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Ava Sauter, senior Black Hills State University psychology major from Custer, is currently studying the effects of trauma on people’s lives and behaviors. Sauter, who is a member of the BHSU Honors Program, will present her research via webcast in November during the International Collaborative Research Symposium and at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) in March.
Eric Broussard, junior BHSU history major from Deadwood, is studying the life of Mary Mastrovich Adams, the widow of Deadwood businessman W.E. Adams, who became one of the city’s most important benefactors. Broussard is a member of the BHSU Honors Program and is conducting this research as part of his honors project.

The Black Hills State University Honors Program has grown significantly since it was established on campus in 2003. This fall had the highest number of freshman entering the program. From fall 2003 to fall 2010 the program, which offers highly motivated students a challenging and enriching education, has grown 125 percent.

Each year a select number of academically talented undergraduates from all three colleges of the University are chosen to take their education to the next level through the Honors Program. The requirement for incoming freshmen is a 25 or higher ACT score and a high school grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.5. After the first semester, the main emphasis for completing the program is maintaining a certain GPA at the college level and evidence of a commitment to lifelong learning and community service.

A major feature of the program is its focus on smaller classes where faculty and students collaborate in a challenging learning environment. Honors scholars receive individualized advising and mentoring and attend special courses and colloquia, which are team-taught, inter-disciplinary courses that emphasize discussion and research.

Honors colloquia are taught for sophomore and junior-level honors students. The students propose topics for these courses and Dr. Amy Fuqua, associate professor of humanities and Honors Program director, along with the Honors Advisory Council, make the final selection and invite faculty or other experts in the subject area to teach them. Past colloquia have included: The History of Rock and Roll, God and Science, and Sex and Death in Victorian England. This spring’s colloquium will be Media in the Age of Blogging and the Internet, which will be taught by local journalist and documentary filmmaker, Sam Hurst.

A thesis or other major project is to be undertaken under the guidance of a faculty mentor during an honors student’s junior or senior year. An honors thesis may be done in the traditional way; however, students are encouraged to consider other sorts of projects such as a business plan, a creative work of art or portfolio, a program for student teaching abroad, or a major project for community service. All honors projects have a written and an oral component. Many students go on to present their research at national conferences such as the annual National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR).

Ava Sauter, senior psychology major from Custer, is currently expanding upon her research that she began as part of a team effort where she helped study behavior genetics, impulsivity, and health risk behaviors. From that research she was able to develop her own research project which she will present via webcast in November during the International Collaborative Research Symposium, which includes students from the United States, Lithuania, Korea, and Thailand. She will also present this same research at NCUR in March.

Sauter is currently studying the effects of trauma on people’s lives and behaviors. She is researching the time period of abuse, whether adolescence or childhood, and to determine if abuse is related to impulsivity and thus may be a factor in the high rates of risky sexual behaviors in adulthood.

Her objective in presenting her research is to make people aware of the consequences of not recognizing abuse. Sauter says, “When I present, I make it a goal to make sure people know that this is just the beginning and that the research that people are doing should be put into action and made aware to the public. Only with this can we actually start to make progress that will ultimately make huge differences in people’s lives.”

Sauter says being an honors student has taught her how to work hard and look at things creatively and productively. She likes being a part of a program that allows her to view things more in depth than a regular classroom setting and enjoys the extra challenge.

Not only does the Honors Program aid students in their creation of an enriched educational experience, it also prepares them for graduate school and professional work. “With great care in using collaborative leadership skills, Dr. Fuqua has grown the BHSU Honors program. She facilitates an interdisciplinary Honors Advisory Committee who creates innovative colloquia to enrich the honor students’ programs of study beyond their chosen majors. In addition, the Honors Program provides faculty mentors for undergraduate research/creative activity to better prepare our students for graduate school,” says Dr. Kristi Pearce, associate vice president for Academic Affairs at BHSU.

Eric Broussard, junior history major from Deadwood, is working on his honors project and preparing himself for his dream job as an archivist for the Library of Congress. His project is on the life of Mary Mastrovich Adams, the widow of Deadwood businessman W.E. Adams, who became one of the city’s most important benefactors. His research focuses on Mary’s life, before and after she resided in Deadwood and her establishment of the Adams-Mastrovich Family Foundation. Each year, the foundation grants money to various arts, education, and religious causes in South Dakota, where she was born, and in Los Angeles, Calif., where she lived much of her life.

The goal of his research is to fill the gaps of the story about a woman who did a lot for her community and charities across the country. “With all of the information that I am lacking, it's kind of like finding missing pieces to a puzzle. The most troublesome part is locating all of this missing information. There are a lot of dead ends, but the hunting part is what I love about research,” says Broussard.

Coming from Baton Rouge, La., he chose BHSU because of his love and interest for American West history and mining camps and it seemed to be the right fit with its proximity to Deadwood. He knew he had made the right choice because of the warm welcome he received, especially from his professors.

Broussard was invited to join the Honors Program and is very happy with his decision to join. He enjoys his honors classes and feels they will be a tremendous help in preparing him for graduate school.  Being an honors student has made him work harder and focus more on the content of his classes and form an excellent relationship with his professors.

Broussard is currently seeking a research grant to help cover costs to travel to Los Angeles where he can fully study the life of Mary Adams by examining the public archives and meeting with administration of the organizations to which her foundation has contributed.

Recent honors graduates include Cara Bandalos, English graduate from Guernsey, Wyo., and Eric Zimmer, history graduate from Rapid City, who earned the honor of having their articles chosen for publication in the 2010 NCUR Proceedings. Bandalos’s article is entitled “The Wife of Bath vs. The Medieval Church” and Zimmer’s article is entitled “Neutrality, Attack, and Retaliation: Captain Donald G. Smith and World War II, 1941-1942.” Both graduates were members of the BHSU Honors Program. Bandalos is currently teaching English in Chile as part of the Council of International Educational Exchange’s Teach Abroad program. Zimmer is currently working for Vantage Point Historical Services, a historical consulting company located in Rapid City and freelance writing for www.insidedakotasports.com and www.dakotaday.com.

Ben Reiter, BHSU political science graduate from Riverton, Wyo., who was also a member of the Honors Program, published an article in the 2009 NCUR Proceedings. Reiter’s article is entitled “Beyond War Criticism: Re-Reading Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers and Willa Cather’s One of Ours.” Reiter is currently in the humanities master’s program at the University of Chicago.

Publication in the NCUR Proceedings is highly selective. Students who deliver papers at NCUR are invited to submit their work for publication. Only 12 to 18 percent of the essays submitted are then selected for publication.

Members of the Honors Program are also encouraged to join the very active Honors Student Organization and participate in its various functions including field trips, study groups, attendance at regional conferences, and participation in on-campus academic events. The organization also coordinates campus lectures, blood drives, and spelling bees for elementary students.

For more information on the BHSU Honors Program contact Fuqua at 605.642.6397 or email Amy.Fuqua@BHSU.edu .