Staff supports students in meeting their goals and prepares them for graduate school and career success
From mapping the ocean floor to photographing environmental changes in Iceland or studying the role of women in Gothic novels, UMass Dartmouth Honors College students are enjoying research and internship opportunities, thanks to advising, mentoring, and funding offered by the college.
Focused academic advising is key to achieving excellence for Honors students. Dean Amy Shapiro, Faculty Director Brian Ayotte, Director of Student Support Services Suzanne Melloni, and Assistant Director of Student Support Services Kristin Kadlec build a close mentoring relationship with Honors students by assisting them in fulfilling their requirements and facilitating opportunities to engage in research, land internships, and enroll in graduate school. Administrative Assistant Maria Carreiro makes all students feel welcome and makes the college a home base for many of them.
"The Honors College at UMassD distinguishes itself by tailoring experiences and mentoring to students' intellectual and career goals," said Shapiro. "The advising team provides full curriculum plans to help students earn their majors and minors in Honors without taking extra courses."
In addition, Honors collaborates with the Office of Undergraduate Research and funds summer research grants for Honors students. The college also funds student research and travel to conferences.
All Honors students complete the Academic Project or Experience (APEX). The APEX demonstrates students' learning and can take the form of three tracks: traditional research, performance/expression, and applied service/internship. Dean Shapiro, along with dedicated APEX mentors, work closely with students to ensure an enriching experience that will ultimately make the students stand out from the crowd.
"A signature aspect of the Honors College is the individual attention each student receives," said Shapiro. "All students receive academic advising from their Honors advisor in addition to their academic major advisor. And, our faculty work one-on-one with students to complete the APEX. Even the curriculum is built to be flexible for each student’s needs."
A range of internship and research opportunities
"We pride ourselves on ensuring each student is supported in meeting their individual goals. We mentor them in choosing classes, finding research placements, securing internships, preparing for interviews and careers, and strategizing about graduate school applications. As a result, our students end their college years ready for the future and with strong, marketable resumes that will successfully launch them into graduate school and careers," added Shapiro.
Leandro Neves '25, an electrical engineering major, secured a position as a researcher working with Dr. Miles Sundermeyer, professor of estuarine and ocean sciences at UMassD’s School for Marine Science & Technology. Neves is using his skills to map coastal shores using light detection and ranging on an autonomous boat and an unmanned aerial vehicle to compare the data between the different types of mapping.
"Honors was the path that led me to this opportunity through networking," said Neves. "Because Honors requires the APEX, some professors reach out to the college with research and opportunities. This was the case when Dr. Sundermeyer reached out to Dr. Shapiro and she recommended me."
This research connected Neves to Teledyne Benthos, a brand of Teledyne Marine, which designs and produces marine instruments. "My internship at Teledyne has given me the opportunity to stay with them in a full-time position after I graduate," he said. "I do not know of many other research-internship opportunities that would have been available to me if I wasn’t in the Honors College at UMassD. The advising and support are unmatched because of the relationships that can be built with advisors, administrators, and Dean Shapiro."
Similarly, finance major Amber Holt '24 connected with the Greater Attleboro and Taunton Regional Transit Authority (GATRA) where she obtained a paid internship. "This internship experience became the main focus point in my APEX project proposal. I am incredibly grateful for Dr. Shapiro’s as well as Professor Ayotte’s help in landing my internship at GATRA," said Holt.
"During this internship, I improved my Excel and analysis skills as I worked on daily tasks assigned to me by the chief financial officer," she added. "I was trained in a variety of topics such as fixed asset management, accounts payable data manipulation, payroll, health insurance management, budgeting, equipment record keeping, and audit preparation.
"I owe a lot of my academic confidence and success to the Honors College. The courses on their own encourage and help you develop such important career and research skills that prepare you immensely for independent work in the real workforce," Holt said.
"Working with Honors students is both challenging and rewarding. It is not always easy to make sure that the students are sufficiently challenged, but the rewards of guiding these exceptional minds on their educational journey are immeasurable," said Ayotte.
"The most rewarding aspect of working with Honors students is witnessing their relentless curiosity, unwavering commitment to excellence, and their ability to transform challenges into opportunities for growth," he added.
Dean Shapiro also connected Claudia Adobaw '25, a health and society major with a minor in business administration, with an internship at SouthCoast Health.
"For my APEX, I wanted to do an internship pertaining to public health, but I did not know where to start looking. I reached out to Dr. Shapiro and told her what I was looking for. She went through my resume and made sure it was ideal for the opportunity I was seeking. She then introduced me to the vice president of materials management at SouthCoast. Beyond just introducing me, she groomed me for the interview as well. Although it was during the summer, she did not mind taking time out of her busy schedule to meet up with me whenever I reached out to her."
Adobaw worked as an intern for the New Beginnings program that supports substance-exposed mothers. "Learning is one thing, but taking the acquired knowledge and skills and applying them is a good way to explore career paths," she said. "These are the amazing opportunities the Honors College gives its students."
Political science major Zoi Burns '24, who minors in urban studies and data analytics, worked with her Honors advisor, Kristin Kadlec to navigate her major, minor, and Honors requirements as well as a Semester in the City internship this fall. She is working at the Pine Street Inn on diversity, equity, and inclusion projects.
"The Honors advising is my favorite because my advisor helps set me up for success," said Burns.
"It is a pleasure getting to know our Honors students and watching them grow during their four years here," said Kadlec. "I love seeing their pursuit of excellence through hard work, dedication, and willingness to go above and beyond through internships, research, and creative projects."
Funding support in coordination with the Office of Undergraduate Research
Funding for student research and travel provides opportunities for Honors students to purchase materials and travel to conferences.
Last year, the Honors College supported the APEX research of three biology majors who worked with Professor Michael Sheriff and his doctoral student, Eleanor DiNuzzo. The group focused on the ecological effects of an invasive crab species. The college also partially funded their travel to present their work at the annual Benthic Ecology Conference. Olivia Aguiar is now enrolled in a PhD program in biology while Bella Mancini and Sophia Maloney-Buckley are studying to become physician assistants.
Honors English major Kamryn Kobel ’24 used funding from the Honors College to purchase books she needed for her project about the role of women in Gothic novels.
“By reading these texts, I gained contextual, historical, and cultural knowledge about the early American Gothic genre," Kobel said. "The Honors College helped facilitate this opportunity by helping me write a grant proposal as well as by giving me this aid. This project has given me the opportunity to engage in a specialized field of research, which is something that graduate schools often look for."
Chemistry major Daphne Poirier '25 conducted summer research with Dr. Patrick Cappillino and PhD student Tulsi Podel. She assisted with research into booster materials for redox targeting flow batteries.
"The Honors College was able to facilitate this work by providing funding for my summer research experience," said Poirier. "I feel like my research experience has made me more confident in my lab skills and helped me to feel more connected to what I’m learning. The academic experience is much more rewarding when you feel a part of it.
"I’ve always appreciated the 1-on-1 advising given to me by the Honors College. I’ve grown to rely on my Honors College advisor to help keep me on track with credits and classes, as well as figure out how to add a minor and maintain my scholarship requirements," she added.
Monika Janina Kristjánsdóttir '25, a graphic design major, is photographing environmental changes to the glaciers and landscape in her native country of Iceland using photomontage. The Honors College helped to fund her travel and materials.
"I find it a unique experience to work with an advisor in a way that is direct and focused on your personal goals. Being able to engage and count on your professor at any time, both on and off semesters, is a great support to your success," she said.
Honors College also offers career skills
In spring 2024, the Honors College, in collaboration with the Career Center, will offer a 1-credit course called "Classroom to Career" that will teach students leadership styles, networking skills, self-marketing and promotion, and how to translate a major into the real world.
"It is a pleasure to support Honors students through their experiences at UMass Dartmouth; to see them thrive, persist, and graduate as Commonwealth Honors Scholars," said Melloni. "Our Honors students go on to publish research, attend national conferences and prestigious graduate programs, and begin careers that represent all UMass Dartmouth has to offer," she added.