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College of Arts and Sciences Newsroom

University of Dayton Core program honors two students with 2020 Herbenick Award

By Marissa McCray ’00

The University of Dayton Core program honored two students with the Raymond M. Herbenick Award on March 8 at the 33rd annual Core Integrated Studies graduation banquet — making Shannon Stanforth and Claire Sullivan the first co-winners in the award’s history.

Stanforth is a junior graphic design major from Cleveland. Sullivan is a junior biology major from Kettering, Ohio. Both received equal faculty nominations and praise, tying as this year’s award recipients.

The Herbenick Award is presented annually and recognizes a graduating Core student who best exemplifies the Core program and its commitment to interdisciplinary integration. Instituted by the University of Dayton Department of Philosophy in 1999, the award honors the memory of 30-year philosophy professor and founding Core faculty member Ray Herbenick. Traditionally, the award is presented to one student each year.

“It’s nice to see the effort you put in is recognized by your professors,” Stanforth said about winning the award. “And it’s really nice to be able to share this with Claire.”

In addition to being co-winners, Stanforth and Sullivan are roommates, having lived together the last three years. Sullivan recalled how meeting Stanforth online while searching for a roommate during her first year at the University established the foundation of their strong bond.

“Shannon was definitely my best friend on the Core floor, and she continues to be one of my best friends,” Sullivan said. “I was able to make deeper friendships quicker because of Core and how we’re all sharing the same experience.”

The Core program is a robust two-and-a-half year interdisciplinary curriculum that stresses connections between academic disciplines. Courses center around a common theme, “Human Values in a Pluralistic Culture,” and fulfill the University’s Common Academic Program requirements. Core is also the longest running learning-living community at the University. Students who successfully complete the program “graduate” from Core in spring of junior year.

Sullivan’s interest in interdisciplinary learning stemmed from her participation in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in high school which fosters interdisciplinarity.

“When I heard that Core was interdisciplinary, I really wanted to do it because I loved IB so much,” Sullivan said. “I think Core helped me target the direction of what I want to do because I’ve always liked biology, but I’ve never known what I wanted to do with that. I also love humanities classes, so taking those allowed me to see where I could fit those into biology. I’m interested in going to law school and doing non-profit work, so my experience taking classes in philosophy, history, and religion have really shaped that direction and my vocation.”

Interdisciplinarity has been present throughout Stanforth and Sullivan’s academic careers. In addition to their respective majors, both students maintain multiple minors. Stanforth minors in biology, sustainability and fine art, while Sullivan minors in sustainability and political science. Sullivan educates others through work in the Hanley Sustainability Institute and emphasizes the best way to tackle climate issues is from a collective, interdisciplinary perspective.

Stanforth incorporates her passion for interdisciplinarity through her current honors thesis work that links graphic design and environmental education. During the 2019 Berry Summer Thesis Institute, she wrote and designed a children’s book about sustainability.

“I combined the writing aspect with the design of the book and how to make it sustainable with a sustainable message,” Stanforth said.

Stanforth and Sullivan developed strong rapport with several Core program professors, many of whom nominated them for the Herbenick Award. Both students cited Roger Crum, professor of art history, for making an impact on their education.

“Shannon is an absolutely first-rate student of design and art history, and a model Core student in and beyond her Core classes,” Crum said. He said Sullivan’s unique talents and skill sets in such varied disciplines sets her apart as “an intellectual dot connector and idea creator in the best tradition of the Core program.”

The faculty who presented the students with the Herbenick Award said the winners this year were clear standouts.

“Claire exemplifies what we mean by the “whole student” and how we want our students to go into the world and engage with a humanistic lens and compassion,” said Elizabeth Mackay, assistant professor of English, who nominated Sullivan. “She is the perfect example of the kind of learning we value in the humanities and how that is instrumental in other places and to the work that goes on in other degree fields.”

Brad Kallenberg, professor of theology and ethics, nominated Stanforth. He was especially impressed with her writing ability.

“What set Shannon apart was her ability to range across a wide spectrum of sources, and then gather all the threads and consistently write with concision and focus,” Kallenberg said.

With the Core program coursework now complete, both students find themselves on the cusp of senior year looking ahead to life beyond UD. Both students credit the Core program for instilling the importance of interconnectedness, critical thinking and dialogue within an intellectual community — a community that fosters strong bonds and meaningful relationships.

“Once I graduate from UD, having been in the Core program, I’ll be able to see how things that I’m learning will apply in other situations,” Stanforth said. “Core is more challenging than other courses, but it allows you to have a better understanding of the material in the long run which is more beneficial than just memorizing material, and it’s more applicable to your daily life.”

“Core’s given me a sense of community here of like minded people who also think very differently and we all really enjoy learning and care about our education,” Sullivan added.

For more information, visit the Core Program website.

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