By Caroline Nickerson
Freshman, Statistics Major
Mentors are essential. Where would Luke be without Obi Wan, Harry Potter without Dumbledore, and the Honors Program without its staff? Thankfully, we’ll never know. Prism interviewed Dr. Knudson, Director, and Dr. Denny, Associate Director and Advisor, who both generously shared their wisdom below.
1. What is the most rewarding thing about working with the Honors Program?
Dr. K: UF can be a pretty impersonal place. If I wasn’t in the Honors Program, I wouldn’t get to know the students. I teach Calc I for Engineers, with over 600 students, and it’s impossible to get to know those students. But as Director of the Honors Program, I have the opportunity to watch students develop, and see exceptional students grow up.
Dr. Denny: The most rewarding thing about working with the Honors Program is working with the students. There was one student in particular, I advised him during preview, and then I was able to advise him with the Fulbright grant! And now he’s a med student with the Air Force. It was a great experience to be his first advising appointment and then advise him later his senior year. The best part about being an Honors Advisor is working with engaged, motivated students.
2. If you could give one piece of advice to every Honors Student, what would it be?
Dr. K: Give yourself a break. I was an honors kid too, and I am still am, and I was unreasonably hard on myself. You have so many expectations, and not necessarily unreasonable ones. But you’re going to fail sometimes. Don’t let your minor- or even your major- failures define you. You’ll get a B! It won’t be the end of the world. Your life won’t be a linear path. You’ll eventually check everything off the list, and you won’t know what to do after. I checked everything off the list, and I have a great job, but what really matters is spending time with other people.
Dr. Denny: Cherish this time. Your undergrad years are completely different from anything else you will ever do. You won’t have the chance to live in a foreign country for six weeks, or intern at an engineering company, at any other time in your life. Pursue opportunities and use your freedom, because adult responsibilities creep up fast. Don’t leave with any regrets. You don’t want to wish later that you had studied abroad or pursued a leadership position.
3. What is the greatest benefit of the Honors Program?
Dr. K: It’s really the intangible benefits of being around a lot of smart, motivated people. College is mostly pretty easy, and yeah, you’ll learn stuff, but what you’ll remember about college is the debate about philosophy with your friend at 2 AM.
Also, the advisors. They’re pretty great.
Dr. Denny: Everybody’s honors experience is completely unique. The relationships with peers and faculty are very important, as well as the other opportunities the honors program offers. The honors program allows students to get to know advisors, and to apply for prestigious programs and scholarships, like Fulbright. But the students need to take initiative for these things.
This interview demonstrates that the true strength of the Honors Program is the quality of its people. Distinguished by close relationships between a stellar staff and motivated students, the Program is one of the most rewarding experiences offered by the University of Florida. Make an appointment with one of the advisors! They’re knowledgeable, they’re here, and they care.