Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, senior animal science major Jessica Kuyawa ’18 describes her summer experience in Scotland which was funded by a Gilman Scholarship.
– By Jessica Kuyawa
During the early part of the summer I was lucky enough to go on a 4 week study abroad program to Scotland to work with horses. During my program I took 2 equine classes, Equine Anatomy & Physiology and Equine Fitness, as well as rode horses at the college the program was hosted at multiple times a week. Plus, outside of the coursework, they also had planned excursions they took us on to show us how incredible Scotland is. During my time there I made many Scottish friends that I have kept in contact with since the end of the program. The Gilman Scholarship helped me fund my study abroad program and thus enhanced my experience.
I found this program simply by doing a Google search for ‘equine study abroad programs in Europe’ and came upon “Adelante Equine Summer Study Abroad in Scotland.” I chose those search terms because the criteria I had for a study abroad program I would want to go on had to be working with horses and in Europe. As I am a pre-vet student, plan on working with horses in my career, and have 3 horses of my own, I wanted a program that enabled me to work directly with them. I also have an admiration and fascination with Europe, especially the United Kingdom. So, when I found this program I knew it was the perfect fit. I bring this up in order to explain to students that, just because the university may not have a program that suits their interests, does not mean there is not a program out there that would suit their interests. With a little researching it is possible to find a program that best suits one’s interests and/or career goals, just like mine did for me.
We stayed on Scotland’s Rural College campus in Broxburn, where the classes and horse riding was held. We each had our own rooms, which I greatly enjoyed. The entirety of Scotland is beautiful, there were places to hike all around, even at the college. One law Scotland has is the “Right to Roam Law” which allows people to roam and hike anywhere, whether it be private or public property, so long as they leave things as they found it. During the riding part of the program we learned some basic dressage and jumping skills. While I had ridden English for some time prior to the program, I had never had any formal instruction so they helped me work on bettering my riding seat and form. Some of the excursions we went on were to Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle, Edinburgh Castle, 2 horse yards near the Scottish Boarders, the Kelpies, the Perth Races, and the Linlithgow Marches. They also had 2 weekends during the program where we were able to go and do as we wished. During one of the weekends and friend and I went to explore Edinburgh, and on the other weekend I went to Glendevon to ride Exmoor Ponies. During my last weekend of the program I also went to ride Clydesdales on a beach in Ayr.
I very much enjoyed my time in Scotland and wished it to never end. It has made me want to go to veterinary school at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh. With a degree from there I would be able to practice in both the U.K. and the U.S. It is a dream of mine to eventually move to the U.K., which is my favorite part of the world. Going on this study abroad and being able to have these experiences has made that dream even stronger.
The Gilman Scholarship application is fairly simple and straightforward and can be found on their website (https://www.gilmanscholarship.org/). There are 2 application periods, an early application and a regular application period for the summer application. If the program is in the summer an applicant is able to apply to both periods if they do not get accepted in the early summer application period. To be eligible to apply for the Gilman Scholarship, a student must be a citizen of the U.S., be receiving the Federal Pell Grant, be applying to a study abroad or internship program that is at least 3 weeks long and eligible for credit at the home institution, and not be travelling to a country that is on the travel warning list. Based on the length of study and the application, a student is eligible to receive up to $5,000 if awarded the scholarship.
As an honors student at Texas A&M University, many believe it is near impossible to embark on a study abroad while being an honors student and having a rigorous course load. I want to address the falseness of this assumption. It is easily doable for any student, honors or otherwise, to go on a study abroad, especially during the summer. There are study abroad programs that are a mere week or 2 weeks. Many students will also say it is too expensive to study abroad, but this is also untrue as there are many grants and scholarships available to enable students to study abroad and gain valuable experience. I recommend any and every student to go on a study abroad during their college career. It is a life changing experience that I certainly do not regret. I am very grateful to have been able to go to Scotland for 4 weeks doing something I love and enjoy, as well as meeting new people and making new friends.
In closing I implore anyone who is thinking about going on a study abroad to do it. It is also possible to get credit to transfer back to the home institution for any classes taken abroad. There is funding available for study abroad programs, including the Gilman Scholarship. I would like to thank the Gilman Program for helping make my study abroad experience possible.
For more information about applying to nationally-competitive scholarships and fellowships, visit http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.
The benefits of participating in the University Honors Program include some things that may be considered more abstract such as our interdisciplinary emphasis, strong community, and focus on personal, professional and intellectual development (see this link: https://goo.gl/TjIxOL).
Other benefits are more concrete, such as our partnership with other programs on campus that provide special access to campus conferences that assist our students in their personal, professional, and intellectual development.
This year LAUNCH: Honors was proud to support registration for three of our students to attend the annual Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSCLC). Now in its 30th year, SBSLC provides students with important perspective and encouragement to grow into leaders of character dedicated to the greater good (http://sbslc.tamu.edu/about/). Read below for reflections from our students on their experience this year.
Ecaroh Jackson ’19 University Scholar and interdisciplinary studies major from Caldwell, TX
This January, I was fortunate in receiving the opportunity to attend the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC) for a second time. The topic this year was “A Legacy in Living Color”.
I was able to attend three workshops that gave me new insights on current issues and provided me with tools to use when going about life. My favorite workshop was one that used a nontraditional approach for its platform. The speaker divided the room in half and gave each side a topic. One side of the room was designated “for” and the other side was assigned “against”. By this point, the room was up in arms. The topic was one that was unanimously agreed on, so by making some of us argue in support of such a sensitive topic, emotions ran high and cooperation ran low. During the activity, the “for” side started to change their opinions and came up with really good points that opposed some of their own beliefs. After the conclusion of the debate, the speaker asked us how it felt to argue the other side’s opinion. At first it was distressing, but after a few rounds, we started to understand why the “for” side supported the opinion that they held, although we still didn’t change our viewpoints. The goal of this was to show us that to truly become influential, you have to understand and be able to argue both sides of an issue. Whether you are right or not, if you can’t come up with educated rebuttals, you will not only lose an argument, but additionally lose a chance at educating someone about a topic that means a lot to you.
My favorite part of the conference as a whole was the speech given by Amanda Seales during the closing banquet. She spoke about many things, but the thing I found to be most pertinent was her viewpoint on opportunities. As an actress, she had been turned down many times before finding her way onto the hit TV show “Insecure”. While others may have been discouraged, Seales was determined to make it in the industry. When asked if she was disappointed about not getting chosen for certain occasions, she emphasized that she was not deterred, because it just wasn’t her time or opportunity. Timing is key and you have to realize that while not everything is meant for you, something is, and it will only come when the time is right.
As a future educator, it is very important that I understand different cultures and how to maneuver a diverse climate. Attending the SBSLC has allowed me to interact with groups of people that don’t I normal have the chance to talk to. Hearing different ideas has allowed me to expand my knowledge about others and become more prepared for a career that isn’t a stranger to diversity.
This conference is so powerful in the way that it highlights a group that may not commonly receive a platform like this to discuss current issues. I encourage all students to attend a conference similar to this whether it be the SBSLC, SCOLA, or SCONA. I challenge you to broaden your horizons and see the world from different perspectives. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace the variety of experiences that A&M has to offer.
Karissa Yamaguchi ’19 Undergraduate Research Ambassador and biochemistry and genetics double major from Phoenix, AZ
This conference provided many professional and personal development workshops. Notably, the “Face Your Fears and Frame your success” workshop provided me with valuable insights into how to embrace success. This workshop also pinpointed implicit fears I have allowed to hinder my development in leadership and academics.
I aim to be a physician, a career dependent on leadership skills and the ability to connect with people of all backgrounds. This experience allowed me to expand my comfort zone and provided a venue for me to practice these skills. As an Asian American woman in STEM and who’s primary leadership engagements are in research and ministry, this was a fantastic opportunity to do just that. I was able to learn from the perspectives of leaders with an alternative ethnic identity on issues such as leadership, failure, social justice and what people wished they had learned before they were 25. The workshops not only challenged me to think deeper, but broadened my awareness to viewpoints of people with a different ethnic and socioeconomic background.
Do not be shy. I jumped at the opportunity to attend a leadership conference financed by the honors program. After reading more information about the conference, I was nervous to be a minority and stick out. However, once I attended I realized my fears of rejection and alienation were unfounded. Even if you do not identify as “black” or “student” or “leader”, please attend this conference. Everyone was also extremely welcoming and engaging. But more importantly, stretch yourself to experience the more diverse perspectives you can. I was able to learn the unique perspective of people of a different ethnicity and better define my own cultural influence on my leadership style. The responsibility of a leader is to be sensitive to and aware of the needs of his or her community. SBSLC allowed me to listen to the leaders of another minority and gain some awareness of the issues faced by my peers.
Nicole Guentzel ’19 Honors Housing Community Junior Advisor and biology major from Beach City, TX
The Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC) is a yearly conference that empowers students to be successful leaders by providing workshops and keynote speakers that teach students financial responsibility, how to create a positive impact, and how to overcome various challenges. The theme of this conference was a Legacy in Living Color.
One reason I attended this conference as a white female is because I find it very important to step out of my comfort zone and be the minority every once in a while, whether this is going to a country that does not speak English, or going to a conference where people look different than me. I enjoy learning new perspectives. It was uncomfortable at times since many of the students had faced discrimination from mostly white individuals. In fact, the only time discrimination from another race was acknowledged was during a question the last speaker answered. It brought into perspective how much of a problem racial discrimination is in just daily life.
The first Keynote speaker, Dr. Wickliff, was my favorite presenter. He graduated with a PhD at the age of 25, thus accomplishing one of his lifelong goals. It was very inspiring to hear how he overcame challenges because it was very similar to how I approach obstacles. When people do not believe in us we both strive to prove them wrong. Recently, I have been trying to console myself that if I do not achieve my goal, I am not a failure. Although, this would be true, it is not a healthy mindset because it is taking away my motivation to complete my goal. The speaker re-inspired me to pursue my goal and he also made sure that everyone present knew that they were enough- that we all have the potential to accomplish our goals.
My advice is to attend this conference no matter your racial identity. Come with an open mind and really listen to the workshop presenters. I learned many skills that will help me become a more independent adult and a more effective leader in the workforce. I also recommend meeting new people and not just staying with the people from your same university the whole time because I met wonderful people from all over the nation that I would not have met if I just stayed with the Texas A&M students.
I would like to thank the LAUNCH office for sponsoring me to attend this conference.
The James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program is a post-baccalaureate fellowship with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace which provides outstanding recent graduates who are serious about careers in international affairs with an opportunity to learn about and help shape policy on important international topics.
Junior Fellows work as research assistants to senior scholars whose projects include nuclear policy, democracy and rule of law, energy and climate issues, Middle East studies, Asia politics and economics, South Asian politics, Southeast Asian politics, Japan studies, and Russian and Eurasian affairs.
The fellowship provides a one-year full time position at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, D.C. during which Junior Fellows may conduct research, contribute to op-eds, papers, reports, and books, participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony and organize briefings attended by scholars, activists, journalists and government officials.
We are pleased to announce our 2018 nominees are Kanika Gakhar ‘18, who is applying to the Energy and Climate Program, and Lucia Winkler ‘18 who is applying to the Russia/Eurasia Program.
Kanika Gakhar makes an impact on campus as a University Scholar and University Innovation Fellow by spreading her love for learning and working on revolutionary projects. As an Undergraduate Research Assistant at the Advanced Vertical Flight Lab, she conducts research on a Robotic Hummingbird. She is also a team-lead for the Society of Automotive Engineers Aero Design Team, which is an organization that designs, builds, and flies a radio-controlled aircraft at an international competition every year. Last summer, she interned for Boeing and was able to submit a patent for one of her designs. She is also very passionate about policy and has participated in debates, discussions, and ModelUnited Nations. She enjoys dancing and is currently a performer for two dance teams: Texas A&M Belly Dance Association and Philsa Modern Hip-Hop Dance Team. She is currently Vice-President of Sigma Gama Tau and has served as President of Lambda Sigma Sophomore Honors Society and Director of Focus Groups for the MSC Fall Leadership Conference. She is also an active member of Maroon and White Leadership Association.
Lucia Winkeler is originally from Austin, Texas. She is a senior international studies and Russian language and culture double major. Within, international studies, her focus is politics and diplomacy. Lucia is currently a member of the research subcommittee for the MSC Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA)—currently preparing its 63rd conference—and also a member of Texas A&M University’s Russian Club. During her sophomore year, she was a member of the international subcommittee for the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness. Russian language and culture have always been a part of her life because her mother’s side of the family is Russian, and she has many relatives still living in Russia. During the summer of 2016, Lucia was a Fulbright Hays GPA Scholar as part of the Moscow-Texas Connections Program, during which she studied Russian intensively at the Higher School of Economics for 10 weeks. She was also inducted into the National Slavic Honor Society, Dobro Slavo, at the end of the spring 2016 semester. Last spring semester, in 2017, she had the opportunity to intern at the U.S. Department of Commerce through A&M’s Public Policy Internship Program and increased her knowledge of U.S.-Russian relations in a business context. After graduation, she plans to earn her Master’s in International Relations with a focus on Eurasia, and then enter a federal career to work on improving the state of U.S.-Russian relations and affect U.S. interests in the Eurasian region overall.
Congratulations to our nominees! If you are interested in applying to the Carnegie Junior Fellows program or another nationally-competitive scholarship or fellowship, please visit http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.
Honors Course Contracts provide students who are pursuing an Honors graduation distinction the opportunity to earn Honors credit for courses that are not already being offered as Honors. The Honors Course Contract experience varies depending on the discipline, course material, and instructor. No matter what the expectation, though, students can expect an Honors Course Contract to ask for higher-level thinking and reflection.
The post below, Asteria Gonzalez ’20 shares an excerpt from work done for her Honors Course Contract for ENGL 235 – Elements of Creative Writing with Dr. Lowell White.
Reflecting on why she pursued this contract experience, Gonzalez says:
“As an aspiring author, the chance to challenge myself creatively was the perfect opportunity for a course contract. By writing a short story that was outside of my typical genre, I pushed myself to explore other genres and write a story that didn’t span a 90,000 word novel or a series. The short nature of the story encouraged me to tighten my prose and focus on the core of the story, which has already changed how I now approach writing a novel.”
Gonzalez also shared helpful advice about how to approach course contract opportunities:
“If you are considering a course contract, be sure that the course contract will link to your interests and further your knowledge or skills. With this particular course contract, which ties in directly with my goal of becoming a published author, I expanded my writing skills and walked away with a short story that I’m proud of.”
“The Illicit Bridge”
I’d heard all my life that rules existed for reasons.
They were there to keep you safe from yourself and from others. Whether it was from eating dessert before dinner or from a madman charging through the streets, rules were alive to keep you well and whole.
Rules dragged the fun out of everything.
“Don’t cross the bridge at night,” everyone said, but they never said why. Everyone knew which bridge they were referring to—the wooden bridge with rusted rails that arced over a dry riverbed that never filled with water, no matter how much it rained.
On the twelfth of November, I watched from the window of my room as three figures approached the bridge, located a stone’s throw from my apartment. The sun was setting, and they were toying with the limits of the rule. I leaned my shoulder against the wall and kept my gaze on them.
Behind me, there was a meow, and then Thetis hopped onto the windowsill. Not taking my eyes off the three that were getting ever closer to the bridge, I scratched behind the tabby’s ears. Thetis pawed at my hand when I stopped.
“Quit, you six-toed demon,” I told her, “I’m trying to see what’s happening.”
The Hemingway cat flicked her tail and leapt from the windowsill to the desk. She batted a pencil off the surface, and I rolled my eyes. While Thetis entertained herself with knocking things off my desk, I returned my full attention to the three. They were almost to the bridge, their shadows giants falling across the wooden arch.
“What are you doing?” I muttered.
They stopped and huddled up, looking over their shoulders at the bridge repeatedly. One of them flung an arm out towards the bridge and shook a green-haired head. I furrowed my brow because I recognized that particular person—Shane, a bagger at the grocery store and the resident of the unit above mine.
One of the others held a conversation with Shane, a furious conversation punctuated with broad gestures. It ended with Shane throwing his arms up and storming off, back into town. The other two remained, looking around themselves in a manner that spoke of sudden uncertainty.
I checked my watch. 18:28. The sun had fully set, and darkness was creeping over the bridge. I could barely see the two standing there, but I hadn’t seen them walk by the street lamps yet, so they had to be there.
Ten minutes later, I was still at the window, trying to peer through the complete night. The moon was just a sliver, a pathetic sliver that cast no light on the bridge.
So focused was I on the bridge that I nearly jumped out of my skin when there was a knock on the door. Thetis sprang to her paws as I hurried from my bedroom to the door, nerves on edge.
Jamaica Pouncy was the National Fellowships Coordinator in LAUNCH and advisor for University Scholars from 2012-2016, and continued to work with our office on a part time basis through 2017. In the post below (part 2 of 2), she reflects on how travel and reflection on her professional goals led her to pursue a career abroad.
By Jamaica Pouncy –
I had been working as a fellowship advisor for three years when I began to feel the itch. After helping students to craft their applications and listen to their hopes and dreams I knew that I wanted to have a similar experience. I decided to apply for a fellowship. I sat down with Dr. Datta and Dr. Kotinek and we talked about my thoughts, what I hoped to accomplish, and how what I wanted to do could be beneficial both for myself and my position in the office.
It was a fascinating experience; first narrowing my plans from the nebulous idea of applying to a fellowship to and then figuring out how I would accomplish it. The shoe was on the other foot and I needed to understand the process from the inside out. I looked into fellowships that would fit with my goals and ultimately decided to apply for a few that seemed to match well. I drafted essay after essay; trying to be as harsh with my own writing as I am whenever I review someone else’s. I scoured the website, searching for all the little tips and guidelines that would help me make my application better. Then I submitted and crossed my fingers.
I was cautiously optimistic when I was invited for an interview and over the moon when I was selected for the Princeton in Asia program. My PiA supervisor suggested a post in northern China that I had never heard of and I said ‘sure.’ Throughout this process I had the support and encouragement of the LAUNCH office. They worried with me, celebrated with me and gave me the courage to go forward with this crazy plan. We even arranged for me to keep working for the university at a reduced capacity (talk to your supervisors about alternative work locations and flexible time schedules; you won’t regret it).
I arrived in China and, while overcoming culture shock, I learned how to juggle two different positions with different expectations and demands on my time. While I was in China I found that I loved the international life. There is something absolutely exhilarating about trying to figure out a new and different culture and understand your place in it. When I returned to A&M in July 2016 I talked to my supervisor about wanting to pursue a career abroad. Even as Dr. Datta and Dr. Kotinek acknowledged that my career path was moving further and further from our office, they supported my plans and told me they’d do whatever they could to help.
I began looking at positions abroad but I also started to think about ways that I could move forward in the field of fellowships advising. I wanted to be sure that I was exploring all my possibilities. I had submitted resumes for several positions at international schools abroad when I heard of a position in fellowships advising that was opening at Yale University. I debated applying; schools like Yale have such a reputation that sometimes they can seem almost “untouchable” but, ultimately, I submitted my application, interviewed, and was offered the position. I am so appreciative of my time at Yale as a reminder to never pigeonhole myself or decide that any opportunity is too good for me – no position or institution is out of my league. I moved to Connecticut and worked for Yale for six months but I simply could not shake my desire to be in an international position. When one of the openings I had applied for in China contacted me suddenly, I took it as a sign and decided to pack up my life once again, this time making a permanent move into an international career.
Realizing that I needed to make a major life move and that I only had two weeks within which to accomplish it was a scary thing. This was completely different from my Princeton in Asia experience – this was not temporary, no short-term jaunt of self-discovery and horizon-broadening; there was no safety net, no job to return to if things didn’t work out. I was walking out onto a limb and hoping with everything I had in me that it didn’t snap and send me falling to the ground. I’ll always be grateful to LAUNCH for providing the safety that they did during my Princeton in Asia experience but now I realize that I needed this – I needed to do something crazy and bold and different with no guarantee of success and no safety net. As much as I’ve preached the idea to my students, I needed to take the chance that I could try this out and seriously fail. Not the gentle failure of merely going back home to all things familiar, but the true sense of having to pick myself up, dust myself off, and deal with a failed career move. As I write this, I am still in the middle of that experiment, still standing out on that limb and looking at the ground. I don’t know if this will make me happy. I don’t know if this will be my life path. I just know that I would have regretted not taking the chance.
These past six years I’ve learned a lot about who I am; particularly how much, for me, my career impacts my sense of self and how important it is to me to see my personality reflected in my career choices. I’ve also learned to live in a completely “foreign” culture and that taught me a lot about life, expectations, and the different facets of my own personality. After traveling to see a bit of the world and growing and experiencing so many new things one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is the importance of establishing a solid, trusting relationship with your supervisors and coworkers and of finding an employer that is willing to invest in you. I’ve come to believe that it is the truest and most trustworthy sign of belief in your potential and ability.
When I look back on my time with Princeton in Asia I find it fascinating that my job was willing to offer me the chance to take that opportunity; knowing full well that it could (and eventually did) lead me out the door and away from A&M. I didn’t have to resign to go after my dream and I didn’t have to worry that I needed to hide my plans from the people in my office; people I cared for and spent as much time with as I did with my family. I know that there are many places that would not have allowed me to go after that opportunity; that would have required that I pick, either ‘them’ or the fellowship.
My job at Texas A&M was my first fulltime position. I really didn’t know what to expect going into it. I had, after all, taken the job, sight unseen. My entire interview process had been carried out via telephone and Skype while I lived in Alabama. At that point I had a very general, vague notion of what it meant to have a fulltime job; a career. I would wear business casual, show up to work on time, and complete the tasks I was assigned. I would do these things and I would receive a paycheck. Simple enough. But I had never thought about the idea of professional development: my office’s obligation to provide me with opportunities for growth and development.
I had never considered professional development or what it meant to invest in an employee. That’s why I was so fortunate to end up in our office. I couldn’t have asked for a better launching pad for my career. I was surrounded by people who wanted to see me succeed. Who were interested in my ideas and saw my ability as more than something they could use but rather something that could be cultivated both for their and my benefit. So, I think that after all my adventures and travels, the most important lesson that I’ve learned is that, no matter what city, state, or country you find yourself in, it’s always going to be the people you surround yourself with that make all the difference.
Thank you, Dr. Kotinek and Dr. Datta. Thank you, LAUNCH. Thank you, Texas A&M University. Thank you all for being amazing people to be surrounded by and for helping me to have amazing, transformative experiences. Wherever life takes me, please know that you made this possible.
In this post from University Scholar Ecaroh Jackson ’19 describes how her experience in the University Scholar Exploration Groups helped prepare her to apply for the Black and Proud Corporation Scholarship.
Howdy! My name is Ecaroh Jackson and I am a junior math/science education major. Earlier this semester I had the privilege of receiving the first annual scholarship from the Black and Proud Corporation. The Black and Proud Corporation is a nonprofit company established in 2016 to promote educational, economic, and cultural development in the African American community.
This scholarship application process was a time for self-exploration – something I’ve had a lot of practice with in the last 3 semesters due to the University Scholars Exploration series. I have participated in the “Futuring Yourself,” “Controversy,” and “Conspiracy Theories” classes. As I prepared to write my essays for the scholarship, I reflected over the many lessons I learned while in those classes.
In “Futuring Yourself,” I learned that to advance your future, it is necessary to address your past. As a future driven individual, I often look upon the past with disdain. Why look back when the future is much brighter? Avoiding the past hinders you from discovering your strengths and weaknesses, and without being knowledgeable about them, hinders you from improving. With each week’s reflections, I learned more about myself. I learned about my true interests, what inspires me, and most importantly, who I am.
“Controversy” retaught me that it is okay to openly disagree. Variations in opinions allow us to shape well-rounded solutions to divisive problems. Before college, I wasn’t one to back down from an argument, but after coming to A&M, I have struggled with my desire to voice my perspectives to known dissenters. Conflict is healthy, and shouldn’t be neglected. Being in a class of nine students gave me the opportunity to slowly integrate my input in a supportive, but challenging manner.
In “Conspiracy Theories,” I learned that anything is possible. Our universe’s ultimate truth (if there is such a thing) has yet to be discovered, meaning that our current possibilities are endless. Knowing this allowed me to not only formulate, but refine my ideas. Social movements, such as the movement that the Black and Proud Corporation supports, don’t usually achieve their ultimate objective without drawbacks that require them to modify their plans. Learning about conspiracy theories and their history gave me the tools needed to devise plans that include a variety of different scenarios.
All of my exploration classes have helped me develop my thought process in a way that I didn’t think was possible before. I am now able to develop responses to divisive questions. These responses allowed me to write a successful application to the Black and Proud Corporation and ultimately allowed me to receive the scholarship.
Honors Student Council continued a tradition of representing TAMU at the annual national conference for Honors this year with three members attending: Sarah Kilpatrick ’18, President; Luke Oaks ’19, Vice President for Activities, and Megan Whitlock ’18, member-at-large.
The purpose in having students attend this conference is two fold:
We want our students to get valuable perspective about what Honors education looks like nationally, to make connections with students from across the country and around the world, and to have an appreciation of how Honors opportunities at Texas A&M stack up to those offered elsewhere.
We want our students to bring their broadened perspective back to Texas A&M and use the energy gained from these interactions and the ideas gleaned to improve our programs.
Read below to hear what each of these students got out of the conference and the ideas inspired by this conference that they’d like to see take root at Texas A&M: Sarah Kilpatrick
This past November, Honors gave me the opportunity to go to the National Collegiate Honors Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Conferences in the past that I have attended were very topic-specific, from a specific industry to national affairs. However, this conference felt so unlike others that I have attended because it covered so many different aspects of honors education, personal development, organization development, and even seeking adventures in any situation.
The first major program that I went to was called “City as a Text”. There was not much description given to the event before it began, the only thing that we could know was where in the city we would be exploring that day. Eventually the coordinators explained what the premise of the event was– to discover how a neighborhood formed and exists today based on observation of social norms and by talking to those who live in it. As someone who generally enjoys the art of wandering an unfamiliar place, it sounded like a perfect match. My group ended up in the Buckhead neighborhood and spent the afternoon walking around old, multimillion dollar homes surrounded by parks established in the early 1900’s and high-end shopping. Even more fascinating than the actual wandering was the analysis of the area at the end of the day by different groups. Some groups saw how the area subtly discouraged poorer groups of people from being seen on their streets and the “acceptable aesthetics” of some old buildings while others were torn down to make room for more acceptable looking buildings. Other groups were fascinated with the friendliness of the people of Atlanta and fell in love with the affluent charm of that area. The sharing of perspectives that is a hallmark of many honors programs shone through during this time.
The rest of the conference was spent in different panels and discussion groups. My goal was to come out of the conference with ideas on how to improve Honors Student Council programs and to hear how other schools fostered their communities for the full four years. I also learned more than expected from the presentations that were selected on a whim, like the value that is found for honors programs in nontraditional college students or how countries like China are creating honors colleges. Altogether these topics will lead to radical improvements on Honors Student Council representation, events, and expectations.
In the end, the value of any conference is the ability to hear and speak to individuals in similar circumstances that have explored different ways to solve problems or challenges. I highly encourage anyone who can to find a way to go to at least one conference that you are interested in before graduation, because it expands perspectives in such a unique way and creates memories and friendships that will last for years. These perspectives can be found both inside the conference or even while exploring the city itself. The world is full of people that can teach you something new about life, and I highly recommend putting yourself in the situation to find and to learn from them.
On November 11th, I was sitting at a diner counter in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The museum staff directed me to put on a pair of headphones and place my hands on the counter. A surround-sound recording indicative of the atmosphere at lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement began to play. I listened to two minutes of hate, and was overwhelmed with emotion. First, there was shame for historic injustices and a continued lack of social equity in the United States. But hours later, there was hope. In February of 1960, four black college students tactfully sat at a whites-only lunch counter after purchasing items in same department store. They brought national attention to the Civil Rights Movement, and lunch counters were desegregated en masse following over four months of protest that grew out of their initiative. These men met during their freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University, and none were pursuing the same undergraduate degree; their legacy has nothing to do with their undergraduate specialty. What role do our K-12 and college education systems play in promoting informed multi-disciplinary efforts that impact the public? This question has been on my mind since attending the 2017 National Collegiate Honors Council’s Annual Conference (NCHC 2017) in Atlanta, Georgia. Both are worth addressing from an academic’s lens of research, teaching, and service.
Through my undergraduate education, I have had the opportunity to conduct research with physiologists, biomedical engineers, and industrial engineers. Bringing these experiences together, my intention is to pursue a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering. I currently work with a multi-disciplinary cognitive ergonomics research group to increase the accessibility of medicine for individuals with reduced access to primary care alongside a consortium of university, industry, and government partners. While at NCHC 2017, I heard from MacArthur Fellow and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson on the significance of being proximate to those in need. I also enjoyed visited with Dr. Cristina McIntyre of Virginia Tech; we discussed the logistics of becoming a public intellectual and she directed me towards Dr. Patricia Raun – a colleague who teaches science communication. I look forward to continued conversations with our National Fellowships Advisor, Ben Simington, on how my multi-disciplinary efforts to impact health care and education can further develop.
My engineering degree here at Texas A&M includes courses on physiology, bioresponse, nanotechnology, human factors, and sociology. To my own surprise, my favorite classes have been taught in the department of sociology. I’ve had the opportunity to take Intro to Sociology as well as Sociology of Death & Dying with Dr. Alex Hernandez. He has inspired me to analyze culture and is now collaborating with me to teach a new class on the sociology of cultural change. The goal of this elective course is to provide students with the tools to properly handle difficult situations in leadership and activism, overcome obstacles to enacting change, and impact those they serve. I enjoy sociology because it challenges me to view life as a system, and it inherently promotes multi-disciplinary thinking. For example, the sociology of change affects every major social, political, and economic institution in the world. I met the University of Florida Honors Dean, Dr. Mark Law, at NCHC 2017, and discussed the role of Honors programs in preparing students to teach at the university level. I will be working with our Capstones Advisor, Dustin Kemp, to prepare for teaching my first course with the support of Dr. Hernandez.
How do we promote multidisciplinary learning and outreach at the university and K-12 level? What was a Cohort-based program for researchers to become public intellectuals look like?
As this academic year’s Vice President of Academic Affairs for our Student Government Association, I have been extensively engaged with promoting an improved student academic experience across all college disciplines. I serve as the chair of a faculty subcommittee for the development of plenary event at a teaching conference at Texas A&M in April of 2017. I work with the Provost’s Office on a effort to improve student success through a centralized application that improves advising. I co-lead an award program that recognizes and incentivizes the usage of open educational resources over costly textbooks. Further, I have directed a student-run volunteer afterschool tennis program called “Serve it Up!”, served a resident advisor, and remain an ambassador for our university’s Honors program. Service is an integral component of my life, and my time at NCHC 2017 further informed my perspective on the subject. Ben Reno-Weber of Mobile Serve discussed efforts to use decision science for deeper student engagement. Dr. Jose Rodriguez at Florida International University shared his study of personality and motivation within Honors. Tom Matson of Gallup talked about strengths-based leadership. My futurist and activator strengths are alive in my thinking about what it would look like to develop a cohort-based program for researchers and faculty to be trained as public intellectuals. I am excited for future conversations with Associate Director of LAUNCH, Dr. Jonathan Kotinek, on how a university would translate such an idea into a reality.
Multi-disciplinary research allows me to freely work at the intersection of fields. I intend to have a faculty career built upon collaborating with leaders from biomedical engineering, public policy, and beyond to increase the accessibility medicine for individuals with reduced access to primary care. It is also a goal of mine to work with teachers, parents, and politicians to broaden participation in STEM and promote more high-impact learning experiences from kindergarten through higher education. These are engaging multi-disciplinary efforts, but certainly not what I initially expected out of my college experience. While at Texas A&M, I changed my major to pursue my dual interest in biomedical and systems engineering. As an interdisciplinary engineering major, I am developing a foundation for a lifetime of multi-disciplinary work. And yet, if it were not for the support of the University Honors program, I may not have changed majors. I am employable in that I create value through the collaborative integration of fields – biomedical and systems engineering, sociology and education, etc. As our world grows increasingly more complex, we need more multi-disciplinary research, teaching, and service efforts to think systemically about our cities, schools, and world. Since attending the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Annual Conference, I have grown all the more excited to take on this charge. Thanks & Gig ‘Em.
This November, I had the opportunity to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council conference in Atlanta, Georgia, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After a long road trip to Atlanta (14 hours in the car-yikes), plenty of road trip games and bathroom breaks in sketchy bathrooms (Buc-ee’s, where you at?), and being told “there’s no room left in the inn” (literally, but that’s a whole other story), the four days of the conference began, which boasted a variety of speakers, sessions, and experiences. For an introvert like myself, this was super daunting at first and exhausting at the time, but super rewarding afterwards.
Close to the beginning of the conference, as part of the City As Text experience, we explored part of Atlanta in my favorite way: wandering and getting lost. We were tasked with observing the neighborhood of Buckhead and everything it had to offer, as well as the issues we perceived there. It is fascinating to discover a city in this way, having no preconceived notions of what it would be like. There was time to explore the city on our own as well; we found good coffee at Café Lucia, because like any good college students, we don’t go long without coffee. And after the conference was over one night, I suggested a trip to the local natural history museum, because what else does a good science nerd do with free time, amiright?
All these experiences were enjoyable, but the real reason we were there was to network and learn from faculty, staff, directors, and students from other honors programs and colleges. Because there were so many sessions offered, I was able to find topics I was passionate about applying to our honors program. A few of my favorites include addressing student mental health concerns in high-achieving honors environments, making honors courses and course contracts more accessible and less intimidating, and making creative, non-research capstone projects as appealing and prestigious as the research capstone. But before this conference, I would have assumed that these issues would have to be addressed and solved by the “real adults” that work in the LAUNCH office. As students, we often don’t feel like we have influence in the way our University and its programs run. But if there is one thing this experience taught me, it’s this: Students have power. If we want something to be changed, it is possible for us to initiate and advocate for that change. So a small piece of advice from an outgoing senior who feels old at this point: Don’t underestimate the power of your voice. Find things you’re passionate about and speak up about them. Eventually, people will listen. Gig ‘em, Nerds.