Departmental honors papers and
projects offer perfect opportunities
for students who want greater
academic challenges or who want
to pursue research on subjects or
topics of special interest to them.
The prestigious and highly selective yearlong
program offers undergraduate students with
exceptional academic records the chance to
engage in intensive research or a special project.
Students who complete departmental honors
papers, which are included in the permanent
collections of the Beneficial-Hodson Library
and Information Technology Center, are
designated Christine P. Tischer Scholars in
honor of the 1965 alumna who has generously
supported the program.
This spring, 20 students presented their
research in a special forum, two of whom are
Peter Heiss '11 saw the departmental
honors project as an opportunity to further
explore a topic in which he has had a longtime
interest—the influence of the Spanish guitar
in the music of Italian composer Domenico
Scarlatti, who is best known for his 555
Heiss, who majored in music, admits the honors
paper was a lot of work and more complicated
than he thought it would be.
"This was the longest paper I'd ever written,
but was definitely worth it," he said. "I learned
about the research process and how to do it
successfully. I am better prepared to do this
kind of study in the future."
The Rockville, Md., resident attributes his
success to the guidance from his adviser, Noel
Verzosa, assistant professor of music. "He is a
scholar, very knowledgeable," Heiss said. "He
pointed me in the right direction."
Verzosa views Heiss' project as a perfect example
of how academic and performance talent—a
rare combination of two skills that are often considered
incompatible by scholars and performers
alike—can mutually benefit each other.
"As a performer, Peter hears details and nuances
in Scarlatti's music that scholars don't, and as a
scholar he can provide historical explanations
for these things in a way that most performers
can't," Verzosa said. "Peter's greatest strength is
his inquisitiveness and intellectual curiosity."
Heiss is headed to Shenandoah University this
fall to pursue a master's degree in guitar performance.
He believes this experience has opened
the door for him to continue the study, a task
he might not have been willing to undertake
had he not had the opportunity to complete a
departmental honors paper.
Tsion Hiletework '11 was not sure where
she was headed after graduation from Hood,
but she knew she wanted to do something
important. When she was invited to do a
departmental research paper, she jumped
at the chance to further explore a topic she
had studied in Professor Ann Boyd's class on
HIV/AIDS. She was hoping that undertaking
this research project might give her a clearer
direction about her future.
Hiletework's research focused on how two
developing countries—Thailand and South
Africa—responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic,
the degree to which each country included
women in the resolution process and the consequences
of those policies, and the dramatically
"While the topic isn't very nice, it was an
enlightening and rewarding experience,"
Hiletework said. "I've never done research of
this magnitude before; it was grueling but
Paige Eager, associate professor of political
science, met Hiletework as a first-year student;
she was impressed by her intellectual curiosity,
conscientiousness and written and oral skills.
She knew the departmental honors paper
would be the perfect medium for Hiletework to
broaden her research skills, which would better
prepare her for the rigors of graduate school.
"The paper was valuable for Tsion because it
forced her to take an interdisciplinary approach
in examining the sociological, economic,
gendered and political responses to the crisis in
both countries," said Eager, who served as Hiletework's
primary research adviser. "Moreover,
her experience taking Ann Boyd's class provided
her with the scientific background on the virus
as well as the various failed vaccine trials."
Hiletework achieved her goals. She has contributed
not only valuable research, but also her
experience has given her a direction; she will
attend a Public Leadership Education Network
conference on women and international policy
this summer and American University in the
fall to pursue a master's degree in public affairs
and international service.
"Knowing that I have taken the time to write
about something serious and worthy of attention
has made me reflect on myself," said
Hiletework. "Going through this process has
given me the confidence to do anything."