Honors students at Penn State Wilkes-Barre have the opportunity to participate in an annual Spring Break honors research trip. This year’s trip marked a milestone for the campus, as it was the Honors Program’s first international venture—an exploration of London, designed to give students a better cultural understanding to inform their research on various aspects of Great Britain. These research projects culminate with poster presentations at the campus’s yearly Celebration of Scholarship competition.
Eight students participated in this year’s trip; they were accompanied by Honors Program faculty and co-coordinators William Bachman, Assistant Teaching Professor of Communications, and Megan Mac Gregor, acting head librarian at the Nesbitt Library.
The students selected a wide range of research topics: the expansion of Heathrow airport, how the British royal family markets itself, lesbianism in London’s LGBTQ+ history, Churchill’s war rooms and their effect on World War II, the debate around Britain’s greenbelt, homelessness in London, London’s police force and gun control, and preservation of architecture. Prior to travel, the students dug into their topics and read widely, assisted by librarian Megan Mac Gregor. By having a solid grasp of their subject matter prior to their visit, the students were better able to understand the city in the context of their research.
The class got to see and experience highlights of the famous city up close, including watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace (yes, the Queen was in residence); fighting through the crowd to get a peek at the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum; seeing one-of-a-kind first editions of literary classics at The British Library; learning about fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum; viewing tombs of notables at Westminster Abbey; and wandering the tunnels of Churchill’s Underground War Rooms. From these experiences and from small practical things, like learning how to navigate the London Underground, the students were able to gain a deeper understanding of British customs and culture, and of what it means to be an international citizen.
Once back on campus, the students began developing their topics into poster presentations in earnest. The presentations must be completed in time for the Celebration of Scholarship, when around 100 poster entries in various fields of inquiry will be judged. The Celebration of Scholarship, which takes place from 12:00–1:00 pm on April 11th in the Athletic and Recreation Building, is open to the public.
Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s annual Honors research trip is made possible through the Chancellor’s Endowment Fund, the Office of Global Travel at University Park, and individual gifts from friends of Penn State.