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 2017 recipients of the Director’s Award are Mr. Luke Altendorf and Ms. Catharine West ‘95.
Mr. Altendorf the Director of the Memorial Student Center (MSC). He has served in this role since December of 2006 and is responsible for oversight of the MSC’s leadership development programs and its fine arts series, lecture series, and concert series. Mr. Altendorf received his undergraduate degree in Journalism/Public Relations and his Master of Science Degree in Counseling and Student Personnel Administration. He is active in the Association of College Unions International and has served in many leadership roles in this professional organization.
Ms. West is the Development Relations Coordinator for the Memorial Student Center. She coordinates fundraising for the department, advises the MSC Business Associates of Development, coordinates the Stark Northeast Trip for future law and MBA students and the Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar. Ms. West, the daughter of a mechanical engineering professor, was raised in College Station, and graduated with an undergraduate degree in marketing from Texas A&M.
Both Mr. Altendorf and Ms. West have been instrumental in helping to create a culture of excellence in the Honors community on campus by leading the Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar for incoming National Merit freshmen. Affectionately referred to as the “Italy Trip,” the seminar is a partnership between the MSC and Honors that has helped students realize the interconnections between culture and progress and to step into leadership roles across campus to help achieve these goals at Texas A&M. In addition to this important work, Mr. Altendorf and Ms. West are being recognized for helping to establish and strengthen connections between the MSC and the University Honors Program by making access to the enriching programs of the MSC a benefit of participation in Honors.
Nominating outstanding students for nationally-competitive scholarships and fellowships is one way to showcase the world-class undergraduate experience at Texas A&M. Not only do the winners in these competitions receive valuable support for their educational expenses, but they also join professional networks that will continue to open doors throughout their careers. But a student does not have to win a competition to realize the value of the national fellowships application process. The applications for these awards ask students to reflect on their ambitions and how they are building knowledge, skills, and experience related to following their dreams. Students report that the application is a truly clarifying experience.
One of the awards that LAUNCH: National Fellowships serves as a nominating official for is the Udall Scholarship. This award, from the Morris K. & Stuart L. Udall Foundation, recognizes top students planning careers related to the environment, tribal public policy, or Native American health care. Students who are selected will receive scholarships of up to $7000 and join a community of scholars whose dedication to sustainable public policy honors the legacy of the Arizona congressmen.
We are proud to announce the nomination of three TAMU students for the 2017 Udall Scholarship competition: Charlie Arnold, Grace Cunningham, and Jasmine Wang.
Charlie Arnold ’19 is a mechanical engineering undergraduate in the university and engineering honors programs. He spends his spare time designing solar lighting shelters with Give Water Give Life to be used in rural communities in Burkina Faso Africa, and is the vice president of the cycling team. Arnold became interested in the environment through his cycling. His cycling throughout the country opened Arnold’s eyes to the environment and impacts of climate change occurring in the world today. His interest in engineering and energy spurred Arnold to become interested in renewable energy. After completion of his undergraduate mechanical engineering degree, Arnold plans on working for renewable energy companies before following his goal of starting his own net zero energy home company.
Grace Cunningham ’18 is a junior bioenvironmental science major pursuing minors in Spanish and business. Cunningham hopes to unite professionals from varied disciplines—including science, business, planning, and design—across government, academia, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit businesses from around the world to work together to solve environmental problems in a more holistic way. A member of the University Honors Program, she served as a Sophomore Advisor and was inducted as a University Scholar in 2015. Cunningham has worked as an intern with the City of Dallas Trinity Watershed Management, conducted undergraduate research in Dr. Brian Shaw’s fungal biology lab. She has participated in a variety of study-abroad opportunities that include conducting tropical and field biology research on endemic species in the Commonwealth of Dominica, instructing a seminar in Italy as an MSC Champe Fitzhugh Honors International Leadership Seminar student leader, and participating in a student leadership exchange to Qatar in the Persian Gulf Coast; in 2017, she will be studying Spanish language and culture in Barcelona as well as conducting research on sustaining human societies and the natural environment in Antarctica. Cunningham is also a member of the sorority Alpha Chi Omega. After graduating from A&M, Cunningham hopes to pursue a masters degree in environmental management.
Jasmine Wang ‘19 is a sophomore political science major and sociology minor from Houston, TX. Wang is involved in and currently serves as a Student Senator and Chair of Diversity & Inclusion and the Chair of Sustainability through the Texas A&M Student Senate, Aggie Belles, a women’s leadership development and service organization, as well as multiple university-wide committees spanning a wide array of subject matter. Wang also serves as an intern through Texas A&M’s Office of Sustainability, a university institution devoted to fostering a culture of preservation and respect for environmental, social, and economic resources on campus. Just recently, she was a recipient of the prestigious Buck Weirus Spirit Award. Following her completion of an accelerated undergraduate program, Wang plans to attend law school in pursuit of a Juris Doctor with a focus on environmental and energy law and advocacy.
Since 1996, Texas A&M has had seven Udall Scholars and two Honorable Mentions. The most recent Udall Scholar was Victoria Easton ‘15, who was the first TAMU Udall Scholar selected in the Tribal Public Policy category.
To read more about how LAUNCH: National Fellowships helps prepare outstanding students to compete for nationally-competitive awards such as the Udall Scholarship with the generous support of the Association of Former Students, please visit http://tx.ag/NatlFellows.
Biochemistry and genetics double major Jennifer Tran ‘18 from Carrollton, Texas, is the third of our three new Beckman Scholars from Texas A&M University. Tran impressed the faculty, staff, and student application reviewers and interview panel with her ability to view issues from multiple angles, her appreciation of a “eureka” moment earlier this year that changed her view of the world and her enthusiasm for problem solving. While Tran’s description of herself as “independent” and “involved” was clearly demonstrated by her many activities, the critical self-knowledge and self-deprecating humor demonstrated in her application essays made quite an impact on the application readers.
Tran is a University Honors freshman and member of the Biochemistry and Genetics Society. She began research her first semester at TAMU with the Aggie Research Scholars helping to build a self-regulating pressure pump and then moved to the laboratory of Dr. Vishal Gohil in the department of Biochemistry and Biophysics to study mitochondrial copper transport. Tran started her leadership development early through the MSC Champe-Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar the summer before matriculating at TAMU and has continued as a member of the Freshman Leadership Experience Service committee. Even while in her first semester at TAMU, Tran continued community service she began in the Dallas area, such as her volunteer work with the Dallas Marathon.
In June, Tran will begin her research as a Beckman Scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Ry Young, the first Director of the Center for Phage Technology, looking for ways to identify and adapt phage particles for use as a new paradigm for antibiotic function.
Biochemistry major Gabrielle Lessen ’18 from Alexandria, Louisiana, has been chosen as one of three new Beckman Scholars from Texas A&M University. Lessen impressed the faculty, staff, and student application reviewers and interview panel with her obvious intelligence, drive, passion for knowledge and research, and her excellent communication skills. These attributes were a perfect fit for Lessen’s description of herself in her application as “hard-working” and “friendly”. Lessen has spent her first year in Aggieland as a member of the University Honors program and the Honors Housing Community. Her interest in research led her to join the DeBakey Undergraduate Research Program as a first semester freshman, working with a team that models the flow of fluid through the kidneys.
Lessen also got an early start on leadership development as a participant in the MSC Champe-Fitzhugh International Honors Leadership Seminar the summer before matriculating at TAMU and continued her development as a member of the MSC Freshmen Leadership Organization “Freshmen in Service and Hosting” or FISH. Lessen has a long history of community service and told our interview panel that if she can choose a route that will help more people, she would choose it “in an instant”. Her interest in cancer research nicely combines her talent for science and research with her desire to help a large number of people. Lessen has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPR while acting as a National Aggie Scholar Ambassador and as a member of the Biochemistry and Genetics Society, as well as being active in her church.
In June Lessen will start her journey as a Beckman Scholar with a research project in the laboratory of Dr. Dorothy Shippen studying plant telomeres, the specific structures at the ends of chromosomes that keep them from unraveling. Telomeres have been implicated in aging and cancer as well as in diseases linked to chromosome instability, making telomere studies an excellent match for Lessen’s interests.