Passion for a Project: My Honors Program Experience

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by Sally Rudi

As a senior and a history major, I’ve done my fair share of research in the past three and a half years at PLNU. So, when the opportunity to work on an honors project presented itself, I thought to myself, “Why not? I research all the time anyway.”

I had no idea that I was embarking on a journey completely different from any research paper for any class I have ever taken. I quickly learned that the honors project was meant to be an opportunity for self-motivated research. For the first time, I would not be required to write about a particular topic tailored to a specific class. I could essentially choose anything from thousands of years of history. The prospect of having to choose one topic out of all of human history was overwhelming. Luckily, the honors project requires a mentor and committee for each student, and my mentor helped me figure out what I could start considering as a topic.

The honors project faculty and the professors in my department have been so helpful through this whole process. Drs. Mark Mann and Hadley Wood helped show me the tools required for a successful presentation, and my mentor, Dr. Kelli McCoy, helped guide my research. The faculty at PLNU makes this honors project experience something truly unique. One thing this project has reinforced for me is how deeply the professors at PLNU care about the education of their students. The professors here work hard to help us create the best projects we possibly can.

After meeting with my project mentor and other professors from the history and political science department, I realized that each of my classes had prepared me for this honors project. I left each class with a a strong interest in something new. I decided to take my passions for the Progressive Era, the evolving roles of women in America, and urban development and combine those with my love for San Diego to create one topic about which I could be very, very passionate: the role of women in the development of Balboa Park.

Researching this topic with which I have absolutely fallen in love has been an immense blessing. I get excited when I receive email notifications telling me I have new books waiting for me in the library. I love telling people what my project is about because I have developed such a passion for what I am researching. I love discovering new facts about the city I have learned to call home.

Before this project, I had never really considered San Diego’s extensive history. Since the beginning of my project though, I have learned a considerable amount of San Diego history. For example, I learned that Balboa Park was set aside as a public space 150 years ago by the founders of the city to promote the citizens’ health and well-being. I learned that Kate Sessions’ role in developing the park exemplifies the expanding role of women in America during the Progressive Era. I learned that the beautiful buildings featured in Balboa Park were originally intended to inspire international audiences at the two expositions hosted there in the early 20th century. Most importantly, I learned that I should be more aware of my environment because each building, street, and tree has a rich history that gives us a glimpse into the lives of the people who lived before us. Many of those people wanted to preserve the San Diego they knew and loved so that future generations, including us, could one day appreciate it. I think taking time to study the city and the people who helped it grow is one of the greatest ways I can thank them for giving us such a beautiful place to call home.

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