Helping others centers College of Humanities and Social Sciences Showcase

Senior Lauren Rush talks with a student about her end-of-year communications project during the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Showcase on Wednesday.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Video

The College of Humanities and Social Sciences Showcase featured Grand Canyon University students’ capstone projects on Wednesday, and after winding through hundreds of presentations on three floors of Building 18, much of the content could be boiled down to three Ps – people, policy and prose.

"The senior showcase this year was nothing but a stellar celebration. We celebrated the achievements of three or four years of student achievement," said Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott. "It was beautiful to watch them display their deep knowledge and skills that they formulated during their tenure in our college. It was clear that they were poised and ready to enter the next step in their journey."

People

Talk to many students in the college, and “helping people” is a passion and purpose. It’s also the reason that psychology, social work and sociology, counseling and the behavioral health fields make up a large portion of its enrollment.

In one of four rooms filled with psychology majors, Garrett Park was talking about his findings in “Religiosity’s Effect on Bereavement.” He got interested after watching how well people he knew endured grieving because they believed “they would see them in the afterlife.” A supportive community in a religious community also was an aid to grieving. His proposal seeks to further explore that theory.

He had started at GCU in engineering but found he could more directly influence the lives of others in psychology and plans to pursue a master’s degree in counseling. “I want to help,” he said.

Which is also what Sophie McConnell found she wanted to do in her time at GCU. Studying toward a psychology degree, she became a volunteer at schools in the college's service program, Changing Lives Outreach, which led her to explore the achievement differences for undergraduate students faced with lecture methods versus alternative teaching styles.

Lizbeth Martinez presents her psychology project during the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Showcase.

What she found was that alternative methods won out, and during the process, she also found that education was her passion. She starts work in July as a seventh grade teacher at Desert Foothills Junior High School in Phoenix.

 “There was such a wide range of projects, from one on houseplants and mood to trauma and mental illness,” said Laura Chesniak-Phipps, psychology professor.

Policy

Evelyn Racette, assistant professor in government, said the projects in that department centered around “biblical justice.” “It’s making other people’s problems our problems,” she said. “It’s seeing everyone with dignity without being enabling.”

Government major Sydney Lautt wants to restore dignity to juveniles in the justice system, asking whether age 18 is an appropriate threshold for legal adulthood and whether harsher punishments, such as life without parole, are proper. In her study, in which she looked at the cases of five inmates in Arizona serving life sentences that were granted when they were minors, she also found a passion.

This week, she’s applying for a job as a paralegal for Maricopa County, with hopes to expand her studies in law school.

Adam Marrone saw firsthand the policy he wanted to study – the mental health crisis in the military. He served in the Army in Afghanistan and saw too many suffer mental health issues but not seek treatment out of fear of retribution or loss of their position or job.

The ROTC student, who will graduate next week, hopes to take his knowledge in the officer ranks and stem the tide of suicides among military members. He found that suicide among those in the military happen at much higher rates than the civilian population and that more mental health care needs to open up to those who serve.

“It took 35 days to get an appointment, and that’s as an active-duty soldier,” he said. “My recommendation is money allotted for mental health services for those in military service.”

LOPES Academy participant Christian Nguyen shows his “Internship Experience” research project to Jack Edlin (center) and Riley Ramcke.

Social workers are also involved in advocacy and policy work, and senior Alea Minnich discovered a knowledge gap in the foster care and adoption procedures, where foster or adoptive parents aren’t getting complete medical information on a child from biological parents.

The research also sparked her interest in a job she lined up in Indiana with a Christian organization that helps children and young mothers.

Prose

While communications students filled an entire room, where numerous projects were on the effects of social media, the broadcast team showed off their reels and their broadcast called “Lopes Lately,” which was new in 2023-24.

Andrea Turisk said she compared her recent broadcast work to what she did early in the year and was astounded at how much she had grown. “Everything was elevated,” she said. “Now we’re going to take over Tucson.”

Turisk, Noah Losing and Lexi Lambert have all been offered internships at KOLD in Tucson, joining their fellow 2024 graduate Madi Hart, who has landed a full-time job as a producer there.

Lauren Niemeyer talks with a student about her psychology project.

During a current job, Solimar Navarro also found that words matter. The Spanish student reported on what she learned in her parttime gig at a chain restaurant: All the kitchen workers spoke in Spanish, and management only spoke English. She served as a translator and is advocating increased language diversity among workers in the restaurant industry.

But perhaps the crown jewel of words came in a flury of verbal debate at the showcase. The finalists of a year-long On-Campus Debate Tournament that was open to all students concluded when freshman Olivia Anderson bettered junior Ethan White in a debate over whether Congress should fund outdated infrastructure.

It squared off as a battle of government vs. private industry, with White saying that government intrusion into industry “always leads to disaster,” citing the light rail in California, and Anderson made her point by asking if interstates should be privatized, and that public-owned entities should be run by the government.

She won a scholarship for the win, and both will be on next year’s GCU Speech and Debate team.

“I think key for me was to continue to hit the points that were being made throughout the debate, summarize them, bring it down to one specific voting issue and present my side,” she said.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

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Related content:

GCU News: Spanish literature heals the soul, raises questions for contest winners

GCU News: Social work program earns accreditation, students prepared to meet high need

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