Three Honors College students receive inaugural Dean’s Prize

Kelsey Romney, Jaden Schutt and My Vuong are the three recipients of the Dean's Prize.
Sunday, June 25, 2023

Kelsey Romney, Jaden Schutt and My Vuong received the inaugural Dean’s Prize for outstanding honors capstone theses/projects at a virtual ceremony held Thursday, June 22. They were nominated by their honors program directors for exemplary research, and each received a $500 prize.

To be eligible for a Dean’s Prize, candidates must be in good standing within their honors program, have earned a minimum 3.5 overall GPA and exemplify the Honors College core value of mutual investment. 

“The three recipients of the inaugural Dean’s Prize are models of academic excellence for the Honors College and the University,” said Malin Pereira, dean of the Honors College. 

Kelsey Romney’s capstone thesis studied racial and gender diversity in children's books. She analyzed works on the Common Core Text Exemplar List, a list of recommended books for schools to use in states that have implemented the Common Core State Standards. 

Romney, a Johnson Scholar and member of the University Honors and Education Honors programs, majored in elementary education and will begin her career teaching third grade at Carl A. Furr Elementary School in Cabarrus County in the fall.

“Kelsey wrote an exemplary research thesis that strongly mirrors the conventions of scholarly writing in the fields of reading and elementary education,” said Cindy Gilson, associate professor of special education and child development. “Her research project stands out among the rest because it is methodologically strong and her study is grounded in the research literature and theory.”  

Jaden Schutt’s capstone thesis studied the commercialization of indigenous crafts at residential schools within America during the late 19th to the early 20th century. She analyzed the evolution of the Native art curriculum at the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma, which operated from 1884 to 1980, and the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, which ran from 1879 to 1918. 

Schutt, a first-generation college student and member of the University Honors and History Honors programs, majored in criminal justice and history and will attend Elon University School of Law in the fall. 

“Jaden had an outstanding thesis with substantial original analysis of primary sources,” said Maren Ehlers, associate professor of history. “She makes a sophisticated argument that addresses a real gap in the literature and shows great skill analyzing her primary sources, including photographs.”

My Vuong’s capstone thesis studied the synthesis and characterization of an organometallic polymer composed of Fe4S4 clusters and Janus biscarbene linkers. She has been studying organometallic polymers made from metal-sulfur clusters in Professor Christopher Bejger’s lab and recently received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Vuong, a first-generation college student and member of the University Honors and Chemistry Honors programs, majored in chemistry and minored in math and biology, She will continue her education as a Ph.D. student in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in the fall.

“My synthesized and characterized her own novel materials, which show capabilities across multiple applications,” said Jordan Poler, professor of chemistry. 

In total, 20 seniors’ capstones were nominated for the inaugural Dean’s Prize. Congratulations to the 17 students nominated for their research efforts: Noah Atwood, Sophie Barnett, Zach Beale, Caylea Clark, Emily Dawes, Morgan Delfava, Sydney Garceau, Vasiliki Gkoulgkountina, Makayla Johnson, Dezanii Lewis, Jacob Matson, Sarah Neil, Yuleni Gomez Rodriguez, Mahita Sadula, Elizabeth Smith, Evie Starr and Emma Wakeman.

The inaugural Dean’s Prize was made possible through the generosity of three friends of the Honors College, Harry Creemers, Delbridge Narron and Murray Webster. Creemers was the University Advancement administrator who helped launch the Honors College Advisory Board and supported fundraising initiatives in the college for many years. Webster and Narron have taught courses in the Honors College. In addition, Webster chaired the Honors Council, and Narron served as inaugural chair of the Advisory Board. 

Honors faculty members Deborah Beete, lecturer in public health sciences; Kent Brintnall, associate professor of religious studies; and Luke Donovan, associate professor of applied physiology, health and clinical sciences, reviewed all nominations submitted for the inaugural Dean’s Prize. 

Photo: My Vuong, Jaden Schutt and  Kelsey Romney.