Portz Scholars

The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) began the Portz Scholars Program in 1990 to acknowledge the contributions of John and Edythe Portz to Honors education. Each year, NCHC institutional members are invited to nominate one paper per institution written by an undergraduate honors student for the Portz Scholars competition. The four NCHC Portz Scholars are featured at a plenary session at the National Collegiate Honors Conference in the fall, and each Scholar receives a $350.00 stipend.

Since its inception in 1990, the Kent State University Honors College had produced more Portz Scholars through its undergraduate thesis program than any other institution in the nation.

Portz Scholars from Kent State University

Sarah Hagglund, Kent State University (2021)

Thesis Title: “The Myth of Bologna? Women's Cultural Production During the Seventeenth Century”
Category: Humanities
Faculty Co-Advisor: Dr. Gustav Medicus
Faculty Co-Advisor: Dr. Matthew Crawford
Honors Director: Dr. Alison Smith
 
Abstract: This thesis explores what I have termed the "myth of Bologna" a phrase that refers to an early modern city being renowned for its women citizens, but the reasons as to why remaining shrouded in mystery. Although recent scholarship on women's history in Bologna has covered a variety of topics including women as religious figures, women in the arts, and women in the silk trade, few have attempted to take a wholistic approach to connect the vast and unprecedented influence of female participation in the city. This thesis will argue that women's history in Bologna and, more importantly, as a whole requires a broader lens to be able to fill in the gaps left behind by fragmented documentation, a general lack of sources, and the unique challenges posed by studying women in history. Using traditional written sources, as well as visual and material culture, this thesis attempts to reconstruct the reality of women in Bologna beyond what the mythic perceptions of the city can provide. If we can understand "why Bologna?" through an interdisciplinary lens, we can begin to bridge the gaps between the fractured pieces of women's history and challenge our limited perceptions of women during the early modern era.
 

Megan Swoger, Kent State University (2018)

Thesis Title: “Analysis of the Prevailing Practice of FGM in Ghana: Are domestic laws and international treaties effective in the eradication of FGM within the state?”
Category: 
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Julie Mazzei
Honors Director: Dr. Alison Smith
 
Abstract: Although domestic efforts have been made in the past to end the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) within practicing countries, the spike in NGOs post-WWII brought further attention to this issue and spurred government action. This study seeks to identify whether Ghanaian policies criminalizing the practice have been effective in the eradication of FGM, and if not, why civilians would continue to practice FGM even under the threat of imprisonment. In-person interviews indicate that for some, the traditional, sacred values attached to the practice outweigh the possible consequences. These interviews combined with a survey conducted among 61 students at the University of Ghana provide evidence indicating that the difficulties of policing rural areas within a developing country have also contributed to the continued practice of FGM due to the community’s reduced faith in law enforcement agents outside of urban areas.
 

Dorvan Byler, Kent State University at Stark (2015)

 
"Flee from the Worship of Idols:”Becoming Christian in Roman Corinth”
Category: Humanities
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Lindsay Starkey
Honors Director: Dr. Leslie Heaphy
 
Abstract: This paper explores interactions among Christians, Jews, and pagans in the first and second century Roman Empire with a focus on the city of Corinth, a port city where a diverse range of religious and cultural groups interacted. The paper examines the eighteenth chapter of Acts, Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, and the First Epistle of Clement as well as archaeological evidence from the ruins of the ancient city for clues about the people who lived there. A short historiographical discussion is also included to create space for this topic in conversation with other authors.
 

Allison Moats, Kent State University (2014)

Thesis Title: “Abnormalities in the Growth and Development of the Proximal Femur: Comparing Ancient to Modern Populations”
Category: Science and Mathematics
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Linda Spurlock
Honors Director: Dr. Donald Palmer
 
Abstract: The proximal femur is a site of much growth and development during ontogeny. While the developmental program is primarily influenced by genetics, environmental factors such as diet and exercise level impact growth. As the trend toward obesity in developed countries continues, the frequency of the proximal femoral pathology Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE) increases. Modern levels of activity experienced by athletes greatly surpass those of ancient populations and may be related to the recent increase in the incidence of Cam Deformity, another proximal femoral pathology. This study compared a modern population (Hamann-Todd) with an ancient population (Libben) and analyzed differences in proximal femoral morphology and incidences of these pathologies. The results support the hypothesis that these pathologies are modern occurrences possibly influenced by the altered diets and activity levels of today.
 

Molly MacLagan, Kent State University (2010)

Thesis Title: “Early English Theatre: A Practical Guide”
Category: 
Faculty Advisor: Don John Dugas/Chuck Richie
Honors Director: Dr. Donald Williams
 
Abstract: In May of 2010 a group of students from the Kent State University Honors College participated in a rare undertaking: presenting a medieval play as part of an international production of the whole play-cycle from which it originates. The students were five hundred years removed from the original context of that play and cycle. The earliest mention of The Chester Cycle comes from a 1422 legal dispute regarding the responsibilities of the guilds that were producing one of the plays in it, the language of which makes clear that the play-cycle was already well-established by that time. This historical remove was a significant challenge as students from 2010 prepared for this ambitious enterprise, one that required them to work with unfamiliar material and little hard evidence in the creation of the episode they were to produce. The first challenge for student participants was to acquaint themselves with the unique subject matter they would tackle over the next nine months. Naturally, before getting to work, the students needed to learn what early English cycle plays were and when and why they were first performed. The three primary types of popular theatre in early and early modern England can be differentiated by performance venue: parish plays, which depicted the lives of saints and were produced by churches in rural communities; theatre performed by strolling players, whose repertoire would have consisted mainly of Robin Hood plays; and urban theatre, such as the cycle plays discussed here. The play-cycles are called by the name of the cities in which they were performed, and the full texts of only four of the English cycles survive: the York Cycle, the Wakefield or Towneley Cycle, the N-Town Cycle, and The Chester Cycle out of which came the play that Kent State University Honors College students would produce. These play-cycles were sometimes called “mystery cycles” because the guilds (or “mysteries”) in the city were responsible for producing the individual episodes making up the entire cycle. They were likely derived from liturgical drama and were intended to teach the scriptures and reinforce faith in the sacraments. The earliest records we have of liturgical drama come from the late tenth century. This liturgical drama is the Quem quaeritis (Whom do you seek?), referred to by Alexandra Johnston as a “dialogue,” and although it is not a theatrical performance as such, it is likely that it lead to what we might consider more “traditional” theatrical performances (CCMET, 3–4; Wasson, 28). By the mid-sixteenth century, the English Reformation was underway, and, as England separated from its Catholic roots, changes in religious and state law resulted in the cessation of such productions. The plays lay dormant and largely untouched for two hundred years. Then in the early nineteenth century, a scholar by the name of Thomas Sharp rediscovered episodes from what may have been a cycle performed at Coventry. His work, A dissertation on the pageants or dramatic mysteries anciently performed at Coventry, opened a rich and largely uncharted realm of scholarly research. As scholars engaged the subject of early English theatre and cycle plays in particular, the citizens of York and Chester began to mount performances of their eponymous cycles, which were no longer a thing of the past.
 

David Hill, Kent State University (2008)

Thesis Title: “Evolution of Quorum Sensing Genes in the Genus Burkholderia”
Category: 
Faculty Advisor: Helen Piontkivska
Honors Director: 
 
Abstract: 
 

Douglas Antibus, Kent State University (2007)

Thesis Title: “Microbial and Photochemical Transformations of Dissolved Organic Carbon in a Great Lakes Coastal Wetland (Old Woman Creek, Ohio)”
Category: 
Faculty Advisor: Robert Heath
Honors Director: 
 
Abstract: 
 

Laura Herron, Kent State University (2005)

Thesis Title: “Redemptive Memory: The Christianization of the Holocaust in America”
Category: 
Faculty Advisor: R. Steigmann-Gall
Honors Director: 
 
Abstract: 
 

Eric Osborne, Kent State University (2001)

Thesis Title: “Understanding Caesar's Gallic Ethnography: A Contextual Approach to Protohistory”
Category: 
Faculty Advisor: Brian Harvey
Honors Director: 
 
Abstract: 
 

Jessica Anderson, Kent State University (1994)

Thesis Title: “Lobocarcinus lumacopius, A New Species of Cancrid Crab from Fayum, Egypt”
Category: 
Faculty Advisor: Rodney Feldman
Honors Director: 
 
Abstract: