Apex Honors Student Achievement

May 4, 2016 | Stacey Ortman

Emily Benson, a senior nursing major at University of Dubuque, shares her research on animal-facilitated therapy as a complementary treatment in pain control during Apex: Celebration of Student Scholarship and Creativity.

DUBUQUE, Iowa – Emily Benson spent months researching the benefits of animal-facilitated therapy for people in pain. In April, with a family dog named Lilly by her side, she shared information about those benefits.

 “Evidence-based practice supports that animals can reduce pain,” Benson said.

University of Dubuque honored undergraduate student research, service learning, and creativity at the fourth annual Apex: Celebration of Student Scholarship and Creativity held April 26-28. More than 300 students presented over 100 posters and other presentations in Heritage Center on campus.

“Apex is really cool, because it brings to light the stuff students are doing,” said Benson, a senior nursing major from DeWitt, Iowa, and vice president of the UD Student Nursing Association.

Benson’s poster highlighted how animal-facilitated therapy can serve as a complementary treatment in pain control. She said the presence of animals may help lead to faster recoveries.

“I know animals reduce my pain,” Benson said.

While Benson brought a four-legged friend to Apex, another student brought a water bottle.

Ainsley Billesbach, a senior nursing major from Belvidere, Illinois, researched effective ways to rehydrate after dehydration, such as drinking Pedialyte. She said people can prevent dehydration by adopting a hydration schedule and knowing how much water they should drink each day. Billesbach said the equation to determine how many ounces of water to drink per day is to divide your body weight in half.

As people gathered around her poster, Billesbach reflected on the opportunities Apex provided.

“It’s an awesome way to network with people and discuss what you know,” she said.

Apex also included a keynote presentation and Honors Convocation.


Laura Kramer (C’11) was nervous about returning to UD as the Apex keynote speaker.

“I’ll be honest, it was incredibly nerve-wracking. I dreaded it, but I knew I had to do it,” she said.

Kramer, assistant producer at LBC radio in London and culture writer for The Upcoming, presented “Movers and Mentors: From Dubuque to London” in Babka Theatre on April 27.

Before her current career, Kramer worked on award-winning documentaries for broadcasters such as PBS FRONTLINE, BBC, and Al Jazeera. One of the films she worked on as an assistant producer, “ISIS in Afghanistan,” recently won a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary filmmaking.

During her speech, Kramer advised students to take the pressure off themselves, focus on their interests, and follow those interests to a career. She said students should make their own decisions.

 “I just thought about how I was in their position,” Kramer said after the keynote. “I really felt a lot of pressure to know exactly what I would go for after graduation.”

She followed her interests – travel and journalism – from Dubuque to her current career in London.


The 2016 Honors Convocation celebrated student achievement. Here is a sampling of the awards given in the John and Alice Butler Hall on April 28:

University Leadership Award – Zach Marotta, a senior secondary education major with endorsements in chemistry, math, all science, and coaching

Student Government Association Student of the Year Award – Zach Marotta

Senior Academic Athletic Award – Jessie Kirkwood, a senior human health science major

Student Organization of the Year Award – “The Belltower,” publishers ofthe student newspaper

Student Organization Advisor of the Year Award – Dr. Jessica Schreyer, “The Belltower” advisor, associate professor of English, and writing program administrator

Student Government Association Staff of the Year Award – Jane Herbst, safety and security officer

Student Government Association Faculty of the Year Award: Alan Garfield, chair and professor of computer graphics and interactive media