Pearl River honors students showcase research at annual symposium

Eleven Pearl River Community College students are joined by former PRCC President William Lewis standing in two rows

Submitted by loneill on November 22, 2021 – 4:56pm

Eleven students from Pearl River Community College participated in the Fall 2021 Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute Research Symposium hosted at University of Southern Mississippi’s Thad Cochran Center. They gave oral presentations of research conducted covering a variety of topics in the areas of STEM, Social Science, and Humanities. 

For the STEM category, there was a tie with both Kadence Dedeaux and Seth Ladner being recognized. Sachi Ajmera was selected as the Social Science category winner. Allyna Pytleski was chosen as the winner of the Humanities category.

Woman with blue shirt, man in suit with striped tie, girl with grey shirt, girl with purple shirt and black sweater

“Innovative community colleges across the nation — and Pearl River is definitely in that list — are providing research and presentation opportunities to students because of the significant value research has in engaging students and increasing student success at the university level,” said Dr. Terri Ruckel, Instructor of English/Hattiesburg Honors Institute Dean. “As a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council, we are following the leading advocate for research symposiums as an exchange of ideas between undergraduate students, providing a platform where students can engage with advanced learning.

“In fact, these PRCC students are rehearsing for the next level of engagement this coming February at the Mississippi Honors Conference to be hosted by Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi. From the state level, they can progress to a regional as well as to a national conference.”

Dr. Jennifer Seal, dean of the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute on the Poplarville Campus, served as host. After her welcome, students and guests heard opening remarks from Academic Dean of Forrest County Campus Dr. Greg Underwood, Vice President of Forrest County Campus Dr. Jana Causey, and Interim Dean of USM Honors College Dr. Sabine Heinhorst.

Judges for this year’s competition included Dr. David Collum, Dean of Career and Technical Instruction of Forrest County Campus; Dr. Douglas Donohue, Instructor of Mathematics at Forrest County Campus; Ms. Heather Peerboom, Instructor of English at Forrest County Campus; and Dr. Ryan Ruckel, Instructor of Humanities and Social Sciences/Academic Department Chair at Forrest County Campus. In addition to selecting a winner for each of the three categories, they provided valuable feedback for the students on their presentations.

Dr. William Lewis, former president of Pearl River Community College, was in attendance for the presentations.

“It was most pleasing to witness the mission of the Honors Institute being carried out in the presentation of the research developed by these outstanding students,” Lewis said. “The depth of their inquiry into topics that impact today’s culture was truly insightful. Their ability to organize their findings and to present the materials verbally and visually was inspiring.

“I am truly proud of these young scholars and grateful that my name is associated with the preparation of these future leaders for our society.”


Group One: STEM topics 

— Cassady Bradford presented “Recovery While Standing Up versus Bent Over” 

— Dedeaux “Animal Agriculture Effects on our Environment” 

— Tyler Gomillion “Climate Change in Mississippi” 

— Ladner “Chronic Wasting Disease: The Silent Killer” 

Group Two: Social Science 

— Ajmera “The Role Social Media Plays in Political Polarization in America” 

— Jackson Bowering “The Effects of COVID-19 on Globalization” 

— Kathryn Scharwath “Why Hasn’t America Embraced Worker’s Movements? 

— Hannah Smith “Nature vs. Nurture: Are Criminals Born or Made” 

Group Three: Humanities 

— Grant Holladay “Language: Its Acquisition and Benefits” 

— Andrew Purvis “Historiography of American Films: Why Is It Important?” 

— Pytleski “Desensitization in Generation Z” 


The Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute at Pearl River Community College, Mississippi’s first public two-year institution, was formally inaugurated in 2011 with a mission to expand the College’s base of intellectually gifted students and to offer special opportunities to students who demonstrate high academic potential, as well as intellectual curiosity and ambition. Continuing the Pearl River tradition of leading Mississippi education into new arenas, our Honors Institute provides such students with enriched and challenging curriculum, fosters individual scholarship and research, offers experiential opportunities, and extends this spirit of academic enrichment beyond the campus and into the community at large. 

For the latest news on Pearl River Community College, visit and follow us on Twitter (@PRCC_Wildcats), Instagram (PRCCWILDCATS), and Facebook (@PRCCMKTG). 

Photo 1: Participants in the Fall 2021 Honors Research Symposium (from left)
Back row: Jackson Bowering, Dr. William Lewis, past president of PRCC, Kadence Dedeaux, Seth Ladner, Grant Holladay, and Andrew Purvis.
Front row: Hannah Smith, Kathryn Scharwath, Sachi Ajmera, Allyna Pytleski, Cassady Bradford, and Tyler Gomillion.

Photo 2: Awardees (from left) Allyna Pytleski, Seth Ladner, Kathryn Scharwath, and Sachi Ajmera 

Each community college president is asked to bring two (2) wrapped door prizes, minimum value of $50 each. We will have a station set up at the conference for you to drop off the door prizes.

Each community college is asked to provide name tags for their Board members, administration, and staff attending the conference.