This brief update is intended to explain upcoming changes to Honors Student Council (HSC).
Based on feedback from Honors Students this past year, HSC presented a proposal to the Honors and Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee (HURAC) to change the University Honors Program participation requirement beginning in Fall 2017. The proposal was discussed and approved at the December 2016 HURAC meeting.
In order to meet the participation requirement going forward, all non-freshman University Honors Program students will need to attend two events per semester, one of which must be academic in nature. While participation in HSC-sponsored events is a requirement of the program and a responsibility of Honors students, our goal as HSC leadership is to ensure that these are such outstanding opportunities that you look forward to taking part in them, rather than see them as an obligation. Thus, we will always look forward to your feedback and suggestions on potential HSC events.
These changes are designed to strengthen the larger Honors community outside of our freshman Living Learning Community. Our perspective is that increased interaction will strengthen our community, start new conversations, and advance the common ideals we share as Honors students. We aim to diversify and enrich your experience as an Honors student and invite you to broaden your horizons!
We hope that you will benefit from this change. If you have any questions or concerns about this, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or come to any of our general Honors Student Council meetings, which will now occur monthly.
The University Honors Program has been working this year to enlarge the list of benefits of being a student in the University Honors Program. Historically, we have focused on some abstract benefits of participating in the University Honors Program such as our interdisciplinary emphasis, strong community, and focus on personal, professional and intellectual development (see this link: https://goo.gl/TjIxOL). In addition to these benefits, we have also begun to make connections with programs around campus that we feel help students with their personal, professional, and intellectual development.
Many of these opportunities have been with programs run through the Memorial Student Center (MSC), including Opera & Performing Arts Society (OPAS), Wiley Lecture Series, L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness, Student Conference on Latino Affairs (SCOLA), Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), and Bethancourt, as well as the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC).
This year we were able to support seven students representing five of the academic colleges in attending SCONA. Below, we have reflections from six of those students on the impact of that experience.
Sarah Kilpatrick ’18, junior economics major
This semester, I had the opportunity to spend five days hearing eminent speakers and writing a brief policy proposal on the Intelligence Community with the help of other students at SCONA 62. The Student Conference on National Affairs brings together students from across the country to discuss, research, and attempt to find solutions for issues that are affecting our government and society. The Domestic Crisis Strategic Response Exercise was a two day pre-conference mock domestic crisis exercise that focused on negotiation, strategy, and teamwork to best allocate limited resources in a crisis event. In short, not once did my ability to take a test to prove mastery of coursework help me at all over the entire event.
What helped were the things that are either not taught in a classroom or not explicitly taught during classes. Things like risking misallocation of vital resources during a mock crisis in exchange for maintaining fairness between all partners, or risking a win (and your pride) while playing a game of 42 with strangers-turned-friends after the official conference day had concluded. The ability to stand up for your perspective when 14 other people hold a completely differing perspective also came in to play. Accepting mistakes but moving forward was important when my DCSRE group, representing the State of Texas in crisis, realized we did not get the resources we needed in time to help the state’s citizens. Most importantly, in my opinion, was having the ability to ask for help. The conference does not expect you to come in as an expert in whatever subject-based roundtable you sign up for, so they provide a plethora of subject-matter experts, people who work in the field, and guest lecturers so delegates can ask questions, get advice, and “pick their brains” (so to speak) from these people throughout the event.
Sometimes the advice they gave extended beyond just the scope of the conference. The most important thing that my roundtable’s expert told me was “Don’t let your coursework get in the way of your education.” The education you can receive here at A&M could just be whatever your degree requires, but when you sign up for things like conferences, organizations, and even spontaneous trips with friends, you are expanding your education into experiences and life stories. This conference also introduced me to a specific network of women within various branches of government that I can reach out to whenever I go to the D.C. area. SCONA strengthened both my interest in the field and given me some amazing memories I can keep with me long after graduation.
I would highly recommend going to SCONA next year, or any other opportunity that sparks your interest. You can meet people who challenge you and people who inspire you. You can find new applications for old goals, new friends, and even a newfound love for something outside of your major. Thank you to honors for providing me with this experience that I can genuinely say was one of the greatest experiences I have had here at A&M.
Karla Valerie Melendez ’19, sophomore international studies major
When we weren’t listening to speakers, we were in our roundtables, attempting to write a cohesive policy paper. My roundtable was Lady Liberties Promise, which basically called for a policy paper marrying the topic of immigration and national security. This is where I learned the most during the conference, and while it was frustrating at times, my team made it through and we managed to leave the conference with a policy paper we were proud of and friendships we didn’t expect to make even halfway through the second day.
There were 5 roundtable sessions throughout the conference, and from the beginning it was expected that we would be working very quickly. Even a group that had been working cohesively from the beginning would have found the task a challenge. With the topic of immigration, we were excited to potentially be able to explore various topics that are of current international interest and tackle them. We came out of roundtable session 1 with a blank paper, but feeling confident about our discussion. It felt natural that we’d need an hour and a half to talk through potential topics, since there are so many of interest and find where we needed to focus. The problem emerged when we came back and out differing opinions started to clash. We had a page limit, and naturally couldn’t talk about everything, and several people had trouble letting go of their ideas or understanding that just because it wasn’t addressed in the policy paper, didn’t mean it wasn’t important. We kept seeming to settle on a topic, and then trying to write only to find ourselves still divided and working on completely separate things. We were given roles, but we didn’t understand them, we weren’t communicating, and despite writing a concise outline, somehow we hadn’t managed to come to a consensus. We found ourselves arguing at the end of the 4th roundtable and with a paper that was far longer than it needed to be with no clear policy (which felt worse than a blank paper to me).
We had to call in our facilitator, who had been working outside with the couple of STEM majors who didn’t feel their humanitarian backgrounds sufficed enough to help with the writing of the policy and instead opted to start writing the skit. When we finally had someone with a higher rank than all of ours, listening to her and compromising became much easier. We met during dinner (despite the fact that we were supposed to be eating and not working) and worked out what exactly we were going to be doing, with Dr. Aubone carefully making sure we stayed within the parameters of two, closely related proposals that would fit within the page limit. When we started working from there, in small groups meant to tackle the different sections of the proposal, and even smaller groups within that meant to either find research or be writing, we found ourselves getting things done. At that point, when we finally had a chain of command, a concrete goal and set roles within the team, we were able to start getting things done effectively. Somehow, we managed to complete the proposal within a couple of hours. Where we didn’t have a single point down by the end of roundtable session 4, but the end of session 5 we had a complete, cohesive policy proposal that all of us were proud of (mostly because of the circumstances with which we managed to complete it). Where we had been frustrated and arguing, after finally coming together to tackle and complete the paper, we were too relieved and amazed at our own accomplishment to feel anything but mutual relief and excitement that we conquered that hurdle together. I’m so glad I got to meet all of those wonderful individuals and work with them, and I’m excited to be able to see them again because I know we’ll cross paths.
It was overwhelming and frustrating and tiring and a whole lot of other things but that experience was something I needed. I got to be in a team that failed, and came back from it. I got to see the importance of roles and being on the same page in a team and having a leaders of some sort because when those things weren’t present we weren’t working and when they were we literally managed what none of us thought we’d be able to do. I’d know the importance of these things in theory. I’d seen how they worked and how they didn’t on television or in groups around me. Sometimes I’d have a group that didn’t exactly mesh together but worked something out anyway, but I had never been in a group that showed me both extremes of teamwork in a matter of days. It was kind of a shock, but I think even if I didn’t learn a single thing from the talks or a single piece of new information about immigration and national security (which I did), I learned more about teamwork in those 3 days than I have in 3 years of being a color guard captain, countless group assignment, and countless group tasks in subcommittees or officer positions of organizations.
Grace Cunningham ’18, junior bioenvironmental sciences major
Every year the MSC holds the Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA), with delegates from all over the country traveling to Aggieland to take part in remarkably curated programming. As a student-led and student-run organization, SCONA gives students the chance to discuss complex policy issues on a range of topics in an interdisciplinary setting. This year, at SCONA 62, we approached social, economic, and scientific issues with the theme Against All Enemies Foreign and Domestic: Securing the Homeland in mind. Each student was placed into a roundtable with a specific topic, such as cybersecurity or espionage that they then discussed in terms of national security. Ultimately, each roundtable discussion group was tasked with creating a policy proposal in the duration of the 3-day conference. My roundtable discussion, Mother Nature and Uncle Sam, focused our policy paper around the inevitable effects of climate change on national infrastructure. With the obvious impacts of a compromised infrastructure on national security, my group was able to make a sound argument for diversifying the US energy sources in preparation for extreme weather events and rising sea levels affecting coastal oil refineries. Through in-depth discussion and compromise, we were able to construct a policy suggestion that went on to win the conference-wide Policy Paper Award, judged by General William Rapp, Commandant of the U.S. Army War College.
When we were not in our group discussions, the other delegates and I were attending talks from high-ranking officials, such as Admiral Michael Rogers, Director of the NSA and Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, and General Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. A particularly notable experience for me, the talk and subsequent question and answer by Dr. Charles McMillian, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, provided interesting insights into the history of the Manhattan project as well as the future of quantum computing. The most controversial speaker, Dr. Tawfiq Hamid, former Islamic extremist and author, provided interesting views on US tolerance. All of these experiences, from the thought-provoking roundtable discussions to the remarkable speakers, made for an informative conference. However, the most impactful part of the conference was the relationships we made with students from the other universities and the after-hours conversations we were able to have, learning about the other roundtable topics and discussions as well as the student experience at other universities.
Nicole Guentzel ’19, sophomore biology major
This semester I was fortunate enough to be sponsored to attend SCONA or the Student Conference on National Affairs. This year’s topic was “Against all Enemies, Foreign and
Domestic: Securing the Homeland.” I attended the second portion of the conference that revolved around roundtable discussions and keynote speakers. Delegates were mainly
from Texas A&M University, but many other universities were in attendance providing the opportunity to learn about how other universities are structured.
The roundtable I participated in was called “Under the Microscope: Epidemics and Public Health.” Our facilitator was Dr. Jennifer Griffith who is the Associate Dean for
Public Health Practice for the Texas A&M School of Public Health and the Associate Department Chair for the Department of Public Health studies. She had many contacts in
the Public Health sector and we actually had the opportunity to speak to one of these contacts on the phone to ask him about current problems and areas of improvement in the
Public Health sector. The main purpose of these roundtables was to draft a policy paper in three days between keynote speakers. Ultimately, we decided to draft a policy about
improving communication in healthcare by forming local coalitions to mitigate medical surge due to public panic. Medical surge occurs when there is an influx of patients at a
hospital typically due to a large-scale medical disaster. We then had to formulate a skit and present our policy to the other SCONA delegates and facilitators.
Participating in the conference was very intimidating. I do not know a lot about public policy and I entered the conference surrounded by people in Cadet uniforms and formal
business attire. Furthermore, my roundtable focused on Public Health, an area I am not actively studying because I am pursuing a non-medical Biology degree. Even though the
conference was completely different than anything I have ever participated in, the experience was amazing. I learned about how Public Health plays a role in Americans’
everyday lives, and that hospitals and other healthcare facilities practice to be prepared for disaster situations to efficiently treat patients. Additionally, delegates in my
roundtable were studying political science, chemistry, meat science, etc. so I was able to learn how their fields of study were influenced by Public Health.
Some skills I gained from attending this conference includes learning how to work in a team of twelve strangers from across the United States with different educational
backgrounds to draft a public policy in three days. It was stressful, yet rewarding because we finished on time with a product we were all proud of. I also had the opportunity to learn about the National Security Agency (NSA), Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Marine Corps, and Radical Islam. This conference made me aware of issues I did not know existed and broadened my perspective. I hope to participate in the conference next year and to try the Domestic Crisis Strategic Response Experience. I thank University Honors for my sponsorship and strongly encourage anyone who is interested to participate in the conference. Expanding your comfort zone allows you to gain many additional skills and acquire new knowledge that can be used both to decide on and excel in a career.
Matthew Kiihne ’18, junior computer science major
SCONA or Student Conference on National Affairs is a long running program put on by the MSC organization of the same name. It originally started 62 years ago under the vision of the MSC director at the time, Wayne Stark, and is based on a similar program started at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The conference this year was titled “Securing the Homeland” and consisted of two different parts both revolving around the topic. The first part was a DCSRE (Domestic Crisis Strategic Response Exercise) that was put on by the United States Army War College. This was followed by 3 days of roundtable discussions as well as listening to distinguished speakers.
The DCSRE was an amazing experience where several teams, acting as federal and state agencies as well as non-governmental organizations, worked to deal with a major crisis in the best way possible. I was a little wary starting as a Computer Science major in the midst Political Science and International Studies majors but I quickly learned that mattered far less than my ability to interact with people and communicate my position. The other important lesson I learned from this exercise was how teamwork is actually beneficial, a view that has been tainted by group projects at school. The other lesson I learned was to always be aware of resources at your disposal, especially people who already have the experience that you are lacking. The first day I was acting as the Adjunct General of Texas and was relatively lost until I talked with some of the experts about what were the powers and responsibilities of the office. Overall this exercise opened my eyes as to how the United States responds to disasters and crises as well as provided the basis to friendships that have extended beyond the conference.
The second portion of this amazing, excused absence week was filled with roundtable discussions on a wide variety of topics, topical lectures by admirals and generals, as well as more informal events that gave the opportunity to interact with the facilitators brought in for SCONA. The facilitators had a wide range of backgrounds from military to academia to industry which was a great way to learn about career opportunities in all the areas as well as to just get general life advice about anything you might be unsure about. More than anything else, this was the most valuable portion of the conference as I am rapidly approaching my senior year trying to put together my life.
I am incredibly glad I attended SCONA not only because of the networking and friendships with similarly motivated people but also because it broadened my horizons as to what is possible to achieve. I am looking forward to at- tending the conference next year and I would recommend that anyone who is even slightly curious learn more and go as well. This applies to more than just SCONA though, even if an event or organization is not “typically” part of your major that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, in fact that is even more reason to do it!
Abby Spiegelman ’18, junior biomedical sciences major
I can easily say that attending MSC SCONA 62 as a delegate was one of the best experiences of my college career. I was introduced to several new viewpoints that had never occurred to me before on a variety of different topics. My focus group’s topic was “Good Morning America: The Hidden Agendas of the Media.” My group attempted to provide a solution to the, now common, phenomenon of “fake news”. After hours of debate we decided that the only real solution was for people to take responsibility for themselves and check their own facts. Though there is no practical way to enforce that it was heartening to see so many people passionate about making sure the truth continues to remain mainstream in the mainstream news.
In addition to my focus group I got to listen to amazing speakers that had experience in the things that we hear on the news. I enjoyed being able to hear what they had to say directly from them, instead of reading it later. It brought these amazing people out of clouds down to our level, but not in a negative way. Instead of being mysterious and completely unattainable, these speakers made it clear that they were just normal people that had worked hard and were good at their jobs. It showed that everything that is being dealt with in the world is being dealt with people, just like myself and the hundreds of other delegates that were around me. That was frightening, yes, because humans aren’t perfect, but it was comforting for that same reason. Mistakes will be made, yes, but as long as we have so many people willing to serve their country, I have faith that everything will work out in the end.
I’ve always known that it’s important to be a responsible citizen and to do my part, but being a part of SCONA made the problems of today, and the solutions, more tangible. It was refreshing to be actively trying to find solutions to the big problems that are currently affecting us. Instead of thinking in the abstract we were dealing with things we see and encounter every day. As long as we have so many dedicated people in our world, like the SCONA delegates, we should be able to handle most anything that comes our way.
Sarah M. Misemer is a Kansas City native (born on the Missouri side and raised on the Kansas side). She waived the wheat at the University of Kansas for a decade, earning degrees at the undergraduate (Political Science and Spanish), the Masters (Spanish), and Doctoral levels (Spanish). Her experiences with study abroad sent her to Spain, Mexico, and Argentina, and she completed two Honors theses in the department of Spanish and Portuguese as an undergraduate. https://ugresearch.ku.edu/spotlight/sarah-misemer
These research projects eventually led her to pursue a career in higher education. At the University of Kansas, she had the privilege of working as an editorial assistant for the journals La corónica and later Latin American Theatre Review as a graduate student. She is still known to attend basketball games and Rock Chalk in Lawrence, KS. You might also find her at Kauffman Stadium cheering on the KC Royals when she is back for a visit with family and friends.
After graduation, Dr. Misemer taught for three years at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA before accepting a position at Texas A&M University in 2004, in the newly formed Department of Hispanic Studies. She is the author of three monographs: Secular Saints: Performing Frida Kahlo, Carlos Gardel, Eva Perón, and Selena (Tamesis, 2008), Moving Forward, Looking Back: Trains, Literature, and the Arts in the River Plate (Bucknell, 2010), and the forthcoming Theatrical Topographies: Spatial Crisis in Uruguay Theater Post-2001 (Bucknell, 2017). She is co-editor of The Trial that Never Ends: Hannah Arendt’s ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ in Retrospect (Toronto UP, 2017), along with Richard J. Golsan. Dr. Misemer has published numerous articles and book chapters on contemporary River Plate, Mexican, Spanish, and Latino theater. She is editor of the Book Series Latin American Theatre Review, housed at the University of Kansas, and serves on the editorial board for the journal of the same name.
Committed to service, Dr. Misemer has worked as Associate Director of the Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M to strengthen the vitality and presence of humanities research for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates on campus since 2011. She was also Vice President and President of the Asociación Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina Hispánica between 2013 and 2015, and continues now as Past President. Outside of the profession she served as Rotary Youth Counselor, Vice President, President-Elect, and twice as President of the Rotary Club of Aggieland. She continues to be active in Phi Beta Kappa at Texas A&M, and recently accepted the position of Associate Director of Undergraduate Research in LAUNCH in fall 2016, where she hopes to build on her expertise in the humanities by expanding the scope of undergraduate research opportunities at Texas A&M. When she is not on campus or working on research, Dr. Misemer is likely planning a dinner party with friends, making travel plans, or on her yoga mat.
By Paul Keiper, Ed.D.
Clinical Associate Professor in Sport Management
Growing up, a long time ago, I always felt the Olympics were cool. I would watch some of the events on TV and cheer for an athlete to win; usually someone from the US. I can remember athletes like Mark Spitz or Franz Klammer; these were Olympic athletes back in the 70’s, just in case you have never heard of them ☺.
One of my earliest memories of the Olympic Games were the ’72 Summer Games held in Munich, Germany. In these Games, there were hostages taken and eventually 17 people lost their lives in an awful terrorist assault. I was 8 years old; I can still see images that were shown on TV. As a child, I could not fathom the rationale behind such action. To be honest, I still do not fully understand even after learning more about the tragedy.
I have spent a great deal of my life working with sport as a teacher, coach, and administrator. Now, as a professor in sport management, I spend a great deal of time hoping and trying to make the world better through the use of sport. Knowledge is key. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know.
In my endeavors and desires to gain more knowledge of sport, I developed the SPMT 220 Olympic Studies course. This course is an approved language, philosophy, and culture core curriculum course. It is the perfect platform to use the biggest global sporting event for knowledge and understanding. Through this course, I hope to make a difference in the world.
With that background in mind, we have teamed with Dr. Dikaia Chatziefstathiou to offer a special section for honors students in Spring 2017. Dr. Dikaia Chatziefstathiou has dual citizenship in Greece and the UK. She is an expert on the Olympic Games and has published a great deal on the topic. She has the honor of winning an award for her researcher from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Dr. Chatziefstathiou has an amazing way of clarifying the Olympics and Olympic values for her students.
I met Dikaia in December of 2014. We, the very first class to take SPMT 220 Olympic Studies, went on an international field trip to Greece. The trip was awesome! We learned more about the Ancient Olympic Games, which were held ~ 776 B.C. – 393 A.D. and the modern Games. Dikaia was an academic speaker for our students on that trip. The students loved her; and, they learned a lot from her.
This course will be taught completely online as she will be based in the UK. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about the Olympics from an international expert on the topic. I hope you will consider taking this course from her; there will be a limit of 20 students. If you have more questions, please contact me at email@example.com.
Honors Student Council (HSC) president Katie Ferry ’18 recently attended the annual conference of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) to network with Honors student leaders from across the country, think about what successes and struggles they have had that can help us improve HSC, and share those insights back to campus.
In the coming weeks, Ferry plans to share the ideas that she brought back from conference with the HSC leadership. If you’re interested to take part in these exciting projects, check out the HSC meeting schedule at http://tamuhonorsstudentcouncil.weebly.com/.
While at the conference, Katie kept a blog of her experiences. Here’s an excerpt from the first post:
I’ve been at the NCHC conference for about a day and a half now, and, to be frank it feels like Howdy Week 2.0: inwardly I feel tired, excited, and like my blood is slowly turning to coffee, but outwardly I look like a pristine representative for the best University on this planet. It’s hard not to have a touch of imposters syndrome while listening to students talk about how they have gone beyond the call of service and really pulled their honors program up by its bootstraps all while being an excellent student and person. It’s both inspiring and worrying.
I’ve tried to come up with some great and philosophical thing to write here about how my peers from across the country have filled me with this awesome energy to make Honors Great Again, but I can’t. I keep thinking about what I can do with HSC and how I wish I had more time to do it. I have six months left as my term as HSC president I’m realizing that if I want to make any of these long term projects achievable then I need to start thinking of how I can set this up for the future honors students.
One of the most powerful forces on any campus is a group of focused, motivated students. This is, in part, because the university as a marketplace of ideas is intended to be a place where students have the opportunity to put learning into practice. Student passion for progress has contributed to all sorts of change throughout the history of higher education.
One person who was effected significant change for Honors at Texas A&M is Dr. Keri Stephens ’90 (née Keilberg), who graduated with a B.S. in biochemistry and received the Rudder Award. Dr. Stephens now serves as an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Texas, where she earned her M.A. And Ph.D. in organizational communication. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Stephens did technical sales, marketing, and corporate training for Hewlett Packard, Zymark Corporation, and EGI.
Dr. Stephens visited with University Honors Program staff on a recent campus visit and shared some of her experiences and contributions that have shaped the Honors experience at Texas A&M for over 25 years.
In 1989-90, as president of Honors Student Council, Stephens was part of the committee that established special housing for Honors students. Stephens recalled that she was concerned that an Honors residential community not become “isolated nerds.” This might have been a particular concern to Stephens, who was a role-model for involvement on campus, winning a Buck Weirus Spirit award her sophomore year.
Visiting with Honors staff, Stephens was glad to hear that the Honors Housing Community has built a strong reputation for being highly involved in campus traditions such as Silver Taps, Muster, and Midnight Yell, and regularly attends football games together.
Another way in which Stephens has bequeathed a legacy to Honors students is in providing graduation recognition. She recalls that up until her senior year there was strong opposition to any kind of special recognition at graduation. Stephens attended a national conference as president of the Mortar Board Society in December of 1989 at which she observed that Texas A&M was the only school represented that did not have some kind of regalia for exceptional graduates. Returning to campus, Stephens led the leadership of Mortar Board Society in drafting a proposal and creating a prototype stole to present to Dr. William Mobley, then president of the university. Stephens felt she could get an audience with President Mobley since she had made a positive impression on him while traveling together to recruit students to the university.
Stephens recalls that President Mobley didn’t let her get far into her proposal before interrupting to confirm that Texas A&M was the only school represented at the national meeting that did not present special regalia to Honors graduates. When Stephens confirmed this, he asked if she could make the stoles available for May graduations. A process that the Mortar Board officers imagined might take years was accomplished in just a few months. Now, close to 10,000 students each year receive that gold satin stole at graduation, recognizing their accomplishment as cum laude, manga cum laude, summa cum laude graduates.
In gratitude for her significant contributions to the culture of Honors at Texas A&M, Dr. Jonathan Kotinek, Associate Director for the University Honors Program presented Dr. Stephens with a gold stole and patches signifying Foundation Honors, University Honors, and University Undergraduate Research Scholars as well as a certificate of appreciation.
Dr. Stephens closed her visit by sharing that her undergraduate research experience was so formative (especially in helping her decide against a career in biochemistry research), that she now makes a point to guide students in research and has mentored 22 undergraduate projects.
We love to share news and success stories from our Honors Former Students! If you have something to share with our current, former, and prospective students and their families, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Honors Welcome on Friday, August 26, recognized twelve new students joining the University Scholars program. University Scholars is a personal and professional development program for high-achieving students who serve as ambassadors for the University Honors program. Each spring, ten to twelve freshmen are selected for the Scholars program through an intensive application and interview process. The program seeks students who are intellectually curious and who demonstrate critical thinking, self-awareness, poise, and maturity. Scholars are able to engage in rigorous conversation and to defend their ideas. They’re also highly accomplished and motivated students who love learning for the sake of learning.
These new Scholars will join their twenty-one peers in the Exploration Series, seminar courses offered to Scholars each semester. Previous Exploration Series have delved into transportation, education, television, comedy, and animal conservation, among many other topics. Sophomores new to the program participate in a personal statement writing seminar, “Futuring Yourself,” together.
Throughout the program, University Scholars seek intellectual challenge and share their unique perspectives from an array of academic and cultural backgrounds. We are excited for twelve new University Scholars to grow in this program during the next three years and look forward to seeing their future accomplishments both at Texas A&M and in the world!
Mustafa Al-Nomani is a philosophy major from Houston, Texas. He is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Phi Eta Sigma. Mustafa is pursuing the Liberal Arts Honors program and has been a bus driver for the Aggie Spirit campus buses. He is also a Regents’ Scholar.
Matthew Curtis is a mechanical engineering major from Spokane, Washington. Matthew completed one deployment with Dog Company, First Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and two training deployments with Animal Company, First Battalion, Seventh Marine Regiment to the Kingdom of Jordan. In summer 2013, he was recognized as second in class at the Advanced Assault Course in Camp Pendleton, California. He is a recipient of the Lou and CC Burton ’42 scholarship and the Joseph and Patty P. Mueller scholarship. Matthew volunteers as a Peer Advisor for Veteran Education through the Veteran Resource & Support Center.
Ashley Hayden is a biology major from Friendswood, Texas. She is the vice president of Health Occupational Students of America, a new, national organization for premedical students. Ashley will serve as a supplemental instructor for chemistry or biology this year and is involved in the American Medical Student Association and the Texas A&M chapter of the American Red Cross. This past summer, Ashley shadowed a pediatric ICU pediatrician for over fifty hours. She has also volunteered for more than a hundred hours. Ashley is pursuing a minor in art, as well as the honors programs in the College of Science and the Department of Biology.
Victoria Hicks is a chemical engineering major from Plainfield, Illinois. She is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Engineering Honors program. Victoria conducts research on dispersed nanomaterials in Dr. Micah Green’s lab, the “Green Group”. This past summer, she interned at Essentium Materials, a company of materials scientists and engineers. During a previous internship at Environmental Solutions in 2015, Victoria was responsible for sales calls and placing purchase orders. She has been a member of Students in Physics, Women in Engineering, and DEEP (Discover, Enjoy, and Explore Physics and Engineering).
Ashley Holt is a biomedical engineering major from Kingwood, Texas. As a Beckman Scholar, she joined Dr. Young’s lab in the Department of Biochemistry, where she studies phage lysis proteins and nature’s antibiotic agents. Ashley is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Biomedical Engineering Society. As a freshman, she was awarded second place in Texas A&M’s Freshman Sophomore Math Contest and presented a demo at the annual Physics & Engineering Festival as part of the Discover, Enjoy, and Explore Physics and Engineering program. She also participated in John 15, the freshman organization at St. Mary’s Student Center.
Ecaroh Jackson, from Caldwell, Texas, is an interdisciplinary studies major specializing in math and science. She volunteers at Camp Dreamcatcher, which serves children with cancer, and is an AP Scholar and a member of Phi Eta Sigma. As a freshman, Ecaroh participated in the Lohman Learning Community and was a member of a panel for the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture’s open classroom.
Joy Koonin, from Concord, California, is an international studies major specializing in international politics and diplomacy. She is a President’s Endowed Scholar and a member of the Association of Cornerstone Students. Joy has attended the Hasbara Fellowship in Israel and the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. She is an active member of Aggie Students Supporting Israel, the Texas A&M chapter of the Lone Survivor Foundation, and Aggies Support United Service Organizations. In her spare time, Joy runs a costuming and alterations business called Joy’s Dresserie, which specializes in historical clothing. She is pursuing a minor in Chinese.
Luke Oaks is a biomedical engineering major from Troy, Ohio, who serves as a Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassador, a resident advisor for the Startup Living Learning Community, and an editorial board member for Explorations: The Texas A&M Undergraduate Journal. As a Beckman Scholar, Luke is developing technology for lung cancer detection in Dr. Gerard Coté’s bioinstrumentation lab. Luke received the Class Star Award for Leadership and was selected as one of fifteen scholars in the nation to serve on the Pearson Student Advisory Board, through which he will improve educational technologies. Luke is the vice president of A&M’s club tennis team and a mentor to the Posse Scholar community. He is pursuing a minor in sociology.
Keith Phillips is an electrical engineering major from Flint, Texas. As a member of Engineers Serving the Community, he contributed to an interactive exhibit about water tables and runoff for the Brazos Valley Fair Water Demo. For the past several summers, he has interned as a programmer and IT technician at KP Evolutions, a company that designs automated systems. Keith is a President’s Endowed Scholar and will serve as a Sophomore Advisor this year. He also participates in Student Bonfire. Keith is licensed as an apprentice electrician in the state of Texas and is pursuing a minor in Business Administration.
Alex Skwarczynski is a computer science major from Knoxville, Tennessee. He conducts aerospace research with Dr. Raktim Bhattacharya to predict possible orbital collisions. This summer, Alex interned with a tech startup. During a previous internship at Oak Ridge National Lab in 2015, Alex helped develop the concept for an improved neutron imaging instrument. He has participated in the Society of Flight Test Engineers, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Engineering Honors Program. Alex is a Brown Foundation Scholar, a President’s Endowed Scholar, and a National Merit Scholar and is pursuing a minor in business administration.
Ashley Taylor is an aerospace engineering major from Austin, Texas, and has recently returned from a summer of study abroad in Doha, Qatar. Ashley is a member of the Engineering Honors Program and the Society of Flight Test Engineers. She is also a general engineering representative of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This year, Ashley will serve as a Sophomore Advisor; she was previously a Resident Advisor in Lechner Hall. As a NASA High School Aerospace Scholar in 2014, Ashley researched bioregenerative life support systems. She is a recipient of the Peter Hunter Dunham ’74 Scholarship.
Taylor Welch is a business honors major from Houston, Texas, and a member of MSC Business Associates, the Mays Business Honors Program, and Texas A&M National Scholar Ambassadors. Last summer, she attended the MSC Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy. As a freshman, Taylor served as a member of MSC Freshmen in Service and Hosting and the MSC Wiley Lecture Series, receiving the MSC First Year Involvement Award and the MSC Diversity of Involvement Award. She continues as a member of the MSC LT Jordan Institute for International Awareness, where she will serve as the Internship and Living Abroad Programs Director this year. Additionally, Taylor sits on the University Disciplinary Appeals Panel. She is a National Merit Scholar, a President’s Endowed Scholar, and a Craig and Galen Brown Foundation Scholar.
Freshmen interested in applying for the University Scholars program can learn more by attending information sessions in November or the recruitment mixer in December. The application will open in January 2017. See our website at http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/University-Scholars.