Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Honors Italy: The Grand Tour - Sorrento Region and Capri - Days 7 & 8

View from Piazza Tasso in Sorrento
View from room of Hotel Giosue al Mare

After departing from Pompeii, our tour continued to the Sorrento region of Italy, known for its high cliffs, lemon groves and views of the Gulf of Naples.  As I looked at our itinerary before we departed, I realized that this would be a more relaxing, laid back portion of the trip and that this is exactly what we would need after fast-paced visits of Venice and Florence and before our even faster-paced visit of Rome.  On our way to Sorrento, Antonio stopped along one of these cliffs so we could exit the bus and take pictures of Naples. As we arrived in the Sorrento, we were taken to the town center for individual exploration and shopping.  My wife and I decided to enjoy a snack at a restaurant just off the Piazza Tasso (named after the poet Torquato Tasso) as most students went exploring and shopping.   After completing the explorations and shopping, Antonio drove the bus to a drop-off location, high above our hotel for the evening.  Luckily, Gesualdo had instructed us to pack a carry-on bag for the night so that we did not have to carry our luggage on the 1/2 mile hike down to the hotel, and more importantly, so we did not have to carry back of the hill the next day.  The setting for Hotel Giosue al Mare was by far the most picturesque setting of our trip.  Overlooking the Gulf of Naples, we could admire the high cliffs of the Sorrento region.  We ate dinner on an outside patio as we watched the sun set over the gulf.

Statue on rock along the coast welcoming visitors to Capri
The next morning after breakfast, we hiked back up the hill to our bus which transported us back to the Piazza Tasso where we  would hike down to the marina to ride a ferry over to the Island of Capri.  We learned that Americans often mispronounce Capri based on how we have heard people say Capri pants. Capri actually is pronounced like Opry, with a C on the front. Upon arriving in Capri, we met our local guide who led us on an island "cruise" (it was actually a boat barely big enough to hold all of our travelers) to explore the cliffs and caves of the island.  We me the boy statue on top of the rock formation that greets visitors to Capri.  In one of the caves, we observed red coral, which was often used for jewelry in ancient society.  While we did not have the opportunity to visit the Blue Grotto, our boat captain carefully maneuvered the boat inside various other grottoes along the coast.  We encountered the Faraglioni rock formations before turning back to the marina.  On our way back, we passed through the archway of the Faraglioni di Mezzo, with couples being encouraged to kiss and individuals yell as we passed through the archway.  Upon arriving back to the marina, we rode the funicular from the marina to the city center at the top of a cliff.  As we walked to the Gardens of Augustus, our local guide pointed out all of the designer stores in which the rich and famous shop while on the island.  He also stopped in front of a famous Capri night club (I believe the Anema e Core) where many famous people have visited.  He mentioned that the night club opens up after the last ferry departs from the island and thus most people must be staying in one of the expensive Capri hotels if they wish to go to the night club.  However, some Italians who are not as rich have been known to save their money for the opportunity to see someone famous and will get a ride on one of the garbage ferries which run later into the evening.  Our tour ended with a visit to the Gardens of Augustus, from which we could see another classic view of the Faraglioni rock formations.  After some free time in Capri, we rode a ferry to Naples where we met our bus driver Antonio who transported us to the final city of our tour - Rome.

Grotto along coast of Capri

Faraglioni rock formations of Capri

Monday, June 29, 2015

Honors Italy: The Grand Tour - Days 6 & 7 - Assisi and Pompeii

View of Assisi from its outskirts
On the morning of Day 6, we ate breakfast at Hotel Olimpia in Florence and departed on a 2.5 hour bus ride to Assisi.  Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis who founded the Franciscan religious order and St. Clare, a follower of St. Francis who founded the Order of Poor Ladies which was renamed the Order of Saint Clare.  Our bus driver Antonio navigated the streets leading up to the town of Assisi on the western side of Monte Subasio beautifully, but had to drop us off just outside of town as the bus could not travel on Assisi's narrow streets.  This gave us the opportunity to admire the town from its outskirts as well as the beautiful view of the surrounding Italian region.  As we reached the town center, our tour director Gesualdo provided us with a wonderful map of the city that included some historical information of a number of its landmarks and then informed us we had free time to eat lunch and explore the city until our local tour later in the afternoon.  As the rainclouds started to move in, a group of students, my wife and I selected a small restaurant off a side street from the town center.  This was the only time on the trip when we encountered a restaurant in which none of the employees spoke English.  As we struggled to order lunch and pay for our bill, we gained a greater appreciation for the difficulty non-English speaking visitors to the United States must experience.

Entrance to Basilica of St. Francis
After lunch, my wife and I followed roads to one of the higher points in town to enjoy further views of the surrounding mountainous region.  We met our local guide at the Temple of Minerva which was built in the 1st century BC.  He led us down the narrow streets of Assisi to the Chiesa Nuova, the presumed birthplace of St. Francis.  This church also contains the room in which St. Francis's father locked him up due to his acts of giving away his money and clothing to the  poor.  We then visited the Basilica of St. Clare, the final resting place of St. Clare in its crypt.  Our tour ended at the Basilica of St. Francis, the final resting place of St. Francis.  We were able to visit the Lower Church and the Upper Church and view the numerous frescoes decorating the walls.  Our local guide pointed out how we could tell the different ages of the frescoes based on the styles, for example, whether there was depth perception in the fresco.  As our tour of Assisi ended, we met our driver Antonio who drove us down the hill to our hotel, Casa Leonori.  After having dinner in the hotel, some of us ventured out with Gesualdo to observe a ceremony at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.  Inside this church is a smaller church called the Porziuncola, the place where the Franciscan movement began.

Great Theater of Pompeii
On Day 7 after eating breakfast at our hotel, we were on the road again, traveling to the Sorrento region of Italy, but stopping in Pompeii on our way.  Pompeii was a market city of 45-65 acres that was founded in th 8th century BC and destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.  Our local guide informed us that eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was the equivalent to two atomic bombs.  The excavation of the city began in the 17th century.  We walked through the Quadriportico dei Teatri to the Teatro Grande, or Great Theater.  Walking along the ancient roads, we observed the chariot wheel ruts in the paved stones. We visited the public bath and then the lupanar, or brothel, of Pompeii.  The brothel contained some eye-opening graffiti advertising what was being sold as well as symbols carved in the stone to denote the type of business that it was.  As we continued walking through Pompeii, we had the opportunity to observe numerous mosaic floors.  We then moved to the Forum, the location of the Temple of Jupiter and in which is a bust of Jupiter.  In the Forum Granary, we observed many ancient artifacts of Pompeii as well as plaster casts of a dog, sitting man and a baby.  Our tour concluded and we had some time to shop for souvenirs outside the ancient city before departing for the Sorrento Region.    
Plaster cast of Pompeii dog

Forum in Pompeii

Friday, June 26, 2015

Honors Italy: The Grand Tour - Days 4-5 - Florence & Pisa

Perseus with the Head of Medusa
On Day 4 after breakfast, we said goodbye to Venice as we departed for Florence on a 5 hour bus trip that gave some of us some time to catch up on sleep.  Unfortunately, the weather during our first day in Florence matched the weather on our last day in Venice - lots of rain.  As we met our local Florence tour guide Allesandro, we took shelter in the Loggia dei Lanzi on the Piazza della Signoria.  The Loggia consists of high arches that open towards the piazza, offering shelter from sun and rain, while an open air gallery of sculptures from the Renaissance.  Included among the artwork in the Loggia were Cellini's "Perseus with the Head of Medusa" (1554),  the "Medici Lions" (one of which was created in the 2nd Century AD and the second completed by Vacca in 1598) and Giambologna's "The Rape of the Sabine Women" (1582). 

Dante image in sidewalk
Florence Cathedral bell tower
After visiting the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall of Florence, we walked through the colonnade of the Uffizi Gallery on our way to the Arno River, admiring the statues of Florence residents that we had only read about in books - Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Galileo, Donatello, Machiavelli and Amerigo Vespucci, to name several.  We continued walking to the Ponte Vecchio, the most famous arch bridge in Florence, the top of which contains part of the Vasari Corridor, the passage that the Medici family used so that it did not have to walk among the public.  Our walking tour continued to  the Piazza della Repubblica, the location of our hotel, and then to see the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, also known as the Duomo.  As we walked to our leather-making demonstration, we passed by Dante's House, with our tour guide informing us that it is unknown where Dante actually lived, but the house was recreated with a medieval architectural style similar to which Dante would have lived in.  He then challenged us to find the image of Dante in the sidewalk outside of his house.  After the leather-making demonstration, we enjoyed a group dinner in Florence and some of us returned to the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo at night to admire the lighting of these buildings.

No caption needed here!
Day 5 began with a morning trip to Pisa.  Many of us had the impression that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a stand alone structure from the images that we had seen throughout our lives, but in actuality it is the bell tower for the Pisa Cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry is another significant building in the area.  All 3 of these structures lean in different directions, due to the soft ground upon which they were built.  We first entered the Pisa Baptistry, the building of which was completed in 1363.  The pulpit inside the baptistery was sculpted by Nicola Pisano in the 13th Century and includes a nude sculpture of Hercules, the first nude sculpture inside a church building.  Next we entered the cathedral which contains a chandelier that Galileo supposedly may have used in his studies of pendulum motion.  The building of the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1173.  After the first 3 floors were built, the tower began to lean and thus an attempt was made to correct this.  Our tour guide Veronique noted that the tower actually has a "shape like a banana." 

Students at the top of the Duomo
Upon returning to Florence, we had some free time, so some of us decided to climb the 463 steps to the top of the Duomo to see breathtaking views of Florence.  While the climb was a physical challenge, we all agreed that the views of Florence were well worth completing the challenge. 

Again, no caption needed!
While the official tour did not include a trip to the Accademia Gallery in Florence, I decided that a trip to Florence could not be complete without seeing the original Michelangelo's David.  (We had already seen a replica outside of the Palazzo Vecchio.)  The Accademia Gallery turned out to be much smaller than I expected, but another highlight was seeing Michelangelo's 4 unfinished Prisoner that were intended to be used for the tomb of Pope Julius II.  I personally thought this was a highlight given Michelangelo's quote, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."  It was interesting to see these statues that were only part way discovered.  Another highlight of the museum for me that I almost walked by without noticing was Leonardo Pisano's manuscript Liber Abaci.  Leonardo Pisano is better known as Fibonacci and this is the manuscript that contains a problem about rabbits that introduced the world to the most famous sequence in mathematics - the Fibonacci numbers.
We returned to our hotel for a group dinner and then our tour director Gesualdo led us on a walk to one of the most elevated points in Florence, the Piazzale Michelangelo, from which we experienced a panoramic view of Florence (and another replica of David).  It was a fitting way to say "Arrivederci" to Florence as we would depart for Assisi the next morning. 

Panoramic view of Florence at night from Piazza Michelangelo

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Honors Italy: The Grand Tour - Days 1-3

Our adventure began on Monday, May 18, with most of us meeting in the Columbus airport for a flight to New York and then to Venice.  As I was waiting for students to arrive, I noticed that all of the flights going into New York had been delayed or cancelled, but our flight was still listed as being on time.  Given we only had a 65 minute layover in New York, I knew that a delay could mean we would miss our flight to Venice.  Sure enough, about 2 hours before our flight to Columbus was to depart, we were informed it would be delayed.  After spending about 30 minutes on the phone with our airline company trying to make other arrangements, one of the students showed me that the flight from Venice to New York was delayed as well, so I cancelled the new arrangements.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes later, the flight from New York to Venice was listed as being on time again.  After taking a poll of the students, we decided to fly into New York (after a 3 hour delay) and spend the night there, delaying our trip to Venice by one day.  While disappointed, we decided we would make the best of our day in New York to do a little sightseeing there.  As our plane landed, one of the students excitedly approached me to show me that the Venice flight was also delayed by 3 hours and we may still be able to make our flight.  While all of our fellow passengers were perturbed by the 3 hour delay due to a mechanical issue with the flight, our 17 travelers were grateful that we would arrive in Italy on the day that was planned.

Elated Honors students on ferry to Venice
At the Venice airport, it soon became apparent that while we made the flight, our luggage did not.  However, we all agreed being in Venice for 1 day without luggage was much better than being in New York for 1 day without luggage.  After filling out all of the lost luggage information, we left the secure area of the airport and met Gesualdo, our tour director for the week.  He led us to meet Antonio, our bus driver, and we departed to check in to the Hotel Altinate in Venice.  We were not in the center of Venice, so we departed the hotel to catch a ferry over to the city center. 

Gondola ride through Venice canals

Upon arriving in central Venice for our shortened day due to the travel delay, Gesualdo asked if we were interested in taking a gondola ride through the canals.  While there was an additional charge for this ride, we all agreed that we could not say we had truly visited Venice without a gondola ride.  We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square) before having a four course meal.  Our weary travelers, many of whom had only slept 2 hours in 24 hour span, were happy to return to the hotel for a full night's rest.

Bocca di Leone, Doge's Palace
We spent Day 3 of our trip entirely in Venice, starting with a glass-blowing demonstration at the Murano Glass Factory.  After watching the expert craftsman create a vase and a horse from molten glass, we had some time to tour the factory store.  Unfortunately, picture taking was not permitted inside the store, but the chandeliers and statues were quite impressive and expensive, with most of our travelers saving our Euros for souvenirs later in the trip or purchasing small pieces of glass jewelry.  We then returned to Piazza San Marco to meet our local Venice guide who guided us during our visit to Doge's Palace, the construction of which began in 1340.  The Doge of Venice was the primary leader of the Republic of Venice from around 700 to 1797.  One interesting story from our tour guide was regarding the Bocca di Leone, or Lion's Mouth, in the wall outside of the palace.  A citizen of Venice could accuse another citizen of a crime by writing down the accusation and dropping it inside the Lion's Mouth.  If guilty of said crime, the citizen would often be exiled.
Venice canal from inside Bridge of Sighs
As our tour of the inside of Doge's Palace continued, we were astounded by the large amount of artwork and ornate decoration of the ceiling and walls of the palace.  Eventually, we walked across the enclosed Bridge of Sighs, which connects the prison to the interrogation room in the Doge's Palace.  Our tour guide told us two legendary explanations for the origin of the name of this bridge:  prisoners condemned to be executed would cross this bridge and sigh as they caught their last glimpse of Venice or lovers riding a gondola under the bridge at sunset would enjoy eternal love and sigh over the romance of the entire scene.

Upon returning to our hotel, some participants enjoyed a walk along the beach before heading to bed to rest for our bus ride to Florence the next day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Honors Program Announces 2015 Graduates

On Friday, May 8th, the Honors Program held its spring Cording Ceremony to honor the 2015 Honors Program graduates. Faculty capstone mentors spoke on behalf of the students or sent a speech to be read on their behalf.

Honors Program graduates proudly don their Honors cords after the Cording Ceremony. Pictured (from L to R): Alexis Berdine, Amanda Mayes, Jaclyn Horn, Alaina Berry, Mary Moeller, Zac Hoffman, Garrett Tresch, Mollie Jeck, Leslie Johnson, Will Horn, Emily Bosley. (not pictured: Joe "Scott" Glorioso)
Our impressive array of graduates completed their degrees in a wide range of subjects, from Psychology to Finance to Chemistry.  These students were also highly involved on campus as leaders in a variety or organizations, including the Ashbrook Scholar Program, the TKE fraternity, Eagle Investment Group, AU GIVS community service organization, the dance team, varsity cheerleading, Alpha Phi and Delta Zeta sororities, Marching Band, math club, academic tutoring, the American Chemical Society student chapter, and many others.

The Honors Program would like to proudly congratulate the following graduates for 2015:

Alexis Berdine
Capstone Title: Click for the Campus Store: Development of an Online Public Relations Campaign for the AU Campus Store
Major: Fashion Merchandising
Minor: Speech Communication

Alaina Berry
Capstone Title: The Effects of Code-switching: How the Novel Bless Me, Ultima Reinforces the Importance of the Chicano Culture
Majors: English and Spanish

Emily Bosley
Capstone Title: The Long-Term Viability of Equity Crowdfunding
Majors: Finance and Entrepreneurship

Joseph (Scott) Glorioso
Capstone Title: Constant Speed or Constant Effort: Which is the more efficient way to run?
Majors: Chemistry and Mathematics
Minors: Physics and Religion

Zachary Hoffman
Capstone Title: Not a Killer, Soldier, or Subject: Frederick Douglass and American Citizenship
Major: History
Minors: Political Science and Philosophy

Jaclyn Horn
Capstone Title:  Excellence and Envy: Plutarch on the Difficulties of Leading the People
Majors: History and Political Science
Minor: Economics

William Horn
Capstone Title: Synthesis and Characterization of Resorcinarene-Core Polylactide/Polyethylene Glycol Star Block Copolymers
Major: Chemistry
Minor: Mathematics

Mollie Jeck
Capstone Title: Smart Meets Social: Teachers' Perceptions of Interactive Whiteboards and Interactions
Major: Early Childhood Education/Early Childhood Intervention Specialist with Reading Endorsement

Leslie Johnson
Capstone Title:  An Analysis of The Altman Z-Score: An Application to the Airline Industry
Major: Finance
Minors: Accounting and Mathematics

Amanda Mayes
Capstone Title: The Affective Forecasting Error: Predicting Negative Affect
Major: Psychology
Minor: Biology

Mary Moeller
Capstone Title: Factors that Influence Peer Grading
Major: Psychology
Minors: Creative Writing and Spanish

Garrett Tresch
Capstone Title: Sieve Bootstrap-Based Prediction Intervals within GARCH Processes
Majors: Mathematics and Actuarial Science

We wish you all the best of luck in your future pursuits!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Study Abroad Italy Trip Slated for Summer 2016

Did you miss out on the Honors Italy trip this time around, but would still love to go?  Well, here is another opportunity to travel to this beautiful country!  All interested students are encouraged to attend to receive additional information.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Honors Students Receive Departmental Awards

On Sunday, April 19, 2015, Ashland University held its annual Academic Honors Convocation in the Jack and Deb Miller Chapel.  This event is a yearly opportunity for the university to gather in order to recognize outstanding students and faculty members who have shown excellence in their respective academic fields.

Similar to past years, the 2014-2015 Academic Honors Convocation saw a number of Honors Program students who received special awards:

Department of Biology/Toxicology
Isabella Steiner, Sophomore Award
Alyssa Predota, Junior Award

Department of Chemistry/Geology/Physics
Alexander Kaple, Junior Award

Department of English
Emily Kaiser, Sophomore Award
Marissa Willman, Junior Award

Department of History/Political Science
Kelly Ranttila, Junior Award

Department of Psychology

Emily Shrider, Junior Award
Mary Moeller, Senior Award

Department of Economics/Finance
Austin Williams, Sophomore Award
Leslie Johnson, Senior Award

Department of Educational Foundations and Instruction
Kali Bolen, Sophomore Award

Department of Health Sciences
Jessica Brown, Sophomore Award

A heartfelt congratulations goes out to all of the students honored at this event for your hard work and continued academic excellence!