A de-stressing downpour
By Allison Giroux

Even after a single mention of finals, groans and sighs from stressed out students can be heard echoing across campus. To put it bluntly, finals can downright stink. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by a nasty combination of stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy and/or irregular eating, and the knowledge that vacation is so close, yet so far away. Fortunately, sometimes experiencing the simplest things can be the best way to recollect and de-stress. One of my favorite memories from being in the Honors College (HCOL) was from a moment that helped me do exactly that.
During finals, the study rooms in University Heights North (UHN) are often occupied for long periods of time by students feverishly pecking away at term papers, memorizing anatomical terms, trying to solve math problems or chemistry reactions, practicing presentations, and more. Despite our beloved air conditioning, the air can get a little thick, or tense, one could say. This was exactly the case on the first reading day of the spring semester of my freshman year. It was a hot, humid day, and I was at the point where I was having a difficult time focusing because I had been studying the same material for so long. Suddenly, it started to pour while the sun was still shining. It was the type of rain that sounds like a train going by. My focus was completely broken. At first, everyone flocked to the windows, but within a minute, that wasn’t enough. The Green Roof was calling, and soon, dozens of HCOL-ers were simultaneously soaking up sunshine and being drenching by the heavy rain. In that moment, there were no term papers or exams, no “do you think there will be a curve?” type questions, and no flipping of flashcards.
The downpour lasted fewer than 10 minutes, but its effects were felt well beyond that. For the rest of the day, I was more relaxed, focused, and productive, and my peers said they felt the same. Such a brief but cleansing downpour will not happen every time stress levels rise, but it’s important to remember to build in ways to de-stress during finals. As I approach my sixth round of finals at UVM, the best study tip I have has nothing to do with flashcards, formulas, or Fibonacci – rather, my advice is to laugh and smile about something completely unrelated. Do something that gets your mind out of a textbook, if even for only a few minutes. I promise your blood pressure and your grades will thank you. Good luck 

Be-U-tiful UHeights: Life in the Honors College Residence Hall
by SaraJane Harrington ‘17
Animal Sciences

Being in the Honors College has many benefits like registering for classes early, taking small seminars with world-class professors, and having access to a host of academic opportunities. But one of the greatest perks of all is where HCOL calls home: University Heights North (affectionately called UHeights North or simply UHN). The building is the newest dorm on campus and also is home to the Honors College classrooms/staff.

If you want to check out UHeights more, the Honors College peer leaders and I have made a video tour you can watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-aE2noqwuQ.*
In addition, here are just of few of many reasons why UHN is a special place to live:

Suite style living

Most of the rooms in UHeights are suite doubles, which means that you get a room with a roommate and a small common area attached to another room with another set of roommates. This gives you a chance to develop a relationship not only with your roommate but also with two other awesome people! It’s also nice to have some extra space for skis, shoes, fridges, etc. If you’re not about that suite life, there are private doubles (with just one roommate) and private singles.

Private Bathroom

If you’re living in UHN then you can take shower shoes off of your college packing list. It is so nice to have a bathroom you only share with your suitemates and that you know exactly how clean it is. Also being able to leave your shampoo in the bathroom leads to less awkward walks in just a towel back to your room to grab it.

Lots of Cool Study Spaces

From lounges with desks, rooms with long tables, seminar classrooms, our sweet spiral staircase room, and the fireplace lounge, UHeights dwellers have a myriad of study spaces available at all times. So whether you’re up before the library opens or want to practice a PowerPoint in the classroom you’ll present it, UHN has got you covered.

Green Living

It’s pretty awesome that we live in an LEED Certified Gold building. Basically that means that this is one of the greenest buildings in the northeast and features some awesome designs including an accessible green roof that cools the building and provides a fun outdoor space for residents.

Classes in Your Building

My first semester, I had my HCOL seminar at 9:35am on Mon/Wed/Fri. So naturally I woke up at 9:20 every morning, brushed my teeth, made a halfhearted attempt to look presentable, and rolled downstairs to my classroom with a mug of tea and 2 minutes to spare. This is also nice when you accidentally forget your essay on your desk because it’s only a bathroom break away!


UHN has a great kitchen/rec room that hosts a bunch of events pretty much any day of the week. So if you’re a free food hound or you want a social study break, there’s usually something going on. Examples include: weekly yoga, cookie decorating, finger painting, smoothies, Lord of the Rings screenings (with free wings!), and many more!

Social Scholars

Probably the best part about living in UHeights (especially as a First Year) is that you’re living with/near people that you’re taking classes with. This is such a great resource to help you grow socially and academically. Whether it’s commiserating over an essay, read-a-loud’s trying to figure out what on Earth Descartes is talking about, or just having common talking points with any other First Years in the building to facilitate friendships, UHN is a place to find and build community.

*Please forgive my crude editing skills, sadly it’s taken me years just to get to this point.

How to Get Funding to Read The Hunger Games
by Audrey Kreiser ’17
Secondary English Education

I applied for a summer research grant at the suggestion of one of my Honors College professors. My final for Professor Andrew Barnaby’s “Art of Literary Adaptation” class was an adaptation of a Sherlock Holmes story featuring a female detective. In my brainstorming session with Professor Barnaby, I talked about my theory of Sherlock Holmes adaptations: there are dozens of them, set in different countries and eras, adapted for television and film, with detectives ranging from abrasive to endearing to obsessive, but all of them are men. My theory is this: many of the newer Sherlock Holmeses are brilliant but have few social graces, which is not conducive to a likeable female protagonist for many audiences.

After I was done lamenting about growing up with Dexter’s Laboratory, Jimmy Neutron, Monk, Psych, House, and Artemis Fowl, Professor Barnaby suggested I write about this as part of a summer research project. He pointed out that I could write a creative piece– like a whole series of my lady-Sherlock-Holmes stories– or a more research-driven piece about representation and identity in young adult fiction.

Even though I’ve read hundreds of pages of educational research, I’d never thought of doing research myself. My major, secondary English education, is more like a pre-professional program, and though I have several friends working on research with their professors, they’re all in hard science programs. But Professor Barnaby’s suggestion seemed earnest, and he offered to be my advisor, so I figured I’d give it the old college try. Within a few months, my application to the Summer Research Award was complete and turned into the Office of Undergraduate, which is conveniently located in U-Heights North, two flights down from my dorm room.

Though Professor Barnaby pointed out that creative works are viable for the grant (and that the OUR would like to see more applications from students in the humanities and professions in general), I chose a slightly different route: designing a class for teacher education students about young adult literature and its impact on adolescent identity development. I’ll boost the transparency of this blog post by quoting from my application:

My goal is to create a hypothetical semester-long college course about adolescent literature for teacher education students. After conducting the relevant research (reading both critical texts and numerous young adult novels), I will then create a syllabus for the course, including a three-unit overview, a list of reading and viewing materials, a packet of supplemental readings, a list of assignments, and sample papers responding to those assignments.

Some of my work will be reading critical work about adolescent identity development; some of it will be interviews with my professors who teach classes about adolescent development and race and language in education; some of it will be planning, writing, and revising my first syllabus; and some of it will be sitting on North Beach reading young adult novels!

Undergraduate research grants are a great deal all around. The Office of Undergraduate Research wants to help students explore what they’re passionate about; students want experience conducting research on their own or under the guidance of primary investigators; and, of course, everyone wants to pay their rent and still be able to buy Ben and Jerry’s sometimes. There were nineteen other students who received the same award I did, and there are more than a dozen similar grants for things like study abroad, career development, unpaid internships, community service work, Honors College thesis research, environmental research, et cetera. Even for students outside the sciences, there are tons of opportunities for learning more about what interests you, what you love doing. (The wonderful people at the OUR can also help you find funding opportunities based on your interests– I think they’re actually wizards.)


“Gender, Raves, and the Space of Muffins”

By: Audrey Kreiser

Even after taking a class called The Pursuit of Knowledge my first semester in the Honors College, registering for a spring class called Gender and the Space of Knowing still seemed pretty daunting. “What could ‘the space of knowing’ even mean?” I remember asking my roommate Genevieve, who had also signed up. “And how could that possibly relate to gender?”

In a lot of ways, it turns out. Within a couple of weeks we had paged through a short story by Alice Walker, a few books of Paradise Lost, and the creation stories in Genesis. (Did you know there are two? Some of you probably did…I had no idea.) We engaged in class discussion, consulted the works some friendly feminist geographers, watched a documentary about drag culture in New York, and ate a veritable bounty of Professor Lisa Schnell’s famous vegan cranberry muffins. By spring break, we had a working understanding of “space”: an opportunity for meaningful presence, discussion, and expression.

Lisa’s class has been my only so far where I knew all the other students’ names. This likely stemmed from everyone’s engagement in the class, though we all felt free (in this space of cranberry vegan muffins) to take on more than just a pleasing-the-professor role. My classmates and I were transitioning away from our high school concepts of class discussion (which were, in my experience at least, sometimes highly competitive for teacher approval, often uncomfortable, and very rarely authentic learning experiences).  It was replaced by a valuable type of discourse, which our professor enabled and inspired but didn’t control. Confusion, questions, personal anecdotes, and information from blogs or the Pursuit of Knowledge or other classes were all valid and valued.

This was a rigorous course, and I won’t bore you with the minutiae of my essays about dance floors and readings about the geography of “man of the house” chairs. But I will point out that our gender studies course spilled out of the classroom and into many facets of my daily life– Genevieve and I often had our classmates over to talk about the readings or study; our class started a blog of articles about gender that we found in the news or online; and discussion did sometimes turn toward the gendered implications of our suite’s own large, comfy “man of the house” chair.

After a crash course in Judith Butler and her theories of “performing gender,” we started thinking about our own research into how gender plays out in different spaces such as the gym, the classroom, public bathrooms, and the dance floor– my first big research project in college. We each wrote short papers about some aspect of gender that interested us, then Lisa assigned us to groups based on similar interests. My group was interested in dance, from my observations about gender roles in swing dancing to Jack’s notes on women in the turbulent space of punk concerts. The four of us started meeting in the living room pretty often, doing some initial research and thinking about what interested us about gender in dance. We noticed that while all other types of dance seemed to have pretty rigid “male” and “female” roles, the rave scene really deviated from that. The values of this counter-culture scene included peace, love, unity, and respect (PLUR), and that seemed to eliminate two distinct gender roles in favor of an overarching feeling of oneness with everyone. It was fascinating, and there was a ton of information about it available through the online library archives.

Our review of the research culminated in a trip to Higher Ground, a local music venue, for an EDM concert, where we actually dressed up, danced, interviewed other concertgoers, and reported on our findings. (Only at UVM does one undercover research team run into another undercover research team at an EDM concert… they were also doing gender studies research!)

I made several great friends in that class, and I definitely still see Lisa as a great resource for conversation and advice in the Honors College. My classmates and I still use the foundation of gender and space for talking about our own experiences and readings. And, in case anyone was wondering, we were, in fact, given the vegan muffin recipe at the end of the year.


“The True Rewards of Being in the Honors College”

By: Caroline Pisinski

There are certain perks to being in the Honors College that are—figuratively and literally–concrete. Most people coming into the college are told about the multitude of academic benefits and the residence hall. The Honors College res hall, University Heights North, is one of the newest on campus. Not only do you have private bathrooms for each suite but your Honors College courses are also right downstairs. The staff works out of the building and is available to you every day of the week.

Once the excitement of your fabulous living situation has died down, you then begin to acknowledge how important the academic advantages are. Firstly, Honors College students have priority registration, signing up for classes 30 minutes before the general student population. The Honors College courses provide a unique opportunity, being able to take 20 person seminar classes for 4 consecutive semesters, working with professors from various departments across the university. The Office of Undergraduate Research is also located in University Heights North, and many research projects on campus seek out Honors College students for their labs. Completing the Honors College thesis is also a large bonus for the student, and looks great on a resume or graduate school application. Graduating as Honors College Scholar is an incredible accomplishment, opening many doors for the years beyond graduation.

Exceeding these palpable assets is a widespread network of personal connections. The community created by living with Honors College peers is remarkable. Living with a group of equally motivated students pushes you to strive for success, and includes the bonding that comes with living in any college setting. The students come from a variety of backgrounds and all have a different story as to why they are here at UVM. The friends you make in the Honors College are one-of-a-kind and provide the support that only a highly driven peer can.

Learning with whom you live with is a huge benefit, as is learning from a diverse group of professors. The Honors College faculty is an incredibly intelligent and charismatic group, passing on knowledge beyond the syllabus. These connections provide a new realm of opportunities and advice, unavailable to students in large lecture halls. Some of the faculty double as staff, such as the Dean and Associate Dean of the Honors College. The staff is at hand for you and they provide incredible advising to any and all who knock on their door.

The place you live and the things you accomplish will have a clear and positive impact, but it is the people you meet and the impressions they leave that are the true benefits of being a member of The University of Vermont Honors College.



“What’s All This Talk About Research?”

By: Allison Giroux

The first time I heard about the importance of getting involved in research was during The Honors College portion of the Admitted Student Visit Day that I attended, and I haven’t stopped hearing about it since. I like to think of it as an HCOL buzzword of sorts. As a first-year, I wasn’t quite sure what “research” would look like for me or how I would go about getting involved, so I put it on the back burner for a while.

“Research” is such a big term. It has a sort of prestige and intimidation factor to an outsider. After all, those who do research are those brave enough to take what is already known about a topic and ask, “Yeah, but why and how?” Then, they have to figure out how to go about finding the answers to those explorative questions. Unknown knowledge is the most daunting type of knowledge, and that is the business of research. We, as UVM students, are incredibly fortunate to have an immense range of research being conducted on campus. If you haven’t heard about research being conducted by your professors, your advisor, or within your department, ASK! I have yet to meet someone doing research that isn’t thrilled to talk about it. Honestly, the prospect of new knowledge is exciting.

As I started to hear about the research that some my peers were doing during my sophomore year, I became anxious to get involved. I am a neuroscience major on a pre-health track, and personally, I love working with people. Although doing things like slicing tissue, looking through microscopes, pipetting, working with mice/rats, etc., are interesting to some people in my field of study, I really wanted to work with people. Thus, my pursuit of an undergraduate clinical research position began!

One of the best ways to get involved in research – regardless of if your major is biology, Spanish, or studio art – is to meet with Ann Kroll Lerner. If there is a person who has a finger directly on the pulse of undergraduate research at UVM, it is Ann. Fortunately for HCOL students, her office is located in University Heights North! If you haven’t met with her, I encourage you to go schedule a meeting. It’s never too early to get involved in research of any sort. Seriously.

My pursuit of research lead me to a clinical research internship, and the only thing that I would change is that I would have started sooner if I had known! I thoroughly enjoy my time in the lab, which includes working with study participants! This is going to sound stereotypical and scripted, but I’m not kidding when I say that I get to apply my “classroom knowledge” to the real world, and vice versa. In addition to a lot of academic enrichment, I have been able to pose my own questions and hypotheses, and then branch off a little and conduct my own analyses (and I earned course credit!). Now, whenever the “research” buzzword comes up, I feel like I’m on the enlightened side in the sense that I, too, know how great research is, and I want to share my experience with others.

In summary, the hype about research exists for a reason. Whether or not you believe me, I encourage and challenge you to go find out for yourself. Seriously.  🙂

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