Staying out of prison is generally considered to be an excellent goal, but I chose to do quite the opposite when the time came to decide on my thesis topic. It was my desire to be able to conduct research from inside the prison system. At first, it seemed to be something beyond the reach of an undergraduate researcher; therefore, I did not have much hope that I would realize this goal. Fortunately for me, the Honors College encourages students to conduct ambitious and important research at the undergraduate level. I pushed forward to reach my research goals and found a thesis advisor who was willing to help me access the prison population.
Because of the opportunity given to me by the Honors College and my thesis advisor, I have travelled to prisons in Mississippi to meet with and interview individuals convicted of arson. I have been able to hear the stories of a very diverse group of participants and piece their accounts together to form what I hope to be an impactful thesis project. The Honors College recently provided the funding necessary for me to present my thesis project at a national conference in Atlanta, GA. That was an excellent experience, and it was just one of the many opportunities that were made possible by the Honors College. I realize that conducting prison research is not something to which everyone aspires, but my experiences serve as evidence that the Honors College at USM provides opportunities for even the most ambitious of project ideas.
The Honors College is absolutely focused preparing its students for the next step in their academic and professional careers. I have experienced the benefits of being a part of the Honors College first-hand. The research skills that I have gained through conducting my thesis project will likely serve me long after graduation from USM as I enter a graduate program and begin my career. The communication skills that I exercised through presenting at a national conference will certainly benefit me in many ways. Entering the Honors College at USM is one of the best academic decisions that I have ever made, and I would encourage prospective students to make the same decision.
Joshua Polk - Class of 2016
Criminal Justice, Psychology, Foreign Languages (Spanish)