URI seniors showcase research at annual Honors Program Conference

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862 |

KINGSTON, R.I. — May 16, 2018 — Understanding deaf culture, the future of radio and the effects of visuals on social media are just some of the wide range of topics explored by graduating seniors in the University of Rhode Island Honors Program.

“Each year about 100 students engage in 3-6 credits of Independent Study as a requirement for completion of the Honors Program. They choose an area of study, submit a project proposal, select a faculty or staff member to mentor them, and work for 4-12 months here or abroad to meet the learning outcomes they set for themselves,” said Carolyn C. Hames, associate professor and associate director of the Honors Program. All of the Honors Projects for the past few years are visible at http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/srhonorsprog/.

Earlier this month, nearly 100 students from all disciplines showcased their culminating projects at the Annual Honors Conference. Here are some highlights from this year’s event.

Cassidy McCartan
In her Honor’s Project, Cassidy McCartan uses Newton’s Third Law to show how acting is really all about physics. Photo by Randy Osga

Cassidy McCartan, The Physics of Acting
Major: Theater: Acting
Hometown: Stewartville, Minnesota

Physics and acting seem like two completely different disciplines, but Cassidy McCartan says they’re not as different as one would think.

“In theater we always talk about action and reaction,” McCartan said. “That’s basically Newton’s Third Law.”

McCartan was inspired by a course she took on voice and movement. In theater, actors learn their craft by focusing on three disciplines: the actor’s voice, body and text studies. The hardest to master, she said, is the actor’s body. Through movement, actors inspire different expressions and tones for the audience. The problem, however, is learning how to allocate the right amount of energy to fit each situation.

“It’s all for the audience,” she said. “We will use our bodies in unnecessary ways, and that creates muddy stories on stage.”

After studying different movement techniques from Margolis, Laban, Alexander, and Meyerhold, McCartan applied those theories to basic physics concepts and created what she calls “a language for actors” to show how the body can be used to create the maximum expression without exerting an excess of energy. In other words, it’s all about using space and time effectively on stage, she said.

McCartan took her project a step further and decided to host an acting workshop using her findings. The hour-long workshop taught other actors how to apply the physics concepts accurately to their performances.

Joshua Perkins
Joshua Perkins wrote an investment guide for Millennials for his Honors Project to help young people navigate a chaotic financial landscape. Photo by Randy Osga

Joshua Perkins, An Investment Guide For Millennials
Major: Finance
Hometown: East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Last summer, as an intern at a hedge fund analysis firm, Joshua Perkins was faced with an interesting question: how much money would you have to put away each month to be a millionaire in two decades? As he started to answer this question for himself, he began to think about other millennials and their finances. After talking to his friends, Perkins realized that most millennials didn’t know much about the stock market.

To help other millennials navigate the world of investments, Perkins created a how-to guide specifically tailored to millennials to help them understand bonds, cryptocurrency, stocks, mutual funds and even retirement savings. After explaining each of those aspects, the guide then offers advice based on different factors, including risk, availability of time and one’s own budget. Additionally, this portion of the guide offers short-term and long-term economic predictions based on the current market conditions.

“People think they don’t have the savings or the time,” Perkins said. “But these options allow them to take something out of their paycheck and invest it.”

The last section of the guide is an investment simulation that illustrates the different investment options to grow their assets. He said he hopes this guide can help “inform young people about the importance of saving, investing early and compounding growth, as well as the different investments one can utilize to reach their financial goals.”

Aislyne Calianos
Aislyne Calianos explains how climate change and colonialism affect Puerto Rican residents for her Honors Project. Photo by Randy Osga

Aislyne Calianos, Climate Change, Colonialism, and Second Class Citizenry: A Case Study on the Impacts of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Major: Marine Affairs, Spanish
Hometown: Upton, Massachusetts

Aislyne Calianos didn’t know what to do for her Honors Project until Hurricane Maria hit. In the storm’s aftermath, she began to notice how Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts were handled differently than those in Texas and Florida from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Using background knowledge from her Island Anthropology class, she decided to pursue an interview-based project by talking to people with ties to Puerto Rico. Over the course of her research, her focus shifted over time from analyzing how people were displaced after the storm to climate change and the implications of colonialism on island territories.

“Most people don’t know this, but the U.S. holds colonies, and we don’t treat them the same way,” Calianos said.

She found discrepancies in the recovery periods between each area, as more than seven months after the hurricane, residents in Puerto Rico still don’t have power. Calianos said the issue goes much deeper than just the recovery after one major hurricane.

“In the era of climate change, we will be forced to reckon with the modern legacy of colonialism, as vulnerable communities must face the brunt of brutal environmental challenges,” she said. “Including more frequent and stronger storm events, increased flooding, and higher ocean and air temperatures.”

Emma Gauthier, a student writer in the URI Marketing and Communications Department and a journalism major, wrote this press release.