Honors Enrichment Award: Gearing Up to Apply for an REU

I was fortunate enough to receive the Enrichment Award from the Honors Program for this summer.  With the award, I will be learning about liquidity risk and how actuarial science can play a role in measuring this risk.  The reason that I chose to study liquidity risk is because I was interested in applying for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU).  After some research, Professor Hong, an actuarial science professor at RMU, and I discovered that Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) runs an REU that incorporates actuarial science.  Over the past few years, a reoccurring topic of study has been liquidity risk, and the professor that usually oversees the project is Professor Marcel Blais.  I knew that I was not qualified to participate in the research for this summer, however I wanted to take time to learn more about liquidity risk in case I wanted to pursue researching it next summer; the Enrichment Award is allowing me to do that.

Once I had a topic, I needed to figure out what resources I would use to learn about liquidity risk.  Professor Hong was a big help and found an article written by two professors including Blais.  I knew that I had to read that in order to figure out if pursuing the REU at WPI was a path I wanted to take.  However, I needed to gather some base knowledge on the subject before reading Blais’s article.  I started learning about liquidity risk by reading An Index-Based Measure of Liquidity by Chacko, Das and Fan.  I chose this article because it is current, published in January of 2016, and had a thorough introduction section.

After reading through the first few pages of this article I realized that I needed to brush up on some economic vocabulary related to the exchange market and specifically hedge funds. I did everything from watching Khan Academy videos to reading lecture notes from NYU in order prepare for what I wanted to learn.  I am still working on my second read-through of An Index-Based Measure of Liquidity but I have found an article titled Measuring Systemic Liquidity Risk and the Cost of Liquidity Insurance prepared by Tiago Severo. I hope that this article will be the key to bridging the gap between what I know about actuarial science and liquidity risk.

So far, I have learned that the 2007 global financial shock was closely related to a series of liquidity events in the credit markets. Banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and pension funds all realized how sensitive their balance sheets were to liquidity. Academics have increased their interest in studying liquidity risk. The problem that they are facing is that it is very difficult to measure because it is a latent risk factor. It is nearly impossible to isolate liquidity risk for observation. Now that I have a better grasp on what liquidity risk actually is, I can read papers written about different methods of trying to measure liquidity risk. As the summer progresses, I hope to better understand the process and mathematics that goes into developing an approach to measuring this risk.

-Clint Speer


Honors Enrichment Award: Learning Korean with a Millennial Twist

Thanks to RMU Honors Summer Enrichment Program, June has been the first month in my two month long crash course of the Korean language. When I first started thinking about this program some time ago, I knew it was going to be difficult. To help in my language learning endeavor Dr. Harold, one of the Honors co-directors, cautioned me on setting my expectations too high for such a short amount of time. I heeded his advice and set my goals to a reasonable level. I want to be able to read a random Korean children’s book with little difficulty and speak key phrases (Hello, my name is, etc.) with passing pronunciation. Before I could even begin to understand how to read in Korean, let alone speak it with understanding, I first had to learn to write in it.
Korea uses the Hangeu (한글), sometimes written as Hangul, writing system. While it may seem like insurmountably complex at first, it is actually quite simple. I first learned that Hangeul uses letters (twenty-four of them to be precise) arranged in syllable blocks to form words. To understand how to interpret this system, I sought instruction through two very different learning sources: the first being a more traditional language book and the second being a very unorthodox language app.
The book, written by a well-known company called Talk to Me in Korean, approached the process of explaining Hangeul in a manner not dissimilar to how a high school teacher would approach an English class. I learned the finer points in grammar like which letters were monophthongs and which diphthongs as well as completed practice drills. With this approach I delved into the world of grammar, a world I was not thrilled to be a part of. Knowing I wasn’t going to stick with Korean if I was bored by learning the very basics, I searched for a different method.
That search led me to an interesting app called Eggbun. While the name may seem a little odd for a language learning app, the instruction was exactly what I needed. The full name of the app – Chat to Learn Korean: Eggbun – does exactly what it says on the tin. Instead of focusing on extensive memorization and practice drills like Talk To Me in Korean does, Eggbun teaches through texing. You ‘chat’ with a little character who gives examples of a letter and the sounds it makes and you have to type it out. This friendly little guy also gives positive feedback and acts as a cheerleader through your studies. While texting your way to learning a new language seems like a very millennial thing to do, in my experience it is surprisingly effective.
Personally, I have found if I used both the book and the app in conjunction with each other I learn the best. Talk To Me in Korean’s traditional approach severs as good enforcement and Eggbun’s fun style grabs my attention. In this one month sprint through Korean, I have learned Hangeul to a passable degree. That is to say, if I am given a word in Hangeul I could correctly sound it out and I can write some words if they are spoken to me. To be able to take symbols that meant nothing to me a few weeks ago and be able to interpret them is more rewarding than I can describe. That being said, I still have a long way to go, I haven’t actually learned any Korean words or phrases nor can I write fluently yet. Honestly, I didn’t expect Hangeul to take so long to learn. I suppose learning an entirely new way of interpreting language would be quite the learning curve. In this second month, however, I hope to step my learning up a notch and start on vocabulary. At the pace I’m going I might just reach my end goal!
Jade Lu-Zoller

Lessons from the “Too Cool for School” Event: Infinite Opportunites Available at RMU

All too often, students fall into a habit of simply enrolling in classes, completing their checksheets, and working towards graduation. The recent “Too Cool for School” seminar, hosted by the RMU Honors Program, CITADEL, and the Vet Center, challenged students to step outside of their regular routines and comfort zones to take advantage of the many opportunities presented to them at Robert Morris University.

The event consisted of a panel of accomplished students who have truly taken their education  at RMU a step further, pursuing internships, taking advantage of study abroad opportunities, engaging in networking events, and exploring other proactive paths. Each student on the panel brought a new, unique perspective to the table, all agreeing on one main point; Your education is completely what you make of it. Essentially, you get out of it, what you put into it.

After listening to the panelists’ advice and tips on how to make the most of your collegiate career, a small resource fair was hosted where students were able to access information on study abroad opportunities, career information and other resourceful campus organizations. This miniature resource fair provided an immediate chance to practice and utilize the skills discussed by the panelists. Networking with the RMU faculty and staff at the event inspired me to apply for a summer internship that evening and begin the study abroad application for the University of Limerick for Spring ‘17 the very next day.

I would highly recommend this seminar in the future to any students looking to get the most out of their time at Robert Morris. I challenge every student to seize the infinite opportunities offered by our university. As the panelists, faculty, and staff at the event attested to, you won’t regret it.

-Olivia McCafferty


Insights on Applying for a Prestigious Scholarship

Honors students interested in learning a foreign language should definitely consider The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program. It is a fully funded summer international language and cultural immersion program for U.S. college students. The goal of the program is to broaden the base of Americans studying critical languages ( there are 14 language programs currently available) and building relationships between the United States and other countries. Formal classroom language instruction is provided for 20 hours per week, and there are extracurricular and cultural activities to supplement the formal curriculum to help students learn more about the history, politics, culture and daily life of the host country.

I decided to apply for the Korean program on the intermediate level. The most difficult part of the application was the essays because of the small word count limits. Through these essays, the applicants should convey their dedication to learning the target language and how they plan to use the language in their future career. It was hard expressing everything I wanted to say in the limited amount of space.

My advice for future applicants would be to start the application as soon as possible and to submit the application a few days before the deadline. The application site is known to crash multiple times on the due date due to a high volume of traffic on the site. Additionally, the essays take some time to write, and you should have multiple people read over them to make sure there are no errors!

In the future, I hope to work in South Korea, which is why I have been pursuing learning the Korean language. I began taking Korean lessons at the University of Pittsburgh because my dad is originally from South Korea and I like Korean music and dramas. Having knowledge of a second language is also very valuable in the business environment. As I learned more of the language, I learned more about the culture and my interest in South Korea grew. I started to look for opportunities to travel to the country. While I was researching scholarships and study abroad trips to Korea, I found the Critical Language Scholarship Program and read about other students that have received the scholarship in the past.

If I were to receive a CLS, I would be able to improve my fluency of Korean. I would also be able to travel to South Korea for the first time and learn more about the culture. For my Honors Thesis I am studying Korean pop culture, so I would be able to see some of this first hand and I would also learn about different aspects of the culture that I have not previously researched.

Written by: Jessica Chin

Tess Barry: Professor, Poet, and Professional Optimist

In a world filled with darkness, finding light and happiness can be difficult. Society has become disheartened and cynical. However, people like Professor Tess Barry manage to find the light in things and share this light with other people.

A professor in the English department, Prof. Barry recently submitted poetry in the Manchester Writing Competition, a concourse that includes fifty countries and tens of thousands of submissions, and a competition she nearly won. “They said it was between me and one other person… I was close, but I didn’t get it.”

The Manchester Writing Competition is not the only notch on Prof. Barry’s poetry scorecard. Prof. Barry, a writer since childhood, has been a finalist for North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize (twice), received Aesthetica’s Poetry Award, and was shortlisted for the 2014 Bridport Poetry Prize. Her poems frequently appear in the North American Review.

I asked Prof. Barry, “How would you describe your personality as a writer?” She responded,“Human. Praising and assuring of goodness and beauty. My work is… hopeful and life-affirming. Poetry doesn’t have to be true, but there is truth in it. There is vulnerability as well.”

Prof. Barry describes her feelings regarding her five shortlisted (or being put on a list of selected candidates from which a final choice is made) poems being displayed on an international scale. “It was terrifying. I was naked, and more than anything I wanted to honor my parents. They were my inspiration.”

Prof. Barry explains this outlook developed during her childhood. She grew up in western Pennsylvania, and she was a member of a family of ten. She claims her parents never complained, worked hard, and were always faithful, and they instilled their values into their children. Prof. Barry was raised in a Catholic household which caused her to “think critically, respect tradition, have a strong sense of right and wrong, and have a positive outlook and understanding. I can’t imagine moving in the world without believing in God. The world is missing faith.” Each family member had a grand appreciation for nature and art, especially her mother. Prof. Barry recalls her mother’s favorite poets being Robert Frost and Emily Dickens and her mother’s responsiveness to aesthetics being ekphfrastic.

“The best writers are readers,”  Prof. Barry explains as she elaborates on her mother reading to her and her siblings when they were young. “I was given a gift. It is my gift to [be able to] write poetry.”Prof. Barry certainly lives up to her gift and her parents as well. She explains, despite her initial apprehension, the vulnerability felt good. “Poetry, like everything in life, is subjective.”

Prof. Barry has traveled all over the world to diversify her writing. She identifies her favorite poets as Shamus Haning and Dame Carol Ann Duffey. She has two step children who have children of their own. She enjoys spending time with them, cooking and eating dinner with her husband, running (until a recent meniscus tear), and, of course, reading. She considers herself lucky and blessed to be at Robert Morris University, for which she has a good time teaching, and feels very connected to the RMU community, and cannot wait to see the students capitalize on their potential!

Written by: Anna Hartwell

Growing Beards for a Good Cause

Seven Honors Program students participated in No-Shave November this past month, in which individuals forgo shaving for the month of November to “grow” cancer awareness and raise money for cancer research.  Beginning on October 31st between 10pm and 12am, the students were allowed to shave one last time before November began.  All participants were asked to donate any amount of money that they felt comfortable donating.  All of the proceeds were then donated to Pink Feet, a fundraising competition that is heavily supported by the Honors Student Advisory Council and supports the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.  To celebrate the end of the month and the competition, a party and awards ceremony was held in the Honors Student Center on November 30th.  Awards were presented to Andrew Mason, Sam Ference, Eric Stauffer, Davis Simon, Spencer Wellington, and Will Camilleri for categories such as: Most Manly, Most Stylish, Best Neck Beard, and Overall Best.

Eric Stauffer

New to the Honors Program: Honors Stammtisch

This semester the Honors Program Co-Directors started a new tradition on campus: The Honors Stammtisch! “Stammtisch” is German for “regulars’ table.” It’s basically a table reserved in German bars and restuartants for family, staff, and regulars to gather to socialize. On RMU’s campus, a stammtisch is an informal lunch get together with the UHP Co-Directors. Two were held this semester on September 29 and November 3. They were great successes with many students siting down to chat with the co-directors. Topics at the event ranged from thesis projects and research papers to the upcoming election. It was a great opportunity to take a break from classes and homework to have a causal conversation with Professors Harold and VanDieren as well as other honors students.

Monica Deluca