Tag Archives: Jonathan Kotinek

HSC Reports – NCHC 2017

Honors Student Council continued a tradition of representing TAMU at the annual national conference for Honors this year with three members attending: Sarah Kilpatrick ’18, President; Luke Oaks ’19, Vice President for Activities, and Megan Whitlock ’18, member-at-large.

The purpose in having students attend this conference is two fold:

  1. We want our students to get valuable perspective about what Honors education looks like nationally, to make connections with students from across the country and around the world, and to have an appreciation of how Honors opportunities at Texas A&M stack up to those offered elsewhere.
  2. We want our students to bring their broadened perspective back to Texas A&M and use the energy gained from these interactions and the ideas gleaned to improve our programs.
Texas A&M contingent at NCHC 2017 (left to right): Megan Whitlock, Benjamin Simington, Dustin Kemp, Luke Oaks, Jonathan Kotinek, Sarah Kilpatrick

Read below to hear what each of these students got out of the conference and the ideas inspired by this conference that they’d like to see take root at Texas A&M:

Sarah Kilpatrick

Luke Oaks

Megan Whitlock


Sarah Kilpatrick
This past November, Honors gave me the opportunity to go to the National Collegiate Honors Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Conferences in the past that I have attended were very topic-specific, from a specific industry to national affairs. However, this conference felt so unlike others that I have attended because it covered so many different aspects of honors education, personal development, organization development, and even seeking adventures in any situation.

The first major program that I went to was called “City as a Text”. There was not much description given to the event before it began, the only thing that we could know was where in the city we would be exploring that day. Eventually the coordinators explained what the premise of the event was– to discover how a neighborhood formed and exists today based on observation of social norms and by talking to those who live in it. As someone who generally enjoys the art of wandering an unfamiliar place, it sounded like a perfect match. My group ended up in the Buckhead neighborhood and spent the afternoon walking around old, multimillion dollar homes surrounded by parks established in the early 1900’s and high-end shopping. Even more fascinating than the actual wandering was the analysis of the area at the end of the day by different groups. Some groups saw how the area subtly discouraged poorer groups of people from being seen on their streets and the “acceptable aesthetics” of some old buildings while others were torn down to make room for more acceptable looking buildings. Other groups were fascinated with the friendliness of the people of Atlanta and fell in love with the affluent charm of that area. The sharing of perspectives that is a hallmark of many honors programs shone through during this time.

The rest of the conference was spent in different panels and discussion groups. My goal was to come out of the conference with ideas on how to improve Honors Student Council programs and to hear how other schools fostered their communities for the full four years. I also learned more than expected from the presentations that were selected on a whim, like the value that is found for honors programs in nontraditional college students or how countries like China are creating honors colleges. Altogether these topics will lead to radical improvements on Honors Student Council representation, events, and expectations.

In the end, the value of any conference is the ability to hear and speak to individuals in similar circumstances that have explored different ways to solve problems or challenges. I highly encourage anyone who can to find a way to go to at least one conference that you are interested in before graduation, because it expands perspectives in such a unique way and creates memories and friendships that will last for years. These perspectives can be found both inside the conference or even while exploring the city itself. The world is full of people that can teach you something new about life, and I highly recommend putting yourself in the situation to find and to learn from them.

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Luke Oaks
On November 11th, I was sitting at a diner counter in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The museum staff directed me to put on a pair of headphones and place my hands on the counter. A surround-sound recording indicative of the atmosphere at lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement began to play. I listened to two minutes of hate, and was overwhelmed with emotion. First, there was shame for historic injustices and a continued lack of social equity in the United States. But hours later, there was hope. In February of 1960, four black college students tactfully sat at a whites-only lunch counter after purchasing items in same department store. They brought national attention to the Civil Rights Movement, and lunch counters were desegregated en masse following over four months of protest that grew out of their initiative. These men met during their freshman year at North Carolina A&T State University, and none were pursuing the same undergraduate degree; their legacy has nothing to do with their undergraduate specialty. What role do our K-12 and college education systems play in promoting informed multi-disciplinary efforts that impact the public? This question has been on my mind since attending the 2017 National Collegiate Honors Council’s Annual Conference (NCHC 2017) in Atlanta, Georgia. Both are worth addressing from an academic’s lens of research, teaching, and service.

Through my undergraduate education, I have had the opportunity to conduct research with physiologists, biomedical engineers, and industrial engineers. Bringing these experiences together, my intention is to pursue a Ph.D. in industrial and systems engineering. I currently work with a multi-disciplinary cognitive ergonomics research group to increase the accessibility of medicine for individuals with reduced access to primary care alongside a consortium of university, industry, and government partners. While at NCHC 2017, I heard from MacArthur Fellow and human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson on the significance of being proximate to those in need. I also enjoyed visited with Dr. Cristina McIntyre of Virginia Tech; we discussed the logistics of becoming a public intellectual and she directed me towards Dr. Patricia Raun – a colleague who teaches science communication. I look forward to continued conversations with our National Fellowships Advisor, Ben Simington, on how my multi-disciplinary efforts to impact health care and education can further develop.

My engineering degree here at Texas A&M includes courses on physiology, bioresponse, nanotechnology, human factors, and sociology. To my own surprise, my favorite classes have been taught in the department of sociology. I’ve had the opportunity to take Intro to Sociology as well as Sociology of Death & Dying with Dr. Alex Hernandez. He has inspired me to analyze culture and is now collaborating with me to teach a new class on the sociology of cultural change. The goal of this elective course is to provide students with the tools to properly handle difficult situations in leadership and activism, overcome obstacles to enacting change, and impact those they serve. I enjoy sociology because it challenges me to view life as a system, and it inherently promotes multi-disciplinary thinking. For example, the sociology of change affects every major social, political, and economic institution in the world. I met the University of Florida Honors Dean, Dr. Mark Law, at NCHC 2017, and discussed the role of Honors programs in preparing students to teach at the university level. I will be working with our Capstones Advisor, Dustin Kemp, to prepare for teaching my first course with the support of Dr. Hernandez.

How do we promote multidisciplinary learning and outreach at the university and K-12 level? What was a Cohort-based program for researchers to become public intellectuals look like?

As this academic year’s Vice President of Academic Affairs for our Student Government Association, I have been extensively engaged with promoting an improved student academic experience across all college disciplines. I serve as the chair of a faculty subcommittee for the development of plenary event at a teaching conference at Texas A&M in April of 2017. I work with the Provost’s Office on a effort to improve student success through a centralized application that improves advising. I co-lead an award program that recognizes and incentivizes the usage of open educational resources over costly textbooks. Further, I have directed a student-run volunteer afterschool tennis program called “Serve it Up!”, served a resident advisor, and remain an ambassador for our university’s Honors program. Service is an integral component of my life, and my time at NCHC 2017 further informed my perspective on the subject. Ben Reno-Weber of Mobile Serve discussed efforts to use decision science for deeper student engagement. Dr. Jose Rodriguez at Florida International University shared his study of personality and motivation within Honors. Tom Matson of Gallup talked about strengths-based leadership. My futurist and activator strengths are alive in my thinking about what it would look like to develop a cohort-based program for researchers and faculty to be trained as public intellectuals. I am excited for future conversations with Associate Director of LAUNCH, Dr. Jonathan Kotinek, on how a university would translate such an idea into a reality.

Multi-disciplinary research allows me to freely work at the intersection of fields. I intend to have a faculty career built upon collaborating with leaders from biomedical engineering, public policy, and beyond to increase the accessibility medicine for individuals with reduced access to primary care. It is also a goal of mine to work with teachers, parents, and politicians to broaden participation in STEM and promote more high-impact learning experiences from kindergarten through higher education. These are engaging multi-disciplinary efforts, but certainly not what I initially expected out of my college experience. While at Texas A&M, I changed my major to pursue my dual interest in biomedical and systems engineering. As an interdisciplinary engineering major, I am developing a foundation for a lifetime of multi-disciplinary work. And yet, if it were not for the support of the University Honors program, I may not have changed majors. I am employable in that I create value through the collaborative integration of fields – biomedical and systems engineering, sociology and education, etc. As our world grows increasingly more complex, we need more multi-disciplinary research, teaching, and service efforts to think systemically about our cities, schools, and world. Since attending the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Annual Conference, I have grown all the more excited to take on this charge. Thanks & Gig ‘Em.

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Megan Whitlock
This November, I had the opportunity to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council conference in Atlanta, Georgia, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After a long road trip to Atlanta (14 hours in the car-yikes), plenty of road trip games and bathroom breaks in sketchy bathrooms (Buc-ee’s, where you at?), and being told “there’s no room left in the inn” (literally, but that’s a whole other story), the four days of the conference began, which boasted a variety of speakers, sessions, and experiences. For an introvert like myself, this was super daunting at first and exhausting at the time, but super rewarding afterwards.

Close to the beginning of the conference, as part of the City As Text experience, we explored part of Atlanta in my favorite way: wandering and getting lost. We were tasked with observing the neighborhood of Buckhead and everything it had to offer, as well as the issues we perceived there. It is fascinating to discover a city in this way, having no preconceived notions of what it would be like. There was time to explore the city on our own as well; we found good coffee at Café Lucia, because like any good college students, we don’t go long without coffee. And after the conference was over one night, I suggested a trip to the local natural history museum, because what else does a good science nerd do with free time, amiright?

All these experiences were enjoyable, but the real reason we were there was to network and learn from faculty, staff, directors, and students from other honors programs and colleges. Because there were so many sessions offered, I was able to find topics I was passionate about applying to our honors program. A few of my favorites include addressing student mental health concerns in high-achieving honors environments, making honors courses and course contracts more accessible and less intimidating, and making creative, non-research capstone projects as appealing and prestigious as the research capstone. But before this conference, I would have assumed that these issues would have to be addressed and solved by the “real adults” that work in the LAUNCH office. As students, we often don’t feel like we have influence in the way our University and its programs run. But if there is one thing this experience taught me, it’s this: Students have power. If we want something to be changed, it is possible for us to initiate and advocate for that change. So a small piece of advice from an outgoing senior who feels old at this point: Don’t underestimate the power of your voice. Find things you’re passionate about and speak up about them. Eventually, people will listen. Gig ‘em, Nerds.

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Megan Whitlock ’18

 

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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.

HUR Staff Spotlight: Jonathan Kotinek

Jonathan Kotinek ‘99 serves as Associate Director for Honors and Undergraduate Research, where he has advised students since 2003. He holds both a B.A. and M.A. in English from Texas A&M University and earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology in 2013. His dissertation title was “A Narrative Examination of the Experience of Early Entrance to College.”

Kotinek was born in Colorado and grew up in Arlington and Grand Prairie, TX. As a student at South Grand Prairie High School, he was a three-year letterman in football, competed in UIL Literary Criticism, and participated in choir and theatre. Kotinek was not an Honors student while an undergraduate at Texas A&M, but he did take an Honors history course his first semester as a freshman. It was the only “A” he made that semester. He likes to use his poor decisions as learning opportunities for advisees.

Kotinek did not consider attending graduate school until encouraged to do so by Dr. Finnie Coleman. After taking an Introduction to African American Literature course with Dr. Coleman, he was convinced to pursue an M.A. in English. Coleman previously served as Associate Director for Honors Programs at Texas A&M.

While completing requirements for his master’s degree, Kotinek took “Issues in Child and Adolescent Development” with Dr. Joyce Juntune and was introduced to scholarly work on gifted education. Dr. Juntune encouraged Kotinek to pursue his doctorate.

Kotinek has been active with the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), serving as a member of the Board of Directors from 2011-2014, and as co-chair for the Diversity Issues Committee since 2006. Kotinek was co-editor of the monograph Setting the Table for Diversity with Dr. Lisa Coleman (Southeast Oklahoma State University) and authored a paper in that book entitled “Passing for Black: White Privilege and Black Identity Formation.” He is working with Dr. Lisa Coleman and Dr. Alan Oda (Azusa Pacific University) to co-edit a second monograph on diversity titled Occupy Honors Education.

Outside of work, Kotinek is an active member of the St. Silouan the Athonite Orthodox Church parish, established the Aggieland Beard & Moustache Club (now known as the Brazos Valley Whisker Club), and is an avid runner. He spends his time with his family, pictured below.

A man with long red hair and beard sits with a woman and two boys in a field of wildflowers.

Jonathan Kotinek (left) with his family.

From Jon to Dr. Jon!

By Hayley Cox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creativity as a Transcendent Act

This excerpt is from Jonathan Kotinek’s reflection on teaching a University Scholar Mentor Group on “Creativity as a Transcendent Act.”

One of the most satisfying aspects of participating in a University Scholars Faculty Mentor Group is the concrete realization of what it means to be in a “community of learners.” The topics and discussions we visited in our meetings were subjects that I revisited throughout the last year: at work, with my children, and in my own scholarly and creative production.

University Scholars discuss the elements of art with artist J. Vincent Scarpace.

 

I’ve realized that education is providing access to new technologies, machines—yes—but also processes, theories, literatures, all of which have idiosyncratic languages. At our best, educators demonstrate that these technologies exist, introduce their use, and perhaps even engage discussion about whether they should be used.

When we are really successful, our students are aware that technologies might exist to solve questions they have not yet asked, how to find those technologies, and begin critically evaluating the ethics of those technologies. None of this would be possible without pushing the students to explore an uncomfortable subject or situation in the relatively safe setting of a classroom to give confidence so that they can do more of that exploration on their own.

You can read the whole post at http://jkotinek.blogspot.com/2011/08/creativity-as-transcendent-act.html.