GWU Honors Program Gives Student Opportunities to Enhance Educational Experience

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Joy Smith, ’20, Studies Wildlife Photography for her Thesis


A screenshot made during Joy Smith's presentation
A screenshot of Joy Smith’s Honors Thesis Presentation made during the Zoom teleconference.


After graduating from Gardner-Webb University in May, Joy Smith, ’20, of Casar, N.C., will continue taking photos of people. However, in the future, she would like to become a wildlife photographer.

Her interest in the well-being of animals led her to choose the topic for her Honors thesis, “The Positive and Negative Effects of Photography on Wildlife.” Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, Smith and others presented their research during a Zoom teleconference.

Q: Why did you choose your research topic?

Smith: As a photographer and a lover of wildlife, I began to get curious and wondered if photography was ever harmful to animals. During my research, I learned that while there are many positives, wildlife can be negatively affected if the animal’s best interests aren’t met. It pains me to see animals mistreated, and it was a real eye opener to realize that sometimes people who think they are helping animals by photographing them and raising awareness for them are actually hurting them without realizing it.

a photo of Joy SmithQ: What valuable lessons did you learn from doing your research?

Smith: I learned a lot of useful information that is going to greatly benefit me as I continue on in my career. I learned to manage my time appropriately. There is so much to be done when completing a thesis; it is important to not let deadlines sneak up on you. I also learned to ask for help if you need it. Your advisor is there to help you, and they are happy to answer questions or assist you when you hit a roadblock.

Q: How has GWU Honors Program enhanced your GWU experience?

Smith: The GWU Honors Program has meant everything to me. I have been extremely involved since my freshman year. I have been on the Honors Executive Committee the past three years, serving as the Special Events Co-Chair my sophomore year and the Publicist my junior and senior years. I have traveled to multiple places, presented research at National Honors Conferences, met so many wonderful friends, and gotten the best education. I can’t imagine what my time at GWU would have been like if I hadn’t been involved in Honors. I am so thankful to have attended a school with such a wonderful Honors Program! I have been given unbelievable opportunities during my four years at GWU. I am so thankful to Dr. Tom Jones for everything he has done for me.