Meghan Tessitore

Only one year into her college experience as a criminal justice and sociology double major at Westfield State University, Meghan Tessitore already felt challenged in a good way. And enriched.

As an honors student in those majors, she has reaped the benefits of living in honors housing, being the first to register for classes, and enjoying smaller class sizes. Plus, she has the opportunity to learn from honors faculty like Gretchen Konrad, Vanessa Diana, and Glen Brewster.

“Being a part of the honors program has absolutely helped to enrich my college experience,” she said.

And there’s more.

During her first year, Tessitore got to expand on an assignment she wrote for her honors Introduction to Criminal Justice class. The result was a research project she chose to pursue on the many misconceptions about how addiction works and how it affects those with drug problems.

“After learning more about this topic my own opinions and assumptions about addiction have changed, and I decided that I want to use this new knowledge to help those who suffer from addiction,” she said.

The basis for her research was a book from her Criminal Justice class titled, “Chasing the Scream,” by Johann Hari. After each section of the book, students were asked to research a topic that interested them.

“I chose to research different studies conducted on addiction, specifically ones that offer new insights into how addiction really works,” she said. “My research focuses on how addiction is more psychological than physical.”

Vanessa Diana, English professor, who served as Tessitore’s project mentor, said her student researched social, legal, and biological perspectives on addiction, demonstrating that an interdisciplinary understanding of this complex problem is necessary to finding treatment solutions.

The opportunity to engage in a research project her freshman year added to her already top-notch experiences at Westfield. Tessitore presented her research at the 22nd annual Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference at the University of Massachusetts in April.

“Presenting their work in these professional venues gives students the opportunity to develop professional communication skills, to network, and to learn about the latest developments in their fields,” Diana said.

Even though she is early in her undergraduate studies, Tessitore is already looking beyond her Westfield State experience.

“I would love to have a career that involves reforming the drug laws that we currently have in place as well as helping with the recovery and rehabilitation of those who are addicted to drugs,” she said.