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HONORS SPOTLIGHT Fall 2020/Spring 2021

Dear friends of the Honors School,

Dr. Nancy MezeyWelcome to the first Honors Spotlight E-Newsletter! Spring and Fall 2020 have been challenging semesters. As this newsletter suggests, however, our students have continued to thrive, particularly with the continued mentoring of dedicated faculty and continued support from the University administration. Despite the challenges, our students have achieved so much of which to be proud! As you will read within the following pages, we had our largest incoming first year Honors class and watched four of our students present their research virtually as part of the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Conference. Our students continue to be leaders within Monmouth University and excel in their careers upon graduation. And while Monmouth University has enjoyed an honors program since 1974, we are excited to be celebrating 15 years as an Honors School. We look forward to building upon this amazing history as the Honors School grows and strengthens.

One of the main reasons for the Honors School’s success rests on the foundation laid by our good colleague, Irene (aka Reenie) Menditto. After 22 years of amazing dedication, Reenie retired this year to spend more time with her family and grandchildren. Throughout her many years, Reenie created stability and a standard of excellence for the Honors School, serving as the heartbeat and core of the Honors School. Reenie’s work at MU extended far beyond her home in the Honors School. Her ability to work with people from all over campus created and maintained the necessary bridges to build the Honors School, and for students to excel.

While we dearly miss Reenie’s efficiency, effectiveness, support, enthusiasm, warmth, and historical knowledge, we wish her all the best in her retirement. We hope that the 22 years of happiness and support Reenie provided to thousands of students reward her, her husband, their children, and grandchildren with many years of happiness and good health. If you would like to wish Reenie well, the students set up a Kudos Board for her. Please feel free to add your comments by clicking here.

Before you continue paging through this newsletter to learn more about some of the Honors School’s amazing students and faculty, please join me in thanking Kate Sosnowski, Assistant to the Dean, for putting this newsletter together!
With my best regards for a happy, healthy, and productive 2021.

Dr. Nancy Mezey
Dean of the Honors School


Kelly Schuld Prioli '20So much of what makes the Honors School special is the community we build here among our students, both academic and social. The pandemic has challenged us, but we have enjoyed learning how to deliver virtual opportunities for gathering, sharing, learning and growing. Kelly Schuld Prioli ’20, our graduate assistant who leads our Peer Mentoring Program, has been charged with keeping these connections growing and strong. With the help of Honors Student Association co-presidents Dárika Lara-Rodríguez and Rowan Elrais, and out student office worker Mary Schuld, Kelly has organized many great virtual events, including Jeopardy, Family Feud, movie night, an ice cream social, and Friendsgiving! We were delighted to have the Honors School’s good friends, Elizabeth Freed and Dr, Bill Mitchell join us for Friendsgiving and Reenie’s retirement celebration.

Honors School Zoom Session


This year’s conference “Big Hearts, Big Minds,” originally slated to be held live in Dallas, TX in November had to be reimagined as a virtual conference due to the pandemic. We are proud to announce that seven of our students were selected to present their research at this prestigious national conference, including Cassie James, Subah Soni, Kaila Tortorelli and Caitlin Clarke.

Click here to view some of our students’ presentations at this virtual conference.


Beechwood Hall

Beechwood residents have had to make adjustments this semester due to the global pandemic, and amid the health and safety measures enacted by Res Life, but the mood of our Honors School Beechwood residents is optimistic and upbeat!

Suite-style living at Beechwood has been an added bonus for our students during the pandemic, enabling our residents to have a larger circle of approved contacts that includes all of their suitemates. It Living in suites has been a great bonding opportunity for them. Our residents are also excited about the improvements Dean Mezey and Res Life have made to the living experience there, including the addition of a big screen TV and new furniture in the lounge, a pool table, graffiti wall, and an improved computer and printing lab in the main lobby. All Honors students now also have swipe access to the computer lab and lounge so they can enjoy all the amenities at Beechwood as well.


Fall 2020 Honors School Student Reserach Conference

Due to the pandemic, the Honors School Fall Student Research Conference was held virtually. We are extremely proud of our students for their resilience in completing their scholarly pursuits in the face of the pandemic.

Please view the Fall 2020 Honors School Student Research Conference Abstract Book.

A Note from Dean Nancy Mezey

In any given year, the Honors School Research Conference is an opportunity for our students to share their work with the campus community. What is extraordinary about this Fall 2020 Honors Research Conference cohort is that the students who presented their research in Fall 2020 began and completed their work through, and in spite of, the Covid-19 global pandemic. Students must always show passion, tenacity, perseverance, and focus to complete their honors thesis/capstone projects. The students who are presenting their research here unquestionably exemplify those qualities!


Reenie Menditto advising one of her Honors studentsBread and butter. Cheese and crackers. Reenie Menditto and the Honors School. How can we think of one thing without the other?

After more than twenty-two years of service to Monmouth University and the Honors School, Reenie has retired. We know how special she has been to so many of our students, as well as the Monmouth Community as a whole, and the Honors School has big plans to celebrate her contributions when we are able to gather again. We will reach out to everyone with details as soon as plans are finalized.

Click here to read a tribute to Reenie!


StudentCalling all alumni: we want to hear your stories! Our goal is to find new ways to foster a meaningful, long-term relationship with you. One of Dean Mezey’s priorities is to build an active and engaged alumni organization, and we hope you will be a part of that effort!

We are happy to announce our new Alumni page on our website which will go live in January. Please visit and learn more about your fellow alumni. If you are interested in being featured, please contact us at!

Also, if you would be interested in mentoring or helping our current students via on- or off-campus interactions, please let us know at or join the Hawk Network and connect with the Honors School Community!


Make a tax-deductible donation to the Honors School today! Your gift will make a difference in the lives of current Honors School students and is a great way to show your pride. Your gift can be designated to the area of your choice, including student scholarships and grants, academic, social or cultural programs, facilities improvements or to the general Honors School fund. Please contact us if you want to discuss your donation. Every gift to the Honors School is appreciated! Click here to make your gift and please designate Honors School.

Guggenheim Memorial Library

400 Cedar Avenue
West Long Branch, NJ 07764

Honors School Awards Logo2019-2020 Honors School Awards

Jane Freed Thesis Award Winner:
Landon Myers `19

Jane Freed Thesis Award Honorable Mentions:
Taylor Donovan ‘19
Michael Mazzucco ‘19
Koushik Muralidharan ‘19

Dr. William P. Mitchell Excellence in Honors Award:
Kelly Schuld Prioli ‘20
Gianni Mazzone ‘20

Did you know?

The Honors School marked its 15 year anniversary this fall! Stay tuned to see how we plan to celebrate this milestone!

We welcomed our largest-ever cohort this fall – 104 new first year students began their Monmouth University careers as members of the Honors School

Join the Hawk Network

Stay connected to your MU Family with the Hawk Network – a digital community for professional networking, development, mentoring and reconnecting with classmates!

Featured Students

James Watson

James Watson

James Watson is a senior History and English double major with a minor in Gender Studies who just presented his Honors Thesis entitled “The Rose that Grew from Harlem: Tracking the Pessimism in 20th Century African American Protest Literature.” We want to congratulate Jimmy for his outstanding scholarship and for his acceptance into the highly competitive University of Notre Dame’s ACE Teaching Fellows Program as a member of ACE 28 as an ACE Ambassador. Click here to learn more about the ACE program and Jimmy!

Maria Aguiluz

Maria Aguiluz

Maria Aguiluz is a first year Honors student-athlete from San Jose, Costa Rica, recruited to Monmouth for the bowling team. She is a Health Studies major. Click here to learn more about Mafe!

Featured Alumni

Gillian Shaw ‘12

Gillian Shaw

Meet Gillian Shaw ‘12. A New Jersey native, Gillian graduated as a Jane Freed Outstanding Honors Student from the Honors School and Monmouth with a degree in Chemistry. She continued on to graduate school at the University of Notre Dame, earning two Master’s degrees – Organic Chemistry (2015) and Entrepreneurship (2016). Gillian was recently featured on television and in an issue of Monmouth Magazine for her work as co-founder of Healthy Points, an app designed to use within several disease populations including at-risk pregnancy and sickle cell disease youth.

Click here to read more about Gillian!

Esosa Ruffin ‘20

Esosa Ruffin

Say hello to Esosa Ruffin ‘20 one of our most recent graduates, already making a big contribution in her field. Please join us in congratulating Esosa on her new role as Graduate Fellow for the New Jersey Office of Higher Education. In this role, she is writing internal policy memos, analyzing pending legislation and policy proposals, and coordinating outreach to colleges and universities.

To learn more about Esosa, please click here!

Featured Faculty

Dr. Frank Fury

Dr. Frank Fury

Dr. Frank Fury. is a long-time friend of the Honors School, regularly teaching Honors courses, including Clusters, and serving as both a First and Second Thesis reader to many of our students over the years. Dr. Fury previously served as a member of the Honors Council, providing input and support that have been invaluable to the success of the School and our students. In addition to his faculty role, Dr. Fury is the Director of Writing Services at Monmouth.

Click here to read more about Dr. Fury and his association with the Honors School – in his own words!