Tag Archives: Jonathan Kotinek

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.