Two NSU Honors Program students earn second place at national conference

Smiling female NSU students holding certificates for research awards

Pictured: Anderson, left, and Williams, right

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Two Northern State University students earned second place in the nation at the recent National Collegiate Honors Conference.

Allison Anderson and Tawnie Williams each placed second in their categories at the conference, held Oct. 28-31. They were part of a group of Northern students attending the conference in Orlando, Fla., along with NSU Honors Program Director Dr. Kristi Bockorny.

Anderson, a junior from Canby, Minn., placed second in the Education and Pedagogy category for her thesis, “Teachers’ Knowledge About Grade Retention in the Early Grades.” Anderson is majoring in elementary education with a minor in early childhood education. Her thesis advisor is Ms. Jessica Vogel.

“When Dr. Bockorny first brought up the idea of presenting at NCHC, I’m pretty sure the words ‘that’s scary’ came out of my mouth. In that moment I knew it was something I had to try for,” Anderson said. “Just getting accepted to share my research that I’m so passionate about was so exciting. Being recognized as a second place winner was the cherry on top. I’m grateful to have had this opportunity and thankful for many professors, especially Dr. Bockorny and Ms. Vogel, for helping me achieve this. I’m excited to see what else may come from my research.” 

Williams, a senior from Rapid City, placed second in the Environmental Sciences, Conservation and Green Technology category for her thesis, “Effects of Dual-Species Biofilm Formation on Plastic Degradation by Ideonella sakaiensis.” Williams is pursuing a B.S. in biology and A.S. in biotechnology. Her thesis advisor is Dr. Andrew Russell.

“Coming into honors as a freshman knowing I had to complete a senior thesis was one of the scariest yet most exciting times here at Northern,” Williams said. “Once it came time to decide my topic, the whole process seemed impossible. I stumbled upon a flashy news article about a bacteria that could degrade plastic; I was instantly hooked.”

Soon after choosing her topic, however, she was involved in a skiing accident that required surgery. Bockorny had mentioned the NCHC conference, but Williams said all she knew about her topic at that point was the bacteria name and that it degraded plastic.

“Nevertheless, I began initial research. The deeper I got, the more excited and passionate I became,” Williams said. “Being accepted into the conference meant I not only got to share a topic that I instantly fell in love with, but I also got the opportunity to spread awareness about a potential cure for a disease that is plaguing our planet. Receiving second in my category is hopefully just the beginning in the potential of this research line, for my own and future researchers to come. Dr. Bockorny and Dr. Russell really helped me make this dream into a reality by guiding and supporting me through the process.”

Record Number of Students Accepted

A record 14 NSU students were accepted to present their Honors undergraduate research at the NCHC conference this year. That’s a 100 percent acceptance rate; the typical NCHC acceptance rate for the student research poster competition is around 65 percent. The other Northern students who presented are:

  • Sierra Daugaard
  • Mary Fullmer
  • James Heisinger
  • Jakob Lund
  • Mackenzie McClemans
  • Emily Meier
  • Laurie Rogers
  • Jessica Stockert
  • Drew Talberg
  • Molly Walter

Students Olivia Becker and Kristen Calderon were also accepted for NCHC, but they are also Wolves soccer players and were unable to attend due to their senior game.

Northern has an ‘amazing Honors Program’

Bockorny said she’s very proud of all the students who were accepted for NCHC. Those who attended the conference represented Northern very well, she said, presenting their research with confidence and enthusiasm.

“To have a 100 percent acceptance rate speaks volumes of the academic support the Honors Program receives from faculty, staff and administration at NSU,” she said. “Behind each of these students is a thesis advisor who has dedicated a great deal of time and dedication. NSU has developed an amazing Honors Program over the years and I look forward to its continued growth and success.”

Watch the video to learn more:

About the NSU Honors Program

The NSU Honors Program began in 1983 and has risen to national recognition. To graduate In Honoribus, students are required to complete an original Honors thesis and pass an oral defense in front of faculty. Northern Honors students have had success presenting that thesis research nationally, with students placing at the National Collegiate Honors Conference several times in recent years. To learn more, visit NSU Honors Program.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $150 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions