Undergraduate Students Secure Research Awards

by University Relations

Engaging in the growing opportunities for undergraduate research at Azusa Pacific, two students gained national recognition for their scholarly achievements.

Alain Julian León, a senior philosophy and political science major, explored the concept of freedom of conscience in his project, “Minding the ‘Unbridgeable Gap’: The Future of Conscientious Objection in a Secular Age.” His work garnered the 2016-17 Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Award, which facilitates the research of students who exemplify academic excellence in practical and professional ethics in a variety of fields. This competitive program provides funding to undergraduates and financial compensation to their faculty mentors to complete student-led research projects over the summer. Funded student-faculty dyads have included disciplines from the humanities, fine arts, business, political science, nursing, theology, and STEM, and have resulted in numerous professional conference presentations, several peer-reviewed publications, and at least one national award.

León’s research, inspired by a chapter of H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr.’s After God: Morality and Bioethics in a Secular Age (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2014), focuses on conscientious objectors in the field of medicine—specifically, where health care providers refuse a service because it would violate their conscience. He presented his research at the International Academy for Bioethical Inquiry at St. Louis. University in Missouri in August, and the 2016 Midwest Society of Christian Philosophers Conference at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, in September. His research is expected to publish in the Christian Bioethics journal.

Tess Scherkenback, a senior political science major and humanities minor, also garnered recognition for her research this year. She received the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Young Scholar Award for Public Policy Research in Values & Capitalism for 2016-17, one of only four submissions from Christian colleges across the country. Scherkenback’s research project, “Helping the Homeless: A Model of Public and Private Sector Partnership in Los Angeles County,” addresses the gap between public and private social policy relating to homelessness.

Her research, which focuses on the city of Glendora’s model for assisting the local homeless population, hypothesizes that local and community-based support toward homelessness is more cost-effective and beneficial on a case-by-case basis than state and federal government initiatives. As part of the award, she will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her college tuition, an invitation to the 2017 AEI gala dinner, publication of her project on the Values and Capitalism blog, and opportunities to further contribute to the blog. In April 2017, Scherkenback will defend her research, which was also nominated as one of APU’s 2016-17 SURE projects, before a panel of policy analysts and experts at AEI in Washington, DC.