns, allowing more students who would like to apply to RISE to do so, without compromising their ability to have a compelling co-op experience.

Recipients are eligible to receive a $4,000 award through RFSP. If they are accepted to RISE, they can use these funds to support a full-time, paid, on-campus research experience in Spring Term, followed by a summer research internship in Germany through

RISE. If they are not accepted to RISE, they can still use these funds to support a parttime, paid, on-campus research experience in Spring and Summer.

UREP had seven students apply for RISE with support from their office and found out in February that Nhat Nguyen, material science and engineering ‘25, received the internship and two others were waitlisted. Applicants included three Honors Program students, five former STAR Scholars and three first-generation college students. Through RISE, Nguyen will spend the summer in Germany conducting research on the formulation of nanoparticles for drug delivery.

“DAAD-RISE is one of the few fellowship opportunities that is open to non-U.S. citizens,” says Emily Kashka-Ginsburg, associate director of UREP. “Because of this, we tend to get a lot of interest from international students for this award. Launching RFSP makes it even easier for students to participate in RISE, which in turn helps provide more opportunities to international students who often aren’t eligible for similar, federally funded research programs.”

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DAAD RISE is a good fit for students who would like to fulfill their co-op requirements while also gaining research experience outside of Drexel. “

Alumni News

Honors Community

As a new arrival to the Drexel campus 30 years ago, I had the opportunity to be part of the recently created Honors Program that would grow to become the Pennoni Honors College. Today the Program promises a space to grow as academics, professionals and people, and it has consistently delivered on that promise since the very beginning.

The Program brought together people with varied backgrounds, interests, areas of study and created a cohesive community. Toni McMenamin, Roger McCain and Mark Greenberg worked with all members of the program to define a unique experience ranging from Inauguration Day excursions to Honors Ballroom Dancing electives. The Program leaders provided guidance, support and most importantly, a place to be together. The Honors Center was a home base for its members and was where so many of us began and ended our day to share our joys and our frustrations with others that we knew would hear us and understand.

That spirit of community was inspiring and I endeavored to bring what I learned from it to my time as a student athlete, resident assistant and class representative. Since leaving the University, I continue to find inspiration from those long past days and incorporate that sense of community building as a scientist, a team leader and a parent. We had something very special in the Honors Program and it would be unfair not to share as much of it as we can with the world.

Spread the News!

Please send your alumni announcements to pennoni@drexel.edu 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.

Maria Raggousis, BS architectural engineering and MS civil engineering ’18 and Christian Parker, also a Drexel graduate, married on October 15, 2022 in Philadelphia. The couple resides in Washington, D.C. Several Drexel alumni attended the wedding and even one professor, Dr. Aspasia Zerva. Left: Drexel’s Honors Program has long strived to offer a unique academic experience to its members including offering ballroom dancing as a physical education elective in 1996. Right: Peter Buckley and founding dean of Pennoni Honors College, Dr. Mark Greenberg BS bioscience and biotechnology ‘97, MS bioscience and biotechnology ‘02 Above: Peter Buckley and his family. Courtesy of Peter T. Buckley Below: Peter Buckley dancing with fellow Honors student, Jessica Fuhrer
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Photos courtesy of Drexel University Archives

Alumni Spotlight

Jakub Zegar, environmental science ’20, momentarily handled (under state and federal permits) an eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) with its mouth agape (seen below) in an attempt to appear larger than it actually is. Zegar was working to scan the snake for an identifying microchip during an active study of snake ecology in New Jersey. The 2016 STAR Scholar and UREP undergraduate research leader and ambassador is now a graduate student with the Ohmer Lab at the University of Mississippi. He is focusing his studies on the influence of disease and climate change on global amphibian populations. Most recently,

he conducted a project in collaboration with the Voyles Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno where he investigated how acclimation temperature and disease impact the thermal physiology of the critically endangered Panamanian golden frog (Atelopus zeteki) right, — a critically endangered species on the brink of extinction. Once an abundant frog in Panama, this species has experienced drastic declines due to a globalized fungal pathogen. This pathogen, described as the world’s most destructive pathogen, has been directly implicated in the decline of more than 500 species and the extinction of at least 90 species in just the last 50 years.

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