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UHON student named National Portz Scholar

Yunaan Province
Yunaan Province, Stone Forest Park.
Saylors takes a yak ride.
This flag flies in Tiananmen Square.
Island Destination
Island destination featuring Pagoda. Vendors sell
fresh fish and sweets under umbrellas.
Christian Church
Christian Church with Eastern architectural
influence in Yunaan Province.
Girl with flowers
Tour guides dressed in minority regalia.
Open market.
Darris with Friends
Janet Walsh, Saylors and Nora Ketron visit the
Forbidden City, where the emperorís concubines

Darris Saylors, a University Honors Program senior majoring in English and Philosophy and Religion, has been named a 2006 Portz Scholar by the National Collegiate Honors Council. This prestigious award is given to only three honors students nationally each year, in recognition of outstanding research and contributions to scholarship. Saylors is the first student from UTC's honors program to be named a Portz Scholar.

Saylors will be featured at a plenary session at the 2006 National Collegiate Honors Conference in Philadelphia, where she will present her paper "The Virgin Mary: A Paradoxical Model of Christian Womanhood/Feminine Religiosity for Roman Catholic Immigrant Women of the Nineteenth Century."  Saylors's presentation is based on her departmental honors project in Philosophy and Religion, which she undertook under the direction of Dr. Charles Lippy.

"We are thrilled that Darris's work has been nationally recognized," said Dr. Gregory O'Dea, Director of UTC's University Honors Program. "She has been a model honors student from the start: engaging with academia at a professional level, contributing to campus life and community service at a remarkable pace, and providing unrivaled leadership. Her departmental honors project was an outstanding display of undergraduate scholarship. I think UTC has a lot to be proud of with this award:  the University Honors Program, the department of Philosophy and Religion, the English department - but most of all, we can be very proud of Darris Saylors."

Saylors presented two other academic papers at national conferences in the past year, and co-presented two sessions at the 2005 National Collegiate Honors Conference. 

“The Portz is a wonderful reward for my work on my undergraduate thesis,” Saylors said.  “Dr. Lippy has been my inspiration, and I could not have achieved without him.”

Inspiration for Saylors also comes from international travel.  Her journey to India with a UTC academic study group two years ago moved her to seek another international experience.  She was awarded the Provost’s Research Grant, and she recently visited China with a small group of UTC students and Dr. Zibin Guo, UC Foundation Associate Professor, Sociology, Anthropology, and Geography.  “You can taste it in the food, smell it in the streets.  Everywhere in China, you encounter history,” Saylors said.

Every moment of her trip was interesting to Saylors.  “I enjoy the process of traveling, not just the sights, but what it’s like to be human in other parts of the world—to communicate and perceive religion and society. 

Saylors’ research project focused on the role Confuciousism still plays in Chinese women’s lives.  “When Chairman Mao led the revolution, women’s roles changes.  It is interesting to see how ancient traditions shape modern, contemporary views,” Saylors said.  “Dedication to family, honor and respect are still indicative of women’s priorities in China.”

American views of religion in China are quite different from the reality, Saylors said.  “Although churches are not identified as Christian or Buddhist under the communist regime, there are many churches with active participation,” Saylors said.  She was able to visit several churches on the trip.

In the Yunnan Province close to India, Saylors discovered the home to 50% of China’s ethnic minorities.  “I was impressed with the way the majority perceives and treats minority groups in China,” Saylors said.  “They are venerated and respected; China celebrates its minority cultures rather than silencing them.”

Saylors described an outdoor market in China that stretched the length of an urban street.  Vendors offered “every kind of critter imaginable on a stick.  It was understood you would negotiate a price, and then the food is deep-fried on a stick.  There were scorpions, lizards, grasshoppers, and many kinds of fish,” Saylors said.  “My favorite food was yak cheese, which was served breaded for dipping in a sauce.  I also ate lots of fish, most still had eyes.  It was prepared and served very differently than in the United States.  The food there was wonderful.”

China continues to reveal itself long after the trip’s conclusion, Saylors said.  “You cannot gain these insights unless you leave your own culture and go to another country,” Saylors said.

August 25, 2006

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