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 email@example.com or come to any of our general Honors Student Council meetings, which will now occur monthly.
The post below comes from Joshua Fuller, an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, former President of Honors Student Council, former Junior Advisor and Sophomore Advisor for the Honors Housing Community. Fuller is a senior psychology and Spanish double-major, with a minor in neuroscience. You can find his ePortfolio at http://joshuafuller.weebly.com.
– By Joshua Fuller ’17
Exhilarating. Intimidating. Inspiring.
These three words explain my four-day long journey at my first national research conference, the 36th National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN) annual meeting.
Applying to NAN 2016 was admittingly somewhat of a last-minute endeavor. I remembered my research mentor, Dr. Steve Balsis, talking about his experience at NAN 2015 in Austin, Texas, and thought NAN 2016 would be a great forum to present my most recent work, a first-author publication on the nature of neuropsychiatric symptom presentation in Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, we caught the abstract deadline two weeks before it passed (which still blows my mind since the abstract deadline was in February and the conference was in October). As an undergraduate interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on neuropsychology, or the assessment of neurological conditions, this conference was an obvious place to submit my work.
As a seasoned undergraduate Alzheimer’s researcher and an aspiring neuropsychologist, I was simultaneously excited and timid as I exited my cab and walked into the Westin Hotel in downtown Seattle, the site of NAN 2016. Sure, I had presented my lab’s work before at the Texas A&M Student Research Week (and even took home an award), but this was clearly a whole different ball game. Instead of answering A&M student or faculty members’ questions about my work, I was going to be fielding questions from actual real-life neuropsychologists (some of whom are faculty at the Ph.D. programs I am currently applying to, so that was also terrifying).
I attended two long lectures the morning of my poster presentation, the first on neuroimaging and the second on diversity in clinical practice. Following the lectures, I immediately went to the exhibit hall where I hung my poster and talked to passerby for two hours. In the mix of visitors, two judges came by my poster and seemed to be very impressed by the quality of my work (especially because I was an undergrad among a sea of graduate students and post-docs). I had also networked some via email with Dr. Laura Lacritz, the President of our conference, because she studies Alzheimer’s disease is a professor at the UT Southwestern Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program (one of the Ph.D. programs I applied to this application cycle). Well… if there’s one thing I have learned by now it is that networking sometimes can really pay off! Dr. Lacritz stopped by my poster, talked to me for about fifteen minutes, and as we parted ways she complimented my research me that if I ever have any questions or would like to collaborate she’s just an email away.
After my poster presentation, I had the chance to listen to other world-renown Alzheimer’s experts, like Dr. Yaakov Stern of Columbia and Dr. Dorene Retnz of Harvard, give lectures on their inspirational research. I also had a chance to go to a few events for students where I met many graduate students (including a large plethora from UT Southwestern) who talked to me about their experiences and their research, giving me more encouragement during my Ph.D. application season.
I was sad that I had to leave the conference early to get back to College Station for a fundraiser, as I was truly in nerd-heaven. Before I left, a new graduate student friend told me to be on the lookout for the student poster award recipients (as I was going to miss the award ceremony). I knew I had a nice poster and that I gave an excellent presentation, but my poster was one of several hundred at the conference eligible for five awards. Surely I was not going to win a student poster award…
Well, I did… and I am still surprised and humbled to this day. Honestly, though, receiving such an honor is not a testament to my ability, but rather the time and energy that Dr. Balsis and so many other mentors have poured into me throughout my undergraduate research career. Being among the top poster presentations at the conference was an amazing way to close my first ever national research conference.
When I left College Station for Seattle, I felt anxious. When I returned, I was inspired. Undergraduate research has been a winding (and sometimes cyclical) journey for me, but I am so proud of the relationships I’ve built and the projects that I’ve been a part of over the years. As someone who was cynical about research before coming to A&M, I encourage you to keep an open mind! There are so many different questions that need to be answered, and you have an incredibly unique opportunity to explore alongside some of the world’s most talented research faculty. If I got involved in research (and have now won multiple awards and first-authored a publication currently in review) simply because I asked my professor about research opportunities in the Alzheimer’s arena, so can you! Get started today by visiting the LAUNCH website and talking with your professors about topics you would like to research.
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.
Three exceptional Texas A&M students have been nominated for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a foundation recognizing college juniors who aspire to work in public service. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study, leadership training, and fellowship with other students. Each year, 55 to 65 applicants are chosen from a pool of approximately 600 nominated students. This year, the nominees from Texas A&M are psychology and Spanish major Joshua Fuller, civil engineering major George Gillette, and a third student who has asked to remain unidentified for the time being.*
For Joshua Fuller ’17, the coordination of research and response efforts to large public health concerns is paramount to his career goals. Fuller believes molding research and public policy together is the way he is best equipped to serve the public. During his time at Texas A&M, he has conducted research about Alzheimer’s disease in the lab of psychology Professor Steve Balsis. Through the use of large datasets that track Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers, such as brain volume and cerebral spinal fluid, he has worked with Dr. Balsis on creating empirical models of Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis that can be used by researchers and clinicians in the fight against the disease. Fuller also studied abroad in Quito, Ecuador where he volunteered at the Fundación TASE Alzheimer’s Center for five weeks in the summer of 2015, gaining valuable clinical experience working with dementia patients. As part of his commitment to TASE, Fuller developed and led an English class as a cognitive therapy for five patients who had some bilingual proficiency, synthesizing research about bilingualism being a protective factor against Alzheimer’s disease. Fuller intends to pursue a joint doctorate in clinical psychology and a Master of Public Health. Through his involvement as a leader in several student organizations at Texas A&M, such as the Honors Student Council and the Student Affairs Fee Advisory Board, as well as his acceptance into the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program (PPIP), Fuller has learned that the greatest impact he can have in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and other public health concerns is not just in the laboratory. Rather, through the amalgamation of research and policy, Fuller plans to serve as an ambassador between the research community and lawmakers in the hope that we can globally coordinate the present and future study and response to diseases that threaten our way of life.
George Gillette ’17 is a civil engineering student with a focus in transportation and data science. He began working in research at Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in his freshman year under Melisa Finley to evaluate the impact of impaired driving. Since then, he has worked on a variety of projects with TTI, including determination of how distraction impacts start-up time, entropy of eye-tracking glances to evaluate driver attentiveness, and estimation of tire debris volume through image processing. His work at TTI has resulted in publications to Transportation Research Board and has earned him ATLAS Undergraduate Student of the Year Award and Trinity Undergraduate Student of the Year Award. Outside of his research, Gillette serves as the president of Engineers Serving the Community, a student organization that applies engineering skills to real-world projects to benefit the community. Additionally, he is the co-founder and under-secretary-general of Texas A&M Model United Nations. Gillette aspires to be the first secretary of transportation with a technical background in order to better move the industry forward.
Two hundred students will be selected as finalists after their applications are reviewed by the Truman Finalist Selection Committee. The finalists will then be interviewed by a series of Regional Review Panels before the 2016 Truman Scholars are announced. In the past 10 years, nine Aggies have advanced to the finalist round.
For more information, please contact Adelia Humme in LAUNCH: National Fellowships, at 845-1957 or email@example.com.
Update 3-28-16: Our third nominee contacted us and asked to be unidentified for the time being. This post has been edited accordingly.
Honors Student Council (HSC) is charged with hosting events that unite the community of honors students at Texas A&M University. HSC also advocates for honors students’ concerns to the Honors and Undergraduate Research Advisory Committee (HURAC), the committee that shapes honors education at Texas A&M. Each semester, Honors Student Council hosts dozens of events for honors students, including socials, academic events, and special-topic panels. Recently, HSC has also found service opportunities to unite honors students. In the post below, junior Spanish and psychology double-major, and 2015-16 Honors Student Council President Joshua Fuller details the work that HSC has done over the past year.
By: Joshua Fuller ’17
In the past year, Honors Student Council has hosted dozens of events for the honors population at A&M, uniting the community through shared experiences. While the events traditionally focus in 3 key areas — socials, academic events, and special-topic panels — HSC has recently added service as another way to unite honors students. Below is a list of some example events we have put on over the past year:
Socials: HSC sees socials as a relaxed way to bring honors students together to participate in a relaxing and fun experience. HSC has hosted a “cool down” for finals event before finals May and a “warm up” for finals event in December. At the “cool down,” students watched a demonstration from the physics department where a student mad ice cream using liquid nitrogen, and then they ate the ice cream he created (as well as some pre-Blue-Bell famine ice cream). At the “warm up,” students made s’mores and drank hot cocoa while warming up around the fire in Tweener — the area between the Lechner and McFadden honors dorms. HSC also hosted 2 tailgates during football season that united honors students and their families over good old fashioned barbeque and sweet tea. Due to us being in an election year, HSC has additionally hosted “Presidential Bingo,” a fun night where we watched the debate and played bingo based off of what candidates said. In the coming semester, we hope to host a “Drunk Goggles MarioKart” event that warns about the dangers of drunk driving in a fun setting, more presidential bingo, and a bowling social at the Grand Station arcade.
Academics: HSC prides itself on uniting honors students through interdisciplinary learning opportunities. One of the most common HSC events is our “Donuts and Discussion” series. At a “Donuts and Discussion,” a distinguished undergraduate researcher, such as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, comes and talks to students about their research while students enjoy Shipley’s donuts and juice. Topics have ranged from research about enhancing radiology techniques, to the removal of an invasive species of fish in Belize, to archeological digs in the Middle East. Speakers also tell students how to get involved with research at A&M. We will have more “Donuts and Discussions” in the spring. Additionally, we plan on hosting a practice poster session for the individuals who plan to present at Student Research Week in late March, as well as anyone interested in learning about research.
Special Topics Panels: In the fall of 2014, HSC hosted a panel entitled “Women in STEM: Overcoming Sexual Discrimination Barriers to Excel in Traditionally Male-Dominated Fields.” At the panel, 6 distinguished STEM professors spoke about their experiences being a woman in STEM, a traditionally male-dominated field, and how overcoming sexual barriers was (and is) difficult for them. The faculty inspired the audience by their resilience and reminded us that we all need to do our part to end sexual discrimination.
Following in the footsteps of “Women in STEM,” HSC hosted another panel event in the fall of 2015 about the culture of mental health among honors students. Entitled “”Breaking the Silence: Mental Health Stigma in the Honors Community,” the panel was moderated by Dr. Maggie Gartner, the director of the Texas A&M Student Counseling Services, and featured 5 honors students and an one former honors student who live with mental health issues like anxiety disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts. The panel’s diverse background of experiences and accomplishments, ranging from receiving prestigious national fellowships to participating in specialized internships, demonstrated that you can be successful while battling a mental illness or mental distress. This challenged the misconception that mental health struggles and success are dichotomous. The panel ignited an important discussion about how we treat mental health in the honors community, as well as provided important resources like the counseling center to students. HSC will likely host another large panel in the spring, potentially initiating a series relating to mental and physical health.
Service: Beginning in the fall of 2015, HSC has started to arrange service opportunities for honors students in the Bryan/College Station community. VP of Activities, Alyssa Salisbury, has been working with local schools to arrange tutoring opportunities for honors students that will hopefully begin this spring. VP of Academics and Special Events, Mita Coker, arranged several opportunities to volunteer with the Bryan animal shelter. We will be continuing our work with the animal shelter in the spring, including hopefully having a puppy-petting station on campus and an adoption center during parents weekend in April.
In addition to the events listed above, HSC is also responsible for advocating for honors students concerns to HURAC. Thanks to your feedback, within the past year there was a change from an honors “credits” system to an honors “points” system. Essentially, this gives more flexibility in reaching the required 30 “hours/credits” needed to get the University Honors distinction. This flexibility allows for some points to be earned from honors extracurricular activities, such as being an executive in Honors Student Council, as well as points from high-impact experiences, like study abroad and internships.
Honors Student Council is able to provide enriching events and serve as advocates for Honors Students’ interests because of the generous support from the Association of Former Students. We are very grateful for their ongoing support!
The Wells Fargo Honors Faculty Mentor Award recognizes and rewards Honors faculty members whose dedication and
commitment to excellence in education is truly outstanding.
These faculty members encourage a spirit of inquiry in their students, are thoughtful teachers, and exhibit the strongest desire to train a new generation of thinkers and creators. This award is of special significance because recipients are nominated and selected by Honors Students.
The 2014 recipient of the Wells Fargo Honors Faculty Mentor Award, presented by Honors Student Council, is Dr. Donald J. Curtis, Jr.
Dr. Curtis was nominated by Honors Student Travis Askew. In the nomination statement, Askew writes:
Dr. Don Curtis is a man who truly cares for all the students within the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M. He is the Assistant Dean of Liberal Arts and the head of Liberal Arts Honors. Additionally, he is the head of the Cornerstone Liberal Arts Honors Program, which he puts a majority of his time into maturing. His goal with Cornerstone Program is to take some of the greatest students the Liberal Arts College has to offer and turn them into great critical thinkers and leaders. He teaches his students how to think critically and gives them the opportunity to gain international experience. In everything he does, it is truly evident that he cares for his students. He makes himself completely available to his students, whether they have important questions, or just need to talk: he is always there for his students. Furthermore, he truly cares for the development and advancement of his students inside and outside of the classroom. He doesn’t make his classes easy. He gives his students challenging assignments that take them outside of their comfort zone so that they will grow and be better prepared for the challenges that life and college will throw at them in the future. Dr. Curtis goes above and beyond the call of duty. He takes being an instructor and an adviser to whole new level and leaves a lasting, positive impact on all the students who have the privilege to spend any amount of time with him.
Dr. Don Curtis is Assistant Dean for High Impact Programs for the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University. He is also a visiting assistant professor of American History and Director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program. Dr. Curtis is Director of the Cornerstone Program Honors Learning Community, a group of some of the best and brightest Liberal Arts majors at Texas A&M
Dr. Curtis received his doctorate from Texas A&M University in 2000 with a specialty in American Military and Diplomatic History. He has been at Texas A&M since 1993 and has previously served as Honors Program Coordinator for the University and Director of Undergraduate Student Services for the College of 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.
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 also authored several articles in military history and the applications of honors programs and learning communities in higher education.
Dr. Curtis had the honor of being a Fish Camp namesake in 2013 and was a TEDx TAMU speaker in 2014.
Dr. Curtis has been married to his wife Kari for fifteen years. They have an eight year old son, Ben, a lab/hound mix dog and a 100% antisocial cat.