Students Embark on New Projects in Loras Honors Program

Students in the Loras College Honors Program Class of 2023 spent the opening weeks of the fall semester selecting new collaborative, interdisciplinary research projects (CIPs). The process began with brainstorming as students assessed interest and need within the local community. Students then worked to refine their ideas while Loras College faculty members were also invited to submit project proposals. Among the many ideas submitted, ultimately, eleven unique proposals made it through the final revision stages. The sophomores then voted by ranked-choice so that project groups could be assigned largely by student interest.

With their CIPs assigned, the sophomore honors students now embark on a three-year process of bringing their projects to fruition through a process of research, refinement, and community engagement. Students will first identify a question or problem related to their project proposal and will ultimately work towards implementing a solution. Each group is assigned a faculty mentor and a library coach to assist them throughout the process. 

The class of 2023’s CIPs are as follows:

Energy Consumption 

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christina Edwards

Library Coach: Heidi Pettitt

This group is researching ways to reduce both energy consumption and utility costs. Currently, they are focusing on heating, cooling, and water usage within campus housing. They hope to expand their research to the local community as they develop strategies for influencing decreased consumption and cost savings.

Growing and Accessing Local Produce

Faculty Mentors: Drs. Angela Kohlhaas and Matthew Rissler

Library Coach: Kristen Smith

This group is researching the production of and access to local produce, particularly during the fall and spring when the growing season and the campus student population move in opposite trajectories. They are initially researching greenhouses, cold boxes, and other means of extending the growing season within a seasonal climate.

Kid Connections

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathryn Parks

Library Coach: Marissa Krein

The Kid Connections group is focused primarily on child development during non-parental care, such as after school and summer care programs. They are presently researching how the amount of time in after school care, both per week and total years, may influence child development. This research will soon turn towards local expertise in providing such programs and the Dubuque community’s specific needs.


Faculty Mentor: Dr. Benjamin Darr

Library Coach: Kristen Smith

The Esports group is researching the implementation of an Esports club or team on campus or within the local community. Particularly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group is interested in exploring how Esports could facilitate greater social connections through a virtual community. 

Dr. Lynn Gallagher, director of the Lynch Office of Disability Services, will direct this group during Spring 2021 while Dr. Darr is on sabbatical.

Food Access and Justice in Dubuque

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Kehren

Library Coach: Marissa Krein 

This group began by considering the ideas of food access and food injustice themselves and have come to explore their disproportionate effects among certain disadvantaged groups. They have also considered the growth of a globalized food network and differences in nutritional access across differently situated communities. They now seek to apply this broader knowledge to understanding local issues of food access and justice within the Dubuque community.

We wish our sophomore students the best as their projects continue to develop throughout the coming semesters and look forward to their unique contributions to the many successes the Loras College Honors Program continues to enjoy.

Dr. Kohlhaas is an associate professor of moral theology and the director of the Loras College Honors Program.

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2019, Loras was the second-highest ranked Catholic college in the state of Iowa according to College Consensus, the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the third consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 10th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).