Former Federal Appeals Judge Timothy K. Lewis Speaks to Students and Faculty

A short while ago, Robert Morris University hosted a well-accredited speaker for Constitution Day, the Honorary Judge Lewis of the Federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. This gentleman, nominated by George H. W. Bush — an establishment Republican President — has worked side-by-side with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.  Why I acknowledge this is to reflect on how Lewis is a living, breathing example of someone immune to stark partisanship in both the legal and political fields.

He touched upon this profoundly during his talk with us. After revealing disappointing statistics regarding how ignorant and uninformed millennial Americans are about basic Constitutional concepts, he commented on how he was not so much concerned about the lack of basic awareness, but rather how this lacking contributed to unjustified hate. He impartially and intelligently addressed the underrated fact that party-affiliation should never mask the inner American values each and every one of us have.  Instead of participating in juvenile dispute that centers around differing political or racial identities, he argued, we ought to be examining our intellectual opponents’ values.  After all, our First Amendment is, essentially, what breeds intelligent discussions on those values that potentially unite us, and, in turn, make this country beautifully unique.

Along with this notion, Judge Lewis confided his story of growing up with racist neighbors who forbade their children from associating with him and his parents.  He outlined how, despite him not gathering the bigoted message as an innocently naïve child, him experiencing racism in his field of study, employment, and even achievement soon after dealt a rude awakening to him regarding his American outlook.  However, he ended his talk on a hopeful note, expounding that the American ideal of brotherhood is not yet dead, no matter the racial and social embroilment of our current time.

There undoubtedly is a remaining belief in American humanity — one of community, and one of genuine characterization.  To count this faithful outlook out is to fit the true definition of ignorance.  It is one thing to be poorly-versed in common trivia or to be prejudice — but to entirely ignore hope for improvement in our homeland’s human bonds — that is what should be considered the source of continuous societal division and destruction of our nation.  To be indifferent is to be dangerous and un-American.

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– Selene Cerankosky

Honors Student Orientation

RMU students accepted into the Honors Program are given the opportunity to move in four days early and participate in multiple enjoyable activities — all while completing their First Year Seminar Program single-credit course in a single half-week, as opposed to a semester.  After settling in this year on August 21st, the students said their final goodbyes to their families after a relaxed lunch and were immediately off to downtown Pittsburgh.  There, the students took part in various outdoor activities, site-seeing, and a Pittsburgh Pirates game.  Throughout the rest of the week, they got to know their FYSP mentors, each other, and the many many useful pieces of information necessary to be aware of about RMU.  It was a week well-spent!

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– Selene Cerankosky

Honors Plant and Paint Night

The Honors Student Advisory Council hosted a new event this semester: Plant & Paint Night. We planted cacti and other succulents in small pots that we decorated. Students decorated their pots with designs, quotes, and anything else they found fun or inspiring. Participants were encouraged to give plants away to other students or professors who would like them!

– Jocelyn Young


Tea with the Rooney Scholars

This spring, the Honors Program and the Center for Global Engagement co-hosted a “Tea with the Rooney Scholars.” I had expected Dr. Monwabisi Gantsho and Dr. Moloko Ramashala-Gantsho to be intimidatingly erudite; Dr. Gantsho has worked in both the corporate and private healthcare sectors, and Dr. Ramashala-Gantsho has worked as a medical advisor and health risk manager. My perceptions could not have been more wrong as both scholars warmly welcomed RMU students into their temporary home. My fellow attendees and I were transfixed as the scholars informed us on a myriad of topics, from the extreme commercialization of pharmaceuticals, to their thoughts on President Trump. While they are incredibly well-versed in their fields, they treated students as beacons of potential and insight. The RMU community is lucky to have hosted them for a semester!

– Allison Harnsberger

Honors Alumni Spotlight: Brianna Flasco

Brianna Flasco, class of 2013, had a special relationship with Robert Morris University. Many of her family members attended RMU, and that family connection led her here as well. Though she initially wanted to pursue a future in law, the one-on-one attention and course work at RMU helped Brianna grow and realize her passion for communications. After acknowledging her strengths in public speaking and writing, she decided to pursue a career in this area also. She even incorporated her love of communications into her Honors Senior Thesis, deciding to research crisis communication in PR, specifically analyzing the communication theories utilized during the Penn State football Coach Jerry Sandusky Scandal. Completing several internships while at RMU, her final internship, a Human Resource position with Bayer, led her to her current career: Corporate Recruiter. As a Corporate Recruiter, she helps to bring new talent into the company. Her focuses right now are university relationships, such as student interns and trainees. She regularly visits universities and career fairs across the country, recruiting young talent to join the company. However, she always makes time to visit her Alma Mater. Since graduating, Brianna has sat on numerous panels to share her wisdom and advice with students, and she returns every April to judge posters at the Undergraduate Research Conference. Her continued dedication to the RMU community has led to her to be the inaugural recipient of the Honors Alumni Service Award this past spring! Brianna’s advice to RMU students is to get involved, focus on schoolwork, and look into internships. She stresses the importance of networking and building yourself as a brand. To stand out in an interview, she recommends showing a passion for working for a company!


Ms. Flasco

– Kayla Carbert

Completing My Honors Thesis in the Netherlands

This spring, I spent five months in the Netherlands through an Honors exchange program called EuroScholars. Through this program, I am conducting research at the prestigious University Medical Center at Utrecht. Since I am enrolled in a research program, I do not attend any classes, but rather spend 30-40 hours in the laboratory each week. I am researching cartilage tissue engineering, so I do work that involves chemistry, biology, and mechanical engineering. One of the first things that I was surprised to learn about the Netherlands is that it is quite flat and full of open fields. The average weather forecast is rain, but the locals don’t let that stop them from biking everywhere they go. As long as you don’t get in their way while biking, the Dutch are very friendly and will be happy to speak with you in English. I know there is no other way I would have been able to experience the personal and educational growth that I have experienced through this semester. To my fellow Honors students — I highly recommend taking advantage of this program!


A sunny day in the Netherlands

– Kylee Schaffer

The First Annual Thesis Networking Event

​​RMU Honors students are required to write a thesis as part of the Honors curriculum. While this challenge may seem daunting to some, the Honors program does an incredible job of not only preparing students to write their thesis, but to get them ecstatic about doing so. This spring, the Honors program hosted a “thesis networking event” so that students and professors could informally discuss the thesis process and brainstorm research ideas. This event was incredibly helpful for students like me who struggle to find a research topic. One of the benefits of networking events like these is that you get the rare opportunity to interact with students and faculty from outside your academic field. Being an economics major, I initially gravitated towards talking to the business school faculty and students; however, I had my “eureka” moment when talking to faculty from the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. As I left the networking event I felt excited about diving into my thesis topic: The Economics of the American Healthcare System.

– Alex Merryman

Investigating Putin’s Russia with Dr. Fanning

In his Roundtable presentation entitled, From Russia with Love: A Look Inside Putin’s Russia, Dr. Soren Fanning passionately informed the audience about modern Russia and its relations with the United States. Dr. Fanning started out his discussion with a quick reference to the current political situation between the United States and Russia calling it “déjà vu” in reference to the Cold War. The presentation then discussed aspects of Russian history that were foreign to me: The Duma, the voucher plan that tanked the Russia economy, and the rise of the oligarchs and Vladimir Putin. Dr. Fanning concluded his presentation by speculating on where he believed the current Russian conflicts would end up in the next two years. He thought that a potential split between parts of Ukraine and a possible link between Putin’s agenda and that of our current U.S. administration may come to light. Seeing that Dr. Fanning had to update his speech the very morning of his presentation due to new findings regarding Putin and the U.S., I suspect this will be an incredibly interesting part of history to watch unfold.

– Cullen Engle

Lessons Learned from Lunch with Dr. Rauscher

“Lunch with a Professor” is something the Honors Program sponsors a few times each semester. The event allows students and selected professors to have lunch and chat in an informal setting. In early April, Dr. Lauren Rauscher came to the Honors Student Center and had lunch with a few students. Dr. Rauscher quickly made everyone feel at ease and was genuinely interested in what the students were doing both in finishing up school and over the summer. She made everyone feel like no matter our summer plans —whether we had internships or were just having a relaxing break — that our choice was right for us. During the lunch, I felt as if the students and Dr. Rauscher were both learning from one another. While we discussed everything from trips and internships to home improvement projects, Dr. Rauscher made us feel as if each student truly had something valuable to share that everyone could learn from. After spending over an hour together, the group went their separate ways, but each person felt as if they were important and on the right path.


Dr. Lauren Rauscher, Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of WMLP

– Kelly Jones

A Different Perspective of World War I

On March 27, I attended an Honors Roundtable titled “The Forbidden Zone: Women’s Poetry and Boundaries in the First World War” by  author Dr. Connie Ruzich. The Roundtable explored work from many poets around the world and their various perspectives on the war  and its living conditions at the time. While many of the remembered World War I poems are from soldiers themselves, Dr. Ruzich also explored poetry from many female poets whose work may not be as well-known, such as Mary Borden’s “The Song of the Mud.” Through wartime posters and photographs, poetry readings, and interpretations of said readings, Dr. Ruzich kept her audience very interested and engaged for a thought-provoking Roundtable. Dr. Ruzich continues to post research on World War I poetry on her blog. You can visit for more of her attention-grabbing work!

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– Emily Raab