Tag Archives: Former Students

Former Student Spotlight – Keri Stephens

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.

Honors students at Midnight Yell in 2015
Honors students at Midnight Yell in 2015

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.

Gold Latin Honors stoles featuring patches for the Foundation Honors, University Honors, and University Undergraduate Research Fellows distinctions
Latin Honors stoles featuring patches for the Foundation Honors, University Honors, and University Undergraduate Research Fellows distinctions

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.

Honors staff Adelia Humme '15 (left) and Jonathan Kotinek '99 present a stole and certificate of appreciation to Keri Stephens '90
Honors staff Adelia Humme ’15 (left) and Jonathan Kotinek ’99 (right) present a stole and certificate of appreciation to Keri Stephens ’90 (center)

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 honors@tamu.edu.


Honors Reunion (A Letter to Honors Freshmen)

By Adelia Humme ’15

Dear Honors freshmen,

Right now, your biggest concern is probably How will I make friends? You may be wondering Why do I have to live in the Honors Housing Community? Or What if I don’t like my roommate?

Worry no more. Living in Honors Housing is one of the best experiences you can have at Texas A&M. It’s one thing for me, as an Honors Advisor, to tell you that you’ll make plenty of friends. It’s another thing for me, as a former Honors student who lived in Lechner Hall for two years, to tell you that my cohort of fellow Honors students is still in contact more than a year after graduation. For Memorial Day weekend, more than a dozen former students from the University Honors program, Class of 2015, reunited in Houston. Our weekend included volleyball, bowling, swimming, two-stepping at Wild West, a crawfish boil, a visit to the planetarium, and about eight rounds of the card game Werewolf. We also put our college educations to the test at Escape the Room Texas, where we solved puzzles and searched for clues to find keys and open combo locks in order to “escape.” You’ll be delighted to hear that Honors pays off: we got out with one minute to spare on the one-hour time limit!

escape room
Honors Former Students Conquered the room!
Sam & Edward patriotism
Sam & Edward are patriotic!

More important than anything we did was reminiscing about our time in the Honors Housing Community, where we met as freshmen. Most of us were Sophomore Advisors (SAs) in 2012-2013; a few were “spouses,” or partners chosen by Sophomore Advisors to help mentor Honors freshmen. Living in Lechner and McFadden Halls together bonded us. We pulled all-nighters in Hobofo, Lechner’s second-floor foyer. As freshmen, we designed the greatest shack ever for Habitat for Humanity’s annual fundraiser, Shack-a-thon. It featured an enormous and detailed Nazgul for our Lord of the Rings theme. As SAs, we painted ourselves blue for free food at Blue Baker and hosted our own Hunger Games for the freshmen, arming them with pool noodles and flour-filled socks. We opened the annual talent show with our own rendition of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. And even after we moved out of HHC, we volunteered for Big Event, attended Muster, celebrated Ring Day, and dressed up for Ring Dance together.

Nerd Shack 2012
Nerd Shack 2012

The Aggie spirit is still strong in our hearts, and we still hold to our identity as Honors students. So if you’re afraid that you’re going to be alone in college, I hope I can reassure you. Living in the Honors Housing Community, I felt that I had found people who spoke not only my language but my dialect. My fellow Honors students liked what I liked; we watched the same sci-fi TV shows and knew the same geek culture references. You’ll make connections, like we did. You’ll make memories, like we did. You might meet your future spouse (no pressure!). And you very well could have a one-year reunion of your own in 2021.

crawfish boil better
Honors Former Students enjoy a crawfish boil

Oh, and I haven’t forgotten your second worry, which is probably What’s my plan? What am I going to do after college? Not knowing the answer right now is okay! You have plenty of time (and plenty of guidance within Honors) to help you figure it out. We were there, too, and we made it. Here’s what we’re doing now:

  • Alyssa Bennett is pursuing a PhD in naval architecture at the University of Michigan. She majored in ocean engineering and graduated with Foundation Honors. Alyssa was a Sophomore Advisor and a Junior Advisor.
  • Sam Carey is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Georgia Tech through the Critical Skills Master’s Program at Sandia National Laboratories. Sam spends his summers working for Sandia in Albuquerque, NM. He majored in electrical engineering and graduated with University Honors and an Honors Minor in mathematics. Sam was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Mallory Carson is a PhD student studying medical physics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She is working on methods to detect and correct errors in dose calculations to improve the quality of radiation therapy. Mallory majored in radiological health engineering and minored in mathematics. She was a Sophomore Advisor and an Undergraduate Research Scholar.
  • Danielle Cope is a planning/project engineer for ExxonMobil at the Baytown Olefins Plant. She majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors and Foundation Honors. Danielle was Pj’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.
  • Pj Downey is a systems engineer for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He majored in aerospace engineering and was a Sophomore Advisor. Pj graduated with certificates in engineering project management and engineering business management.
  • Jacob Glenn is a healthcare consultant at Apogee Consulting Group in Houston. He majored in economics and was an Undergraduate Research Scholar and Sophomore Advisor.
  • April Holland is a business consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Houston. She double-majored in business honors and supply chain management. April was a Sophomore Advisor and graduated with Business Honors.
  • Edward Ji is in the Baylor College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program in Houston and continues performing as a violinist with the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra. He majored in biomedical sciences with a minor in psychology.
  • Taylor Peterson is an administrative assistant with Switched Over Consulting and plans a career with Texas Parks and Wildlife. She is majoring in wildlife & fisheries sciences and was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Lauren Roverse is a second-year student at the University of Houston College of Optometry, where she is pursuing a Doctor of Optometry degree. Lauren majored in biology and was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Eric Vavra is a chemical engineering PhD student at Rice University, where he is investigating foam flow dynamics in porous media. He majored in chemical engineering, minored in chemistry, and graduated with Engineering Honors. Eric was a Sophomore Advisor.
  • Trey Whitaker works as a developer for the Advance Technology Division of AmRisc, LLC. Trey majored in computer science and was April’s “spouse” in the Honors Housing Community.

As for me, I’m currently an Honors Advisor and the program coordinator for National Fellowships and University Scholars at Texas A&M, but I’ll soon be moving to Boston to begin graduate school at Emerson College. Leaving College Station after five years feels like the end of an era because Texas A&M, and particularly the Honors community, has been my second home. I hope you find that same sense of belonging, security, and no-holds-barred fun when you arrive.

Best of luck, and gig ’em!


HUR Staff Spotlight: Adelia Humme

Adelia Humme ’15 is the newest addition to Honors and Undergraduate Research, joining the office as the interim coordinator for University Scholars and National Fellowships. Humme was herself a University Scholar, as well as a student worker in the HUR office, during her undergraduate career at Texas A&M University.

Humme graduated summa cum laude with a major in English and a minor in business administration in May 2015. She spent two years on the team of The Eckleburg Project, Texas A&M’s undergraduate literary magazine, serving as Prose Editor in her final semester. Humme’s interest in editing was spurred by her undergraduate internship with Texas A&M University Press, and she will begin graduate study in the Publishing & Creative Writing program at Emerson College, in Boston, in the fall of 2016.

A woman with long blond hair in a bright pink blazer stands with her arms folded in front of a tree.
Adelia Humme ’15, interim coordinator for University Scholars and National Fellowships

While a student at A&M, Humme was involved in many Honors activities. Her favorite extracurricular activity was mentoring freshmen in her role as a Sophomore Advisor for the Honors Housing Community. She also had the opportunity to attend the Champe Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar in Italy twice, once as a freshman participant and once as a student leader. Humme chose to complete her capstone project in the Undergraduate Teacher Scholars program, researching Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series for her course, “Heroes, Heroines, and Their Animal Companions.” During a summer internship at Cushing Memorial Library & Archives in 2013, Humme was able to work with McCaffrey’s personal collection of science-fiction and fantasy novels. She hopes to pursue a career within those genres.

Humme credits her participation in several student organizations for developing her love of Texas A&M’s history and culture and her passion for guiding students through their academic and personal challenges. She has volunteered at New Student Conferences and led campus tours through the Aggie Orientation Leader Program, met with prospective students through National Aggie Scholar Ambassadors, and arranged catering and other services for performers in Rudder Auditorium as a manager in MSC OPAS. In 2013, Humme was awarded the Buck Weirus Spirit Award for her extracurricular involvement, and she received recognition as one of the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges in 2015.

Humme loves a good cup of coffee, misses having cats in her home, enjoys reading without interruptions, and sings frequently. Although raised in Sugar Land, she can proudly claim herself as a native Houstonian. She is also a third-generation Aggie, following her mother, Ava King Humme ’80, and her grandfather, H. Verne King ’44.


The Undergraduate Experience: Job Training or Personal Development?

Lisa (Moorman) Quattrini ’06 graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s of business administration in marketing and a master’s in international affairs. She updated this reflection written several years ago for Texas A&M University Honors Program’s first contribution to the second-annual National Honors Blog Week. The theme for this synchroblog is “Things You Can’t Learn in a Classroom.” To read other contributions to this effort, visit the hub hosted at http://www.honorslounge.com/taxonomy/term/3287.

2014 National Honors Blog Week

 By Lisa Quattrini –

Administrators, donors and elected officials all seem to agree that we should be treating the university more like a business with efficiency being the end goal. As I understand it, the idea is to pare down colleges which do not “produce” enough while bolstering colleges which provide revenue through private sector investment, federal grants, and other funding streams.

In theory, the idea sounds good, at least from one perspective: cut out those arms of the institution which do not generate money, and funnel investment toward those arms which do. I think in a lot of ways, we as students and former students accept this efficiency-based methodology without really considering the role a university plays in society.

To me, though, the question is: should we be treating a university like a business? Should the university simply be a place where money goes in, graduates and revenue-generating research goes out? Or should a university be a center of innovation and creativity, and a tool to secure our society’s place among the great thinkers and inventors?

The first approach seems to be the approach that prevails among administrators and elected officials. My fear with this approach is that treating a university as a factory for producing four year degrees, while treating university research as a tool for revenue generation, is performing a serious disservice to the students and to the creative future of our society.

I have learned this lesson the hard way, having treated my own university experience as merely a necessary step between graduating high school and getting a good paying job in the workforce. Rather than challenging my intellect and following the subjects I found interesting, I followed the four-year plan that came as part of my welcome packet to my college. I knew that I was going to be bored, but I thought getting a job upon graduation was the only metric for a successful college career, and I trusted my selected degree plan to get me there.

After graduate school, I got a job in international research, and quickly found that my undergraduate degree in something “practical for getting a job” had stunted my ability to think creatively. My writing skills had suffered tremendously in undergrad. And while the technical skills I had begun to acquire in graduate school were good, they were not enough to prepare me for the rigors of my job, as the degree was not targeted towards research as a destination career.

Now I sit, eight years out of undergrad, six years out of grad school, and I am completely confused as to where I “should” fit in. I never stopped to question whether I was missing something along the way – I thought my extracurricular activities were enough, so I never sought a degree plan that thrilled me.

As a student, it’s hard to know what to plan for. What I’ve learned from my experience is that I missed out on a very vital opportunity for intellectual development at the undergraduate level. I made all of my curriculum decisions based on getting a job. In doing so, I missed a vital opportunity to get to know myself, and what I want out of life.

I think that the place of an academic institution, especially at the undergraduate level, is to give young people a platform to be creative, to think through problems in new ways, and to force students to examine the world from different perspectives. I know it seems sentimental, but when you understand how the greater picture is connected, I have to believe the end result is better, simply because you understand what you’re working with and where it should go.

Treating a university like a factory where cost-cutting rules and no value is given to creative thought is likely to churn out workers who are interested in maintaining the status quo. A public university is specifically intended to expand the public knowledge, and it does no one any good to follow the same paths which have been traveled before you.

I leave you now with two challenges: one to the students, and one to administrators and elected officials.

To the students: it is my hope that you will not fall victim to the fear that you won’t have a job when you graduate. Treat your studies with respect – this is the only four (or five, or six) years you will ever be given to make mistakes, to learn, and to plan your future as you want it. Focus your degree plan on your passion: find something you love, and see as many sides of it as you can.

To the administrators and elected officials: don’t turn our campus into a factory of workers who simply toe the line and maintain the status quo. Help Texas A&M maintain and grow its reputation as a top-tier university which graduates innovators and thinkers. Help us promote a sentiment of wonder and exploration among the student population. I promise you’ll have more successful graduates if you do.




Former Student Spotlight: Jason Knight

Jason Knight, '09
Jason Knight, ’09

Jason Knight, ’09, was a University Scholar and twice a Goldwater Honorable Mention while pursuing his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering at Texas A&M. Though he is now a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, the kind of broad-based critical thinking skills encouraged in our undergraduate Honors Students are still apparent in the problems Jason turns his attention to in his spare time.

I was at the in-laws house a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon the classic board game of Trouble.

After a few microseconds of nostalgia, my mind raced to the question that I’m sure most people have the first time they see this game: “Does the dice ‘popper’ mechanism introduce any observable bias into the roll patterns?”

Now, for those that don’t have experience with the game, it comes with a nifty little ‘pop-o-matic’ dice roller in the middle. Upon pushing this clear plastic half-hamster-ball bubble, the dice will rattle around a few times and then let you know how far to advance your pieces.

But there’s the rub. To my eye, the dice didn’t seem to have enough space to move around in the little bubble to sufficiently randomize each roll. So could this introduce some pattern to the supposedly random rolls?

To read Jason’s full post “(Statistical) Trouble with Trouble (the board game),” and enjoy an excellent example of critical thinking applied to real life, visit his blog: http://blog.jasonknight.us/2013/07/statistical-trouble-with-trouble-board.html.

We love to share news, successes, and instructive experience from our former Honors Students! If you’d like to share something, please send it to us at honors@tamu.edu.

Former Student Spotlight: Adam Williams

Adam Williams 2012
Adam Williams ’04 with his family

Former Student Adam Williams ’04 was recently profiled by the Bush School and in President Loftin’s weekly update for his recent accomplishments, which include being named 2012 Most Promising Engineer-Government in the Black Engineer of the Year awards. Adam graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering and in 2007 with an master’s in International Affairs from the Bush School. Adam is a senior R&D systems engineer at Sandia National Laboratories, but he was at one time renowned as the president the TAMU Hip Hop Society and for holding the record as the longest resident of Lechner—he lived there one year as a freshman, one year as an SA, and then three years as an RA as a member of Lechner classes XII through XVI! Adam recently took some time to offer reflections on his time as an Honors student at Texas A&M.

How did you end up at Texas A&M?
Growing up, I had always enjoyed playing with Legos–the freedom to create, the problem-solving behind the construction of my epic Lego cities–that is what directed me toward engineering.  I had thought about applying to out of state schools (Duke, Stanford, etc.), but something about my visits to College Station just drew me in.  Once I applied, I was offered an academic scholarship and eventually was awarded a Terry Foundation Scholarship.  Texas A&M’s high academic standards and deep sense of community are what drew me in, and TAMU Honors office’s dedication to helping talented students achieve their dreams is how I got there.

What are your favorite memories of Honors?
First, the friendships. Some of my greatest friends and deepest relationships were made during my time in TAMU’s Honors program (in fact, I’ve been in more than one wedding of friends that I’ve met through the Honors Program!).

Second, the academic challenges and opportunities provided through participating in the Honors program were incredible – and set the stage for where I am today (sitting in a room in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates as the US Government project lead for a regional human capital development program to develop the next generation of decision-makers in Middle Eastern nuclear power programs).

Third, in a word-Lechner.  Spending five years living in one place is bound to leave an indelible mark, and Lechner Hall – and it’s residents and my fellow staff members – have left memories that I will always remember.

The SAs (Sophomore Advisors) my freshman year designed Lechner’s first “Maroon Out” t-shirts.  These were some pretty sweet shirts!  I was walking with my friends near Simpson Drill Field on the way to game one Saturday morning when I heard someone yelling at me from behind.  I ignored it until a gentleman ran up to me and out of breath said, “Where did you get that shirt?”  I told him that it was only sold within Lechner and apologized and tried to continue on to the game. He called after me, “well, my wife was in one of the first classes of Lechner Hall and she would LOVE that shirt! How much for the one you’re wearing?”  So, I sold the shirt off my back because the spouse of former Lechner resident had heard about how special the community is in that residence hall.  In addition to being a hilarious story, this story symbolizes the most important aspect of TAMU’s Honors Program – it’s community.

In what aspects of the Honors Program did you participate?
As many as possible!  I graduated with both University and Foundation Honors distinctions.  I completed two semesters of Honors Level undergraduate research.  I took special topics honors courses in Globalization and Introduction to Hip Hop Culture.  I was an institutional nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship Program and a national semi-finalist for the Harry S Truman National Scholarship.  Though not officially selected as a University Scholar, I was able to participate in the University Scholar Seminars every semester throughout the remainder of my undergraduate career.  So, likely to the chagrin of many at the time, I was pretty much a fixture in Honors Program and a frequent visitor in the Honors Office!

How did your internship experience shape your career path?
My time in DC greatly shaped my career path as it opened my eyes to many different avenues and mechanisms currently available that were tackling my particular area of interest (nuclear nonproliferation). While I didn’t participate in the Public Policy Internship Program, I spent lots of time with students who did make it to DC through this program. So, I HIGHLY recommend getting to DC if you are at all interested in a career in public service. Summers spent in DC are invaluable in the professional experience you gain and the number of contacts you can make.

What advice can you offer Honors students as they look forward to an uncertain future?
I would have to simply say: “Don’t make yourself one-dimensional.”  Whatever your major is, take opportunities to delve into topics/areas that are completely different and take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that the Honors Program give you to do just that.  If I had not added an English Minor to my Mechanical Engineering undergraduate degree program, I would not have gotten my first big internship in DC that helped launched my current career.

I also find it incredibly stress-relieving to allow your brain to work on a topic that is vastly different that your academic emphasis. Reading for my African American Literature class or special topics Introduction to Hip Hop Culture class my senior year often saved my sanity as I was juggling senior level engineering classes and senior design.  Making yourself multi-dimensional not only makes you more attractive to potential graduate programs and employers, but it also exposes you to new arenas and avenues through which to pursue your dreams.

Any closing thoughts?
Take advantage of the opportunities available to you, don’t be afraid to try something new or different, and get ready for big things to come!  For those students considering the Honors Program, I simply want to say – don’t be afraid of something that seems too hard, too difficult, too challenging.  The Honors Program has been built on students just like you – tentative, maybe even hesitant at first – but all of us navigated the challenges and turned them from reasons to being scared to opportunities to excel.