Honors Research Symposium highlights diversity

Joseph Madere and his team give their presentation, “At Large or by District -- The City of Scottsdale and the Question of Representation,” during the Learning Community & Research Symposium.

Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

There’s no denying that Grand Canyon University is impacting a variety of fields.

Honor College Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli delivers the welcome address at the event.

It’s a reality that was made even clearer Monday as the Honors College hosted the Spring 2022 Learning Community and Research Symposium on behalf of Academic Affairs.

In addition to the learning community fair and an opportunity for attendees to browse research posters, five oral research presentations were selected to highlight not only the talent coming out of the University but also the scope in which GCU’s emphasis to serve is reaching different paths of the professional world.

The work students are doing outside of their coursework is what really makes the event memorable for Honors College Associate Dean Dr. Breanna Naegeli.

“This event provides such a great platform for students to be able to share everything they’re engaged in, all of which is voluntary and outside of assigned classroom projects. It is also a testament to what our faculty do and how they are supporting student learning outside of instructional and office hours,” she said. “This exemplifies how collaborative our community is here at GCU, how supportive our faculty are in supporting learners in all their ventures.”

The five presentations included research everything from the teacher shortage to the effects of smoke exposure on wildland firefighters.

Katelyn Hochstetler and Kyle Luster explain their Virtual Reality Simulation for Victims of Human Trafficking during the Learning Community & Research Symposium.

The wide range of topics makes Naegeli especially pleased.

“I’m really excited about today’s presentations because for the first time we have five different colleges being featured in the oral presentations, and we get to witness the diversity in applied learning experiences our students have access to,” she said. “These groups are going out into the community and doing practical application of what is being taught in the classroom.”

That sense of pride was echoed by attendees, including GCU President Brian Mueller and other leaders.

“Brian talks so well about the vision of the University but also the Five-Point Plan and what we’re doing in the community,” said University Provost Dr. Hank Radda to the audience in his closing remarks at the event. “I don’t think you could have better representation of that occurring in a very real way.”

University Provost Dr. Hank Radda gives the closing remarks.

And presentations such as the one given by business students Justin Whitehouse, Psalms Reid and Jennifer N’Guessan are a perfect example.

The group's project stemmed from its work within the Colangelo College of Business’s New Business Development Center (NBDC).

The goal of the project was finding solutions to an alarming statistic on new business success rates.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of new businesses fail in their first two years, and that percentage rises to 45% in their first five years. It’s an unfortunate reality that was only made worse in recent years by the pandemic.

Justin Whitehouse speaks during his team’s presentation for GCU’s New Business Development Center.

Through their work in NBDC, members hope to find ways to keep new businesses on their feet.

“We want to help them restart that business, and we want to help them restart it to where it does not shut down if something else happens,” Reid said.

Through helping teach small business owners the skills necessary to successfully navigate through adversity, the students are not only making an impact for business owners and their families but also the economy.

Their desire to give back was only strengthened by being on the GCU campus.

“GCU is all about finding your purpose and servant leadership. … It is all about using the resources that you have to serve your community, so that’s where it started,” N’Guessan said. “The impact of the success of a small business is not only for the small business, it’s for the whole community.”

Nicole Nowakowski (right) and Nicole Leake give their presentation for Design United in Partnership with Capital Christian Schools.

Through its presentation, the group hopes to open the door for future collaborations.

“It all has to do with collaboration, with different clubs and support from administration and executives to really work hand in hand to help the community,” Whitehouse said. “That is exactly why we are honored to have the opportunity we had today – to compile everything we’ve done since 2016 to 2021 and kind of build a picture of our new initiatives.”

Another group to present at the symposium was the College of Arts and Media’s Design United Honors group.

Its presentation focused on the student organization’s current collaboration with Capital Christian School in Sacramento, California, for a campus beautification project.

Members Nicole Nowakowski and Nicole Leake shared insights from having worked on the project and emphasized the benefits for the Capital Christian community as well as GCU.

“It was a good time to step back and really look at what we did and analyze,” Leake said. “I hope the audience was able to see the amount of work we put in, the exciting future that we have and that we’re really hoping to build this program and be a great resource to both in-house and out-of-house marketing.”

Participating in such an event is something that she’ll never forget.

“I feel really honored,” Leake said with a smile.


Substitute Teaching Changes Lives

Presenters: Sofia Figueroa, Emma Nyffeler, Faira Fischer, Ashley Hernandez, Kelly Hernandez

Advisor: Claudia Coleman

College of Education

GCU’s New Business Development Center (NBDC)

Presenters: Justin Whitehouse, Kalia Brewster, Cristina Trinidad Citalan, Psalms Reid, Jennifer N’Guessan, Luis Escamilla

Advisor: Eduardo Borquez

Colangelo College of Business

Design United in Partnership with Capital Christian Schools

Presenters: Nicole Nowakowski, Nicole Leake

Advisor: Chris Murphy

College of Arts and Media

At Large or by District – The City of Scottsdale and the Question of Representation

Presenters: Jessica Landes, Vanessa Attawia, Annabelle Copenhaver, Joseph Madere, Amy Guerrero

Research Team: Alexa Fox, Antonio Valaquez, Cayla Pabo, Colin Schwantner, Dante Barton, Edgar Moreno, James Davis, Katelyn Rafferty, Kathryn Olomua, Nick Guptil, Shane Moss, Tatiyana Ponce

Advisor: Evelyn Racette

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

The Relationship of Smoke Exposure to VO2max in Wildland Firefighters

Presenters: Annika Grams, Payton Price

Advisor: Dr. Zachary Zeigler

College of Science, Engineering, and Technology

Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Symposium shows variety of students’ research

GCU Today: Variety of research on full display at fall symposium

GCU Today: Beautification project a win-win for school, students


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