Excelsis | Fall 2021

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Alumni Spotlight


Answering the Call By Travis Malone Dean, Batten Honors College


he Batten Honors College was founded with the primary purpose of developing the next generation of leaders who understand the role that humans play in caring for the environment. This summer, at the same time as I was entering into the Dean’s role, the United Nations announced that their most recent meta-study on climate research called the climate crisis a “Code Red” for the world. It is clear that the world needs the students of the Batten Honors College now, more than ever. As our first graduating class has moved into the next phase of their journey, it was important for us to reflect upon where we are and where we are headed, examine the role scholarship plays in our curriculum, take an active role in leadership development for our students, explore

Brock Environmental Sciences Center


the opportunities afforded to us by our growing global campus, and immerse ourselves in the environmental mission. While these might seem to be disparate approaches, at their best, they develop holistically and in concert with each other throughout the curriculum. If we believe that scholarship, leadership, and stewardship are the center of the BHC experience, then all our work must be focused in that direction. I have been working with a committee of students and faculty to take stock of four years of assessment data and implement changes in the curriculum in order to strengthen our approach to the central mission. Beginning in the Fall of 2022, students will begin a sequence of

courses that will approach the goals of values-based leadership, civic engagement, and environmental stewardship. The renewed focus on the environment will be addressed in all the BHC course work. This will help students understand the many ways their passions, values, and scholarship impact the environment. These courses serve as the core of General Education for the Honors Students. They are paired LIberal Arts courses from across the VWU curriculum so that students can build breadth of understanding that exists outside of their major. This understanding will allow our students to better collaborate with others and provide opportunities for creative problem solving and interdisciplinary communication. This curricular approach will help the next generation of leaders build

the skills they will need to understand a variety of perspectives, work collaboratively with others, bridge divides between ideas and people, and advocate for the environment. We are expanding our commitment to helping students become global citizens. Instead of students taking short-term, faculty-led study away programs, the BHC, in collaboration with our Office for International Programs, has developed a semester-long Global Residency Program. In their second year, BHC students will travel around the world and immerse themselves in a foreign country. Students will learn about intercultural understanding, global issues, and cross-cultural collaboration as they travel and study at some of the world’s finest institutions, including our VWU Global Campus in Tokyo, Japan. When students return, they will bring a global perspective to their upper-level coursework in both the Honors curriculum and their major field of study.

As students conclude their studies at VWU, each Honors Student will undertake a capstone project challenging them to develop innovative strategies and research to address challenges locally and around the world. Students in the capstone course will not only conduct their own research but will also pass on their knowledge by mentoring other honors research projects in the lower-level BHC classes. The one-on-one mentorship between senior-level and first-year BHC students will inspire BHC students to dream bigger, think deeper, engage more critically in their research and to effect change in the world. We have been working over the past few months to strengthen partnerships with like-minded institutions in the region. These partnerships provide opportunities available only to students in the Honors College. Students can take advantage of internships and research opportunities with

world-leading organizations such as Chesapeake Bay Foundation & Brock Environmental Sciences Center, Norfolk Botanical Gardens, Virginia Aquarium and Marine Sciences Center, Elizabeth River Project, Lynnhaven River NOW, Institute For Coastal Resilience, the Mariner’s Museum, and the Slover Library to name a few. Students seeking world-class graduate education can do so through early assurance programs with Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy (UVA), Frank Batten School of Engineering, and Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences. We are continuing to develop partnerships to expand opportunities for BHC students. We are excited about these opportunities and proud to share our students with the world. We understand the challenges facing the planet. As the world calls out for the next generation of leaders, the Batten Honors College is making itself and our students ready to answer.



A Foundation for Curiosity By Casey Bennett '25


n ancient Chinese proverb states, “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” The Batten Honors College builds windmills. I came into college not knowing anyone, so the winds of change certainly blew with ferocity. However, the communal-oriented focus of the Batten Honors College and its orientation created irreplaceable social opportunities for me during my first week on campus. Through these opportunities, I established an immense number of friendships and greatly expanded my social connections. During the orientation, there was an emphasis on hands-on learning experiences, as aligned with the mission of the Batten Honors College. Removing invasive species in a woodsy area around campus exemplifies this hands-on learning. After my cohort


met with representatives of the Norfolk Botanical Gardens for a seminar about invasive species, we took up gloves and tree clippers to meet the invasive species problem head on. Not only was this experience engaging and exciting, my cohort and I undertook proactive action to ameliorate the local landscape in the process. Another theme during the Batten Honors College orientation was the direct exploration of the local and global landscape. The community here, in Virginia Beach, revolves heavily around the surrounding diverse aquatic ecosystem. So, as a cohort, we took a trip to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center to see the diversity of our ecosystem first-hand. Before entering the aquarium, we partook in a dolphin tour on the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing the

majestic nature of the dolphins gliding through the water directly beside the boat was almost surreal. After this amazing experience on the dolphin tour boat, we made our way into the fascinating exhibits of the aquarium. By touching a stingray during one of these exhibits, I was able to learn firsthand. Observing this natural diversity in person added significantly to how I view the beauty of the Virginia Beach community. In all, through social opportunities and explorative experiences, the Batten Honors College orientation gave me a foundation to stem my curiosity off of. The goal of college, after all, should be built around discovery and innovation. I am ecstatic and proud to continue my journey at the Batten Honors College and further make use of the wonderful opportunities presented for me here.


Interconnection of Community and Environment

By Katie Baker '25


irginia Beach is more than a bustling vacation spot; it is the home of countless native species of plants, animals, and insects. The beauty of this area does not stem from its crowded boardwalk, resort spas, or many beach stores. The beauty in Virginia Beach lies in the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the soft sand that lays beside it, and the creatures that dwell within it. The Atlantic Ocean is filled with various species, all living together in harmony. The dolphins swam alongside our boat while a squadron of pelicans soared overhead. As the fifth cohort of the Batten Honors College overlooked the vast ocean before them, it was clear that this was home. The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center welcomed us onto their dolphin cruise where we learned about the diverse species of the Rudee Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean. I had the opportunity to see a

Kimberly Koscinski, Katie Baker, Sarah Blackburn, Sam Silvia

dolphin skeleton up close, as well as a filter-feeding whale tooth known as a baleen. The view of the ocean was breathtaking; it was an honor to embark on this journey with such a talented group of students. In addition, Norfolk Botanical Garden’s Skylar Lattuca ‘21 joined us in August, to teach us about the many invasive species here on campus. All forty of us got our hands dirty pulling out invasive species such as English ivy, silk trees, and Chinese privet. This campus service project provided an opportunity to explore the Greer gardens and learn more about their unique

and efficient rainwater drainage system. My eyes were opened to how dedicated Virginia Wesleyan is to help the environment through the innovation of Greer Garden’s rainwater drainage pools. The first-year orientation weekend was filled with educational experiences that broadened my knowledge of the Virginia Wesleyan community. I met so many amazing people and formed bonds that will last throughout my time at Virginia Wesleyan. I am thankful to have been a part of the Batten Honors College Orientation; it was a great weekend to be a Marlin!




Passions and Research Through Internships EMILY SMITH '22 Senior Emily Smith completed a virtual internship as a public affairs intern with the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. Smith learned about this internship through Dr. Joyce Easter and the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) where she was able to look through over 15 options throughout the United States. She learned the inner workings and connections within the National Forests, both on the outdoor natural side and the internal technological side. “I enjoyed using my skills to be a communication bridge, clarifying forest knowledge in order to bring in more confident and prepared visitors to the Forest,” Smith said. Also, she was able to learn about educational and graphic design which will prove useful in a scientific-related career where it is


necessary to communicate with and educate the public. In addition, the Batten Honors College prepared her for this position as she improved her writing skills through her courses. “Leadership and Literature gave me a great amount of proofreading and editing skills that aided my work,” Smith said. “My recent Earth and Environmental Sciences class, Climatology, helped with designing and telling a cohesive educational story. In Climatology, we helped the Jigsaw Collaborative communicate stories to the public through StoryMaps, which is an ArcGIS program.” Looking towards the future, Smith is seeking another internship in the spring. Her career goal is to work in the land or water conservation field. “My main desires are to help people and work for the environment. I believe there are a lot of options within the area for possible careers, so I plan to stay in the area unless something else is presented.”


BIANCA ATKINSON ’22 Senior Bianca Atkinson worked at Kings Dominion as a full-time and paid Cedar Fair Internal Audit Intern. She discovered this internship through Handshake, an application created to ensure that all college students have equal access to meaningful careers and with assistance from the Lighthouse. Through this internship, Atkinson was able to experience what an auditor does on a daily basis, perform audits, and expand her communication skills. As a result of COVID-19, this internship was virtual, but it remained a valuable learning experience. “I was tasked with performing 25 audits of operations and SOX at Kings Dominion under the guidance of my audit manager. I documented my findings in the system Workiva and prepared memos for leadership to review,” Atkinson said. “COVID-19 made me have to learn how to

communicate virtually with my boss and co-workers. I learned how to do that effectively and efficiently, through email and video chat.” She found the finance courses at VWU offered very beneficial preparation for this experience. “They gave me the knowledge to properly understand the work I was given,” Atkinson said. “Also, the Batten Honors College course, HON 205 Leadership and Literature was helpful as it taught me to problem solve and step out of my comfort zone.” One of her largest takeaways from this internship is that individuals need to be resourceful in order to be successful. An additional lesson learned is if a person presents a problem, they should also offer a solution. Atkinson is planning on completing an accounting internship next summer and entering the Masters of Business Administration program at VWU in the fall.

CJ MORRIS ’22 Senior CJ Morris was a Design and Product Floor Intern at Premier Millwork & Lumber Co., Inc. in Virginia Beach. He discovered this opportunity through a family friend. His responsibilities included learning architectural drawings as well as comparing them with both architectural companies, subcontractors, and customers. “I was able to practice using the drawing software to create millwork products for cabinets, floors, doors, panels, and countertops,” Morris said. “Furthermore, how to communicate to installers on where to place the product through terms such as elevation, product number, and part type. On occasion, my work was needed on the production floor, where I helped assemble and create parts that were needed to complete orders that I had drawn up.” Morris had the opportunity to shadow someone and learn from experts in the industry itself. Morris noted, "The chance to learn hands-on from someone knowledgeable and experienced is an academic benefit, and this opportunity held true to this,”

Morris said. “Also, working hands-on with measurements, dimensions, and design parameters benefitted me heavily in the field of engineering and manufacturing.” This was his first experience in an industrial and manufacturing environment, which allowed him to experience what it would be like to work in the mechanical engineering and design field. In addition, it enabled him to examine in-depth the process of manufacturing from estimation, design, manufacturing, and installation. Morris noted that seeing the entire production process gave him a new perspective. Morris stated,“It is important to know how the manufacturing process works in order to design parts that are effective but are also easier to manufacture. Morris concluded that "This experience also humbled me, with the workload that is required to work in an industry like this. This helped me gain a better appreciation for all that work in these fields and the products that we take for granted on an everyday basis.”



Shadowed a pediatrician and sports medicine doctor Abby Peterson, Class of 2023

Went skydiving together! Lindsay White and Emily Geis, Class of 2022

Road trip to Iowa and went to Maquoketa Caves State Park which has 13 caves! Ben Olson, Class of 2024

Went to Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion CJ Morris, Class of 2022




Performed research at UVA on tree ring data and correlating it with temperature. Olivia Deane, Class of 2022

Road trip to upstate New York to visit a friend Alecia Fischman, Class of 2024

Shadowed an oncologist at Duke University Breanna Wimbush, Class of 2023

Completed a course through the Heritage Foundation Connor Merk, Class of 2023

Trip to the Dominican Republic Josh Spicer, Class of 2025


Tree Ring Research Enriches Internship Opportunity By Divinity Richardson '23


spent this past summer doing a paid research internship at Virginia Tech with the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program (MAOP), which pairs students with a mentor who will guide them throughout the research process.

microscope, and then inspect the cores for presence of frost rings. My favorite part of the process was going into the field and getting cores from the trees. It was interesting to see how much harder it was to extract the cores out of certain tree species, and it was really

enjoyed being in a lab setting. At the end of the 10-week program, my work culminated in a research symposium where I was able to explain my research and answer questions. In addition to getting research experience, I also received

For my research, I applied to work in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. The professor I was working with was a dendrochronologist, which means that she studies tree rings to date trees and determine past events that affected them. The task she presented us with was to study frost rings and their impact on trees. Over time, our research topic was narrowed down to a comparison of how frost rings impact the growth of jack pine versus white pine. To do this, we had to collect core samples from the trees, sand them down to view under the

cool to pull out a perfect core after struggling. After analyzing the data, my final conclusion was that northern pine trees (jack pines) are more prone to frost rings than southern pine trees (white pine). Seeing this project from beginning to end was an amazing experience, and I found that I really

preparation for graduate school. For example, we attended a GRE class in the mornings and a professional development workshop in the evenings. These workshops covered everything from making a resume to funding for graduate school, and I found them to be extremely helpful. Throughout my time at Virginia Tech, I made profound connections with the people around me – my peers, coworkers, and the Virginia Tech faculty that I was able to meet. The MAOP coordinators made my internship a very enriching experience, and the students that I spent the summer with made it one of the most memorable times of my life.



Internship Experience: SINCLAIR COMMUNICATIONS By Lauren Faulkner '22


or my first internship experience, I could not have asked for a better opportunity. Before my internship, I was warned by many people on what I should expect: random paper filing, mind-numbing tasks, and not learning too much. I was told that I might be bored, but that I was lucky enough to get a paid internship. However, my experience was quite the opposite. Not only was I hands-on with each and every project I came in contact with, I truly became very close with the company I now work for, Sinclair Communications. I was truly involved in the company and all of its daily proceedings.Throughout my internship, I worked on two key events to the organization: The Virginia Beach Tuna Tournament and The Coastal Virginia Auto Show. Aside


from those two events I worked in great detail with other sales associates to plan their different events with multiple clients. Because of this handson experience, I was able to learn so much more about graphic design, Excel, meeting management, team management, sales, social media, and more. For example, at the Virginia Beach Tuna Tournament, I began as an intern to the sales captain. This allowed me to be a resource to all promotions staff and the data entry manager who recorded all the boats, the weight of the fish, and did the payout calculations of over $60,000. I feel very connected to this company because of how hands-on I was able to be during my internship. My work was valued daily, and I was often reminded of how

great of an asset I have become for the company. After my internship ended, I continued to work with Sinclair Communications, which is the one thing every student hopes for at the end of their internship. With a new title of Promotions Assistant, I am continuing to work with the Promotions and Sales Departments for their upcoming events which includes creating official proposals for the new concert series at the NorVA, organizing applications for the Coastal Virginia Auto Show, submitting paperwork for events such as YNOT Wednesdays at the Sandler Center, helping to organize and run a lemonade promotion for CHKD, and organizing Haunted Hunt Club Farm events sponsored by the stations. I have even worked a concert as promotions staff during my time at Sinclair Stations such as the Jason Aldean concert at the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater. What I enjoyed most about this internship and company is the family atmosphere. There is not a single person I am afraid to approach with a question or concern, and it is common to talk to everyone on a given day. This company has welcomed my work and myself with open arms and embraces anything that I can do to help the company grow. This internship truly has helped me take the skills that I have learned in the classroom at VWU as a member of the Batten Honors College and apply them to a professional position.


ALUMNI Spotlight

Last May, the Batten Honors College graduated its first full cohort, with most moving on to graduate schools or entering the workforce. Find out where some of our most beloved Alumni have been and what they have been up to since graduating from the Batten Honors College.

Jenni Vega ‘21 NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL - IMMIGRATION LAW “I’m currently taking the standard classes every 1L takes, like Contracts and Criminal Law. Next year I’ll be more free to take classes in my field of law which is most likely going to be something in the public interest sector, like immigration law. I’ve also been participating in as many public interest clinics and workshops that get offered to me. I’m glad that it finally feels like I can start making a difference!”

Alex Leonard ‘21 CLEMSON UNIVERSITY - COLLEGE OF ARCHITECTURE “In August, I started graduate school in the Department of Landscape Architecture. My most recent project is looking at the interactive aspects of the Courtyard of Oranges in Cordoba, Spain. I have also started working at the South Carolina Botanical Gardens as a Desert Garden Specialist, joined the American Society of Landscape Architecture, and Clemson’s Graduate Architecture Professional Partnership.”

Brianna Sandy ‘21


“My current coursework is focused on understanding how countries develop their national security apparatus and learning skills like how to analyze raw intelligence and deliver security briefs. Right now, I’m getting to know my new cohort (representative of over 30 countries) and exploring the beauty of Scotland—even with the rain!”


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