Honors and Undergraduate Research Students Michael Bass (Undergraduate Research Scholar), Ryan Trantham (University Honors Program & University Scholar), and Clayton Cromer (University Honors Program) were recognized at last week’s graduation ceremonies with the top awards for graduating seniors.
Bass and Trantham were awarded the Brown-Rudder, which recognizes top students who exemplify leadership. Cromer was awarded the Gates-Muller, which recognizes senors who demonstrate leadership, patriotism and courage.
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.
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.
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.
In the spirit of the season, Honors and Undergraduate Research would like to express our appreciation to Kaye and Steve Horn (Class of ’79) for graciously hosting a reception for prospective Texas A&M University Honors students at their home in River Oaks on November 2.
Former Texas Governor John Connally’s historic mansion provided a stunning backdrop for the mingling of 16 National Merit Finalists and their parents and representatives of Texas A&M University. The many reminders of Steve’s success at Texas A&M, where he earned his degree in Petroleum Engineering before moving to Harvard to pursue an MBA, ranged from the jackets on the Horns’ pet dogs to photos of the President’s Endowed Scholars the Horns have supported over the years. Kaye’s passion for her adopted institution and in particular our history as a military college and the contribution of Aggies to the “greatest generation” was evident in her remarks to the assembled group. In a beautiful synergy, current Honors student Adelia Humme ’15 told the prospective students about her grandfather Hubert V. King, who left Texas A&M to fight in World War II and was presented with an Aggie ring upon his return at the end of the war engraved with the year that he would have graduated had he stayed in college (1944).
The prospective students were welcomed by Kaye and Steve Horn personally, as well as by staff from TAMU Admissions, Scholarships & Financial Aid, and Honors and Undergraduate Research. The prospective students also had a chance to meet Ryan Trantham ’15, the current Memorial Student Center President, and Adelia Humme, both members of the selective University Scholars Program. Ryan, Adelia, and the staff answered questions from the students and their parents about coursework, applications, scholarships, program requirements, the Honors dorms and study abroad opportunities in Italy, among other topics.
We at Honors and Undergraduate Research are thrilled that Kaye and Steve were willing to open their hearts and home to help us recruit top academic achievers to Texas A&M University and to the University Honors program in particular. We were proud to be able to introduce the Horns to Ryan and Adelia, outstanding student ambassadors who exemplify how the programs we run help develop promising high school students into accomplished young people. And we hope the prospective Aggies who attended the reception could see in Kaye and Steve, and in Adelia and Ryan, where they might be at the height of a successful career or as college seniors after a start in University Honors at Texas A&M!
The end of the spring semester and the approach of graduation comes with a number of award announcements. This is an exciting (if busy!) time of year as we prepare to recognize our 2014 Honors and Undergraduate Research graduates.
In addition to the recent spate of success in nationally-competitive awards such as the Goldwater, Udall, and Fulbright competitions, our students have been recognized for their outstanding achievement in and out of the classroom with campus awards.
While the Brown-Rudder and Gates-Muller awards will not be announced until commencement, awards have been made in the Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior, Gathright, Buck Weirus, and Diversity Service competitions. We applaud our students who have been recognized! Don’t forget to update your ePortfolios!
Gathright Scholars Award Kasey W. Kram
Jemmifer M. Klein
Amelie C. Berger
Michael S. Pohlen
Michael P. Austin
Vincent P. Sacco
Emily A Kossa
Hanna P. Frailey
Barbara J. Banner
Joshua A. Orndorff
Daniel R. Miller
Joshua J. Chacko
Buck Weirus Spirit Award Sarah Armstrong
Meghan De Amaral
Diversity Service Award Sherwin Chiu
Thanks to the Association of Former Students, the Department of Multicultural Services, Undergraduate Studies and all of the amazing faculty and staff that make these awards possible!
For many students, being “pre-med” is an all-encompassing role—keeping the GPR high, fitting in the research, the shadowing, the volunteer service and studying for the MCAT takes all their time and seemingly every breath. For University Scholar and newly elected MSC President Ryan Trantham, that is just the beginning.
Trantham’s connection to the MSC began even before he started at Texas A&M when he was chosen for the Champe Fitzhugh Jr. International Leadership Seminar co-sponsored by Honors and Undergraduate Research (HUR) and the MSC the summer before his freshman year. This intensive two and a half week experience in Tuscany with 25 other top incoming freshmen gave Trantham the opportunity to bond and grow with the other “Italy fish”, but more importantly introduced him to two juniors who were peer leaders for the trip—Eric Blackman representing the MSC and Chris Davis representing HUR. Watching Eric and Chris handle their responsibilities gave Trantham insight into the attributes he wanted to emulate and embody as a person and a leader. Two years later, Trantham was back in Tuscany as the MSC peer leader for the Champe Fitzhugh seminar and as a role model for a new generation of Italy fish.
Being a role model comes naturally to Trantham, but is also the result of thoughtful choices and synergistic experiences. His application and interview for a position in the University Scholars program the spring semester of his freshman year was outstanding, and one of the “no-brainer” decisions made by the committee as they selected a mere ten students from the freshman class for this intensive Honors program. Being a University Scholar challenged Trantham to think in new ways and more broadly and deeply than ever before. The emphasis on intellectual exploration where it is “OK” not to have the answer has allowed Trantham to take a closer look at his own goals and plans and exposed him to ideas and issues he might not have experienced otherwise. His involvement with the MSC has given him a different perspective—working with 2000 student members to develop and produce programming requires a much more “corporate” attitude with timely concrete answers, specific logistical frameworks and critical risk assessment and containment the order of the day.
In combination with programming by the Jordan Institute and Wiley Lecture Series at the MSC, where he is currently VP of Educational Exploration programming, Trantham delved deeply into the knotty problems of public health policy and the political aspects of healthcare. These discussions led to a new long term personal goal: medical practice in pursuit of credibility to affect the national and international conversation about healthcare, and a new short term goal: a Business minor so that he can understand the business side of healthcare as well as the science. Trantham’s goals also made applying for the position of MSC President a natural fit as he learns to balance different voices in public conversations and lead complex organizations.
So how does Trantham view his Honors experience and how it will contribute to his presidency? “Being involved in Honors at Texas A&M has put me in situations through which I was challenged to assess my beliefs, perspective, and knowledge of the world at large.” Trantham says, “Doing so has helped me grow as a leader, student, and critical thinker – three roles that I will play every day during my term as MSC President.” Congratulations Mr. President!