KWC students finish research-laden Fellows program

By Dariush Shafa, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nine Kentucky Wesleyan College students have successfully completed the Wesleyan Fellows program, an intensive yearlong, work-study project.

The program pairs students with a faculty adviser to help guide them with a project, which they must research, assemble and publicly present at the end of the year. This kind of project is useful because it's a skill-builder for students, said professors who advised the students in the project.

The professors also said taking on such a task helps students to distinguish themselves and stand out from their classmates.

"What it does for him is if he goes to grad school, it helps him hone his research skills, his writing skills," said history professor Mason Horrell, who advised student Matt Mistretta. "The same type of experience would be useful in any area."

It also wasn't an automatic-admission to become one of the fellows, said biology professor David Oetinger, who advised graduating physical therapy senior Rex Gillim.

"It's something like a mini-grant," Oetinger said. "Now that it's complete, it's something the student can put on their resume. This carries a little more significance (than a standard work-study program)."

Both Gillim and Mistretta worked on their programs for a full year.

Mistretta began his project -- researching the historical impact of religion in the Deep South -- just after he learned he was one of the fellows when the spring semester ended in 2009.

Gillim began at about the same time, working about 15 hours a week on his microbiology project on top of working a full-time job.

"It certainly gives them a sense of the commitment and hard work that it takes to do a project like this well," Horrell said. "It is a process and it is rather time-consuming."

Both said they found the work interesting throughout the process.

Gillim, who was researching, isolating and identifying various types of bacteria capable of eating through container materials, said his project was also fun.

"I liked to see it as something that was a hobby to me," Gillim said. "It was just something I enjoyed doing."

Oetinger said it is a learning process for everyone, not just the students. If it keeps building, more students will want to become involved in this type of learning, he said.

"Things have to start small and build," Oetinger said. "I think it's nice to see more involved, quality projects starting. That sort of thing is contagious."

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