“All of us at WVU Libraries and the Honors College congratulate our Munn Scholars, Hayley Harman and Janelle Vickers, for producing impressive works of scholarship,” Dean of Libraries Jon E. Cawthorne said. “They clearly dedicated considerable time and effort to gathering and evaluating pertinent resources, and we celebrate their use of scholarship in their research.”
WVU Libraries and the Honors College established the Robert F. Munn Undergraduate Library Scholars Award in 2009 to honor Munn, who served as dean of Library Services from 1957-1986. The $1,000 prize goes to one or more graduating Honors students for an outstanding humanities or social sciences thesis based on research conducted in the WVU Libraries.
“The work that Hayley and Janelle have done for their senior theses together show the wide range of ways that we can address issues of social importance,” said Ryan Claycomb, associate dean of the Honors College. “While good research takes different forms across the disciplines, the importance of sound, thorough, and critically engaged research is crucial to the way we tackle tough problems both abstract and concrete. We were so impressed by each of these projects and their ability to marshal their resources to reach such insightful and important conclusions.”
Harman, the daughter of Ed and Ashley Harman of Morgantown, won the award with her paper titled “Electronic Cigarette Expectancies in Adolescents: Exploring the Relation between User Status and Beliefs.”
The thesis is based on a study completed with Dr. Christina Duncan in WVU’s Pediatric Psychology Research Lab. The lab has been interested in the rise of e-cigarette use in West Virginia and across the nation.
Harman was shocked to learn that nationwide 500,000 middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the past year. Since the 1990s, the rate of regular cigarette use among middle and high school students has plummeted, while e-cigarette use has skyrocketed.
“Studies have shown how students can think using an e-cigarette makes them look cool and will help them fit in better with their peers. I was interested in how these perceptions affected e-cigarette use,” Harman said.
Harman explained that her data will help public health specialists and smoking intervention and education services to better direct their resources.
“Now that perceptions among this sample of adolescents are better understood, there is an opportunity to design more specific outreach and intervention programs to reach young people,” Harman said.
She plans to begin a two-year public health associate program with the Centers for Disease Control in October. Similar to AmeriCorps, participants are assigned to locations around the country to work for a health department or non-government organization to address the needs of that region.
“I want to gain hands-on skills working with health policy and public health while learning more about specific communities’ immediate health needs,” Harman said. “Through my studies and volunteer and work experiences, I have become interested in medicine and the delivery of healthcare, though my original inclination to be a physician has evolved over time into a desire to meet healthcare needs on a wider scale.”
She also believes the experience will give her more insight in determining her career path.
“I still interested in becoming an Ob/Gyn, but through an MD-Ph.D. program in health policy... eventually, not tomorrow,” Harman laughed.
The daughter of Susan Chaikowsky and Bob Young, her step-father, of Moundsville, Vickers won for her thesis titled “So Why Do We Choose the Boys That Are Naughty?: An Examination of the Byronic Hero in the Modern Age.”
The Byronic hero is a literary trope that has always interested Vickers. When she heard about a revival of the sci-fi television program “The X-Files,” she started applying the trope to the show’s main character, Fox Mulder.
It was a bug she couldn’t get out of her head, so she decided to explore her ideas and observations.
“For a lot of people, when they think about academics, they don’t think pop culture should be studied or can be studied,” Vickers said. “But looking at the impact of something in pop culture, the ramifications of what these characters being repeated over and over means for our society, and studying why something is relevant in pop culture is important.”
Although she was focusing on a TV character, she engaged in the traditional academic research process. She spent a lot of time on the Libraries website searching for articles relating to her topic. And, like she’s done countless times before, she read through the amassed materials, took notes and wrote a draft.
“When it came time to do the hard-core editing, I set myself up in a study carrel in the Downtown Campus Library for hours,” Vickers said. “There’s a little sadness in graduation, because I won’t have access to all these resources.”
Vickers will graduate with degrees in English literature and communication studies, with minors in Women and Gender Studies, and Arabic Studies. In the fall, she plans to begin working on a master’s in Communication Theory and Research at WVU.
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