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Release date: May 1, 2006
Honors students highlight graduating group

PLAINVIEW – Joel O’Hair promises he isn’t running a financial investing operation from his dorm room. Sheena Shipley is thinking about new and different flavors of Coca-Cola. Adam Wainio is spending his time trying to figure out what God is really like.

              While the three soon-to-be graduates are focused on different things, they do have one thing in common: Each has completed the honors program at Wayland Baptist University.

              O’Hair, Shipley and Wainio are three of 100 students who will graduate Saturday in a ceremony held in Harral Auditorium at 2 p.m. The three seniors successfully completed not only their mandatory course work, but an additional 21 hours of honors work, culminating in a thesis which each presented to members of the honors council as well as interested students, faculty and staff.

              “I’ll have to find some buddies with a few more assets,” O’Hair said of operating a make-shift investment business. However, O’Hair’s research topic would point him in the right direction should he ever choose to invest.

              O’Hair, tied with two others as Wayland’s highest ranking graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average, wrote his thesis on portfolio optimization, comparing methods and estimators to measure the amount of risk in one’s investments.

              “The idea behind it all is to minimize the level of risk in your portfolio for a given expected rate of return,” he said. “For example, if you want to make 12 percent on your money, the idea is to find the distribution of assets where you can expect 12 percent, and accept the minimal amount of risk associated with that.”

               O’Hair, a math major from Lubbock, used data from 2004 for his research. He said his returns “accurately reflected the fact that 2005 was a good year for stocks.”

              Shipley, a Springlake-Earth graduate who majored in chemistry and biology, used a method called high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) to determine the amount of steroids present in a mixture, blood or cell tissue. Shipley hopes to continue her work as a chemist, specifically with HPLC, in the future. She said she would love to work for a soft drink company, specifically Coca-Cola because “they are hiring right now.”

              “I want to help them develop new products,” said Shipley who originally had designs on becoming a dentist, but soon discovered she is disgusted by the thought of cutting into the human body.

              Wainio, a religion major from Albuquerque, stumbled across his research project during a discussion outside of class.

              “I had been exposed to a movement in theology called open theism,” Wainio said. “I wanted to look at the challenge that open theism presents to the traditional understanding of God, or traditional theism.”

              Wainio explained open theism as a belief that basically rejects the idea of God’s omniscience and omnipotence to “allow for a type of ignorance within God so He is able to interact more personally” with people.

              In his thesis, Wainio outlined both sides of the argument, then wrote his conclusion.

              “I concluded that while [open theists’] intentions are good and they seem to have a genuine desire to represent the God of the Bible, I thought their paradigm was lacking in scriptural support,” he said. “And in the scripture they do use to support it, I thought their interpretation was somewhat loose.”

              Wainio states that God is not ignorant to certain situations, but “accommodates himself in the same way that a scholar interacts with a child. A scholar has to accommodate his knowledge to the level of the child. God interacts with us the same way.”

              Wainio will continue his research on the divine attributes of God while in graduate school in Florida. The Wayland senior will get married in July, then begin classes at Reformed Theological Seminary, where he has already been accepted, in Orlando, in January.

              “I’m on schedule right now to have two (Master’s of Arts) in three years,” he said. “I’ll do a joint program with an MA in Old Testament and theology.”

              Wainio said he will then work on “one or two” doctorate degrees before beginning a career as a professor at a faith-based school or seminary.

              O’Hair said he will also work on his doctorate. He has been accepted to graduate school at Southern Methodist University, where he will begin work toward a degree in statistics in the fall. He’s not sure where his future will lead, but plans on exploring his options as he learns more about the field.

              “I’m not opposed to becoming a professor or teaching, but I want to see what is out there as far as consulting or just working for a business or a firm,” he said. “Maybe even go further into finance. I found my project very interesting and had a very good time with it.”

              Shipley has been accepted into a couple of graduate schools, but remains uncertain about her educational future.

              “I’m going to worry about all of those things after graduation,” she said. “The main goal is to graduate, then worry about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. I’m just going to be a chemist for now, then I may go into law school.”

              While completing the honors program meant a lot of extra work, all three said it was well worth it.

              “It just shows that I did research and wrote a thesis at the undergraduate level,” Shipley said. “Not a lot of people do that.”

              O’Hair echoed her comment saying graduate schools are attracted by research done at the undergraduate level.

              “The honors program was great,” he said. “I wanted to challenge myself as much as I could. If you’re looking for the most challenging course of study, you should definitely go through the honors program.”