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Dossier, Effective Bulletin: 2009-10

University Honors is an accolade worth earning. T
My education over these last three years has been a pursuit for direction
I measure my education by experience, and I measure my experience by encounters. People, above
subject, define the core of my pursuit for direction.
We are what we do.
I chose to major in Psychology because of my interest in mental processing, and I have minors in Biology
and Chemistry.
My interests include drawing, painting, and ceramics, travel, the culinary arts, golf, music, and film. As
for scholarly pursuits, literature and languages occupy my time. I try to maintain my Italian proficiency
through books and conversations, and I have just begun studies in French.
whatever I cannot learn on campus, I learn through books, to understand reality as it comes
my best attempt is description over explanation
There is not much sacrifice in my actions. I do what I like doing, I hate wasting time, and I avoid the
I hope this outline of my interactions over these last three years
Involvement in the Honors College
Without a doubt, the Honors College is what proverbially sealed the deal for my commitment
to VCU. I had two schools to choose from and one question, albeit specific, for both: Will I be able to
major in Psychology, complete my pre-medicine courses, pursue research, study abroad, and have time
and mind to spare? The first school, despite its academic prestige and seemingly indefinite resources,
said with a rather patronizing smile, "Perhaps you shouldn't get ahead of yourself." The second school,
represented by Dr. Chandler at the time, said with a different smile, "You could." So, I did.
I came here with a path in mind, one that moved directly through the Honors Core Curriculum.
(Not sure what you mean here) The courses cross disciplines and leave room for students to engage their
own. Mathematics in Civilization, for one, was a delightful class. My concern for numbers dissipated in
high school, but the topics of this class rejuvenated all interest: Polynesian way-finding, the Greek
concern with the size and circumference of the world, the Sumerian origin of the written word.
Mathematics, not language, is what separates humans from animals . Its abstract nature parallels reason,
and we, as a species, are so adept at addressing its ubiquity. Though ostensibly a single subject, math has
introduced humans to psychology, biology, and physics. Mathematics in Civilization introduced me to a
realm of knowledge I would have otherwise overlooked.

In addition to the core, Honors classes themselves have a standard worth striving for. Small sizes
and brilliant instructors create an environment conducive to learning, which has led me to meeting some
brilliant professors. Dr. Robert Tombes, my Honors Cell Biology professor, was the first to make me read
each word in a scientific textbook. The task sounds elementary enough, but prior to that semester, my
study habits were very poor. Retention of Dr. Tombess teaching methods formed a foundation of
understanding that is applicable to every Biology class I have proceeded to take. Even today, in
Endocrinology and Topics in Neurobiology, I am better prepared as a direct consequence of taking his
The benefits do not end with courses, though. Berglund Seminars are an incredible resource, as
well as honors privileges. The seminars are quaint introductions to subjects and theories; after my third
attendance each semester, I find them convenient to pass the time. My favorites included lectures on
Italian cinema, forgiveness, and research on treatment for glioblastomas. The varied topics presented in
these seminars have often led me to the library in order to glean more information about these subjects.
The extended library borrowing privileges, were a blessing, for they afforded me the flexibility to pursue
my academic interests outside my major.This, along with advanced registration and expert advising, were
means to avoid obstacles that the majority of students at this university face. The Honors environment
removed many hassles other college students frequently face, freeing my time to devote to other tasks.
Most significantly, the Honors College granted me a sense of control over my education, and, for this, I
am grateful.
Quantitative Literacy, Information Fluency
Technology provides information in excess, and numbers support that information. Hence,
quantitative literacy and information fluency are two abilities worth mastering. My affinity for research
has enhanced these skills, and two courses in particular formed my foundation of research methods:
Honors Basic Practice of Statistics (STAT210) with Dr. DArcy Mays, and Honors Rhetoric (HONR200)
with Ms. Faye Prichard. The depth and clarity of both professors and curriculums set the standard for my
approach to investigation. Dr. Mays expertise in the subject transferred a direct, proficient basis of
statistics, preparing me for future classes such as Applications of Statistics (PSYC 214) and Research
Methods (PSYC317). The transition from z-tests, t-tests, and variable identification to ANOVAs and
applications in SPSS came easilyan effect of his instruction. Honors Rhetoric, with its systemic
syllabus breaking down scholarly searches and source qualifications, honed my keyword selection and
database fluency. The class also exposed me to my interest of choice: psychoneuroimmunology.
Culminating in a literature review connecting stress, immune function, and aging, Honors Rhetoric was
the cornerstone of my undergraduate career in research.
Having a strong basis in research methods, it was time to expand on my newfound skills. In the
spring of 2011, I elected for an independent study (PSYC492), also in psychoneuroimmunology, on the
interactions of melatonin with the immune system and its effects on stress and aging. The study was a
literature review focused around questions and theories from my research in Honors Rhetoric and Honors
Cell Biology the year before. I met with my mentor every two or three weeks as a measure of progress
and, consequently, honed my skills in locating, interpreting, and inferring from scholarly resources. That
same semester, I applied to EuroScholars, a research internship program abroad.

I spent the following fall semester at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, completing a
neuroscience research internship. The study was on the effects of sleep and reward on memory, and I
audited a masters course titled, Techniques for Investigating Brain Function. Both the research and the
class enriched my quantitative literacy by applying the calculus (MATH201), physics (PHYS207 and
208), and statistics that I learned at VCU to the interpretations of EEG recordings and fMRI results.
TRANSITION-Critical and Analytical Thinking, Oral and Written Communication
Explaining the evolution of my thinking is a challenge. Even after extensive reflection and
meditation, I cannot think of the way I once thought. My oral and written communication has evolved in
tandem, because I have grown to learn how others think. The group critiques in Honors Reading and
Writing of Fiction and Poetry (ENGL295) brought simple, yet valued details to my attention: that I left
too much to inference; that my words stumbled more than they flowed; and that senses and action
trumped theory. To this day, my writing is more grandiose than I prefer, hopefully less trite, but I bore
myself otherwise. The boundary between profundity and stupidity is opaque, though enticing. (This is
unnecessary but you can keep it if you choose to do so. It makes you sound pretentious.) As such, I am
still distanced from clear thoughts, or communication as clear as I would like it to be. In this section, I
will describe two courses, one in philosophy and the other a literary elective, that have influenced me in
these categories.
This past spring, I enrolled in Reason, Science, and the Self (PHIL230), with Dr. Donald Smith. I
always had an intrinsic affection for philosophy; in fact, I almost chose to major in it. Ontology and
metaphysics are stimulating enough, but its the structured argument that I never cared for. In any case,
what a curious course! (Theres nothing really wrong with this, but it makes you sound British/BritishIndian) Once we finished with the semantics of philosophy, we began a discussion on this classic debate
of free will versus determinism. Now, I understand our necessity as humans for both determinism and
free willdeterminism fuels prediction, and free will changes those predictionsbut any analysis
beyond that eluded me. For me, one question remains: where is the present? ( I would advise against
including rhetorical questions serves to do nothing but antagonize the reader)

All arguments allude to the present, and each hides behind words. Language and consciousness provides
for a present, leaving reason to dance around it. 1 My question has been answered in some corner of the
world, in some decade or century, Im sure. Dr. Smith answered me as well, but my brain still misses the

Determinism, in brief, says the present is the sum of all things past, and therefore dictates the future. If
free will exists in the present, and everything that has happened is in the past and everything that will
happen is in the future, then the window of now is very, very small, (if it exists at all). The agent-cause
stands in that window, and the debate cycles endlessly. So, free will could be the continuation of past into
present, an action of the agent-causereason sees no present, yet mind and language create one. And this
proposal, too, is cyclic.

connection. I am no master of philosophy, and my comprehension of the necessity of the debate is

fulfilling enough, so I am only left to wonder.
Reflecting on this class, where my thoughts were most analytically tested, I saw my introspective
nature deepen. Perhaps I think too quickly, value certain details less than others, or dwell on simplicity. I
remember once submitting an in-class assignment, asking Dr. Smith if he understood the explanation of
my seemingly disjointed phrases and arrows flying at random. I apologized, stating that I do not think in
straight lines. He asked, If you do not think linearly, then how do you think? I answered, Well, I think
in circles. My response came more swiftly than anticipated, and I surprised myself. Addressing the
statement later, I found that my thoughts run in spirals around subjects, where most can think directly.
This method causes significant problems with analysis; my comprehension is far from explicit. It does,
however, aid my critical thinking and contextual foundation.
This brings me to the discussion of another course completed that same semester: Quest for
Meaning (HONR398), with Dr. Timothy Hulsey. I enrolled after reading the course description, which
matched my definition of an entertaining challenge. As I saw it, the class centered on activities that fill
my spare time; it was an opportunity to meet others who do the same.
Maybe I am too critical to think analytically, or perhaps those definitions are mixed in my mind. Either
way, my thoughts have always dictated my communication.
Detail I would infer, I omit, because detail in excess is redundant. My ability of inference is a skill in
thought, but an obstacle in communication

Ethic and Civic Responsibility

At VCU, my most direct work has been through the Student Government Association. I was
walking in the Commons one night, three years ago, to my Italian Cinema class when a student stopped
me and asked if I wanted to join the organization. I declined, and he asked one more question: Is there
anything youd like to see changed at VCU? This I affirmed, and thus, I ran for election. This year, I am
chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, and we are working to address the academic issues that
students appear to have. It is a legislative mode to civic action, with regard to university concerns at
least, but the organization has a significant effect on our community.
Once, for instance, a dispute had unequal representation during a Senate session. Green Unity
was asking for some assistance funds to finalize their community garden project. Now, there were people
in the majority who would approve a bill for around $26,000 toward a Final Four trip to Dallas for 100
students and, the next year, reject a bill for about $6,000 toward a long-term community garden on the
MCV campus. This flawed logic aggravated me so much that I decided to speak in favor of the gardens
approval, something I rarely do (Why? You should probably extrapolate). After all, the organization had
funded 60% of the project themselves, and all the proposed plots had been rented for a year. With two
others, our persuasion tied the final vote, and the Speaker approved the bill. Neither I nor the two
senators will use that garden, but it was small gesture toward a proper cause. My participation in the
Student Government Association provides explicit description of my attempts toward civic responsibility.
My implicit understanding, though, lives around me.

Recently, on route to class, I watched an elderly man set up his new perch. He had one folding
chair and carried all his belongings in a small, standing carta cardboard box, plenty of plastic bags, and
some contents in a crate that I could not discern at my distance. He found his spot on the sidewalk and
began his preparations. The season was autumn at the time, so the ground was covered with reddish
orange maple leaves. Here, he did the most intriguing thing! He began picking up all the leaves on the
sidewalk, in and around his chosen area, and placed each one, face up, in his cardboard box. At the same
time, he cleared the litter along the curb. His smile was warm, as I passed, and his face was light. He
was content, but not without purpose. After class, I saw him sitting on his chair, in his small clearing on a
clean street, with his cardboard box next to the cart by his side. I knew this, to me, was civic
responsibility. For neither recognition nor reward, he found duty in his day, with more honor than most
As for understanding ethic responsibility, a critical source has been the Mini Medical School of
Toms River, NJ, a summer program I designed in 2009 with my father for undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students interested in medicine as a profession. We noticed that many students pursuing the
field had a narrow vision of the lifestyle, work, and motives of a physician, largely due narrowed
exposure. So, we asked a spectrum of practicing and retired physicians, nurses, students, and researchers
to donate an hour of their time to speak to students about what they do, how they do it, and why. The
program is non-profit, and changes every year based on speaker availability. I structure the sessions to
reflect as many facets of healthcare as a single week can handle, from medical research and nursing
through the diversity of fields, covering the lifestyles and economics of practice along the way. For four
years as director, I have seen students apply to MMS with one field of preference and leave with another.
I have seen others diverge from medicine and focus on engineering, law, or business. Most importantly,
though, I have seen us all stand wiser, pursuing our professions with enterprise. I realize now that this
program has been my most direct means of understanding ethic responsibility.
For instance, a physiatrist was lecturing on his relationship with patients and relayed a point of
wisdom that evades most physicians. In his field of geriatric healthcare, everyone will die, some sooner
than later. Now, immobilization is a very direct demonstration of our mortality as humans, and it comes
with the unfortunate effect of rumination. As physicians, he said, we all want our patients to get
better, to live. And they will, at least to an extent, but as they grow older, things happen. One day, a
patient will come to you and say, Hey, doc, I havent been able to sleep in days, and I think Im dying.
You dont have time for that conversation, with six patients to see in the next hour, if not more. And,
because youre human, you want to ease the tension, joke around, say hell be home in two days and not
to worry. But thats the worst response. So what you do is you sit down and you listen to your patient.
You say, seriously, Yes, you are. You have that conversation and go late to your next patient, knowing
the previous is a little more secure. The decision seems obvious, yet it eludes most.
There were many more lessons in ethics relayed by physicians through this program, including
topics of failure, decisions and morals, and the healthcare of society. I have watched these speakers, their
practices and patients, and their hospitals change over these tumultuous four years; I have seen their faces
grow fatigued while their eyes remain direct. Their lifes work is defined by ethic responsibility, a true
calling for few people, and just hearing them revives my passion for medicine. When competition deters
and distractions persist, I always rely on the Mini Medical School to remind me why I have chosen the

(All of this should have probably been about Richmond/VCU...not Mini Med School in NJ...)
Opportunities for Intellectual and Personal Growth
**travels: Bali/Singapore/Malaysia, Italy, France, Thailand, China (Probably not relevant)
**study abroad: Switzerland, self-reliance
**MMS: I have spoken of the program etc etc
people around me

overarching theme of my personal development

Life Long Learning

medicine as a profession


In part and without logic, I felt as though I had wasted three years, sleeping and sitting and thinking to no
effect. ( I dont understand this....)
It is important for us to define our paths, for the pathless person will only be lost. As students,
our horizons are distantthus we wander, cross paths, et cetera as the clichs go. Direction is merely a
mindset, though, awake and active and known. It is the decision of profession over passions, the will of
focus over distraction (to do what?) .
This frame of concentration enters me eagerly and exits the same, for it is a delicacy that I have not yet
strengthened. At times, I watch some peers with a broken envy, as they do simply to say they have done.
Their diligence is without heart but with mind, and they will succeed at their single goal. I, on the other
hand, can only do as I do. (True, but a little pretentious. Perhaps you should reword this)
of passions and professions: medicine
- the most direct, active use of my knowledge in helping other people; addressing a person's pain