Press Release

May 7, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

Investing in Achievement

Ohio Wesleyan Awards $64,200 in OWU Connection Grants to Support Hands-On Learning Opportunities

Ohio Wesleyan is awarding $64,200 in spring semester OWU Connection Theory-to-Practice grants to support hands-on learning experiences that help students 'Think Big, Do Good, Go Global, and Get Real.' Pictured here, Slocum Hall is the home of the OWU Connection program. (Photo by Mark Schmitter '12)

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University is awarding $64,200 in OWU Connection grants this spring to help students explore entrepreneurism in Sicily, research chemical contaminants in local drinking water, sing and study music in Central Italy and the Vatican, explore how to reduce jetlag, and more.

The university awards multiple rounds of Theory-to-Practice Grants (TPGs) each academic year to support its signature student experience, the OWU Connection. All students are required to complete at least one OWU Connection experience before graduation that requires them to Think Big (complete undergraduate research), Do Good (participate in community-engaged learning, including student leadership), Go Global (complete off-campus study), or Get Real (explore their future careers through meaningful internships and externships).

Those earning spring 2024 grants and their related OWU Connection projects are:

  • "Exploring Entrepreneurial Endeavors in Catania, Sicily," submitted by Destiny Coleman, M.S., administrative director of The Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship, with co-applicants Jon Younkman, MBA, assistant professor of Economics and Business, and Ohio Wesleyan students Giorgi Bediashvili of Tbilisi, Georgia; Kara Cannon of Delaware, Ohio; Kevin Fratz of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio; Kathy Habian of Medina, Ohio; Katie Lucas of New Bremen, Ohio; Cooper Meek of Van Nuys, California; Jenna Norman of Wilmington, Ohio; Bavneet Singh of New Delhi, India; and Thomas Stathulis of Westerville, Ohio. The group will travel to Italy from Nov. 23 to Dec. 1. "Our objective is to learn about entrepreneurship and its characteristics in Catania, the economic hub of Sicily with a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem," Coleman states. "This project will allow us to explore a new economic environment, meet with various entrepreneurs, and discuss business challenges and solutions while comparing practices to those in the U.S."
  • "'Absolute Zero' Guest Artist Funding," submitted by Lusie Cuskey, Ph.D., assistant professor of Performing Arts. Cuskey used the grant in connection with "Absolute Zero," this year's spring musical, written for a cast of nine women, trans, and nonbinary performers. The goal, Cuskey states, was "to give OWU students experience in performing a developing musical and collaborating with industry professionals, specifically professional writers and composers and an intimacy choreographer with appropriate cultural competencies to address the subject matter for the production. Students will gain the benefits of networking within their field of study and gain experience in a type of theatrical production that is a common source of employment in the real world but difficult to train in schools."
  • "Predicting Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Del-Co Water's Watershed," submitted by Savannah Domenech of Webster, New York. "PFAS are a class of chemical compounds that present serious environmental and public health concerns." Domenech states. "[W]aterways accumulate PFAS before its water is collected for consumption. Traditional drinking water treatment technologies are not able to remove PFAS, and technologies that are able to are still in the early stages of development. … My research seeks to help predict where PFAS contamination will appear in high likelihood in a given environment based on spatially distributed factors and intends to develop a GIS cartographic prototype model for predicting PFAS in the environment." Domenech will be mentored in her research by John Krygier, Ph.D., professor of Environment and Sustainability, and work with professional collaborators at Del-Co Water.
  • "Cuban Migration, Food, and Identity," submitted by Christopher Fink, Ph.D., professor of Health and Human Kinetics, and co-applicants Reagan Brake of McPherson, Kansas; Haydn Peterson of Oceanside, California; and Amarilys Torres-Nuñez of Lake Elsinore, California. The group will travel to Havana, Cuba, from July 22-31. "Our goal is to explore how food practices among Cubans and Cuban migrants in the Cuban diaspora in Miami reflect Cuban identity and the various social, economic, and political forces that followed the Cuban Revolution," Fink states. "Our work in Miami and Cuba builds from a spring 2024 directed reading course where we are exploring literature focused on the topics above." Fink and students also received OWU Connection funds this spring to explore these same concepts in Louisville, Kentucky, home to the second-largest Cuban diasporic community in the nation.
  • "Trip to National Microbiology Conference," submitted by Jack Gensler of Toledo, Ohio. He will use the OWU Connection funds to attend the American Society for Microbiology's (ASM) Microbe 2024 conference from June 13-17 in Atlanta, Georgia. ASM Microbe is described as the "world's largest microbial science conference" and the "best place to showcase your research, engage with global leaders, and forge new connections." At the conference, Gensler will present research during poster sessions. While in Atlanta, Gensler will meet with OWU alumnus, Max Schroeder, Ph.D., Class of 2009, and visit his workplace at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters. Gensler is advised by Laura Tuhela-Reuning, Ph.D., senior lecturer of Biological Sciences.
  • "Choral Music of Central Italy and the Vatican," submitted by Jason Hiester, DMA, associate professor of Performing Arts. Hiester will travel abroad with the OWU Chamber Choir from Dec. 27 to Jan. 5. "We will spend the semester studying the music of the Renaissance and baroque Italian master composers with the intention of visiting and singing at the churches and opera houses where these composers specifically wrote and directed their music," Hiester states. "Performing in the same historical venues as the composers of the music provides a profound and life-changing opportunity for our students. This experience will provide the students with authentic holistic connections between music, Italian culture, and their own personal significance in a global family, that can only be fully realized by traveling to these places."
  • "Presentation of Research Data at a National Parasitology Conference," submitted by Sophia Holupka of Hillsboro, Missouri. Holupka will use the OWU Connection grant to attend the American Society of Parasitologists Annual Meeting June 14-17 in Denver, Colorado. She will be presenting a research poster based on two years of data collected during an independent study project with Ramon Carreno, Ph.D., professor of Biological Sciences. For the project, Holupka sampled the parasite community of sunfish in urban and non-urban areas of the Olentangy River in Delaware, County, Ohio. She plans to pursue professional publication of the research.
  • "How Lizards Invade Cities: The Gut Microbiome of the Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) Using Human-Made and Natural Habitats," submitted by Andrea Suria, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biological Sciences, and co-applicants Allison Litmer, Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher, and Ohio Wesleyan students Devon Haley of Granville, Ohio; Megan McCarthy of Trumbull, Connecticut; Maya Mohanty of Holland, Ohio; Brittney Parks of Syracuse, New York; and Jazz Zimmerman of Vermilion, Ohio. "We are requesting funds to conduct research on how nonnative species persist in urban environments, provide hands-on research experiences for undergraduates, and develop interdisciplinary connections between students and faculty studying zoology and microbiology," Suria states.
  • "Identifying Treatments for Jet Lag and Psychiatric Disorders Through Manipulations of the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus and Administration of Novel Compounds," submitted by Chelsea Vadnie, Ph.D., assistant professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. The grant will enable an OWU Summer Science Research Program student (to be selected) to work with Vadnie in the laboratory of McClung at the University of Pittsburgh. The student will contribute to two projects, Vadnie states. "Project 1 is focused on identifying novel compounds for the treatment of jet lag. Project 2 is centered on determining how best to manipulate the SCN to prevent and treat diseases." The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is in charge of keeping the body's internal clock (such as the sleep-wake cycle) working properly.

After students complete their OWU Connection experiences, they often prepare reports and give public presentations based on their objectives and experiences. Learn more at

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation's premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature experience, the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to understand issues from multiple academic perspectives, volunteer in service to others, build a diverse and global perspective, and translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience through internships, research, and other hands-on learning. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book "Colleges That Change Lives" and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review "Best Colleges" lists. Connect with OWU expert interview sources at or learn more at