Tag Archives: Liberal Arts

Undergraduate Teacher Scholars: A Transformative Learning Experience

In the post below, Randal McDonald ’15 describes how his Undergraduate Teacher Scholar (UTS) experience led to the formation of Aggie Kolbitar Society. This is an excellent example of how “high-impact experiences” can truly transform the educational experience, not only for the students that experience them, but for others they are in contact with, too!

by Randal McDonald-

The Aggie Kolbitar Society is a student-led exploration of what we call the classical liberal arts. We’re a collection of the curious, of those who want to understand the fields of literature, music, and art (just to name a few), regardless of our ultimate career goals. But the society wasn’t born from a single cohesive idea. Rather, it began as an assortment of eclectic interests, and an extraordinary opportunity through the Teacher Scholar capstone.

First iteration of the AKS logo.The first part of the society manifested with my friend Laura, with her love of anime, visual art, and writing. For my own part, a love for literature and writing were coupled with my growing up in a family of classical pianists. Neither of us had time for more than one club, but the desire remained for a club that could be about more than one interest exclusively.

The difficulty that Laura and I both recognized was the challenge of fitting so many interests into a single student organization. And, for a long time, our focus remained on starting a club focused on just creative writing. We would periodically talk about this idea, but things never progressed far beyond that point.

Second iteration of the AKS logo.At the same time, I was moving forward through the University Honors program. I became increasingly interested in the program after learning about the Teacher Scholar Capstone. I loved the idea of developing a one-hour seminar course alongside a faculty mentor. It was the perfect excuse to research two of my favorite authors, and the teaching side of the capstone allowed me to explore collegiate pedagogy.

It wasn’t until my last semester of undergrad that I connected this piece with the earlier desires for a liberal arts club. The capstone thoroughly changed my perspective on the classroom dynamic between instructor and students, and I repeatedly wished that all students had the opportunity to go through the process of research, content development, and presentation. And that was where the Kolbitars began. What if a club could give students the opportunity to stand up in front of their peers and talk about their personal interests and passions?

The club’s first meeting was four students in an apartment off campus. Aside from a semi-regular rotation of who acted as the ‘host’ (presenter), the society was fairly informal with no logo, no dues, and no concrete structure. These more visible facets of our society developed later, when AKS moved onto campus as a recognized student organization.

The Kolbitar crest was a design that Laura and I worked on extensively, but it serves as a symbol of the society as a whole. The logo consists of four icons in a diamond shape: the open book, the artist’s palette, the lyre, and the closed book.

Each icon not only represents a fundamental value of the society, but also a part of its founding. AKS members are driven by a desire to learn (the open book), by a sense of wonder and awe at the world we inhabit (the palette), guided by a precise and well-executed form (lyre), with the realization that the absolute is unattainable (the closed book).

AKS constantly works toward self-improvement, and the entire executive committee is thrilled by the coming school year. We hope to continue encouraging student exploration of the liberal arts, and are always excited to meet new people and hear about their interests.

AKS will meet weekly during the fall semester on Thursday at 7 PM in the Liberal Arts and Humanities Building (LAAH), room 504.

For more information about the Undergraduate Teacher Scholars program, visit http://tx.ag/capstones or contact capstones@tamu.edu.


Student Research Week 2017

The 20th annual Student Research Week (SRW) was held March 27-31, 2017. The four-day celebration of student research is coordinated by the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) and provides opportunities for students to present–either orally or in poster form–the research they have conducted as students here at Texas A&M University. The theme for 2017 was inclusivity, and the SRW committee set a goal of representing all of the academic colleges. SRW helps foster a campus-wide culture of research and sets a high standard for student research by advertising the opportunities for inquiry at Texas A&M and inviting the university community to participate in this exciting endeavor.

LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research is excited to announce another successful year for our students at SRW. In addition to comprising a substantial proportion of the presenters, our undergraduates took home the following awards:


Jordan Lewallen, 1st Place Poster
Kendal Paige Ezell, 1st Place Oral
Kanika Gakhar, 2nd Place Oral

Lorna Min, 1st Place Poste
Sara Maynard 2nd Place Poster
Brooke Versace, 1st Place Oral
Miranda Apfel, 2nd Place Oral

Liberal Arts
Claire Nowka, 1st Place Poster
Daniel Joseph Welch, 2nd Place Poster
Amanda Gomez, 1st Place Oral
James McLean Bell, 2nd Place Oral

Agriculture and Life Sciences
Mackenzie Hartman, 1st Place Oral

Janna Brooks, 1st Place Poster

Education and Human Development
Katelyn Elaine Goodroe, 1st Place Poster
Devyn Chan Rice, 2nd Place Oral

Madison Moore, 1st Place Oral

Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
Rebecca Harlow, 1st Place Poster
Rebecca Thornton & Michelle Hoathian, 1st Place Oral
Serene Yu, 2nd Place Oral

Health Sciences
Morgan Riba, 1st Place Poster
Gabriella Abouelkheir, 2nd Place Poster
Virginia Beth Neese, 1st Place Poster


Sigma Xi Symposium Theme Award
Brooke Versace, Undergraduate Winner

Sigma Xi Interdisciplinary Award
Thomas Edward Settlemyre, Undergraduate Winner

Melbern G. Glasscock Humanities Special Award
James McLean Bell, Undergraduate Winner

University Center Award for Outstanding Abstract
Nicole Green, Undergraduate Winner

University Writing Center Award for Outstanding Presentation
Amanda Gomez, Undergraduate Winner

Provost Watson presents Josh Fuller ‘17 with a certificate of appreciation for his help with SRW 2017
Photo credit: Elizabeth Peterson

For more information about getting involved in undergraduate research, visit http://ugr.tamu.edu.

Alex Luna: Mate Club

Honors Students away from campus for study abroad, co-ops, or internships are encouraged to write about their experiences to share them with the Honors community. In the post below, junior Spanish and communication double-major Alex Luna ’17 shares what he learned about the value of political engagement in Buenos Aires, Argentina while studying there during Fall 2015.

By Alex Luna ’17

This past semester, I have been living and studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During my time here, I have had the opportunity to attend a cultural language exchange club called “Mate Club de Conversación.” Mate is an herbal tea that the Argentines drink socially, to study, or stay alert during a long workday. It has become an integral part of Argentine culture. Preparing a good “mate” has become a tradition in itself. There has even become a judged, national contest each year to see who can prepare the best tasting mate. To put it frankly, mate is a BIG deal in Argentina.

At Mate Club de Conversación, we talk 15 minutes in Spanish and 15 minutes in English while sharing a “mate.” The setup allows us to both work on our foreign language while at the same time enjoying each other’s company. No topic is taboo at Mate Club. It has been here that I have fully understood what Argentina was, is, and hopes to be.

During the past six months, Argentina has been in their process of electing a new president. I believe that everyone should experience the political process of a foreign country for it will truly challenge the one where you live. Living in Buenos Aires, the national capitol of Argentina, there are people of every background and political mindset mixed together. Mate Club brings a diverse group of people from many backgrounds, age groups, and political mindsets together in one setting.

During my time attending Mate Club, I was given an insight into the minds of many different people and what they thought. In Argentina, it is not taboo to talk about politics or the political process. Friends, new acquaintances, and family can share opposing views without fear of ruined friendships or hurt feelings. Almost every conversation with a new Argentine friend started with a chat about politics in Argentina and the United States.

Argentines understand the importance of democracy for it was only a little over 30 years ago that it was restored from a harsh dictatorship. This fervor and invested interest in politics made me wonder what our political participation was once like during the birth of our country. Our deadlocked political system where we are scared to talk about our political views must be changed. For political change to happen, we must be able to talk about it freely, without fear of a lost friendship or heavily, heated debate. The Argentines understand this. We should learn from them.

These raw conversations have challenged the way I think about the world and who I am. If you are ever in Buenos Aires, I highly recommend attending Mate Club de Conversación. It is here that I have made friends and learned lessons that I will keep for a lifetime.

Alex (middle) with Rodrigo (right) and Nahue (left), the founders of Mate Club de Conversación
Alex (middle) with Rodrigo (right) and Nahue (left), the founders of Mate Club de Conversación

Want to learn more about mate? Traveling to Argentina and want to plug in with Mate Club de Conversación? Visit http://www.mate-club.com.ar.

Dr. Donald J. Curtis, Jr. Selected for 2015 Director’s Award

The Director’s Award for Outstanding Service to Honors Programs was created in 2010 to recognize significant contribution to and support of the efforts of the University Honors Program on campus.

The 2015 recipient of the Director’s Award is Dr. Donald J. Curtis, Jr.

Dr. Don Curtis, 2015 Director's Award Recipient
Dr. Don Curtis, 2015 Director’s Award Recipient

Honors and Undergraduate Research thanks Dr. Curtis for his unending support of University Honors and Honors education at Texas A&M in general. His dedication to and high standards for the Cornerstone Honors Program in the Liberal Arts as well as his willingness to give of his time and energy to mentor colleagues across campus in the art of Honors is greatly appreciated. Dr. Curtis also provided critical insights and suggestions as we revised University Honors and developed the Common Honors Information page and Common Honors Application. His close personal attention to the College of Liberal Arts Honors Program enabled many students to have enriching educational and personal experiences while at Texas A&M.

Dr. Don Curtis currently serves as the Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Programs in the Department of Public Health Studies in the Texas A&M Health Science Center, a position he has held since March 2015.

Dr. Curtis has been at Texas A&M since 1993 and previously served as Honors Programs Coordinator in what was then the Office of Honors Programs and Academic Scholarships, Director of Undergraduate Student Services for the College of Liberal Arts, and Assistant Dean for High Impact Programs in 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.

Dr. Curtis received his doctorate from Texas A&M University in 2000 with a specialty in American Military and Diplomatic History.  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 authored several articles in military history and the applications of  honors programs and learning communities in higher education.

Dr. Curtis was named the Wells Fargo Faculty Mentor of the Year in 2014 and was a 2013 Fish Camp Namesake.  He is a past President of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society at Texas A&M and has served as a University Scholars Faulty Mentor.

Dr. Curtis has been married to his wife Kari for sixteen years.  They have a nine year old son, Ben, a lab/hound mix and an antisocial cat.

Our warm congratulations and well-deserved thanks go to Dr. Curtis for his strong support of Honors. We will be presenting the Director’s Award to Dr. Curtis at the HUR Recognition Ceremony on Thursday, May 14, 2015. For a list of previous recipients, visit the TAMU HUR Faculty Awards page.


Student Recognized for Work on Undergraduate Journal

Senior telecommunications major and Explorations Student Executive Board member Annabelle Aymond was recently profiled for her work with the undergraduate journal on the TAMU College of Liberal Arts news page. Here is an excerpt from that post:

“It’s really just become part of my life,” said Aymond.

Now in her third year working on the journal, the Woodlands native serves as a member of the executive board and is in charge of the journal’s layout design.

“The executive board members basically run the whole show,” said Aymond. “We do everything from planning how we’re going to do the proposals, accepting research proposals from undergrads, communicate to advisors and deans and other faculty members what we think is best for students.”

“Doing Explorations has been more meaningful to me for job prospects because I really enjoy looking at research, I love reading research and I love academics,” said Aymond. “This school is full of opportunity and I hope that other students can use it.”

Annabelle Aymond (left) and Dr. Suma Datta (right), Executive Director for Honors and Undergraduate Research pose with the latest Explorations cover art.
Annabelle Aymond (left) and Dr. Suma Datta (right), Executive Director for Honors and Undergraduate Research pose with the latest Explorations cover art.

To read the full post on the TAMU College of Liberal Artsnews page, visit http://goo.gl/u2C0lb

To learn more about Explorations and how you can get involved, visit http://hur.tamu.edu/Explorations.

Former Student Spotlight: Stephanie Osborne

Stephanie Osborne,’09, is a lobbyist for an international oil & gas company in Washington, D.C. In response to an email to our Honors Former Students, Stephanie wrote to share how her experience in Honors has helped shape her career.

 Stephanie’s comments join a larger conversation about the value of Honors Education. For more of this conversation, see “What’s the Point of an Honors College, Anyway,” by Dr. Nancy West (Mizzou),

My parents (both die-hard Baylor grads) were furious when I chose to go to A&M. I decided to prove them wrong, that I would not be a small fish in a big pond. I did pretty much anything and everything I could during my time at A&M including:

  • graduating with  LBAR [Liberal Arts], University & Foundation Honors
  • studied abroad twice (Moscow & Kyrgyzstan)
  • international research in Moscow for my Honors Fellows Capstone Thesis
  • doubled majored and double minored
  • LBAR Student Council
  • pledged and served on leadership in my sorority
  • president of the Aggie International Ambassadors
  • worked part time during the school year and full time in the summers I wasn’t abroad
  • Academy for Future Int’l Leaders

– and never missed an Aggie Football or Basketball game. If it was an option, I did it! And I think I am still trying to catch up on sleep many years later!

I’ve been reflecting on my time at A&M—especially the honors program—a lot lately. I did not engage in the social aspects much, but some of the coursework and professors have really stuck with me.

Just the other day I bonded with a congressional staffer who studied anthropology in school because I was forced to take an LBAR course (that I didn’t want to take but was required) with a wacky professor who had us out in local cemeteries taking charcoal rubs of gravestones. Many of the research and analytical skills, as well as constructive criticism and tough love I received, from honors programs professors has really shaped my work ethic and way I approach my career.

Stephanie Osborne '09, Whooping at the Great Wall of China
Stephanie Osborne ’09, Whooping at the Great Wall of China

When things get tough here in DC, I think back to the day my Capstone professor told me he was disappointed in my effort halfway through the project and that I did not have what it takes to be an academic. Let me tell you – that hurt. But rather than let it get me down, I decided that nobody was going to tell me what I was or was not capable of. Since then I’ve gone on to get my MA from The George Washington University and scratched and clawed my way into being the youngest and only female executive in my office.

What I valued most about the A&M Honors program was that they didn’t coddle me. They didn’t tell me I was awesome and then give me my A’s. They made me work! They made me think! They forced me to experience things that were different and difficult. For that, I am very grateful.

We love to share updates and celebrate successes with our Honors graduates! Have something you want to share? Please send it to honors@tamu.edu