PROFILE: Honors Scholar Takes the Trip of a Lifetime
Every day we woke up and thought, We have no idea what were doing. Then, wed do it, and wed come back and say, I cant believe I just did that!
University of Cincinnati Honors Scholar Ashley Allemang took the trip of a lifetime over spring break last March when she traveled with 22 others with the
Program to Belize. The 20-year-old biology major from Kings Mills, Ohio, was interested in gaining some real-world experience by studying the ecosystems on the barrier reefs and using her minor in Spanish to explore a Latin American country. But she found so much more.
You could see that the coral was damaged. Belize has one of the highest protected land mass ratios, but the coral is still damaged and at this point, nothing is being done to save it.
The 10-day trip has become a spring break tradition for the Honors Scholars Program. Students have previously traveled to Hawaii and Key West and are planning a journey to Costa Rica for spring break 2004. In Belize, the students explored the reefs, the rainforest and the Mayan ruins, as well as the culture. Ashley stresses it wasnt your typical college students spring break adventure. We were up at six in the morning and we were asleep by 10. Wed take two-hour bus rides in busses that werent air conditioned. I think someone said the temperature got up to 104 degrees that day. But there isnt a single one of us who doesnt want to go back.
The UCs Honors Scholars Program provides courses, programming and social opportunities for UCs academically-talented students. This fall, the total number of Honors Scholars at UC will jump to 1,700, compared to 1,400 last year. Dave Meredith, director of enrollment management for the UC Honors Scholars, says a record 480 incoming freshman will compose UCs largest class of Honors Scholars since it became a university-wide program in 1991.
Ashley started earning UC college credit when she was just 16 by joining UCs Post Secondary Enrollment Option Program (PSEOP) when she was a junior in high school. By the time she entered her freshman year at UC, she had already earned 52 college credit hours.
Science has long been a passion for Ashley, who says shes loved the field since she was a little girl. In Belize, she says she was the only person to get excited about seeing leaf cutter ants. They were the coolest things ever. They run up a tree and cut off pieces of leaves, and you can see them carrying them these tiny little ants and these huge leaves. They take the leaves underground, and then a mold grows on the leaves and thats what they eat.
She took on an additional challenge at UC over the summer, after she was awarded a summer fellowship through the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program that works to recruit more women to the science and engineering professions. Ashley was awarded a research fellowship in the ecology program of Kenneth Petren, UC assistant professor of biological sciences. Shes studying the behavioral ecology of juvenile geckos. Im taking care of 125 juvenile geckos. Theyre charismatic, and theyre hyper. They run real fast up your arm and down your sleeve!
Her advice to new students is to explore how to get the most out of your education.
I never thought Id be going to Belize in college. I applied for the WISE fellowship and never thought Id get it. Now, Im learning the basics of being a scientist, and Ill be presenting my research at the end of the fellowship.
My advice to new students: Look for all of the opportunities that are here. This is the time that you can really make things happen!