Testimonials: University of Iowa Honors Faculty

Editor’s Note: From time to time, we publish testimonials from honors program faculty and students. Below are three contributions from honors faculty who teach at the University of Iowa. Emphases are added.

Tom Keegan: Rhetoric

Head of the Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio

I am always impressed by the extent to which my Honors students view their studies as inextricable from their personal and professional lives. They don’t so much take classes as absorb and apply their learning. They want to know how what they learn today can be used today and tomorrow. They are creative pragmatists who will undertake any assignment – digitally–oriented, community–based, or research–intensive – as a means to honing skills that they can put to use in the broader world.

Honors students’ capacity for innovation has made them a joy to teach. I often run my classes as experimental labs for new assignments. I find Honors students are eager to test out new ways of learning and new forms of analysis. They are also excellent at troubleshooting these new initiatives, and all my best assignments have been the result of the handwork and critical creativity of my Honors students.

And Honors students follow up. Months and years after they have taken my courses, students will email me, come to my office hours, stop me in the hallways to talk about a debate we had in class or a TV series we studied or trip abroad they are planning. They are among the chattiest, most engaging, and intellectually inquisitive people I have ever met. They are a tremendous boon to the University community and the great sustainers of its spirit of wide-ranging intellectual endeavor.

 

Waltraud Maierhofer: German

I was drawn to teaching in the Honors program by everything it advocates, especially small class sizes, interdisciplinary study, students from very different majors, creative and more in-depth course design, focus on the students and peer activities instead of lectures. Yet the rewards of teaching in Honors have far exceeded my initial expectations, and that is because of the students in the Honors program. They are not only academically gifted and often have an exceptional basic education with great speaking and writing skills; they are curious, hardworking, and highly motivated individuals who challenge each other as well as me and with whom it is a pleasure to learn. The difference between regular undergraduate non-major classes and an honors class in one of the General Education areas where all are eager to participate, is enormous and makes for a fresh and very satisfying teaching experience.

Recently, I have initiated and taught an “Honors Seminar on Global and International Issues” about contraception and unwanted pregnancy across time and cultures. The Honors course allowed me to experience and share the value of sharing ideas and approaches across disciplines. For several sessions, I invited presentations by expert colleagues not only from other languages and literatures and other disciplines within the College of Liberal Arts but also from the Colleges of Public Health and Medicine.  I have learned from them, along with the participants in the seminar. For several weeks of the seminar, the students present and discuss their research projects, allowing for diverse materials and building on individual interests and expertise. Often, they become the teacher with me more a learner than the authority behind a podium. I am confident we all benefit from the intellectual exchange. It is a pleasure to work with such gifted young minds.

 

Donna Parsons: Honors and Music

Honors seminars place a high emphasis on developing undergraduates’ research skills and providing students with opportunities to share their research in a wide array of venues.  Whether studying popular music or literature, lively class discussions require students to provide textual evidence to support their ideas. 

For example in discussing the level of creativity behind John Lennon’s utilization of an 1843 antique circus poster in crafting his lyrics for “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” students spend 15 minutes walking around campus documenting random words and phrases that catch their eyes and ears.  In class they attempt to turn their findings into a catchy lyric and realize the difficulties in converting the mundane into the profound.

Equally important in expanding students’ critical thinking are the opportunities honors seminars give students in conducting primary and original research.  As students examine first editions of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility (1811) and Emma (1816) in the University Library’s Special Collections and Archives, they consider how Austen’s contemporaries encountered these novels via their subscription to their local lending library and then critique subsequent editions as they analyze the development of book publishing.

Testimonials: Clemson, Calhoun Honors College Faculty

Editor’s Note: From time to time, we publish testimonials from honors program faculty and students. Below are two contributions from faculty members who teach at Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College, which received a five-mortarboard rating in our recent book, INSIDE HONORS. Emphases are added.

From Michael LeMahieu,
Associate Professor
Department of English
Director, Pearce Center for Professional Communication
Faculty Fellow, National Scholars Program
mlemahi@clemson.edu

I have been involved with the Calhoun Honors College for 11 of the 12 years I have taught at Clemson University. My experiences with the Honors College have been hands down my single most rewarding pedagogical experience at Clemson. I became involved with the Honors College so quickly after arriving on campus thanks to the recommendation of a student. Here’s a first point to emphasize: the Calhoun Honors College not only provides students with a superior educational experience but it also allows students to shape the vision for that educational experience.

In my various efforts, I try to put the voices of the students first; it’s a lesson I learned from the Honors College and one that remains best exemplified there. I have also worked in several different capacities with the College, from teaching first-year seminars to advising senior theses to facilitating book discussions to serving on selection committees, scholarship committees, advisory committees, and as a faculty fellow for the National Scholars Program.

I highlight these areas because they instantiate the range of opportunities for faculty members to be involved with the honors college. The Calhoun Honors College benefits from the stable yet nimble vision and leadership of its director and from an ace staff that is fully invested in student success and that exhibits unwavering professionalism.

Discussions are held, books are read, and essays are written at Clemson University that would not be were it not for the honors college. Students learn more, better, and differently as a result of their work in the honors college, which continues to provide models and opportunities for my own thinking and learning. It’s the jewel in the crown at Clemson.

From O. Thompson Mefford,
Dept. of Materials Science

In evaluating the Clemson Calhoun Honors College, I have the unique prospective of being both a student and a faculty member. As a student, I enjoyed many of the honors programs including living in the honors residence hall, the Dixon Fellows Program, and the opportunity to complete a departmental honor thesis. The biggest takeaway from my experience as a student was the unique ability for the honors college to connect students and faculty in meaningful activities. What I am most grateful for is is the rich exchange of ideas and mentoring that made my “Clemson Experience”.

Since returning as a faculty member, the Honors College has been my vehicle to connect with students. My involvement to the honors college has spanned the entire student experience at Clemson, starting before the student arrives and beyond graduation. I have aided in the selection of honors students and National Scholars, where was able to have thought provoking discussions with the amazing students the College is attracting. I have assisted in the transition to Clemson through participation in the EUREKA! Program, where mentorship in research practices begins before the student even starts their Clemson academic career.

I have had the opportunity to develop curriculum including special course on nanotechnology and honors contracts to push students to explore areas beyond what is covered in the classroom. Finally, I have mentored students throughout their time at Clemson on to careers and graduate school.

Nonetheless, the greatest educational moments of my career have occurred while mentoring honors students and working with small groups in the lab. These opportunities to have a direct impact on the lives of the students have occurred through working with honors students. It is these types of interactions that are the most rewarding part of my career and keep me focused on bettering myself as an instructor.

Honors Testimonials: UNC Honors Carolina

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

Rachel Myrick, Political Science & Global Studies Double Major–Honors Carolina has given me an opportunity to study with incredible professors in small classes, and to engage in academic experiences that extend far beyond the classroom. Looking back on my college experience, I realize that Honors Carolina opened so many doors for me. Without those opportunities, I would never have been in a position to win a Rhodes Scholarship.

Sam Bondurant, English & Economics Double Major–From joining my professor at his home to use his personal printing press to seeing firsthand the landmarks that inspired J.R.R. Tolkein in Oxfordshire, Honors Carolina has brought me unique experiences that have indelibly shaped my UNC experience.

Emma Blackwell, Mathematics & Geology Double MajorI love that Carolina is a large university, but one of the things I valued most about Honors Carolina was that it gave me a community I could be part of the minute I stepped on campus. Honors Carolina really helped me feel more at home in my first semester.

John Hu, Business & Computer Science Double Major–Honors Carolina opened a lot of doors for me. It helped me make meaningful connections with people who were very open and enthusiastic about helping me prepare for the employment recruiting process because of our shared experience. I’m extremely grateful to the Honors Carolina network for getting me to where I am today.

Jerma Jackson, Associate Professor of History–My most rewarding teaching experience at the University was in an Honors Carolina course. Students consistently posed such thoughtful questions that the course became an exhilarating teaching — and, indeed, learning — experience for me.

Ashley Rivenbark, Asian Studies & Romance Languages Double Major–It’s almost impossible to sum up the incredible experience that the Weir Fellowship provides. If you want top notch academics, amazing teachers, and classmates who will guide you every step of the way in your Chinese improvement, a vibrant colorful city with delicious food and warmhearted people, and an internship experience that will leave you with powerful impressions and lasting connections, then you have to apply for the Weir Fellowship.

 

Honors Testimonials: CUNY Macaulay Honors College

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

Born in Kolkata, India, Raj Basak (’15) spent his childhood in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. While he is a physics major, he chose to study photography in Italy as a study abroad option through the Macaulay Opportunities Fund and to volunteer on a sustainable farm in Oregon. The Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar is also a pianist and vocalist in the Macaulay Musicians’ Collective, a jazz-pop ensemble. This creative side fits squarely with Raj. As a high school senior, he performed at the International Fringe Theater Festival in Scotland.

Raj speaks five languages: English, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu and the universal language of music. “Academically, I am most proud of co-authoring two peer-reviewed scientific articles as an undergraduate,” he says. “Outside of academics, I am very proud of founding the Macaulay Triplets and making it a self-sustaining musical ensemble.”

The best part of my Macaulay experience has been interacting with a truly remarkable group of students who are incredibly intelligent, passionate and well rounded.
Both of Raj’s parents are physicians and while at Macaulay, Raj worked at the Columbia Medical Center in an Immunobiology Lab where he studied malarial drug resistance. To further his studies, he also interned in a Biochemistry lab at Brown University for a summer.

At City College of New York, he was awarded the Ward Medal in Physics. While he immersed himself in science, as a Hertog Scholar, Raj also dove deep into classical works of literature and explored critical questions related to culture, politics, and society.
Yet, as Raj says, “although I have thoroughly enjoyed all my classes, research and New York City, the best part of my Macaulay experience has been interacting with a truly remarkable group of students who are incredibly intelligent, passionate and well rounded.” He adds, “getting to know these students and developing lasting friendships with them has been a gift

Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Paula Garcia-Salazar (’15) came to the United States when she was just seven years old. Now she has turned her experience navigating the U.S. immigration system into a career.

Her four years at Macaulay, including her participation in CCNY ‘s honors pre-law program as a Skadden Fellow, set in motion Paula’s vision of becoming an international human rights lawyer. Proudly, she will be the first in her immediate family to become an attorney.

To lay the groundwork for her legal career, Paula credits the Macaulay Opportunities Fund with giving her the ability to pursue an unpaid internship at the non-profit Human Rights First. While there she helped asylum seekers and other immigrants traverse the challenges and barriers of immigration law. After graduation, she will begin a two-year fellowship at Immigrant Justice Corps providing direct legal services to underserved immigrant communities in New York City.

Paula’s vision of human rights doesn’t stop at immigration. She has been actively involved in organizing with labor unions and has interned at Housing Works and the Roosevelt Institute. While at the Institute, she worked on the book Women and Girls Rising: Progress and Resistance Around the World.

While Paula has made a difference in social justice, she has also flexed her muscles on the Quidditch field. Calling them her “second family,” she says she has been on the team since her first year. She is a Horace W. Goldsmith Scholar and Lisa Goldberg/Revson Scholar.

Jake Levin ‘16, Macaulay Honor College at Brooklyn College–Simply put, I would not be where I am today without Macaulay Honors College. As a member of the class of 2016 at Brooklyn College and as one of the few students from out of state, my experience has been unique and rewarding. As any New York City student knows, you are afforded many wonderful opportunities to complete valuable internship, research, and work experiences while you take classes. These opportunities were encouraged and augmented by Macaulay, an institution truly in and of the city.

From specialized seminars focused on different aspects of New York City to the rapidly growing number of intimate courses offered only to Macaulay students, the term “hidden gem” could not be more applicable. The advising is personalized and unique, with staff placed on your home campus to facilitate cross-campus communication and mitigate potential issues. CUNY’s resources are vast, and as a Macaulay Honors College student I was better positioned to take advantage of them.

Like many other universities, students are required to complete a study abroad, internship, or undergraduate research experience before graduation. Unlike many other schools, Macaulay provides students with the direct financial support to make those experiences a reality. The Opportunities Fund made it financially feasible for me to study abroad and conduct independent research in Havana, Cuba. As the founder of a large cross-campus initiative, I was encouraged and supported by the dedicated student affairs staff who often work long hours to ensure students’ needs are met.

I am the recipient of a Harry S. Truman scholarship, an award I would not have won without the advising apparatus Macaulay has developed to assist students with personal statements and applications. I have never once heard of a student idea or initiative being denied, no matter how ludicrous. In fact, the more “out there” the idea the more likely you’ll receive Macaulay support.  Being a Macaulay Honors College student means finding a close-knit family in a system of 500,000; the community, accessibility of high-level administrators, high-caliber academics, location, and opportunities for personal and professional growth make Macaulay unbeatable.

Sara Louie ‘17, Macaulay Honors College at City College- I currently serve as the president of the Macaulay Scholars Council, Macaulay’s undergraduate student government. Macaulay provides a challenging, nurturing environment for students to grow as scholars and leaders. For me, that’s meant funding study abroad through the Opportunities Fund which challenged my understanding of the global water crisis (my academic focus) and included an honors course in the Dominican Republic that altered my intended academic major.

Macaulay has also placed me into an incredible network of passionate, driven students from a wide range of fields. It’s inspiring and motivating to work with my classmates in our New York City honors seminars and clubs. Being part of the Scholars Council has allowed me to follow my passion in helping others, while also getting to know the incredible staff at Macaulay. I’ve seen how they truly care for students and how hard they work to develop new opportunities for us.

I attribute much of my success to my advisors who truly take the time to know students well so that they can offer tailored opportunities and advice, both personally and academically. Because my advisor is not tied to a specific major and has been with me since freshmen year, she has given me very open-minded information, support, and advice about my majors and extracurricular activities. With her help, I’ve been able to devise two independent majors in sustainable development and digital media. The latter, I discovered after interning in the field, an experience supported by a Macaulay specific grant.

Also, Macaulay’s full tuition scholarship has allowed me to explore my interests without financial burden, including covering the costs of summer and winter courses. I cannot imagine a better way to study at a large urban university system, while also enjoying the close-knit community of a small college.

Kelly L. O’Donnell–I have been a part of the Macaulay community since 2013 and it has been a real privilege to be able to teach and interact with our wonderful Macaulay students. In the classroom, Macaulay students always fully engaged with whatever task is put before them. They are determined to explore every angle of a problem and come up with creative solutions and their genuine curiosity is inspiring. I can come into class and make reference to a discover in the plant world that is not related to that day’s content and by the next class meeting at least one of my students will have researched the finding and come in with questions to discuss. I will often have multiple students stay after class to ask insightful scientific questions and discuss how these topics relate to their fields of interest. It is truly a delight to be in the classroom with them.

Because our students are of such high quality and are so willing to be engaged, Macaulay Honors College is a great place to develop new and innovative educational programs. One such program, Science Forward, allows our students to explore multiple fields of science with an eye to the skills that all scientists use when they do their work. This curriculum has our students fully engaged in the scientific process from collecting data at our BioBlitz (a 24-hour species diversity survey of a park in NYC) to asking questions of those data and performing data analysis to presenting their original results at a college-wide scientific poster conference. It is always rewarding to watch my students interact with each other and other faculty as they present their excellent work.

Honors Testimonials: Georgia Honors Program

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

STUDENTS:

Nivita Sharma (Class of 2018)

As only a sophomore at The University of Georgia, I can confidently say that in another two years from now I will define my undergraduate career by the opportunities that have been presented by the Honors Program. I have been given the privilege to attend the first state chartered university in the nation with a student body of 36,000, while also receiving specialized attention through the small liberal arts college atmosphere of the Honors Program.

Honors classes are taught by world-renowned professors who have the genuine desire to foster intellectual growth inside and outside the classroom. But what has made my college experience particularly unique is the cutting edge research I have been conducting with the unwavering support and guidance of a UGA faculty member. As an Honors student, I was able to engage in research in an area of my own interest through the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) from the very first day I set foot on campus.

Besides the academic endeavors I have embarked on with the support of the Honors Program, the motivation and core values provided by the intimate community of faculty, administrators, fellow students, and alumni is unparalleled by any other institution in the nation I know of. The social support and many activities sponsored by Honors student groups, especially the Honors Program Student Council, add to the strong community that Honors students enjoy.

The University of Georgia Honors Program has gone above and beyond to help me achieve goals that I could have only dreamed of before.

Torre Lavelle (Class of 2016; Udall Scholar and Schwarzman Scholar)

The UGA Honors Program is incredible in its commitment to undergraduate research and connecting some of the university’s (and world’s) leading professors with students. During my second year at UGA, I was able to pursue research on anthelmintic resistance through CURO. Dr. Vanessa Ezenwa, my Honors research mentor, played an invaluable role that went far beyond the usual job description, a common depiction when Honors students talk about their faculty mentors—UGA professors value undergraduate research in a manner that I have found to be unmatched at any other institution. She even connected me with an internship this past summer at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Virginia.

Honors-funded travel grants have been invaluable in allowing me to delve into my academic interests undeterred. From presenting my research to other students at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference to spending part of my summer in Fiji, where I studied human-environment interaction and participated in a homestay in the coastal village of Waitabu, my adventures have always begun with a simple phrase of support from Honors administrators: “What’s next?”

I have also always been struck by the Honors Program’s ability to serve as a strong yet diverse community, and constant source of support and inspiration. It has built its alumni portal in a manner that allowed me to connect with a graduate who works at the State Department, and covered the cost of many a lunch during networking events.

Lastly, the support of the Honors Program as I applied for, and ultimately was awarded, multiple national scholarships is the reason why I have the life-changing opportunity to pursue my graduate work internationally, and why I feel confident in the academic direction I have taken.

Karishma Sriram (Class of 2016; Goldwater Scholar)

Entering college as a Foundation Fellow–UGA’s top academic scholarship which is housed in the Honors Program–I was immediately immersed in an encouraging and creative environment. Through the Fellowship, I have been able to participate in intriguing book discussions, dinner seminars and conversations that helped me shape my understanding of the world around me.

Further, the Fellowship afforded me the ability to travel during my career. Through its aid, I’ve taken a class under a Fellow of All Souls College at Oxford University, traveled to Harvard College to present my stem cell research, ventured to Bolivia to observe the health care conditions in the impoverished La Paz, and studied abroad in Morocco and Bali with cultural and religious immersion experiences.

Beyond the extensive travel and enrichment opportunities, the Fellowship has provided me with a community of peers and advisers that have guided and aided me in my growth as a student, friend and person.

FACULTY MEMBERS:

Dr. Marcus Fechheimer, University Professor of Cellular Biology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences

The academic rigor at UGA has risen dramatically in the last decade. The average undergraduate student at UGA today would have been in the Honors Program 10 years ago, and students in the Honors Program today would have been in the top 1% 10 years ago. It is truly impressive that our Honors Program continues to recruit and engage these outstanding students! This is the view of a faculty member who is completing his 30th year at UGA.

The characteristic that best describes the UGA Honors Program is engagement of faculty and students working together to learn, discover, and create. This engagement is most patent in Honors classes that feature smaller sections and advanced material. Some courses employ an Honors option so that students earn Honors credit by doing extra work such as (in my cell biology class) writing analytical reviews of recent publications in the primary literature. I also regularly teach an Honors seminar in the area of neurodegenerative diseases- a topic too specialized for the regular curriculum. This type of class utilizing exclusively primary sources represents a level of scholarship and mentoring that is expected at the 8000 level for doctoral students. In the UGA Honors Program, sophomores engage at this level.

Finally, undergraduate research promotes engagement of Honors students across every discipline at the University. Research transforms students who develop persistence, creativity, teamwork, and communication skills. Engagement in research promotes self-confidence that emanates from authentic accomplishment. The Honors Program promotes research participation and engagement in many ways including CURO scholars, Gateway seminars, Summer Fellowships, CURO Symposium, Theses, and the CURO Scholar transcript notation.

By providing such opportunities for engagement and discovery, the Honors Program is the engine for both the transformation of students and for the rise of UGA to the elite among public universities.

Dr. Loch Johnson, Regents Professor of International Affairs, School of Public and International Affairs

Having been a University faculty member for almost forty years, I have many wonderful memories of campus life. My happiest moments, though, have been the many semesters when I have been engaged in the UGA Honors Program. The students in the Program are uniformly first-rate: smart, engaged in student and community activities, active in classroom discussions, and always punctual in the completion of assignments with a high level of excellence. These students have also been amenable to experiences beyond the classroom, whether discussions of current events over coffee, longer conversations over lunch, or coming to my place for a home cooked meal (as my Honors classes always do). The size of the class–always less than twenty–makes it possible as well to have rich dialogues among the class members and the instructor, which is more difficult in our typically larger classes.

I have also enjoyed the diversity of the Honors classes, with students from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Often many of the students are immigrants, or their parents are, which brings a wonderful international dimension to the classroom—especially valuable for my International Affairs Department.

Finally, I would note that the administrators of the Honors Program are top-draw in every way: the classes are well-organized and thoughtfully scheduled, the students come with an outstanding work ethic and a lively interest in intellectual matters, and the “home office” in Moore College is invariably a font of sound counsel and encouragement.

The UGA Honors Program is a five-star operation!

Dr. David Mustard, Meigs Associate Professor of Economics, Terry College of Business

Throughout my career at UGA, I have taught Honors classes, mentored Honors students, and advised students through CURO. In these capacities I have had the privilege of interacting with a cadre of extremely smart, interesting, and motivated students.

Over the past ten to fifteen years, UGA Honors students have been extremely successful in national and international scholarship competitions. I have myself taught and advised two Rhodes Scholars, a Marshall Scholar, two Fulbright Scholars, a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, a recipient of the top university-wide Ph.D. assistantship at Duke University, many winners and finalists of other prestigious scholarships, and also multiple Olympians, including one gold medal winner.

Such students exhibit enthusiasm for learning, are intellectually inquisitive, engage the readings and class material, and work extremely hard, which fundamentally changes the manner in which I teach classes. For example, in my education policy Honors class, instead of using a textbook, the required readings are largely articles from peer reviewed academic journals. In that class I also assign group research projects that have generated many excellent papers. Many of these students leverage that opportunity to do research into additional undergraduate research experiences that have produced five CURO Best Paper Awards, book chapters, and a co-authored publication in an influential economics journal.

My participation in the UGA Honors Program has truly been one of the highlights and most rewarding aspects of my professional career.

Honors Testimonials: Delaware Honors Program

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

The approachable Honors staff has fostered an Honors community since freshman year and has personally helped me take my undergraduate research to a global scale through Honors enrichment and Fulbright advisement. (Michael Karavolias, Class of 2016, Chemical Engineering Major)

Housing has definitely been an advantage of the Honors Program. Louis L. Redding is one of the newer buildings and the rooms are nice and spacious. Also, we get priority scheduling, which is awesome. (Megan Aidoo, Class of 2017, Medical Diagnostics Major)

There are community-building and stress-relieving activities such as hot chocolate and cookies and ice cream on the porch, and every time I’ve gone, I’ve become more familiar with the Honors Program staff and have been able to talk to other Honors students who I had never met before. (Mackenzie Campbell, Class of 2017, Foreign Languages and Literatures and International Business Studies Majors)

The Honors Program has allowed me to take smaller classes where I can reach my full potential and push myself further in my studies. (Jessica Sugarman, Class of 2016, Foreign Languages and Literatures Major)

Honors faculty are personable and always eager to further a student’s understanding of a subject. They are eager to create a community within their class and encourage every student to succeed. (Sarah Hartman, Class of 2017, Environmental Engineering Major)

Through the Honors Program, I received unparalleled attention and mentoring when applying for scholarships to continue my education. (Timothy D’Agostino, 4+1 Program, Environmental Engineering)

The UD Honors Program attracts an extremely high-quality student. They are a pleasure to teach because they are so intelligent, motivated and diligent. (Philip Mink, Professor of English)

An Honors course is one where students are expected to think at levels far beyond what I ask them on the syllabus, which I regard as a starting point for our work. (Victor Perez, Professor of Sociology)

Honors courses–colloquia, separate sections, add-ons to regular courses, provide a unique collegiate setting within which students can build meaningful learning relationships not only with faculty, but with each other. The small class sizes allow a deep and sustained level of interaction, and permits the class to delve more substantively (and organically) into subject matter or particular interest to the students. (Matt Weinert, Professor of Political Science and International Relations)

Honors Testimonials: UConn Honors Program

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

What did you like most about your years as a UConn Honors student?

Living in Buckley, I was able to make friends with like-minded people and hope to continue these friendships after graduation.  I think the Honors Program in general encourages students to get involved and be leaders, which is something I definitely did.

What aspect of your Honors experience has had the greatest impact on you personally?

The honors culture of achievement inspired me to be a leader and do many things that shaped my college career.

How did your thesis experience contribute to your academic development?

It taught me to value academics and the pursuit of knowledge, and I was able to develop relationships with faculty.

Sarah Levine, B.A. in Communication, 2016

 

What did you like most about your years as a UConn Honors student?

I felt that I was more challenged, and therefore learned more, than the average college student. I also felt that I was surrounded by kids in class who were as intellectually curious, and cared, as much as I did.

What aspect of your Honors experience has had the greatest impact on you personally?

The challenge of the Honors Program gave me confidence to compete with strong students at interviews. … I was never hindered by intimidation, and I actually had more project work to talk about in interviews due to my honors’ experience.

How did your Honors major advisor affect your UConn Honors experience?

My Honors major advisor had an incredible impact upon both my Honors Program experience and my overall college experience. When Professor Clapp approached me about joining the Honor’s Program, I felt truly honored. In efforts to make the most of the opportunity he gave me, I have grown more intellectual than I thought was possible. Working on my thesis, in particular, I have challenged myself greatly and have consequently gained much more confidence and knowledge.

How did your thesis experience contribute to your academic development?

My thesis was the greatest challenge of my academic career. In taking months to synthesize massive amounts of data, articles, and political perspectives I was able to develop a rich and cohesive response of my own. I take great pride in both having accomplished such a large project and also developing a work that is truly my own. Having successfully completed the thesis–which examined, and proposed some solutions to, Connecticut’s fiscal challenges–I now feel equipped to solve complex real-world problems in both my full-time job and as a concerned citizen.

Benjamin Scheller, B.S. Finance, 2016

 

What did you like most about your years as a UConn Honors student?

I like the opportunities that are available to honors students, like the Honors classes and conversion projects that help you apply your knowledge from lecture in a meaningful way. I also think the Honors community is very supportive, especially the faculty.

What aspect of your Honors experience has had the greatest impact on you personally?

The thesis project has had the greatest impact. As I read scientific papers in my classes, I do not realize how much work and detail goes into writing a paper for a journal. So, it was rather eye-opening to do it myself. Also the research I did was directly related to my field, and I would not have had the advantage I did when it came to applying to doctorate programs had it not been for the push to pursue a research lab.

How did your Honors major advisor affect your UConn Honors experience?

My Honors major advisor made my UConn experience worthwhile. She encourages me to make right choices and she is always realistic and resourceful….I could not have been successful without her. She always treats every one of my questions with great importance, and she has never let me down.

How did your thesis experience contribute to your academic development?

My thesis made me realize the dynamic of working in research, and it definitely made me realize that going to graduate school for research or to pursue a PhD is not for me (which is a positive lesson in the end). I am still glad I pursued research for my thesis because I had a chance to learn specialized information specific to my field and to make good networking connections.

Name withheld, B.S. Biological Sciences, 2016

 

What did you like most about your years as a UConn Honors student?

The tightly-knit Honors community in Buckley ended up being where I would meet the friends who I’ve been closest with in my years as a Husky; having the common experience of Honors has been a fantastic bonding experience.

What aspect of your Honors experience has had the greatest impact on you personally?

The challenge of conducting my own research and synthesizing it into a thesis has helped me develop my analytical and writing skills far beyond what my regular courses pushed me to do.

How did your Honors major advisor affect your UConn Honors experience?

My Honors major advisor has been consistently helpful and provided very useful guidance — particularly in the process of writing my senior thesis.

How did your thesis experience contribute to your academic development?

The senior thesis was a challenging but also fulfilling finish to my time at UConn. The challenge of conducting an independent research project helped me grow as a learner, and it’s also very satisfying to look back on a finished project of that size.

Name withheld, B.A. Political Science, 2016

 

What did you like most about your years as a UConn Honors student?

The feeling that I was going above and beyond and challenging myself academically.

What aspect of your Honors experience has had the greatest impact on you personally?

Knowing that I can reach the higher goals that I set for myself.

How did your Honors major advisor affect your UConn Honors experience?

My Honors major advisor helped me find joy in doing research and have a better understanding of the research process.

How did your thesis experience contribute to your academic development?

My thesis experience contributed to my academic development significantly.  I made more connections in the community, learned new passions, and gained a better idea of how the research process works.

Why was [Analysis of Social Welfare Policy and Social Service Delivery Systems, a first-year MSW course] one of your favorite Honors classes?

I ultimately want to get my Master’s in Social Work.  Having the opportunity to take a graduate level social work class, and enjoy it, made me feel confident in my decision.

Name withheld, B.A. Human Development & Family Studies, 2016

 

Honors Testimonials: Virginia Commonwealth Honors College

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

The following testimonials are from the Virginia Commonwealth University Honors College:

Rishabh Khatri–Each and everyday I feel confident in my growth at the VCU Honors College, that not only offered a window to the future but also an endless hall of open doors, inviting and demanding that I engage with the world in order to enrich my own understanding and become a positive agent of change. The Honors College community, students, and faculty have fostered my personal maturation as a student, a leader, and humanitarian because of this belief. I hope to continue to mature as an individual and eventually spread the positivity and freedom of education I have cherished at VCU over the past four years.

Jamie Shive–Now that I have almost successfully completed my degree, I could not imagine earning it without the Honors College in the picture. The inspiration to excel academically, the ability to distinguish myself and my accomplishments through the Honors College among other students, and the friends and bonds I have made are completely invaluable. When I began my studies at VCU, I never felt myself worthy of such a special opportunity, and I joined simply because I wanted to work harder and learn more. Looking back, I had no idea how important my acceptance would be. I can say with certainty that without the Honors College, I would not have been able to grow into the sophisticated, hard-working academic and individual that I am today.

Janine Matthews–Being a member of the VCU Honors College has transformed me personally and academically. I am in awe of my instructors and my fellow students, especially my peers in the Honors Graduating Class of Spring 2016.  To be surrounded by such intelligence and standards of excellence has pushed me to meet and surpass the benchmarks VCU has established for obtaining my degree.  I have risen to the challenges posed by my professors and peers. For the first time in my life, I achieved an A in an honors-level mathematics class, which is an accomplishment this numbers-phobic art major never dreamed possible.  I am grateful to be included in the amazing group of motivated, supportive scholars and staff of the VCU Honors College. The drive of my fellow students has spurred me on to achieve my own levels of excellence.  I have loved the honors courses. I wouldn’t be the woman or student I am today, if it weren’t for my participation in the Honors College.

Kathleen Vermillera–As a member of the Honors College, I was able to interact with professors and study subjects I never expected to enjoy. I found a love for interactive studying and smaller class sizes. Students in the Honors College actually have the ability to share their voice in each class. This helps provide each student the opportunity to feel confident in their public speaking abilities and feel more comfortable talking to superiors. On top of the studying aspects the Honors College offers, the community that is the Honors College represents a diverse student body and allows members to interact with students of various backgrounds. I have loved every opportunity the Honors College has provided for me to expand my borders and share my experiences with other students. Overall, being a member of the Honors College has given me the opportunity to not only better myself, but also to help other students feel more comfortable within such a large university.

Michael Walker and Leslie Pyo–Being honors students and graduating with honors represents a lifelong commitment to honesty, integrity, curiosity, and heart. Living in the Honors community for four years has taught us how to manifest these principles both inside and outside the classroom. However, it is our ability to extend these ideas beyond the university that gives the Honors experience profound and lasting meaning.

Honors Testimonials–ASU Barrett Honors College

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of testimonials from students and faculty at leading public university honors colleges and programs.

The following testimonials are from ASU, Barrett Honors College:

Raquel Camarena–In the fall of 2013, I began my awesome journey as a student at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.  I have also had the opportunity to live in the honors residential campus for the past three years.  I love calling this place my “home” and have been spoiled by the fantastic residence halls where I resided and the wonderful friendships that I have made.  This year I have the opportunity to be an engineering peer mentor and am just one more advocate that students have while living as a resident here.  I love the social lounges, dining center, coffee shop, courtyards and the outdoor fireplace where friends can study and hang out together.   I really enjoy being challenged with the honor classes offered and the help of our Barrett advisers.  The Human Event classes were a welcome challenge where I learned to think and express myself in ways I had not expected.  I value the rigorous academics, the connections with faculty, staff and students and the impact of the many internships and service opportunities.  I especially enjoyed traveling to Chicago, Seattle and Portland through the Great American Cities Program.  It was fun to explore and do community service in these cities with Barrett peers and staff.  I love everything about Barrett, the Honors College and am one proud Barrett student!

Edward Joseph Nolan–Probably one of the most stand-out features of Barrett have to be the Human Event professors and their classes. I’ve had a wonderful experience in my class, discussing literature, its relevance, and the composition of argument, having been lucky enough to have a class full of interesting and surprisingly insightful peers. One of my worries before beginning at Barrett had been whether or not there would be people who would not just share my interests, but who could challenge them and make me think critically about my preconceptions. Not only was I able to find such in the students in Human Event class, but in the professor, as well. My professor, Dr. Barca, not only had higher expectations of us as students, but wanted us to actually put what we’re learning to use, encouraging us to edit and change or our work for the better and increasing our effectiveness as writers. As well, I very much enjoy the tie-ins to current events and society, bridging the gap between the abstract and theoretical concepts studied in class and making it applicable in the modern context. Not only that, but Dr. Barca’s kindness and enthusiasm for the class very much increases not just the propensity for learning, but the desire for learning in the Human Event. For those reasons it is the Human Event class, and the professors behind it, in my opinion that make Barrett an overall unique and formative experience.

Jessica Hocken–In the beginning, I thought the Honors thesis would be this scary beast, but with the help of my Director, Dr. April Miller a Human Event professor, she walked my thesis partner and me through the process.  I was able to cater the creative project to the nonprofit I co-founded, and use it for our national expansion in August to start up new student chapters.  The creative project was an incredible experience, especially because I could address an actual need and provide a solution to students struggling to start up human trafficking awareness organizations.

In addition, the Honors Advising office, specifically Matt & Kelly, were so helpful to Erin and me because they guided us through the initial process despite the fact we were sophomores.  They were so great about letting us know that you can start the Honors thesis whenever you want, and Barrett will be on your side.  The feeling Erin and I felt from first walking into their office to leaving was astronomically different.  The Honors Advisors are the best because they are so focused on your success.  Completing my creative project on something I love was such an incredible experience, and I am so glad that Barrett gave me this opportunity.

Shannon Ertz–Barrett was ultimately the reason that I chose to come to ASU. Coming from a small rural community the sheer size of ASU was overwhelming and intimidating. When I toured ASU I told my mom that we could go back to our hotel because I didn’t need to tour Barrett because I wasn’t going to go to school here. But after a persuading conversation with my mom we stuck around for the Barrett Information Session and Tour. I walked back out the front gates of Barrett grinning ear to ear and ecstatically telling my mom about how I could totally go to school here. Coming from a small area it was the sense of community that Barrett offered me, within the bigger picture of ASU, which ultimately led me to decide to go to college here. It is that same sense of community that drew me, that is one of my favorite things about Barrett. I love walking through the complex and seeing people that I not only recognize but feel comfortable stopping to say hello to. I love meandering into the office of my club advisor to ask random questions, grab a piece of candy, and discuss the latest plans for the club. I love walking into the dining hall and being greeted by Vicki’s smiling face as she says hi to all her “Barrett Babies”. I love the feeling of being a part of the Barrett community because at the end of the day ASU is still big and a bit intimidating. I love being an ASU Sun Devil but being able to walk into Barrett and feel recognized is such a huge part of why I love ASU.

Natalie Volin–The Barrett honors thesis project is by far the most rewarding part of my undergraduate career. The Barrett advisors worked with me to narrow my interests and create a plan for approaching professors. Once I found my thesis director and defined my project, I was able to proceed without limitations because I knew that Barrett offered substantial funding to support my endeavor. Now, as an undergraduate, I can say that I co-founded a nonprofit literary magazine and printed a 125-page inaugural issue! I am immensely proud of this accomplishment and it could not have been done without Barrett’s support. Thank you, Barrett, for pushing me to challenge myself and for helping me to celebrate my accomplishments!

Dr. Jacquelyn Scott Lynch–Barrett’s travel programs have long been an integral part of our students’ education. Since 1995, Honors faculty have designed, implemented, and evaluated these programs with an eye toward preparing our students to understand and operate effectively in a global context.  A standing honors faculty Travel Programs Committee establishes standards and norms for Barrett travel programs, supports Barrett faculty as they develop new programs, and evaluates existing programs to ensure that they contribute to Barrett’s culture of excellence and access. These programs have enjoyed astounding success; in the last twenty years, over 3000 Barrett students have traveled to over fifteen countries on six continents to participate in programs designed, taught, and overseen by Honors Faculty Fellows. Recently, the Travel Programs Committee helped Program Directors reimagine Barrett Travel Programs to include an online component, so that Barrett can offer travel experiences to students in a variety of income brackets. Since the inception of the Barrett Travel Programs, Honors Faculty Fellows have produced travel programs that prepare our students to understand their world in all of its cultural complexity, another way in which Barrett sets the gold standard for honors education.