Milligan senior Sarah Douglas of Williamsburg, Virginia, is well on her way to graduating with honors after completing her honors program capstones. As part of Milligan’s Honors Program, students are required to complete two of four capstone projects. The options include a service practicum, undergraduate research, a senior thesis, and a semester abroad. Douglas, who is a double major in Spanish and exercise science, is one of many honors students who has realized the importance of the capstone opportunities.

For one of Douglas’ capstone experiences, she chose to study abroad in Oviedo, Spain during the summer of 2019. This program was a language immersion program that gave her great experience as a Spanish major. Milligan offers several study abroad programs, as well as scholarships, to all students so they can study off-campus.

Douglas’ other capstone was a senior thesis project which worked more along the lines of her other major which is exercise science. A senior thesis project includes researching, writing, and presenting on a personal study program. Douglas’ project was one created out of a deep passion to untangle misconceptions and inadequate processes in the treatment of anorexia.

As one who has battled and overcome this disease, Douglas said she considered it an honor to fight on behalf of others struggling in the same way. Douglas’ research centered on uncovering the history of misconceptions regarding anorexia, its effects, and misunderstandings specifically in the recovery process.

“The stereotypical recovery process is all about weight and number, while in fact it, health and long-term victory is about so much more,” she said. Douglas started with the very same research that had saved her life. “It was already part of my story. I am a logical person, so I won’t just sit there thinking I feel bad about an issue. I am one who wants to do something.” This process became a means of strengthening what Douglas had already overcome. “It was a passion project and very rewarding.”

Thesis projects are often completed toward the end of one’s college career, but Douglas was able to fully complete the research, writing, and presenting her sophomore year. Douglas’ research was presented at the Rise Above conference hosted by Milligan and then also presented through the Alpha Chi Honor Society at the national Alpha Chi convention in 2019 where she won $1,000 in the regional competition. Douglas also submitted her work to the national Alpha Chi competition where she won a prize of $2,000.

One of the major advantages of projects like these is the opportunity to work closely with faculty mentors. Douglas was able to work with humanities professor Dr. Todd Edmondson and psychology professor Dr. Lori Mills. These mentors were engaged in each stage of the project and worked to guide, consult, and suggest edits.

The overall experience was one Douglas wishes more students would take advantage of at Milligan. “I don’t think there are many things that measure up to my thesis and sharing that with people. It has opened up so many conversations and possibly has been used to save many people.” Many students shy away from the additional effort of working on a research project, but Douglas, through the encouragement of the honors community, pressed in with full zeal.

While study abroad and senior thesis projects are opportunities available to any student, Douglas noted that she probably would not have pushed herself to take advantage of them if not for the honors program.

“The Honors Program gives you a reason and a motivation to work harder,” said Douglas. Milligan’s Honors Program facilitates a certain kind of community that works together to maximize the potential of each person’s college experience. This community is one of both support and achievement and is full of many opportunities.

-Written by Abbie Russell (’21)