Tag Archives: honors courses

Honors Course Spotlight – Eva Koster ENTO 210

Besides stand-alone Honors sections, students pursuing Honors graduation distinctions at the department, college, or university level can earn Honors course credit through course contracts, independent study, graduate courses, or in stacked (or embedded) Honors sections. Stacked Honors sections have the same professor and meet at the same time and place as the non-Honors section (sometimes with an additional meeting), but have broader, deeper, or more complex learning experiences and expectations. In this post, University Scholar and biomedical sciences major Eva Koster ’18 describes her experience in a stacked Honors section.

By Eva Koster ‘18

Eva Koster '18
Eva Koster ’18

This past fall I was enrolled in Global Public Health Entomology (ENTO 210). This class focused on vector-borne diseases and their impact not only on human health but socio-economic development throughout the world. These course objectives further led into discussions about the public health infrastructure as well as various vector control measures.

Once I glanced through the syllabus, I knew I wanted to expand on my knowledge in this area. After taking a similar course the previous semester, I was hooked on anything that could potentially cause a zombie apocalypse. When Dr. Michel Slotman, the course professor, offered a separate honors section for ENTO 210, I jumped at the chance. Dr. Slotman explained that this separate section will still attend the regular course, but will compose an additional scientific research paper outside of class. The honors students were to analyze malaria vector monitoring data collected by his team in Bioko Island from 2009 to 2013, which included insecticide resistance frequency, human biting rates and malaria infection rates. We were to interpret our findings in terms of the impact of mosquito population control.
To be honest, I was very apprehensive at first. I had never written a research paper before, much less analyzed years’ worth of data statistically and coherently. But Dr. Slotman and his teaching assistants must have sensed that we would have no idea where to begin, and they offered us an abundant amount of guidance and assistance throughout the entire semester. The daunting task was now surprisingly very manageable.

My aspiration is to become a physician, and after shadowing a few doctors I’ve realized the importance of continuing one’s education by keeping up-to-date with recent discoveries. I recognized that it was not only important to be able to interpret data collected in a study, but to be able to incorporate this analysis to a plan of action, whether that be a disease treatment or prevention measures. Thanks to this honors course, I have gained invaluable knowledge in how to approach a problem, and I have humbly gained self-confidence that I am able to do so effectively.

Because of the honors section of ENTO 210, I am now pursuing research that has to do with zoonotic diseases and their impact on humans. By simply following my interests, I was granted an opportunity to expand my knowledge and worldview. And I beg you to do the same. Who knows, maybe thanks to an honors course contract you’ll be able to stop a zombie apocalypse one day.

For more information about options for earning Honors credit, visit http://honors.tamu.edu/Honors/Earning-Honors-Credit.


Honors Course Contract Spotlight: Insects in Human Society

Honors students at Texas A&M routinely seek additional challenge so it is no surprise that they look for ways to dig into course material and enrich their curricula with Honors courses. But what happens when the course they want to take is not offered as an Honors section? Many students in this situation ask faculty to enter into an Honors Course Contract so they can satiate their thirst for knowledge–and get Honors credit.

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 following is an excerpt from a blog that Rachel Reynolds ’16 wrote as part of the requirement for her Honors Course Contract in ENTO 322 – Insects in Human Society with Dr. Roger Gold. As part of her contract, Rachel had to create a poem or a song about an arthropod, create a virtual “collecting jar,” and keep a detailed blog about how her perception of insects changed over the course of the semester. This final post from Rachel’s blog does a nice job demonstrating how Honors study allows students to make connections across disciplines and make unanticipated connections:

Well, here it is. My final blog for the semester. It is crazy to think that finals are just a week away and summer begins in two weeks time. As I reflect on all that I have learned this semester, it amazes me that we have covered so much in this course. Everything from insects in cartoons, medicine, forensics, art, music, and history. I have learned the basics of insect anatomy, morphology, biology, communication, reproduction, physiology, growth, and dispersal. I have further explored how insects are excellent representatives of what it means to adapt to your surroundings. They are prevalent in almost every climate on our planet. They know how to survive even the harshest conditions, to the point where they can even go into comatose and show no visible signs of life and metabolic activity. Some insects even practice reflex bleeding and will release blood containing chemicals when they feel threatened by another organism.

At the beginning of this semester, all I could picture when someone mentioned “bugs” or “insects” was cockroaches, mosquitos, or giant spiders. But now I realize that entomology encompasses so much more than just these few creatures. Insects, though creepy and and gross at times, play a vital role in our environment. They are necessary if we are to live the same way that we are living now. Insects such as silk worms, honey bees,and scale insects provide us with materials and foods that we use in our every day lives. Cockroaches and termites, though destructive and disease agents at times, provide nitrogen and methane that our earth’s atmosphere needs. They recycle the nutrient base of the planet and enhance the transformation of carbon through the carbon cycle.

Read the rest of the post and more of Rachel’s entomology blog at http://tx.ag/fvetg5
To learn more about how an Honors Course Contract works, please visit http://hur.tamu.edu/Honors/Earning-Honors-Credit.

A Big Thanks to the Association of Former Students!

By Hayley Cox


The Texas A&M University Association of Former Students (AFS) is a major contributor not only to the University as a whole, but specifically to Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR). AFS has been an essential contributor to National Fellowship applicants, Student Research Week, Honors courses, and HUR’s annual event which celebrates graduating seniors. AFS funding has been used to prepare students for National Fellowship applications such as the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships. This funding will also be used this spring in order to support Student Research Week, in which over 300 undergraduates present their research and scholarly works. Finally, this year AFS funding will be used to support over 1500 students who are enrolled in more than 300 Honors courses taught by faculty, and to recognize the accomplishments of Honors graduates and Undergraduate Research Scholars. These students will be recognized at an HUR event in May that celebrates approximately 400 graduating seniors.

Over the years, AFS has also contributed to Honors and Undergraduate Research via the Honors Housing Community, the Honors Student Council, the University Scholars Program, and the annual Faculty Social.

Abigail Graves, Honors Housing Community Coordinator
Abigail Graves, Honors Housing Community Coordinator
The Honors Housing Community (HHC), under Program Coordinator Abigail Graves, has undergone a lot of changes recently. Graves said, “One of the biggest changes we’ve (HHC) made is combining an academic curriculum with a social structure. Students are assigned “families” now, in which there are activities and information is presented about resources and opportunities on campus.” She said, “Our objective is not to produce students that have all the answers, but who have questions. Being an educated individual is about constantly creating our individual process through which we interpret and operate in the world.”

See some photos from our Honors Housing Community “DORMAL” !

Austin Ford, Honors Student Council Staff Advisor
Austin Ford, Honors Student Council Staff Advisor
The Honors Student Council (HSC) represents and leads Honors students at Texas A&M and serves as a connection between the students and faculty, administration, and governing bodies. Throughout each year HSC holds events for Honors students such as discussions, seminars, and socials. HSC President Kathryn Kudlaty said, “The goal of HSC is to contribute to honors students getting the most out of their honors experience here at A&M by promoting their intellectual enrichment, growing a sense of community, and providing them with a representative voice.” Kudlaty said, “At the end of the day, it is the support and resources entrusted to us that allow us to invest in the current and future generations of honors students.”

Jamaica Pouncy, University Scholars Program Coordinator
Jamaica Pouncy, University Scholars Program Coordinator
The University Scholars Program (UScholars), also AFS-funded, celebrates students who exemplify academic leadership, and develops these students both personally and professionally. It seeks not only to find the most motivated and curious Honors students, but also to challenge them further. A major benefit of the Uscholars program is the one-on-one interaction between students and faculty.

Honors and Undergraduate Research is incredibly grateful for its relationship with the Association of Former Students and the contributions made to its programs and its students. It is because of this generosity that HUR will continue to grow and development in the best interest of its students and the university!

Undergraduate Teacher Scholars, learning through teaching

The Undergraduate Teacher Scholar(UTS) Program currently consists of several pilot mechanisms which the student may choose between.  Each mechanism requires the Undergraduate Teacher Scholar (UTS) to identify a faculty mentor who agrees to work with the UTS to prepare educational material the first semester and will be the instructor of record the second semester.

UTS students teach a one-credit hour course on topics chosen with their faculty mentor.  This spring two UTS students taught courses, one in international politics and the science of dieting. Students in this course learned through UTS presentations, peer discussions and class projects.

Chris Cliver, senior international studies – politics and diplomacy major, is guiding his students through world politics by discussing current world events.  His UTS course focuses on student presentations of current world issues.  Cliver hopes his students gain an international perspective of America through his course.

“My hope for the students is that they can become more aware of what is happening outside the United States that affects us. It is my opinion that Americans are less exposed to international news and issues than people from other parts of the world. We live in a globalizing world where many developing countries that have drastically different values and customs will soon be just as well educated and economically stable as the traditional world powers.  I feel it is important for the students to realize this and gain an understanding for the other perspectives, cultures, and issues that our generation will have to deal with,” said Cliver.

Through the UTS program Cliver wants to be a mentor to younger Aggies, “hopefully the students in this class can see me not only as a teacher, but also as an older Aggie who can help them with anything outside of class as well, or simply be a friend, because in the end we all bleed maroon.”

Cliver plans to attend graduate school next fall and pursue a degree in international affairs.  After school Cliver hopes to have a career in Foreign Service with a governmental agency.

Jacob Hammond, senior Biomedical Sciences major, leads a UTS seminar on the scientific perspective of dieting.   Students in his course learn about current fad diets, health diet programs, dietary supplements, and the processes behind human metabolism.  By the end of his course he hopes students will not only be able to look at food and dieting scientifically, but also how to facilitate discussion and hone their ability to make presentations vibrant and exciting for their audiences.

In Hammond’s course students will read scientific articles about diets and dietary supplements, discuss the effects of these diets and make presentations about healthy and dangerous dieting.  Hammond is excited to continue using his knack for teaching and tutoring to help others learn science and apply it to their daily lives. “As a freshman I absolutely loved tutoring my peers in general chemistry and biology. When they came to me with problems, I loved being able to walk them through to the solution. Science is complicated, but if you are great at it, it can be even more complicated explaining science to those who are not as accustomed to it.  By teaching this class, I want to further shape my ability to present scientific material in an understandable manner,” said Hammond.

Hammond plans to attend medical school in the future.  He would like to practice family or internal medicine.  “With U.S. healthcare moving the way it is, there is going to be a huge need for primary care physicians in the next decade. While I won’t be making as much money as more sought-after specialties, I love the patient interaction that both of these specialties receive. Just like a lawyer is there to navigate you through our legal system, physicians are there to navigate you through the complicated mechanisms that make up your body. My dream is to guide people, and teach them about the multiple spectrums of health,” said Hammond.


Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

Honors program grows and changes to meet students’ requests

The Honors Program at Texas A&M University was recently overhauled to better meet the needs of its students.  This year students will notice a strong sense of community in the program, more advising opportunities with peers and faculty, the chance to course contract any class for Honors credit and the opportunity to participate in campus-wide events sponsored by Honors Student Council (HSC).

“This year, [Honors] has become much more directly involved in the lives of the honors freshmen. There is still the focus on maintaining a 3.5 GPR, but now there is a significant push from [Honors] to facilitate personal growth as well as academic growth,”  said Nick Hanemann, sophomore computer science major. He went on to say, “[Honors] is stepping up and making a point of challenging the freshmen, asking them what their mission statement is.”

As Honors freshmen came to college this year, they were greeted by the Honors Freshmen Learning Community (HFLC).  Unlike past years, all Honors freshman now spend their first year in Aggieland in the HFLC where they live together, participate in an Honors seminar together and build a sense of community among their peers.

Howdy Week 2012 water fight fun.

“The transition from high school to college has been pleasant because of all of the people I met in the program [who] help me with whatever I need. It’s a nice sense of family that we have going on here. I have a lot of friends who are having a hard time adjusting to college because they feel very alone, but I haven’t faced that problem because of the Honors functions and living with the people in my classes,” said Deanna Sessions, freshman electrical engineering major.

HFLC tries to establish not only peer relationships, but also relationships with departments across campus through the required freshman seminar course.  This course brings speakers from all over campus to talk to students about the services and resources available to them, but also about how critical thinking and research happens in a variety of fields. “The Freshman Community class is a great way for students to learn more about the resources that we have at our disposal,” said Rachel Reynolds, freshmen chemistry major.

Dr. MacKenzie talks about research to the HFLC.

As the semester approaches the halfway mark, HUR is addressing the concerns raised by Honors freshmen and Sophomore Advisors and is working to tweak the seminar class accordingly. “This is first year that we’ve had the seminar class. We have no reference point except for last week’s class, and so we are still figuring out the most effective way of facilitating group discussion and personal reflection. Even with the hiccups involved in refining the seminar class, the potential that I see in having a seminar class dedicated to helping freshmen figure out what they can do to leave their mark on the world and how they can get started is fantastic,” said Hanemann. 

While there have been many changes to the Honors program, the opportunity to grow in a community of scholars is still the main goal of the program.  Through extracurricular events, students who have moved off campus are given the opportunity to stay connected with their Honors community. 

“We help build the honors community by putting on fun and educational events, such as Field Day, Karaoke Night, and Honors Open House to help keep honors students connected after they leave the dorms,” said Tyler Terrill, president of Honors Student Council (HSC).

Starting in Fall 2012 the Texas A&M University Honors Program became an application-based program. The change allows for more personalized advising attention, easier access to resources such as Honors Priority Registration, and better tracking of students through the program. Students admitted to the program in Fall 2012 are pursuing a newly developed Honors distinctions and all students must now meet minimum requirements to remain in the program. These requirements include:

  • Maintaining a 3.5 cumulative GPR and a 3.25 in Honors course work
  • Making progress toward distinction requirements by taking at least 6 hours of Honors course work each academic year
  • Participating in the HFLC (freshmen) or at least one HSC event per semester (continuing students)
  • Updating an e-Portfolio and meeting with an advisor at least once per year
  • Planning and executing a capstone experience in their junior or senior year that synthesizes and integrates their educational experiences in the form of a research or scholarly project

As the program moves forward Honors hopes to continue its success by providing high-impact educational experiences and challenging its students in all academic disciplines to graduate from an enriched, intellectually-stimulating curriculum.

“The Honors experience is the same in that students still have the chance to take small classes with like-minded peers and really go more in depth into the material.  There is the sense of camaraderie among Honors students, and hopefully in the future these things will continue to stay strong and grow,” said Terrill.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

New class of the best and brightest, 10 University Scholars join the program

The University Scholars program has chosen 10 new inductees for the class of 2015.  University Scholars are chosen for their academic leadership, innovation, curiosity and motivation.  To become a University Scholar requires not only application essays and a resume that gives evidence of academic achievement and leadership, but also successful performance in an intense “legendary” interview with a panel of faculty, administrators and senior University Scholars. Those chosen represent the core values and mission of Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) at Texas A&M University.

This year’s University Scholars are; Kaitlyn Aragon, sophomore biomedical engineering major, Augustus Blessing, sophomore international studies major, Kaylee Davis, junior biology major, Carli Domenico, sophomore psychology major, Adelia Humme, sophomore English major, Megan Mumford, junior political science major, Katherine Park, junior biochemistry major, Jack Reid, junior mechanical engineering major, Ryan Trantham, junior biomedical science major, and Austin Wang, junior biomedical sciences major.

As a University Scholar, students take part in Honors Faculty Mentor Groups (one hour seminar-like courses) and act as ambassadors for HUR at outreach events as well as completing their degree of choice with an Honors distinction.

 “I am excited to be a part of the University Scholars program because it allows me to interact on a personal level with professors, advisors, and mentors who are most able to guide me towards my academic, professional, and personal goals. Furthermore, I am excited to become a part of a group of similarly-minded students from whom I can learn and who will encourage me as I continue in my studies here at Texas A&M,” said Trantham.

Building a network of young scholars who can grow and learn from each other is an added incentive of the University Scholars program.  “I hope to gain the opportunity to be exposed to a vast network of future professionals in other career fields and the knowledge they possess,” said Davis.

 “This program promotes a close-knit community between students and the Honors program coordinators,” said Aragon. 

Another unique perk of being a part of the University Scholars program is the assistance it provides its students with when applying for national scholarships and fellowships. “I look forward to not only enjoying the mentor groups and serving Texas A&M as a good ambassador, but I will also be working toward becoming a Rhodes Scholar with the help the program provides its students,” said Mumford.

University Scholars have big plans and bright futures ahead of them.  By participating in programs like this, students can reach their full potential and explore all that HUR has to offer them.  “I want to excel in such a way that brings respect and admiration to our school and to the outstanding faculty, staff, and resources that make Texas A&M the first-class university that it is,” said Trantham.


Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu

Commitment to the tenth power

Honors students take pride in their achievements in classes, but it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make Honors programs run smoothly.  Dr. Sue Geller has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the Director’s Award by Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) to recognize her significant contribution to support the efforts of HUR and honors programs across campus.  

Geller helped establish the Department of Mathematics Honors Program in 1994, one of the oldest Honors Programs on campus, and has been its Director ever since. The success of Mathematics Honors led to Dr. Geller’s spearheading the development of additional departmental Honors Programs on campus.  As a longtime member of the Honors and Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee (HURAC) Geller continues her support of HUR by participating in the creation of new Honors tracks and departmental programs.  Geller also works closely with the faculty in the Department of Mathematics to create Honors courses that will challenge and stimulate the minds of all their Honors students. 

Geller advises current Honors mathematic students, in addition to teaching many courses in mathematics herself.  Her students know she genuinely cares for them and is readily available for their questions and concerns.  Geller’s commitment to her students has resulted in many of them choosing to engage in the Mathematics Honors Program and graduating with a major or minor in Math Honors.

This year the Mathematics department will be recognizing 10 students who will graduate with Honors in May.  Geller is honored with the Director’s Award because of the countless hours she puts in to ensure the success of this remarkable program.

Contact: Chrystina Rago, chrysrago@honors.tamu.edu