Tag Archives: Jamaica Pouncy

HUR Staff Spotlight: Jamaica Pouncy

Jamaica Afiya Pouncy (she does prefer you use her middle name) is the University Scholars program coordinator for Honors and Undergraduate Research and the National Fellowships Coordinator for Texas A&M University.

Jamaica Pouncy
Jamaica Pouncy, Program Coordinator

Jamaica grew up in the college town of Oberlin, Ohio and the neighboring town of Elyria where she participated in school orchestras, Academic Challenge and Drama Club. She attended Spelman College where her initial plan was to major in English and become a children’s book author. After changing her major several times she eventually found herself in the mathematics department and discovered that she enjoyed the beauty of a well-constructed proof. Aside from studying mathematics she was a resident assistant for three years including one year as Senior Resident Assistant. However, Jamaica never lost her love of children’s books and decided to revisit that field in a different way. She attended graduate school at the University of Alabama (before they became an Aggie rival) and earned her master’s degree in Library and Information Studies while specializing in Children’s librarianship.

Drawing on her experience as a resident assistant, Jamaica applied and was selected to serve as coordinator of the Honors Housing Community at A&M. She started this role whilst finishing her graduate degree. When a position opened in the office as the coordinator of National Fellowships and University Scholars she threw her hat in the ring and the rest, as they say, is history. She feels this position is a particularly strong fit for her because she enjoys learning about so many different topics (hence the uncertainty when it came to selecting a college major) and loves long philosophical, ethical, and hypothetical discussions. Jamaica finds her role particularly enjoyable because the students she works with are so interesting. While selecting University Scholars and assisting students in their fellowship applications she has learned about everything from engineering ”total artificial hearts” to stemming the sale of archaeological artifacts on the black market. She enjoys helping students apply for national fellowships because of the opportunities they provide for new and exciting adventures. To Jamaica, her fellowships candidates are those people who truly take “the path less traveled” and she describes them as the “person at the cocktail party that everyone wants to talk to.”

In her spare time, Jamaica enjoys solving jigsaw puzzles, hanging out with her parents and three siblings (who have all managed to end up in the same region of Texas), playing with her dog, Vinnie, and watching Korean and Taiwanese dramas.

Jamaica’s dog, Vinnie

Art Connections: University Scholars broaden their understanding of what art is through STEM lectures, gallery visits

This guest post from Adelia Humme ’15 summarizes her experience with the University Scholars art exploration seminar this past fall. You can find more of Adelia’s writing on The English Aggie, the blog of A&M’s English department.  http://englishaggie.blogspot.com/.

This semester, the University Scholars program underwent a change in the structure of its weekly seminar courses.  The seminars introduced the “Exploration” lecture series, inviting A&M professors to each present one lesson to the groups of Scholars.  The Art class, composed of Adelia Humme ’15, Ryan Trantham ’15, Adri Galvan ’16, and Aaron Griffin ’16, benefitted from the visits of Dr. Karen-Beth Scholthof, a professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Mircrobiology; Dr. Jill Zarestky, who teaches in both the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development; and Dr. Vatche Tchakerian, a professor of Geography and Geology & Geophysics.  From Dr. Scholthof, the class learned that Beatrice Potter, beloved children’s author best known for creating the character of Peter Rabbit, was an expert botanist skilled in highly accurate illustrations of flora.  Dr. Zarestky, who in previous years has led a freshman seminar course about using math in arts and crafts, provided supplies for a brief lesson in knitting, which the Scholars agreed was an addicting yet soothing activity.  Demonstrating how to examine the depictions of geology in landscape painting, Dr. Tchakerian explained his fascination with identifying specific rock types and structures in art.

Dr. Jill Zaretsky discusses fiber arts and math with University Scholars. http://www.math.tamu.edu/~zarestky/arts--crafts--math/
Dr. Jill Zaretsky discusses fiber arts and math with University Scholars.

In between professor-led sessions, the Scholars investigated other topics, such as Caldecott Award winners, and engaged our persistence and creativity to carve pumpkins for a Halloween celebration.  Over the course of the semester, the class visited two on-campus art galleries, beginning with the Wright Gallery in Langford Architecture Center.  Here we viewed the mandalas – circular religious symbols – created out of brightly colored plastic bags by Virginia Fleck as a commentary on consumerism and our society’s obsession with Hollywood culture.  A later visit to the Forsyth Galleries introduced us to the MSC’s portraiture collection.

During our discussions, we debated what art is.  While some Scholars felt that art required an emotional response in the viewer, others thought that art was a piece intentionally created for the purpose of conveying the artist’s message.  One idea proposed was that art is the process through which media are transformed.  For the first week’s written reflection, a weekly assignment that allowed the Scholars to respond to the topics presented in class, each of us had to compose a personal definition of art.  Confronted with controversial examples, such as Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain,” a urinal turned on its side, we had to consider whether art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, a concept that led us to conclude that art often has a social component, a public “approval rating” that increases the value of certain works.

Arguably the best outcome of this course is that, thanks to the array of perspectives provided by professors from STEM fields and our own diverse areas of study, we have learned that art is not limited to the humanities.  Discovering how to apply this subject in new ways allows us to imagine how else we might cross the normally intimidating boundaries between academic fields and become more willing to dabble outside of our areas of expertise.

University Scholar Adelia Humme '15 displays a pumpkins she carved as part of the Art Exploration series.
University Scholar Adelia Humme ’15 displays a pumpkin she carved as part of the Art Exploration series.

Enriching programs like University Scholars would not be possible without the guidance of Program Coordinator Jamaica Pouncy, the tireless support of our faculty, and the generous contributions the Association of Former Students.

Comedy: Work, Play, or Both?

This guest post from Brenton Cooper ’15 highlights his experience in the University Scholars comedy exploration group. Brenton, an economics and philosophy double-major, is on Twitter @brentonhcooper. You can learn more about Brenton’s experience as an Honors Student at Texas A&M by visiting his ePortfolio.

– by Brenton Cooper ’15

University Scholar Brenton Cooper '16
University Scholar Brenton Cooper ’16

We often view humor as somewhat of a toy and perceive it as being on par with kids’ video games or Cartoon Network: cheap, silly sources of quick entertainment. Maybe this is evidenced by the fact that many of our comedy shows are late at night. Whether it’s The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon or The Late Show with David Letterman (please note here that definitions of what constitutes “comedy” vary), our most popular comedians seem to be scheduled at a ridiculously late hour of the night. We take care of our work, come home and take care of dinner and chores, and watch our primetime dramas and sports events. Finally, when our brain is fried and we can no longer take part in anything of importance, we revel in comedy.

Comedy can, however, be quite serious and deeply important. In some senses, it might in fact be the most serious and most important thing in the world. This past semester, some of my fellow University Scholars and I took part in a seminar on comedy led by Jamaica Pouncy. We got to hear from a professor from the business school who explored comedy’s applications in marketing. We heard from a scholar on Jewish, female comedians who made social statements through their comedy about their lives and times in the 1950s. And we heard from a graduate student who studies how cultures and nations appropriate and reflect on themselves through the use of internet memes.

This experience showed us that comedy has tremendous applications of a serious nature. “Humor is a rubber sword,” says comedian Mary Hirsh. “It allows you to make a point without drawing blood.” Because of its ability to spread messages without offending people, humor plays an immensely important role in politics. For better or worse, people are more likely to share and pay attention to clips of John Oliver or satire from The Onion than whatever publications the Congressional Budget Office puts out. Comedy also has a huge impact on our purchasing habits. Last year, companies paid $4 million for a thirty-second opportunity to make Super Bowl viewers laugh. And it has an immense role in the way in which we understand our cultures and communities. Sometimes it is only by laughing at ourselves that we are able to be honest with ourselves about who we are as people and as a broader community.

The philosopher Michael Oakeshott once made a helpful distinction between work and play. Work, he argues, is what we do when we use the materials the world provides for the sake of something else. Play, on the other hand, is that in which we participate for its own sake. This dichotomy presents a helpful lens for viewing the role of comedy. To be sure, comedy is play—something which can be wholly and thoroughly enjoyed for its own sake alone. To deny this would be to deprive comedy of its most important function: enriching our lives by making us laugh. But we would be remiss not to recognize that in some ways it constitutes work. As a society, we wield comedy as a potent weapon for a number of serious endeavors. In that way humor, which appears silly and childish on the surface can, in fact–for better or worse–be one of the most serious forces in the world.

Enriching programs like University Scholars would not be possible without the guidance of Program Coordinator Jamaica Pouncy, the tireless support of our faculty, and the generous contributions the Association of Former Students.

The Many Functions of Music

Carli Domenico ’15 is a junior University Studies-Honors major with a focus on neuroscience. She is also completing minors in psychology and philosophy. This guest post from Carli highlights her experience in the University Scholars music exploration group. To learn more about Carli’s experience as an Honors Student at Texas A&M, please visit her ePortfolio.

– by Carli Domenico ’15

University Scholar Carli Domenico '15
University Scholar Carli Domenico ’15

Music is everywhere. It is an industry, an art, and a science. Our emotions are enhanced and our memories are evoked by it. Overlooking the role of music in our lives is easy, but after deliberation, one can see how prominent it really is. It brings drama to a movie. It gives energy to a restaurant. It makes car drives more interesting, and it makes exercise an adventure.

In a seminar on music this past semester with University Scholars, we discussed many facets of music from its structure to its role in culture. Ethnomusicologists came to discuss their research. One explained the influence of music genres in forming an identity for certain groups. The power of music is so strong that people will dress a certain way to associate themselves with the music and to find others that have the same tastes and beliefs as them.   Another musicologist discussed issues in Brazil. With the banning of loud bars in residential areas, the youth have rebelled by gathering in varying places and by playing loud music in speaker systems in their cars. He also discussed the pairing of abstract images to enhance the sensory experience attained in a musical performance. A professional conductor visited, and he explained how complex a music performance can be. He gave us examples of famous musical pieces and how they were similar and different in regard to their structure. He discussed their importance as they marked major shifts in music composition over time. The Honors Program’s very own Antoine Jefferson explained the structure of music and how it is read. Finally, a philosophy professor came to discuss how hip hop artists communicate certain messages that shape society and our perception of individuals in it.

We gained a very comprehensive understanding of music as a result of this seminar, and we learned its importance to the human experience. Victor Hugo once said: “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”. Music is an impressive creation unique to humans. It is therapeutic, and in many ways, it defines us. In a TED talk, Robert Gupta explained the medicinal nature of music and how it provided sanity for the famous violinist, Nathaniel Ayers, who struggled with schizophrenia. The playing of musical numbers pacified Nathaniel, grounded him, and elicited his brilliance. The function of music is beyond its ability to make humans dance.

A church program would not deliver such deep spiritual connection without its hymnals. A movie would seem incomplete if silence replaced the dramatic crescendos of the climax. Performance might decline in exercise and in academia without the motivational stir inside one’s ear buds. Music is fundamental to the human experience. It is an art constituted through the media of sound. The seminar this semester showed the many applications of music and its importance. Cultures may differ in the value and creation of music, yet it is a universal language that connects us all.

Enriching programs like University Scholars would not be possible without the guidance of Program Coordinator Jamaica Pouncy, the tireless support of our faculty, and the generous contributions the Association of Former Students.

Introducing the Class of 2017 University Scholars

University Scholars are an amazing group of students from all across the campus who not only excel academically but embody the philosophy of our program by being willing to embrace challenge and take full advantage of the vast resources that our campus and community has to offer.

University Scholars are incredibly diverse; in their academic and personal interests, in their career goals, and in their beliefs. What they share is a dedication to their individual goals, a thirst for knowledge, willingness to go outside of their comfort zone, and the perseverance and determination to achieve anything they set their mind to. We have the highest of expectations for you, our new Honors students, and we will continue to expect great things from you.

Not only do the students selected for this program meet those expectations, but they continue to astound and amaze us with their ambition, their passion, their talent and their creativity. This is the community into which we welcome our newest University Scholars. These are the expectations that we have of them. We do not doubt that in their lives they will change not only our university, not only our country, but the entire world.

(Adapted from the introduction given by Jamaica Pouncy at the 2014 Honors Welcome)

Top left to right: James Felderhoff, Farid Saemi, Chloe Dixon, Augustus Ellis, Kimberly Lennox, Phillip Hammond. Bottom left to right: Rachel Rosenberg, Alyson Miranda, Katherine Elston, Barbara Tsao.
Top left to right: James Felderhoff, Farid Saemi, Chloe Dixon, Augustus Ellis, Kimberly Lennox, Phillip Hammond. Bottom left to right: Rachel Rosenberg, Alyson Miranda, Katherine Elston, Barbara Tsao.

Chloe Paige Dixon
Chloe is from Austin, Texas and is majoring in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. In addition to being an active volunteer through the Society of Women Engineers, she is a Sophomore Advisor in our honors residence halls, a research assistant at the Cyclotron Institute, and a recipient of the BBVA Compass scholarship.

Augustus John Ellis
Augustus is a Mechanical Engineering major with a minor in Math and Material Sciences from Pearland, Texas. He is a President’s endowed scholar who is already actively involved in research. He plans to pursue advanced degrees in Materials Science and Engineering and Applied Physics in order to develop state-of-the-art novel materials for application.

Katherine Marie Elston
Kate is from Allen, Texas and pursuing a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology. She is a sophomore advisor in our honors residence halls, a member of DEEP – Discover, Explore and Enjoy Physics and Engineering, and will be joining Dr. Golding Biomedical Science lab as a research assistant.

James Albert Felderhoff
James is an Aerospace Engineering major and the treasurer of the A&M chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In addition to his research with the Aggie Sat Lab, James is open water scuba diving certified, a member of the society of flight test engineers, and a licensed pilot.

Phillip Reagan Hammond
Phillip is studying Landscape Architecture with a minor in Urban Planning. He is from Leander, Texas and was valedictorian of his high school, is an active member of Aggie Guide Dogs and Service Dogs and in addition to his hobbies of sketching and painting has published two articles in Axiom, the official publication of the A&M chapter of the American Institute of Architecture Students.

Kimberly Lennox
Kim is a biomedical engineering major with a minor in Business from Plano, TX. She is a president’s endowed scholar and a member of the bioethics forum, the Yacht club and a volunteer at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

Alyson Micole Miranda
Aly is from Missouri City, Texas and majoring in Bioenvironmental Sciences with a minor in Business Administration. She plays the alto saxophone in the TAMU Symphonic Winds, is a sophomore advisor in the Honors residence halls, and the Service and Social Executive for the student volunteer association, Alternative Spring Break

Rachel Anne Rosenberg
Rachel is majoring in chemical engineering and is a clarinet player in the TAMU Wind Symphony. She is an Assistant Director for MSC FISH, winner of the MSC First year Experience award and conducts research on biofuels in Dr. Mark Holtzapple’s lab.

Farid Saemi
Farid is an Aerospace Engineering major with minors in mathematics and computer science from Urmia, Iran via Houston, Texas. He is the guest speaker chair of the A&M chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics who designed motion capture software during his summer internship at the Johnson space center and is currently a research assistant for the Shape Memory alloy research team.

Barbara Tsao
Barbara is a biomedical sciences major from Mountain View, California. She speaks fluent Mandarin, was student body president and salutatorian of her high school, is a member of the Inkling Society and is currently conducting research in Dr. Maren’s lab studying anxiety reducing properties of progesterone.

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!