By Joe Garvey

A trip to Paris to study flânerie. A local health-care initiative. An examination of an emerging African hip-hop musical genre. An effort to find new treatments for breast and other cancers. An outdoors trip in an urban setting with an eye toward diversifying the outdoor industry.

These are the subject areas five Old Dominion University students will pursue as the inaugural recipients of Broderick Honors Opportunity Scholarships.

Funded by Patricia and Douglas Perry to honor the major contributions of President John R. Broderick and First Lady Kate Broderick to the University and the Commonwealth, the program provides scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 to help Perry Honors College students pursue their educational interests while making a difference in the world.

The recipients are:

  • Kelsey Norton, a world languages and cultures major in the College of Arts & Letters who plans to graduate in the spring of 2021.
  • Tien Pham, a biochemistry major in the College of Sciences who plans to graduate in the spring of 2021.
  • John Omondi Sewe, a women's studies and political science major in the College of Arts & Letters who plans to graduate in the fall of 2021.
  • Lindsay Days, a biochemistry major in the College of Sciences who plans to graduate in the fall of 2021.
  • Samantha Wagner, a biology major in the College of Sciences who plans to graduate in the spring of 2023.

"The scholarships will help these students to take the next step in their lives. I'm very proud of them," said David Metzger, dean of the Perry Honors College. "They're smart and big-hearted; their current and future projects are a fitting tribute to our President's and First Lady's contributions to the University and the larger community."

The students will use the scholarships to further study a wide range of interests.

Norton's weeklong independent study-abroad experience in Paris will focus on French culture and conversation at France Langue, an American Councilon the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) accredited school.

The scholarship created an ideal opportunity for Norton, who was unable to do a traditional study-abroad language program - which usually occurs over a spring break, summer, semester or academic year - because she's the mother of a young child.

She said that during her studies at ODU, she's become interested in the French phenomenon of flânerie - city strolling and observation of urban life. It has become a thesis idea on the philosophy of walking and creative expression in urban settings.

"My chosen program at France Langue operates on a morning-only class schedule to allow city exploring in the afternoons," she said. "This is imperative because being in the birthplace of flânerie will allow me a better cultural understanding of my research interests."

Pham will use her scholarship to conduct three or four community health pop-ups locally.

"These pop-ups will hopefully provide free health services, such as physicals, basic dental cleanings and eye exams, within underserved communities near ODU," she said. "My goal is to not only give awareness to major overlooked health disorders like hypertension, diabetes and cavities, but to also provide resources on prevention."

She plans to ask health-care professionals to give informational speeches. She hopes to enlist pre-health and nursing students at ODU as well as students at Eastern Virginia Medical School and personnel from rescue squads in Virginia Beach, where she is a volunteer emergency medical technician, and Chesapeake. She anticipates that the events will be held at local churches in February and March of 2021.

"I hope to make an impact within the community by changing how families treat their health," she said. "Who knows? These events might even inspire some of the kids who will attend to pursue a career into medicine and repeat the cycle."

Sewe will examine Gengetone, an emerging form of music created by Kenyan youth that draws heavily from Western hip-hop.

"This musical merger provides a contemporary platform for my inquiry into the current socio-political-cultural and economic global interconnections," he said, "and how they shape youth identity and lives."

He said the first part of his study will be an examination of the literature on hybrid music cultures in relation to gender, youth and identity. Gender is particularly important in a field dominated by males.

"The women rappers in this project show the potential to catalyze feminist ideals and larger potentials for empowerment," he said.

He also will use an international political-cultural economy lens to assess the relationships among public governance, education and identity and youth empowerment movements. Eventually, he plans to travel to Kenya to document Gengetone artists and their followers.

Days' research focuses on developing transition metal-based drugs to treat breast cancer. She is a Maximizing Access to Research Careers trainee and previously won a Perry Honors College Undergraduate Research Grant.

The Broderick Scholarship will allow her to present her research and learn from other scientists at multiple American Chemical Society conferences. It will also fund a trip to Jamaica to study bioinorganic chemistry and natural products.

"This course at ODU is instructed by Dr. (Alvin) Holder and teaches one to characterize natural products from medicinal plants and marine organisms, which can be used to cure cancer and other diseases," said Days, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. "Studying these bioinorganic compounds during this study-abroad program will help broaden my understanding of these naturally occurring compounds and their potential medicinal uses."

Wagner will lead a Sophomore Outdoor Adventure Reorientation (SOAR) trip aimed toward minority students to help diversify the outdoor industry. She also will conduct research on the effectiveness of the program and how it helps students at the University.

"A big aspect of this project is that it is an urban-like trip, so there won't be any deep woods backpacking or anything that is too far out of the comfort zone for the participants," she said.

Wagner is a trip leader with ODU's Outdoor Adventure Program and will be one of the three student leaders on this trip, which is free for participants through the scholarship funding.

"With it being free for students I am able to open the door for low-income students like myself," she said. "Most of our trips in the Outdoor Adventure Program are affordable, but I still tried to rule out any reason someone would not want to go on the trip."

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, her trip probably won't happen until the 2021 spring break.

The application process was rigorous.

Working with a faculty mentor and the Perry Honors College, applicants designed and pursued a learning experience that integrates the three pillars of an honors education: research, civic engagement and leadership. The University Honors Council, with representatives from the academic colleges and the campus community, reviewed the applications, provided feedback to students and forwarded recommendations to the President and First Lady for their review and final selection.

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