Tag Archives: Fish Camp

Dr. Donald J. Curtis, Jr. Selected for 2015 Director’s Award

The Director’s Award for Outstanding Service to Honors Programs was created in 2010 to recognize significant contribution to and support of the efforts of the University Honors Program on campus.

The 2015 recipient of the Director’s Award is Dr. Donald J. Curtis, Jr.

Dr. Don Curtis, 2015 Director's Award Recipient
Dr. Don Curtis, 2015 Director’s Award Recipient

Honors and Undergraduate Research thanks Dr. Curtis for his unending support of University Honors and Honors education at Texas A&M in general. His dedication to and high standards for the Cornerstone Honors Program in the Liberal Arts as well as his willingness to give of his time and energy to mentor colleagues across campus in the art of Honors is greatly appreciated. Dr. Curtis also provided critical insights and suggestions as we revised University Honors and developed the Common Honors Information page and Common Honors Application. His close personal attention to the College of Liberal Arts Honors Program enabled many students to have enriching educational and personal experiences while at Texas A&M.

Dr. Don Curtis currently serves as the Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Public Health Studies in the Texas A&M Health Science Center, a position he has held since March 2015.

Dr. Curtis has been at Texas A&M since 1993 and previously served as Honors Programs Coordinator in what was then the Office of Honors Programs and Academic Scholarships, Director of Undergraduate Student Services for the College of Liberal Arts, and Assistant Dean for High Impact Programs in Liberal Arts.

He has undergraduate degrees in biological science and history from the University of Nebraska and an MA in military history from NU  as well.

Dr. Curtis received his doctorate from Texas A&M University in 2000 with a specialty in American Military and Diplomatic History.  He is the author of Hard Times Come Again No More:  General William S. Graves and the American Military Intervention in Siberia 1918-1920.  Dr. Curtis has authored several articles in military history and the applications of  honors programs and learning communities in higher education.

Dr. Curtis was named the Wells Fargo Faculty Mentor of the Year in 2014 and was a 2013 Fish Camp Namesake.  He is a past President of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society at Texas A&M and has served as a University Scholars Faulty Mentor.

Dr. Curtis has been married to his wife Kari for sixteen years.  They have a nine year old son, Ben, a lab/hound mix and an antisocial cat.

Our warm congratulations and well-deserved thanks go to Dr. Curtis for his strong support of Honors. We will be presenting the Director’s Award to Dr. Curtis at the HUR Recognition Ceremony on Thursday, May 14, 2015. For a list of previous recipients, visit the TAMU HUR Faculty Awards page.



From Jon to Dr. Jon!

By Hayley Cox

Dr. Jon Kotinek
Dr. Jon Kotinek
University Honors Program Associate Director Jonathan Kotinek has recently become Dr. Kotinek! Kotinek completed the dissertation process in early June, and in August he will be receiving his diploma for his Ph. D. in educational psychology from Texas A&M University. He has been selected for recognition as a Distinguished Honor Graduate for the Department of Educational Psychology.

Kotinek began working in the University Honors Program office in 2003, becoming Assistant Director in 2007 and Associate Director in 2012. He received both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Texas A&M. Since 2007, he has been selected for the President’s Award for Academic Advising, the Diversity Staff Service Award, and the President’s Meritorious Service Award. He was also selected as a Texas A&M Fish Camp namesake.

Jon with the counselors of Camp Kotinek!
Jon with the counselors of Camp Kotinek!

Kotinek had not considered graduate school before his mentor, Dr. Finnie Coleman, encouraged him to do so. Kotinek was an undergraduate student in Dr. Coleman’s Introduction to African American Literature in fall 1999, after which Dr. Coleman encouraged Kotinek to apply to the master’s program in English. Kotinek took time off during his master’s program because he was working full-time, and when he returned his professor for Issues in Child and Adolescent Development, Dr. Joyce Juntune, encouraged him to apply to the doctoral program in educational psychology.

By this time, Kotinek had begun working as a graduate assistant for Dr. Coleman who asked him to assist Dr. Edward Fry in hosting a group visit of Davidson Young Scholars in March 2003. Over the course of these students’ visit, Kotinek saw the frustrations of these young high school students due to the limited opportunities to start college as full-time students. Kotinek said, “This experience really helped to crystallize my desire to study giftedness and how these gifted persons are served by the university.”

Jon with students on an art trip in Houston.
Jon with students on an art trip in Houston. He is also a photographer and painter.

Dr. Kotinek’s graduate dissertation is titled “A Narrative Examination of the Experience of Early Entrance to College,” which is a qualitative study that examines the experiences of eight college graduates who entered college as freshman at age 16. The results of Kotinek’s study suggest that “intellectual ability may be sufficient for early college entrants to complete college, but they might need additional support such as specialized advising, mentors, and peer groups to fully realize their academic potential.” He saw this in the young students’ reliance on figuring problems out on their own and a common decrease in achievement levels in college relative to their achievement levels before college.

Kotinek’s Ph.D. in educational psychology ties well into Honors classes and programs which are a fit for gifted college students, focusing on providing additional challenge and enrichment at Texas A&M. He said, “Gifted college students often have a lot of passion for a particular subject, and Honors provides both a community that understands that kind of intense focus and provides opportunities, like undergraduate research and Honors classes, to pursue their interests in great depth.”

Dr. Kotinek had a difficult doctoral education due to competing priorities such as working full-time, having a family, and being engaged in the community. He said he likes to a lot of advising by “negative example,” and from experience could now tell students to consider pursuing graduate work as a full-time student if possible. He also likes to let people know that “graduate school is one of higher education’s best-kept secrets” due to the different relationship between faculty and student that was not so present in undergraduate education.

Kotinek noted that a lot of people are scared by the prospect of a dissertation. But, he said like any large project this could be managed by breaking it into chunks. According to Kotinek, any question that sparks a person’s interest can be a dissertation topic, and “there is a very real sense of accomplishment in adding to the body of knowledge about a subject.”

Jon also won Best Beard Champion in 2011 and helped start the Aggieland Beard and Mustache Club in 2012!
Jon also won Best Beard Champion in 2011 and helped start the Aggieland Beard and Mustache Club in 2012!
Dr. Kotinek wanted to thank all of his supporters throughout his doctoral process. He said, “I have been blessed by having such a supportive community as I pursued my degree. Everyone in Honors and Undergraduate Research helped by letting me focus on writing this past Spring. Dr. Suma Datta, Dr. Duncan MacKenzie, and our former Associate Director, Dr. Dave Louis, have been especially encouraging as I have worked toward this goal. I have also had wonderful support from my committee members: Dr. Laura Stough, Dr. Joyce Juntune, Dr. Edward Funkhouser, and Prof. Rodney Hill. Thank you to all of these folks and the countless colleagues and students that have offered encouragement and advice though the process.”

Kotinek added, “Mostly I have been trying to get people to just call me ‘Jon’ instead of ‘doctor.’”

The Department of Honors and Undergraduate Research congratulates Jon Kotinek on becoming Dr. Jon, along with all of his outstanding achievements at Texas A&M!