catalyst for scholarship
by jeff crooke
the honors academy

Belcher’s capstone project is a multimedia presentation of a thesis she researched and wrote about British convict women who were expatriated to America. As she speaks about women seeking adventure aboard pirate ships, songs the women used as forms of protest against their captors, the petty crimes committed in order to join an exiled husband, her enthusiasm is obvious and contagious.

“When the women would start singing in the hold of the ship they [the captors] didn’t know how to handle that, it drove them crazy,” she says, laughing at the mischief of it.

Belcher took a trip to Europe as part of her research. While there she visited sites familiar to her through her thesis work, took several rolls of photographs and copious notes, and kept a daily journal.

Belcher’s horizons were again expanded when she made her first multimedia presentation in one of Wawrzycka’s classes. She fell in love with the technology.

“You are limited only by your own creativity,” she says of composing her presentations.

The contagious enthusiasm and acquisition of new skills are refreshing for professors. Students like Belcher “keep professors from burning out,” says Wawrzcycka, noting that she had to learn multimedia at the same time Emily did.

“You teach her one thing and you learn 10.”

That belief is echoed by communication professor Bill Kennan. When asked what he gets out of advising Honors students, Kennan answers “the chance to work with the best.”Emily Belcher

“The student is as influential on me at that level as I am on the student.”

Kennan is advisor to Stacey Wheeler, a senior whose resume is already quite impressive. As a junior she served as campaign manager for Dave Nutter’s successful and somewhat surprising Virginia House of Delegates bid.

“We knew that if we got him in front of as many people as we could, we had a good chance to win,” says Wheeler of the campaign. She did a lot of pavement pounding alongside Nutter during the campaign, using skills she had learned during her Honors courses in communication to analyze polling data and communicate successfully with widely varied audiences. When Nutter won Wheeler hired on as his chief of staff, taking a semester off from school to join the political fray in Richmond.

"My campaign was blessed by many developments that just seemed to push us closer and closer to victory. Certainly one of the most important of those developments was being able to recruit Stacey Wheeler to be my campaign manager,” says Nutter. “There is little doubt that with students the caliber of Stacey Wheeler, Radford University is well positioned for outstanding progress."

Wheeler says she recognizes not only how her course of study helped, but also how being an Honors student has shaped her.

“I’m sure I’ve just begun to see how Honors courses will tie into my future careers,” she says before praising Honors Academy director and biology professor Orion Rogers.

“Any opportunity to make us a better student or a better future employee, he makes sure we know about it,” Wheeler says. In Wheeler’s case Rogers gave her ample opportunities to speak in public and make presentations.

As students use their academic experiences to impact the world outside the university, they bring experience back into the classroom.

“We carefully evaluate students’ experiences and blend what we learn from that back into our efforts to be better at what we do,” says Kennan.

gold line

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