Advice from Honors

GLORIA LI AND AMNA QURESHI

Dr. Mark Law

Q: How did you get involved with Honors and what is your favorite part of it?

A: I got involved with the Honors Program originally as a member of the Faculty Advisory Council. That was about five or six years ago, and then I applied to be the director of the program. I got that job a year and a half ago, in the Fall of 2014. The thing I like the best about the job is the students. In the prior role I had at UF, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in Engineering, I mostly worked with faculty, but as the Director of Honors, I get to work with students. The students in the program are great, motivated, and excited to be taking Honors classes, and it’s a joy to work with them and try to set up opportunities for them.

 

Q: Is it true that the admissions process for Honors is changing this year, and if so, how will that affect future Honors classes?

 

A:  It is changing — that is absolutely true. We used to invite students to apply, and then we had a petitions process. Inviting students to apply ended up sending a mixed message, because last year we had 1,300 students apply after being invited. However, we only have about 700 spots in the program, so we had to reject a lot of the students that had been invited to apply. Now we no longer invite students to apply. We have published the middle 50% of the class of 2015 on the website, and we encourage everybody to apply. Now everyone is writing the same essays, and there is a level playing field, without the extra petition essay.

 

 

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve given or could give to a student that is just entering Honors?

 

A: The advice I usually give is to explore the diversity of campus. We have about as many majors as anybody in the country, so we have experts in everything from spiders to Shakespeare. So if you’re interested in something, like if you’re Pre-Med but if you’ve always been interested in the Middle East, then take a course in it, because you won’t get the opportunity later in life. You might end up discovering a passion you didn’t know you had.

Dr. Melissa Johnson

Q: How did you get involved with Honors and what is your favorite part of it?

A: So, interesting coincidence: today is my 11-year workiversary in the Honors Program. When I first came to UF in 2001, I was involved in a position in which I got to work with a lot of different people and departments on campus. Honors was one of them, and so I developed a really positive relationship with the Honors Program. I had been an honors student as an undergrad, and after talking it through with the then-Director of the Honors Program, I decided to work with the Honors Program. When I first came into work with Honors, my sole responsibility was to be an academic advisor, and then I taught a section of pro-dev and coordinated the Gator Times Weekly. Now as the Associate Director, I do advising, teaching, and admissions. I work with social media and communications, the foundation, Partners in the Parks, and other random things.

Q: What is the significance of the H-Box activities? How was it constructed?

A:  We came up with that few years ago. We wanted to find a way to get Honors students to engage both with on-campus activities and in the local community. It’s similar to the F-Book, but we wanted to make the activities closer aligned to what Honors students should be doing. So instead of being about campus traditions, it’s about being engaged with the Honors Program and getting to know the local community. There might be a few changed in the future with the H-Box, and there might be some virtual parts in the future.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve given or could give to a student that is just entering Honors?
A: I really like to tell students that the program won’t be what you have envisioned it to be. It’s not like other honors programs in the country because it’s a full-fledged holistic experience. The Honors Program won’t do anything for you unless you choose to be engaged with it. The students that get the most involved get the most out of it.

Ms. Regan Garner

Q: How did you get involved with Honors and what is your favorite part of it?

A: I became involved because of the former director, Dr. Sheila Dickison, who is a magnificent person… If I won the lottery last night, I was going to donate a bunch of money to Honors and tell them to name the program after her. She’s still at UF, over in the Bob Graham Center for Public Service. She was the director of Honors for 11 years. I went to UF as an undergrad, and she was my mentor. I was a classics major, and she was a Classics studies professor, making it so that in my undergraduate career, she was a professor and mentor to me. I came back in and was working at UF as a National Merit Scholars recruiter for the admissions office. I would interact with Honors all the time, because National Merit Scholars are in the Honors Program, and at the time there was a much stronger link between the two. So I worked with her a lot, got to know her, and she kind of convinced me to move over to Honors. She continued to be my mentor in my professional career, which was pretty cool.

I came almost the same time as Dr. Johnson, but I was hired maybe six months after her… but it’s been a while — maybe about ten years. My goodness. We have developed together quite a bit, and we do very different things.

My favorite part of the Honors Program is, of course, working with the students.  It sounds cliché, but that really is it. I am compensated in many ways outside of my salary… compensated really in terms of the students.

 

I mentor and work with a couple of scholarship programs very closely, the Lombardi and Stamps scholars… I get to travel with them and get to know some students very well. I have relationships with students that graduated five or six years ago. I also work with the United World Scholars and the prestigious scholarships for undergraduate and graduate studies, things like the Truman scholarship, the Goldwater, the Marshall, the Mitchell, the Rhodes.

Q: What are some opportunities that you believe are overlooked or missed by Honors students?

A: The prestigious scholarships are missed by some students. I recommend looking early, so you can start to prepare. The earlier you begin looking at these, the better. It will be a beneficial exercise, because it will provide you vision and direction as you plan your undergraduate career. If you’re reading the biographies of the students that win these scholarships, it can overwhelm you for a bit, but you can also say, “Okay! I need to get up and do some things!” So whether you end up applying for these scholarships or not, it will end up benefiting you in that the process made you set some goals. So I would say that process is overlooked. I would also say the Wentworth Travel Scholarship is overlooked by students. It’s a $500 award that students can apply for more than one time, for support of things — everything from an unpaid internship in DC to research projects that are unpaid. You could even use it when your professor wants you to go to a conference and present your paper. So I think the Wentworth Travel Scholarship is something students should be aware of.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve given or could give to a student that is just entering Honors?

A: Well, for Honors students, I think good advice would be chill out sometimes. We want you to strive, but to strive in a healthy way, and to stay healthy mentally as well as physically. Keep working out, keep talking to your friends, things like that, while you strive– use the Honors Daily as a resource to give you all kinds of ideas about things to do and see, but don’t let it paralyze you with all of the things you have to do. So do that, and don’t try to do everything. And don’t worry if you don’t get into Cicerones, because it doesn’t matter.

Kristy Spear

Q: How did you get involved with Honors and what is your favorite part of it?

A: So I didn’t come to UF for undergrad, but my husband did, and he was involved with the Honors Program and absolutely loved it. I’ve been on campus for several years, and these positions don’t open up often. When one opened up, I knew that it was a great group of people to work with, and I applied for the position. And what do I love about it? Yeah, so from my perspective, it is nice to be able to work with so many very intelligent people who are so motivated, because it also motivates me. It’s nice to be able to offer an opportunity to help people who have so many diverse interests and to bring those ideas together.

Q: What can you tell us about the work you do with student internships?

A: So, prior to coming to Honors, I worked at the Career Resource Center and worked for several years in HR prior to that. When I came here, I inherited the Internship Class, where we offer the opportunity to get credit for an internship, so I’m the course coordinator for that. And also, in appointments, students will often ask about internship opportunities, and I’ll help them build the skills to utilize these types of experiences.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve given or could give to a student that is just entering Honors?

A: So, I would say, definitely don’t shy away from those diverse experiences. Don’t try to get too tunnel-visioned and narrowly focused, because there are a lot of things to get involved with here. But also try to find the right balance for you, so if you are trying a bunch of different things, find those things that you are really passionate about and try to focus on those. Strike a balance: try new things, but find what activities you like and be successful in those as opposed to spreading yourself too thin.

 

 

 

 

 

Students:


Amy Sapp:

 

Q: What are some of the ways you are involved with the Honors Program? And of these, which has been the most memorable?
A: Academically with the Honors Program, I have participated in the Honors Admissions course several times and I have taken an Honors Political Science class. Interestingly, this past year, I created a new (un)Common Art course called, “It’s a Musical! Broadway Musical Genres.” In this course, I teach a curriculum I have curated and crafted alongside Dr. Law once a week in the Hume classroom. My students are incredibly bright, and they exhibit to me how an Honors student is not simply comprised of one definitive characteristic. My students range from Theatre Majors to Engineering Majors! They never cease to amaze me with the insight they offer each day.

I am the secretary of the Honors Ambassadors, and I have been a member since Spring of 2014. No doubt, HA has changed my life immeasurably; these members are truly my family. As an executive board member, I have the joy of giving back and helping other members reach their unearthed potential, the same thing that seniors did for me during my wavering and utterly confusing freshman year. Definitely, the top experience with the Honors Program has been creating the (un)Common art course with Dr. Law. Funnily enough, the course itself is a product of a Twitter conversation! This summer, I was browsing through the tab on Twitter which allows you to view people who follow similar people as you. On my tab, there stood out the Honors Program Director! We followed all of the same Broadway actors, so obviously, I reached out. One simple email conversation about our mutually shared interest in musical theater spiraled into creating a new Honors, one-credit course.

Q: You’re teaching an Honors class with Dr. Law this Spring. How has that been?

A: By working alongside Dr. Law, I have learned how to create a course curriculum and truly share my once secret passion of theater with the masses. (Plus, who doesn’t love gabbing about their favorite actors or musicals with a host of friendly faces?)

Q: What’s piece of advice would you give incoming honors freshman?
A: Do NOT be afraid to try, try, try and fail, fail, fail. I applied for 12 positions freshman fall and received only 1 of them! Today, I wish I could go back to my 18 year-old self and say, “It’s OKAY to FAIL!” Trust me. It is! Also, do not be shy about reaching out to individuals whom you admire and asking to grab coffee with them. I learned this while living in NYC and DC last year; often, those individuals who are the most talented are also the most eager to invest in you. Be honest, open, and confident.

Nardin Derias:

 

Q: What are some of the ways you are involved with the Honors program? And of these, which has been the most memorable?
A: I served on the Student Honors Organization (SHO) Executive Board my first year at the University of Florida. While on SHO, I served on the Academic Committee and assisted with publicity. In addition, I was selected to be an Honors Ambassador in the Spring of 2014. During my time in Honors Ambassadors, I helped plan Visitation Day 2014, created videos for the UF Honors Program YouTube channel, and assisted with recruitment and publicity for our social media. The most memorable involvement I have had with the Honors Program occurred recently. I was fortunate to attend the National Collegiate Honors Council in Chicago, Illinois. I was able to present on flexibility within the Honors Program at our university. The attendees were so curious about UF and praised our program for truly customizing their approach for each student. Meeting Honors students from all over was such a memorable experience.
Q: How has being on the Preview Staff impacted your time at the University of Florida?
A: Being a Preview Staffer has been a defining factor in my college career. Serving as a staffer for a whole summer, familiarizing myself with resources, spending time with students and getting to know their needs, in addition to speaking with family members about how incredible our university is has truly put so many things in perspective for me. I have an even greater appreciation for the university as a whole for sure. I have tons of pride in my students and seeing what they have accomplished in such a short time brings me so much happiness, and knowing I had a part in their transition process means a lot to me. I see the university in a different light after Preview, and I have so much appreciation for our faculty and the culture of care here at the University.

 

Q:What’s the best piece of advice you would give incoming Honors freshmen?

 

A: I wish that, when I was a freshman, someone had told me it was okay to fail. Transitioning to college is no easy task, but acknowledging when we need help and being able to get back up from failure and rejections is how we learn and grow. When I was a freshman, I was afraid to ask for help, but I would like to tell incoming Honors freshman that it is all right to ask for it if you need it. We have so much support within the Honors Program: the Honors advisors, your fellow Honors Gators. Everyone wants to see you succeed. Always follow your heart, pursue your passions, and do not allow any potential roadblocks stop you from achieving your dreams.

 

David Prida:

 

Q:What are some of the ways you are involved with the Honors Program? And of these, which has been the most memorable?
A: Well, I’m Residential Chancellor for SHO, and last year I was an Executive Board Member.  What’s awesome about being an Honors Student Leader is that you have so much contact with the advisors and director that you can personally talk to them about your concerns with the program, and work towards making it better.  I also take Honors classes, if that counts. This semester I’m in PHY2061: Enriched Physics 2 W/ Calculus, and last year I took Chemistry 2 and Pro Dev.  The most memorable experience with Honors would probably be last year as an Exec Board Member, because of the friendships I made and all fun times with the officers.

Q: How has serving as the Residential Chancellor for the Student Honors Organization been?

A: Serving as Residential Chancellor has been such a rewarding experience.  I’ve learned so much about becoming a leader and what it’s like to be a role model and develop others.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give incoming honors freshman?

A: Never be afraid to ask for help.  In high school, many of us were very successful students, so it’s almost strange to be lost or confused.  But once I realized that there were so many people willing to help, it made all the difference.

 

 

 

Amanda Gramacy

 

Q: As an Honors freshman, what does the Honors program mean to you?

 

A: Okay, well, I think that the Honors Program is more than the academic rigor and the involvement opportunities and everything. It’s just meeting people, and having your large support group. That’s honestly been like my backbone coming in as a freshman. You have your friends who push you to apply for things and step out of your comfort zone; that’s what I really like about Honors. You really have a strong foundation coming in.

 

Q: What advice would you give to an incoming Honors student?

 

A: I would say just to really step out of your comfort zone. Have more self-confidence. Out of high school, you may think, “Oh, I want to do? What I was involved in during high school?”  Yet you’d be surprised at what you can actually end up enjoy doing. You never really know what could attract you, so I would just come in with an open mind and try to be someone you weren’t, maybe?

 

Q: What is it like not living in Hume as an Honors student, and being involved in Greek Life? Have you ever found it hard to juggle the two?

 

A: Not living in Hume is definitely different. You’re not always surrounded by Honors students, but I think SHO does a great job of keeping you up to date with things and letting you know that you’re always welcome to come to the events… I really don’t think it’s been that hard to be a part of the Student Honors Organization living in East Hall, where I live now. And with Greek life, I’ve discovered that a lot of Honors students actually are involved with Greek Life. You have your friends here and your friends there, and you can always just choose — “Oh, I want to be with them for one day.” Being in both means you just have different perspectives on things, and that’s what I really like about it.

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