Two female college students in white coats working in a lab

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Since the inception of the Northern State University Honors Program, Honors students have conducted research for thesis projects covering a variety of topics, ranging from education to environmental science to entrepreneurship.

And the path to completing those thesis projects is a campus-wide effort—NSU Honors students receive assistance from a vast network of individuals from all across the Northern campus, in a variety of disciplines and departments.

“I really don’t know if there is a department that doesn’t come in contact with Honors research,” said NSU Honors Program Director Dr. Kristi Bockorny. 

Portrait of Kristi Bockorny

The process for conducting Honors thesis research starts in the classroom. Students take Honors 390, Seminar II during the spring semester of their sophomore or junior year, depending on their major and/or class schedule, Bockorny said. In this class, students develop their topic and a literature review for their study, and they have the opportunity to interview faculty to see if they would be a good fit for their thesis advisor.   

Once this course is complete, she said, students work with their chosen thesis advisor to conduct their actual research. This is when they start to work with more individuals across campus. The thesis committee consists of the thesis advisor, a reader, and the Honors director. Students might end up with an additional reader to get extra expertise, Bockorny said, and those who conduct research with human subjects will work with the NSU Internal Review Board. 

“The librarians are also instrumental in helping the students find research,” she said. “Lynn (Klundt) has come into Honors 390 since I have been the Director to explain how to use the databases and where to find citation information. It is important that students feel comfortable with the library, and so by having Lynn come in, it helps make that connection for the students.”

Bockorny said Honors students may also need to take Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative training to conduct research; work with IT if they need to use software to gather data; work with faculty and staff who organize outreach programs or supervise labs; or work with Undergraduate Research and apply for grants for funding.

Cross-Campus Support led to Student Award

This type of cross-campus support leads to success for Honors students, as evidenced by Tawnie Williams, who recently won third place in the South Dakota Governor’s Giant Vision Student Competition.

On the way to winning this award, Williams received assistance from her thesis advisor, Dr. Andrew Russell, and took crucial entrepreneurship courses taught by Dr. Sal Villegas and Mike Bockorny of Aberdeen Development Corporation (ADC).

She also received help from: Klundt, who taught her to code the 3-D printer in the library’s Maker Space to create her prototype; digital arts professor Jason Knowles, who helped produce a video for her elevator pitch; and marketing professor Hannah Walters who, along with Mike Bockorny of ADC, hosted a practice pitch session.

Honors Program has had National Success

The entire Honors Program has also enjoyed success, including on the national level. Nationally, the Honors Program is recognized for students’ stellar undergraduate research, including:

  • First place in the Education and Pedagogy Student Poster Competition at the National Collegiate Honors Conference in 2013 and 2017.
  • Second place in Health Sciences and third in Education and Pedagogy Student Poster Competition at the National Collegiate Honors Conference in 2018.
  • Second place in Education and Pedagogy and second in Environmental Sciences, Conservation and Green Technology in 2021.

NSU Honors students from a variety of disciplines have been accepted to present at the National Collegiate Honors Conference since 2013, and six have placed in the top three. Under the leadership of current Director Bockorny and past Director Erin Fouberg, Northern’s overall acceptance rate at the NCHC from 2013 through 2021 is 95 percent—55 of 58 Northern students who have submitted abstracts have been accepted. A breakdown by year follows:

2022: Nine student abstracts have been accepted to present at this year’s conference, set for Nov. 2-6 in Dallas. (100 percent acceptance rate)

2021: 14 student abstracts were accepted to present in Orlando, Fla. (100 percent acceptance rate)

  • Allison Anderson placed 2nd in Education and Pedagogy Student Poster Competition
  • Tawnie Williams placed 2nd in Environmental Sciences, Conservation, and Green Technology Student Poster Competition

2020: Four student abstracts were accepted to present virtually. (100 percent acceptance rate)

2019: Ten student abstracts were accepted to present in New Orleans, La. (10 of 11 students accepted, 91 percent acceptance rate)

2018: Ten student abstracts were accepted to present in Boston, Mass. (100 percent acceptance rate)

  • Andrea Korvela placed 2nd in the Health Sciences Student Poster Competition
  • Maida Walters placed 3nd in Education and Pedagogy Poster Competition

2017: Six students presented in Atlanta, Ga. (100 percent acceptance rate)

  • Whitney Berner won 1st Place in the Education and Pedagogy Student Poster Competition

2016: Two students presented in Seattle, Wash. (100 percent acceptance rate)

2015: Two students presented in Chicago, Ill. (100 percent acceptance rate)

2014: Two students presented in Denver, Colo. (50 percent acceptance rate)

2013: Five students presented in New Orleans, La. (100 percent acceptance rate)

  • Danielle Weisz won 1st Place in the Education and Pedagogy Student Poster Competition

To learn more about Northern’s Honors Program, visit NSU Honors Program.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $150 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions