Jesup Scott Honors College

 Student of the Week Profiles

 Matthew Goldmann

Finding the perfect fit isn’t always easy. Honors senior Matthew Goldmann knows this to be true, not finding his academic home at UT until he was more than a year into his studies. Once in Engineering, Matthew now creates movies as a Film and Video major. Coming up on graduation, he works to finish his Honors thesis and looks back on his time framed by blue and gold.
Matthew GoldmannWhat brought you to your current path?
When I started at UT, my major was Computer Science and Engineering. In high school I did well in math and science, so I was benignly steered toward engineering. I made the best of the major because I’ve always been comfortable with computers. For the first year and a half, I did fine. My first semester of co-op I worked in the IT Department at the Toledo Refinery Company in Oregon, though, and I didn’t really enjoy it. I was paid well, but what I ultimately discovered is that corporate life is not for me. The following semester I withdrew from all of my classes and considered dropping out. Once I got past the emotional fallout, I knew I could do college. I just needed to find a major that interested me, and the only one that fit was Film and Video. I feel that I’ve always had that creative interest you find in the major; it just hadn’t been fostered. Since I switched, I really haven’t looked back.
What kind of work do you do as a film major?
There is some watching and discussing films, so a lot of classes will last three hours to fit it all in. We also have courses where you will make a short film. The Film department is large enough that we’re able to work with real film to make our projects.
What kind of films are you making?
I made a film about bullying, as an example, but in general they are short films around two- or three-minutes long. You can’t do too much more or it would become a lot of work. You need to really care about lighting because, if the lighting is too heavy, the film will be over-exposed and it would look washed out. If there isn’t enough light, then it’ll be too dark. It makes creating a film cumbersome, but I enjoyed it because you’re actually making a film and working with celluloid film.
Is there a particular film that inspired you?
I took a class called “Third Cinema” – referencing films outside of established cinemas in the U.S. and Europe. We studied films from Senegal, Mali, Brazil, India, China and Iran. One of the first sections we watched was from Senegal, and I learned about a filmmaker named Ousmane Sembene who is considered the godfather of African Cinema. We watched a film called Xala, which was really good! It opened me up to a whole different world of film.
What kind of film are you creating for your Honors capstone project?
It will be a comedy. I think there’s two influences at play in it: Mel Brooks and Monty Python.  It’s sort of about a mad scientist, but instead of a scientist he’s a director trying to make a film – an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey. The film the director is creating is called Homer’s Hot Bodyssey, if that gives you an idea of where it’s going.

 carter mccutchan

If you can believe it, the semester’s end is already upon us! However, for Carter McCutchan, life continues to move at a rapid pace. In just two years, the sophomore made the decision to switch career trajectories from business to computer science and continues to think toward the future.Carter McCutchan

What brought about the switch?
Admittedly, math is not my strongest suit, and I really wanted to go for my MBA after my bachelor’s degree. Although I love business, I have always been passionate about fixing and handling computers. Since I had previous knowledge on the subject, it was an easy transition. In fact, when I was 12, I ran a small business fixing computers! My parents would give me old parts they would randomly find, and I would build desktop computers. With all of the new technology, it makes it easy to enjoy what I do!

What Honors classes have helped you to reach where you are today?
HON 1010 has helped me to get on track in both my major and my college career. I also took an Honors section of Professional Development, which gave me great insight into growing in my discipline. Additionally, being able to use Honors Learning Contracts really helps me get the most out of every single class I take, whether it is a major course or not. Having small groups of people to work with is something that helps me a lot, so I appreciate the individualized attention Honors students receive from professors.

What kind of business would you like to run someday?
I want to offer consulting to those with large social media influences. These platforms are going to be, and are already, incredibly prevalent. Influencers are always in need of the latest hardware and streaming services in order to keep up with the competition. When you are able to work with someone in that aspect, it acts as a form of art. That is amazing to me! It’s not just assembling things – it’s also being able to customize resources to the specific tastes of someone else, too.

Talk a little about how video games have been able to help you in your career.
I don’t actually play video games that much, but when you look at things like eSports, video games are making a splash in the media scene today. Not only this, but they are a great stress reliever. College most of the time is a fervent hustle and bustle, and being able to have that outlet to relieve stress can be valuable.

 hannah haselhuhn

JSHC freshman Hannah Haselhuhn has gone full speed ahead with her college career. A Mechanical Engineering major, Hannah has quickly taken the opportunity to expand her role on campus, getting involved with the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers. Coming to the end of her first semester, this Presidential Scholar looks to take on all UT has to offer.

Hannah HaselhuhnWhat led you to Mechanical Engineering?
I always knew that I was interested in math and science but I didn’t have a structured idea of what I wanted to do as a career. When I went to high school, I joined the robotics program. That inspired a love of engineering as well as problem-solving and the applications of what I was learning in the classroom. I still had a lot of different ideas of what I wanted to do, so I decided on Mechanical Engineering to give me a good foundation for whichever specific path I want to take after college.

You’re a freshman – has your first semester given you any idea of what you want to do for a career?
I’m still really interested in robotic technology and automation. I’ve always had a passion for engines in the automotive industry. I joined the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers here as well, so that’s definitely fostered my interest.

What is FSAE about?
We design a new race car every year in the Fall. It’s in the Formula One design, but it’s all college teams that are competing. In the Spring, we build and test it, then we compete throughout the summer into October of the following academic year. We’ll race the car we’re currently designing in competitions at the Michigan International Speedway, Lawrence Technological University, and a few others. Then next year we’ll start again. Right now, I’m part of a group of people that are helping design the steering system that we’re going to build in the Spring.

How has being a Presidential Scholar impacted your first semester?
It’s been incredibly helpful. I have four college-aged siblings, so financially it’s been a huge blessing. More than that, it’s allowed me to branch out here and meet people that I would not have met otherwise. I’ve had the opportunity to meet the deans and faculty well before anyone else my year, and it’s been really helpful to have that kind of support system built into the scholarship.

Have any professors inspired you this early?
Dr. Matthew Franchetti is incredibly intelligent and has tons of experience, but he knows how to get down to our level as students who are still trying to figure our lives out. He’s really taken the time to look out for us and help us get from point A to point B, and not be intimidated by the future.

Just starting college, what do you hope to get out of your experience at UT?
Outside of just a degree, I think college will help me learn how to be independent and work with other people. So far, the Engineering program here has fostered a lot of team-building and communication skills. I think it’s well rounded. I could take classes online and learn all the material, but being in the classroom and involved in things like co-ops and FSAE will prepare me to be an employee and engineer, not just a good student.

 Christopher Mccoy

Preparing to graduate this semester, Nursing student Christopher McCoy will be the first in his family to graduate in nursing. Like many students, he only had a general idea of his career path coming into college, but has since found his passion as an aspiring oncology nurse.

Christopher McCoyWhat got you interested in Nursing?
I knew I wanted to help people in a medical capacity, but I didn't want to go to school for a long time to become a physician. I'll actually be the first nurse in my family and a first-generation college graduate. I kind of went into school blind, but I know I'll like nursing as a career. I plan to practice in oncology.

Why oncology?
I want to be an oncology nurse because I have had family affected by cancer. My grandmother is currently fighting breast cancer and my aunt is currently fighting lung cancer, so that influenced my decision. I like the oncology patient population because I knew I wanted to do end-of-life care going into school, but I still wanted to be in a hospital setting. So oncology fit perfectly for me. I don't find it depressing, because for me, once I get to that situation in life, I want to be cared for by someone who will be understanding, caring, and compassionate. If I were to go into hospice or be diagnosed with a debilitating condition, I would want a considerate nurse. However, not everyone can do that. I want to give people the type of care that I would want.

What is a typical day for a nursing student like?
A typical day for us could be going to class, and then after we may have a clinical rotation. This could be anywhere in the Toledo area, such as any of the ProMedica hospitals, St. Luke’s Hospital, UTMC, or Wood County Hospital. Our clinical rotations depend on what we're learning about that semester. If we're learning about mental health, you'll obviously go to some type of mental health facility. Or if you're learning about adult care, perhaps you'll go to an assisted-living facility. You really have to integrate what you learn from class about medications, treatments, and diagnostic tests with your clinical work. Nursing overlaps with a lot of different medical fields. For example, we learn about respiratory therapy and medications, so you might have to learn some of what pharmacists do. Obviously, we do it all by a doctor's orders, so we have to be able to think like a doctor.

What is your Honors thesis about?
I’m writing a capstone project about decreasing the pain interference among the oncology patient population. Basically, I'm doing research and a systematic review on what interventions nurses can use for our patients to help decrease their pain interference, and by doing so, increase quality of life. It's been a lot of work, not like your typical research paper. You have to find so many articles, review as well as analyze them, and then write your own contribution to the issue. But I've enjoyed it! As of right now, it's about 40 pages long.

 Rin Baatz

It’s not often you meet transfer students in the Honors College, but Rin Baatz is one for the books. An English major focusing in creative writing, her story blends distinction from the STEMM experience of many Honors students with the relatable – a personalized pathway from student to scholar.Rin Baatz

How did you decide on your major?
My major is English with a focus in creative writing. Originally I was going into Biology because I wanted to work in genetics research. Then Organic Chemistry happened…and that just wasn’t going to be a thing. I want to be a professor someday, so I figure having a broad base in all areas of English will help me when I end up focusing on a certain area.

Where did you transfer from?
I went to Bowling Green State University last year, which has a large writing program. Its support of an MFA track means a lot of graduate students teach the writing classes, especially in creative writing. I never actually met with a professor who specifically taught creative writing. I wanted a little more personal attention, and I knew that UT’s program was smaller, so it was easier to find that here. I’ve worked with both Prof. Tim Geiger and Dr. Deborah Coulter-Harris, and they’ve been absolutely amazing.

What is your focus in creative writing?
In creative writing you can emphasize script writing, short stories, or novel writing. My focus is mostly in novel writing and creative non-fiction.

You’ve been charting a course in the arts and humanities for a while, it sounds like.
Yeah, I went to the Toledo School for the Arts for high school – a charter institution supporting arts-integrated education. Every class had to feature the arts, so it worked well for more divergent students – like people with autism. Having arts there as a motivator was enough to keep students interested and engaged with their education. Their students are held to a high standard, so we’re on par with schools like Ottawa Hills High School and St. Johns Jesuit High School. The only difference is we’re a charter school and not publicly funded.

Who have you met that has been a mentor for you?
Dr. Coulter-Harris and Prof. Geiger, who are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Dr. Coulter-Harris comes at you all at once as an unstoppable force of nature and doesn’t hesitate to tell you what needs to be changed or what works, so there’s a lot of feedback. Tim is more of a traditional writing teacher, so he’ll provide feedback and teach us different techniques to use in our writing.

As a writer, what is your favorite book?
I love any book about circuses! I love the freak shows and sideshows – everything to do with the aesthetic of a circus. I read “The Night Circus” when I was in eighth grade, and it has been my favorite book ever since. It’s written from four different perspectives. The sensory detail of the novel is so amazing that when you switch over to the second person perspective, you can see and smell and feel and taste everything that has been described to you. I’ve never read anything like it before or after, and it was definitely a unique experience.

How did you get involved with the Honors College as a transfer student?
I felt that the JSHC would offer a more hands-on approach to my education. It seems like the advisors and the staff here really work with students to find the best fit for their classes and instructors. Having the choice between the Gold Track and the Blue Track, for example, is beneficial because it allows your education to be a little more flexible and work with how you learn. Also, Honors doesn’t look too bad on a graduate school application!

 Ben Riley

For Ben Riley, life’s goal is to work hard and be thankful for every moment that we’re gifted. Between double-digit hours in the research lab to sailing on Lake Erie, this Honors Exercise Science major has realized that when it comes to life, every hour is precious and should be used wisely.

Ben RileyWhat brought you to your major?
I switched from Bioengineering to Exercise Science as a strategic move. I was faced with the realization that medical schools want more than just good grades. I didn’t have time to do much else outside of academics with Bioengineering, so I switched to Exercise Science. This is allowing me to become more balanced and well-rounded as an applicant and individual.

What are some of the extracurriculars that you have been able to pursue as a result?
I have been fortunate to go on a couple of mission trips and am also part of the Sailing Club here at UT where I serve as Vice Commodore. I’ve also worked a couple part-time jobs for roughly 20 hours per week and allot 14 hours for being in the research lab. I’m investigating the role of a particular molecule in skeletal muscles used in response to injury. The results of this research have led to a publication, but are applicable to everyday life as well. I take solace in the fact that I’m contributing to humans’ wealth of knowledge that can be used to help others.

What do you hope to gain out of medical school?
My prayer is to embark on a service-based career that is fast-paced, strenuous, and demands diligence and vigilance. I know through experience that I can push myself in this capacity. Most importantly, I have an undying desire to serve other people. Going to medical school is merely an avenue by which I can help the world. Truly, I have been blessed beyond belief with the people around me and by all of the help I’ve been given over my life so far.

Was it your drive and passion for life that led you to start going on mission trips?
Partially. Being able to see medicine practiced in America comfortably showed me what the life of a doctor is like. Thanks to some mentors and assertiveness, though, I had the opportunity to observe and participate in live surgeries overseas – something that isn’t allowed much here (at least for students). In Mexico, the experience and knowledge I obtained helped me realize what may lie ahead should I continue down this path.

Tell us a little about the Sailing Club – what is that like?
Sailing is a unique sport! It is somewhat exclusive insofar as the culture is close-knit and the involved cost can be high. The Sailing Club at UT has a great pedigree and our sailors are warm and passionate people. In collegiate sailing, the costs to join are ridiculously low, and I figured this was as good of a time as any to give it the college try. The practices during the week are pretty mellow, but every weekend is jam-packed with activity. Like my major and work field, sailing has given so much to me. The more of my life where I can give back, the happier I am!

Any closing thoughts?
I have to confess something – I don’t think I deserve the life that I have today! I enjoy a fair amount of privilege, so who am I to waste so much of myself with fun pitfalls that are ubiquitous for college students? I am not one to do that. This realization allowed me to adopt a new ethos, one derived from a self-sacrificial love for everything and everyone. I truly want nothing except to be content and pursue a life’s goal to not advance myself at all. I’d like to focus on being a beacon for little proverbial sailboats to find their way to safe harbor amidst any storm.

 Naba Rizvi

Having lived all over the world, Naba Rizvi has found a home and purpose in Toledo – and she isn’t letting anything hold her back. After trying out a few career paths, Naba has found her calling in Information Technology. She has created a coding startup called CodeWeGo with two other UT students and has founded UT’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery's Council on Naba RizviWomen in Computing. To top it off, she finds time to serve as a resident advisor for many Honors students living in MacKinnon, Scott, and Tuckers Halls.

What led you to your field of study?
I first went to community college for two years and I was studying Liberal Arts. I received a very competitive research fellowship at the University of Michigan in Political Science, where I researched lobbying firms and their role in American politics, but it made me realize that I didn’t want to do Liberal Arts anymore. After taking some time off from school, I was exploring different career paths when I met someone in a coffee shop who was really into technology. It blew my mind and sounded so fascinating that I went in that direction. I really wanted something that was challenging where I could just sit down to solve a problem and feel good about what I'm doing.

Where are you from?
I’m from Pakistan, where I lived for three years. Then I moved to Saudi Arabia for about 10 years, then Canada, Michigan, and finally here. I still travelled back to Pakistan every summer as a child, so I've stayed very connected to my culture. In Pakistan we have a rather extroverted culture – it's like everyone is always ready to party and wants to be so helpful. So, we are famous for our hospitality! I like to think living in four countries has made me incredibly open-minded and accepting of people who are different from me. I am grateful to have had the privilege of meeting people from different backgrounds who have helped me see the world from unique perspectives.

Tell us about your tech start-up!
Two other classmates and I have co-founded CodeWeGo after competing in a few different coding competitions and winning first place. We will be teaching programming to youth who do not speak English. China will be our initial target market where we launch our product, so it will definitely be an international company. We've applied to a really competitive start-up accelerator in San Francisco, and if you get in, you're pretty much all set. There isn't any way your business would fail if you go through the Y Combinator Start-up School, so I’m really hoping we are accepted.

What other groups are you involved in?
I started UT’s chapter of ACM-W, which is an organization that supports women in computer sciences fields and majors. We now have about 15 members here at the university. I have also helped as a facilitator for the Girls Who Code Club at the Toledo Early College High School. Too, I became an R.A. for the Honors Residence Halls this year and it has been an amazing experience. I had a great R.A. my freshman year, and I’ve wanted to do for other students what she has done for me. It has definitely been a challenge, but also very rewarding.

You received a Google scholarship as well?
For the Google scholarship I received a onetime award of $10,000 and I went on an all-expenses-paid retreat held at various Google offices. The trip there was so much fun, I really wouldn’t even know where to start. The entire experience has taught me so much. It helped me to join an exclusive network of scholars from all around the world and have the ability to apply for special grants in order to organize outreach events.

Do you have any advice for other college students?
A lot of students are afraid of trying anything new. I was like that for my first two years of college, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. Whenever there is a new opportunity, you have to take it. You have to take those risks, you have to attend those conferences, and you have to apply for those scholarships. Don’t say you’re not smart enough to do something, because how would you know if you’ve never tried it?

 Rachel Whitman

Busy as ever, UT senior Rachel Whitman is preparing to graduate this December. Majoring in Psychology with a minor in Counseling, she now looks to select a graduate school (all while finishing her thesis). With the help of the Honors College, Rachel has created bonds with her mentors that will see her continue her research at UT next semester.

Rachel WhitmanWhat brought you to that major?
I was in junior high when I became interested in the workings of the mind. It was a typical junior high “I’m going to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life” story. I came across psychology and I’ve been engrossed by that ever since. For counseling, I never knew it was a separate field until I came to college. My first semester here, one of my friends recommended I take a class in it. I did so my second semester and fell in love with it. I’ve taken almost every class offered since.

What’s the difference between Psychology and Counseling?
The biggest difference is the approach. Counseling is more of a holistic approach – they look at a person in terms of how one thing affects the whole. With Psychology, it’s a systems-based approach. They focus a lot on research – how cognition works.

Are you working on your Honors thesis?
Yes! It involves a three-semester sequence course. In the first semester, you’re writing your proposal to send in to the Institutional Review Board. During the next semester, you actually conduct the research. Everyone who is taking “Intro to Psychology” has the opportunity to participate in my study, which is really exciting! The last semester is where you actually write your thesis. It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be, but it has been so fun to do literature reviews and meet with my faculty mentor to ask him some really hard questions about the psychology field. I’ve fallen in love with doing research, more than I ever thought I would. My favorite part is that I get to build a bond with my research professor.

What kind of career are you considering?
I am applying to doctorate programs in Clinical Psychology and master’s programs in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling. It’s going to be the best of both worlds, where I have the opportunity to assist in one-on-one interventions with future patients as well as do research.

Where have you applied?
All over! The way you look for graduate programs in Psychology is by searching for universities that are working in your areas of focus. They’re going to be able to mentor you but also be familiar with developments in the field. I ultimately want to study human trafficking and find best practices for combatting that. It’s a complex trauma. My target schools offer the community aspect, but they also address complex trauma and substance use.

What inspired your focus on human trafficking?
I was involved in Youth Nations here at UT during high school where you explore a global challenge and its relation to a particular country. I was assigned Mexico and human trafficking. Because of the proximity of Mexico to the United States, I learned a lot about human trafficking here – specifically labor trafficking. Knowing that Toledo is a hub of human trafficking, I did my own research and really saw a need for psychology contributions in the field. Human trafficking involves a lot of different disciplines, but not yet psychology. We often tackle topics conscious of interdisciplinary approaches and need to be in this realm. We need to ask, “How we’re going to care for the people being trafficked?” and identify preventative factors we can put in place to lessen the harm suffered by victims.

 Caitlyn Miller

For Caitlyn Miller, being a senior is still hard to believe. However, her charitable mark will not soon wear off. From taking trips abroad to help with foreign medicine to lending a hand with children all around the Toledo area, the soon to be graduate of UT and the JSHC truly does exemplify what it means to give back.

What brought you to your chosen major of Nursing?Caitlyn Miller
It’s a long story, actually! When my mom was pregnant with my sisters and myself, she went through some complications. During this time, her two nurses were some of the best ever, splitting as long as 50-hour shifts to assist her in any way possible. I think it’s really important in this major, and something I really enjoy, that we need to and want to be there for people who rely on us. The more we can do to help others overcome difficult medical situations, the better. To me, being a nurse isn’t just going from room to room. It is making connections with people and helping them at the same time. I am most interested in pediatric nursing, and that is what I hope to do once I graduate in December.

Did you have any particular experience that made you want to work with kids?
Truthfully, my entire life has been an experience working around kids. Since I was young, I have been in the Girl Scouts. Once I got older, I always loved going back and working with the younger scouts to teach them new things and bond with them. In addition, I loved getting to work in day camps and experience the youthful atmosphere there. To me, a child can relate better to a younger nurse, in some situations, than someone five times his or her age!

You are the President of the Global Medical Brigades. How did you get into that?
I started in this program my freshman year and heard about it through my resident advisor, who was the president at the time. That year, we went to Honduras, and this year will be my fourth trip! It is a seven-day trip in which we work with certain countries to give medical care and collaborate with the local physicians, dentists, and pharmacists to talk about how medical treatment can be improved within the area. Our tasks include improving vision, promoting oral hygiene, and all other forms of care. It’s amazing to see the different cultures and how the experience is so unique every time I go.

Where do you see yourself going after graduation?
I would love to go to graduate school, but before that, my hope is to get some experience in the nursing field first. Being able to work with team members right out of college is something that I believe could really help me down the line, especially when the time comes to look for the more experienced positions. Being from Cleveland, I have applied at University Hospitals for a position, but I’m not sure of where I want to be geographically.

Do you have any mentors that have helped you during your time at UT?
Dr. Susan Sochacki from Nursing has really helped me throughout my collegiate journey. She not only guided me through my capstone project but has calmed me down in times of stress. Also, my close friends have really allowed me to feel as if I am headed down a great path while being surrounded by amazing people!

 sabrina khuder

Though a lifelong Toledo resident, Sabrina Khuder had some difficulty finding her place when she arrived on campus three years ago. In that time, she has found a niche in her major and as an Honors Student Ambassador, vowing to pay it forward to young children in the community. As a student leader involved in Students Organized for Syria and a Biology major focusing in pre-med, Sabrina KhuderSabrina is well on her way to achieving that goal.

What led you to your major?
My older sister went to UTMC and seeing her pursue that directed me to medicine! She showed me how interesting the profession can be. I loved Biology courses in high school, and as I came to college, the field continued to grow on me. I cannot imagine a better major in the world now! Learning about the human body allows you to understand how life in general works, and that fascinates me.

What career path do you anticipate?
My hope is medical school, and I would love to work with children. I have volunteered with service organizations around UT, and the experience working with those children was amazing. I also volunteered with the Perceptual Motor Development Program on the Health Sciences Campus working with children impacted by special needs. Children are really fun to be around, so getting to work with them would make for a fun and light environment.

You’re involved with “S.O.S.” Tell us more about this organization.
“S.O.S.” stands for Students Organized for Syria – we do a lot of outreach for the Syrian refugee community around Toledo. A lot of children come to the program needing help with general education, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we tutor these young students. You don’t need to know how to speak Arabic, just have a heart to want to help kids! We also hold meetings to help educate the community about the Middle East as well as help them to understand what is truly happening around that area today. During the Big Event last year, S.O.S. took many of the children gardening. That combined with other events held in our organization really helps to connect Toledo with the Syrian community.

What impact do you hope you’ve made in the Toledo community?
Ireally hope that I have been able to help and mentor other students. When I came to UT, I didn’t really know anyone, and I had difficulty trying to navigate my way through my first year. Hopefully I’ve been able to tell others about the great things happening in the area and promote their talent, as well as inform them about some of the mistakes I’ve made so that they can avoid them. One group that has really helped me do this are the Honors Student Ambassadors, of which I am a part. I have been able to reach out to undergrads pursuing the same academic paths, and in doing so I have been able to get my input through to many individuals on and off campus!

If you would like to help tutor Syrian refugee children in Toledo, e-mail to be connected with S.O.S.


One of the hallmarks of Honors students is interdisciplinarity – an inability to be boxed into nice little categories slotting them into a single field of study. Honors sophomore Jenna Lybarger, for example, hopes to combine her passion for technical work and creative expression to pursue a career in prosthetics. After all, this is a Bioengineering major who dabbles in creative writing and Jenna Lybargerhorticultural philanthropy!

How did you come to choose Bioengineering?
Since the beginning of high school, I have been looking for something to combine my appreciation of math and the sciences with my passion for creativity and art. I figured it would probably be in the engineering field, so I did some research and found that working with prosthetics and Bioengineering could allow me to do that.

Do you definitely want to work in prosthetics?
Not necessarily. Now that I’ve taken classes, I also think I would be interested in working at the cellular level. With the co-ops facilitated by UT’s College of Engineering I’ll have to do in coming semesters, it will help me figure out exactly where I want to be.

Are you looking at any co-op destinations in particular?
I am interested in working with K2M in Virginia which designs implants. I’m also interested in neurology and the skeletal system, but I hope I can get into that company next year.

What Honors faculty members and staff have helped you along the way?
I’m a Presidential Scholar so I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve got to spend with Dean Appel. My Success Coach Eric Gullufsen has really helped me, too – right from the beginning of my freshman year. He’s also the faculty advisor for the organization that I started!

What organization is that?
It’s called Zoetic Zinnias. We grow, gather, and sell flowers to help raise funds and awareness for the prevention of human trafficking. I first began it during my freshman year of high school, but I was happy to bring it to UT since Toledo is such a hub for trafficking. Because this is our second year on campus, we are really starting to grow! New members are joining and we’re starting to establish partnerships with different groups on campus. I’m hoping we can get an official meeting room soon to grow even more.

 Jessica swedik

While some Environmental Sciences majors study soil composition or water quality in the Great Lakes, Jessica Swedik’s tastes are a bit more…exotic. Bugs. For her Honors thesis, Jessica is investigating how temperature influences enzymes produced by millipedes. When not working with these creepy critters, she is probably taking care of her pet tarantulas. Suffice it to say, her Jessica Swedikspecial interest in the field of entomology has led to some interesting experiences over the years.

What attracted you to your major?
Originally I was going to be a Chemistry major, but a high school teacher changed my mind. She warned us that if you don’t get perfect scores on your A.P. exams, you’re going to fail in the profession – which isn’t true at all. But I was frightened, so I switched to EEES. I have always had an interest in the sciences, but not as much Biology. Although, I really enjoy how Environmental Sciences allows me to focus on ecology. As I got into the program, I felt I’d really fit into the entomology side of the field – studying bugs. Looking into it, I realized Chemistry is still important and I picked up that again as minor.

What do you plan to do after your undergraduate career?
I’m applying to graduate school, but there’s not many entomology programs out there. Since, I love spiders, so I’ve been sending letters of inquiry to every arachnology program there is. There’s only about twelve.  I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but wherever I go, I go!

So…why do you like spiders so much?
I don’t know! The only two things I was afraid of as a kid were the dark and spiders. One day I just told myself, I can’t be afraid of these things, and I started looking at spiders more closely. I decided they were kind of cute, and by the time I was in 8th grade, I started really liking them. In high school, I kept a spider as a pet, and she lived a little over a year. I always wanted a tarantula, and when I moved out, I could finally get one. Now it’s becoming a bit of an obsession.

You know how some people are obsessed with dogs? Like how when they see a cute dog, they start crying? When I see a spider, I’ll get overwhelmed like that.

What do you consider to be a cute spider?
All of them! They’re all cute! There are some that are cuter than others, but no spider is ugly. Dwarf tarantulas are my favorite – they don’t get bigger than the size of a quarter. But I don’t have any of those as pets yet.

Have you studied abroad for research?
I studied abroad in Trinidad for an ecology class. We stayed at different research centers in the country and took hikes to explore the ecology. I got to find tarantulas in the field, which was great because it was the first time I saw wild ones. It definitely encouraged me to go on more trips, just to experience different cultures. It’s eye-opening to see how different people live around the world. I’m planning more trips after I graduate just to adventure!


History major, Liz Konopka, is making history of her own in The Medallion this week as our 50th Student of the Week profile! A resident storyteller for the Honors College, we recognize her love of recounting tales of countless historical figures to the many she meets. As both a JSHC Student Ambassador and a resident advisor in MacKinnon Hall, Liz has plenty of Honors students to Liz Konopkaenlighten – something she considers an important part of her UT experience. Now, fresh off of an internship at the Henry Ford Museum, Liz examines how she can delve further into her education.

What would you like to do with your History degree?
I would like to work in a museum, but I’m not sure in what department. I’m thinking more the curatorial aspects, so getting to choose what artifacts go into the exhibits and then writing out the narratives to go along with that.

How does a History student decide on an Honors thesis?
Dr. Chelsea Griffis is my thesis advisor, so she’s helping me focus on a topic right now, since I have no clue what I’m doing. I’ve narrowed it down to women in post-war America, around the 1940s and 1950s. I’m interested in the transition from women primarily being wives and mothers in the home to serving in the workforce as World War II begins. Then, when the war ends and male soldiers returned home saying “Hey, get back to the kitchen,” some women said “I don’t want to.” They are found fulfillment in a career and wanted to keep pursuing it. That shift is really compelling.

So you strive to shine a light on the contributions of women to our history?
Yes! I’m not a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, but sometimes I feel like I should be. It’s important to tell our side of history, because a lot of female accomplishments have been glossed over. There’s always the focus the contributions of men, whereas women rarely earn more than a footnote. Especially in older records, you don’t even get a full name for a wife – the couple is referred to as “John Doe and Mrs. Doe.” It’s important to recognize you’re missing out on half of the population here, so you’re missing out on half of the story. It’s just George Washington and his wife Martha, and that’s the only mention you get of her. George is recognized for his achievements in the American Revolution and the presidency, but people gloss over the fact that Martha spent every winter with the troops in the camps! Social norms often dictated where the wives could and couldn’t go, and though we talk about the ones that stood out and broke the rules, those are the only ones we discuss. Cleopatra receives attention as a monarch because she broke the rules, but there are women in everyday life accomplishing great feats without any recognition for it.

Is there a specific career goal you have?
I want to work at the Smithsonian. I would also like to work in the Museum of American History as the curator of the Arts & Entertainment exhibit – that’s the person in charge of the Kermit the Frog puppet and the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz. I found out recently that the guy currently in that position is only in his thirties, so things aren’t looking promising…but that’s where I want to be!


“Bon Voyage” is a familiar term to senior Kelsey O’Brien, who has not gone a single year at UT without traveling abroad. A Psychology major with a minor in Spanish, Kelsey has used her travels to deepen her studies and collegiate experience. Whether teaching Spanish in El Salvador or pursuing her Honors thesis in Ghana, she has used every opportunity to become a citizen of the Kelsey O'Brienworld.

What do you want to do after graduation?
I’m applying for a Fulbright Scholar Award to teach English in Colombia – because I had such a life-altering experience in El Salvador. Outside of that, I’m honestly not sure what I would do. And I think that’s fine! There’s such a push for students needing to know what they want to do when they leave. Some do, and I’m envious of those people. I have a direction – I love culture and people, but I’m not set on one thing. I think an academic professor teaching cross-culturally would be a good fit. I love the idea of the Fulbright Student Program. It’s an effort to bring the world together while there’s so much chaos and divide. But I’m applying to graduate schools as well to study cross-cultural psychology.

Did you know Spanish before going abroad?
I studied Spanish in high school because I thought it would be easier than French. I went to El Salvador with Clean Water for the World my freshman year and wasn’t able to use the language. I decided to go back to the country to teach English, but that when I’d return I needed to learn the language. I returned to the country with high school-level knowledge and came back home with a bit more fluency. The first time you tell a joke in another language, it feels like the world opens up in a whole new way! In the future, I’d love to tie that into my psychology background.

What’s a good way for students to practice their Spanish?
I started a conversation club called Conversación and Café. We meet at Black Kite Coffee & Pies on Saturdays at 2:30 pm. It’s one hour of just Spanish conversation, so if you don’t know a word, you have to figure out how to say it. All levels of Spanish are welcome!

Where else have you studied abroad?
My El Salvador trip was the first time I traveled outside of the country. It was only for a week, but it was a life-changing experience. I studied abroad the following year in Ghana. When going abroad, it’s best to plan a year ahead. So as soon as I got back from El Salvador, I went straight to the UT Study Abroad Office. Ghana was a gut decision, and I was not prepared when I got there, but it was still a tremendous experience. Staying in Ghana as long as I did, I not only got to know the country really well, but I was also able to travel to the neighboring countries of Togo and Benin. I love studying abroad because the more places you go, the more you are a citizen of the world.

You returned to Ghana last year on a shorter trip. What was that for?
I received the Alan and Susan Lapp Scholarship through the Honors College as well as money from CISP to help me return to Ghana for my Honors thesis. I decided I should personally go because we were handling about 200 paper surveys and I didn’t want to make our collaborators there do all of that work. I helped with data entry and made sure we had copies of the surveys to verify the data, so being there to handle that myself was ideal.

 Max Wylie

The UT Honors experience can be far more fulfilling than an ordinary college career. Max Wylie is a testament to this, a senior who has been involved in the JSHC since his freshman year. Now the President of The Voice of Honors and working on his Honors thesis, the Mathematics and Economics double-major looks back on his time with the JSHC.Max Wylie

What kind of experience has the JSHC provided?
Anytime I’ve taken an Honors course, it’s been a lot of fun – especially if you get a professor who cares deeply about discussion like Dr. Page Armstrong. I took HON 1020 with her and her classes gave students that experience, which you can often only get in Honors courses, where you’re sitting as group of people just talking. I love that! I haven’t had an experience like that outside of my Honors classes. Though Dr. A left UT last year, the JSHC has amassed an eclectic, intelligent, and kind group of faculty. My favorite experiences are just the off-the-wall, random discussions with them. You’ll run into someone in the hallway or go to office hours, start shooting the breeze for a couple minutes, and it turns into some great advice or an insightful discussion. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with the faculty here.
What made Dr. Armstrong’s classes stand out from others you’ve experienced?
Dr. Armstrong has a very strong personality, and I am drawn to strong personalities. As much as I gel with someone who is more introverted and quiet like myself, I tend to gravitate toward people who are outgoing in their kindness and intelligence. Dr. A had a way of conducting her class that placed an emphasis on people as well as material. She struck me immediately as a lifelong learner, someone who learns as much from her students as her students learn from her!
What stood out to you about Dr. Armstrong as a mentor outside of class?
She was our faculty advisor for The Voice of Honors, so I got to know her in two realms at the same time. It was interesting to see how she didn’t change between those two contexts. Oftentimes, you’ll see a different side or face of a person if they’re in an advisory role, which was totally not the case with her. She was a genuine person through and through, no matter what space she occupied. We lucked out in that we had a very similar sense of humor, worldviews, and personal philosophies, so there was kind of an immediate connection.
Can you tell us more about The Voice of Honors?
We are a social, cultural, and intellectual organization for JSHC students to discover and engage with one another through discussions, service, and social gatherings. We’re an eclectic bunch, and there’s no commitment to join. We’re most famous for our “Conversations in Real Time” series, where we bring in professionals from the Toledo community or past JSHC graduates to talk about their lives and careers. Those events are always fun because they’ll start out really formal and devolve into personal and piercing questions to get to really know the person. We also participate in campus events like the UT Homecoming Parade, where we enter a decorated car into the competition. We’ve had a good track record of winning! And then there is our annual “Fullbite” pancake-eating contest... Suffice to say, The Voice does it all!

 justin Mendoza

Justin Mendoza is already a standout Honors student among this year’s incoming class. A graduate of Whitmer High School, Justin is one of a select few who received the prestigious Justin MendozaPresidential Scholarship. Though very early into his college career, this Bioengineering major on a Pre-med track is already looking forward to the many opportunities UT and the JSHC will Justin Mendozaprovide in the coming years.
What made you decide on UT?
I visited campus a lot but instantly felt it was a good fit. The mission of the College of Engineering also really stood out to me: catering to their students’ success and ensuring they’re ready to enter the workforce or go on to graduate school.
What are you expecting out of your major?
Honestly, I really don’t know! Medical school is the first plan, but bioengineering is my second interest. If I don’t end up going to medical school, I know I can pursue a career in biomedical engineering and be satisfied with my work. I feel like it’s the newest form of engineering – mechanical and civil have been around awhile. Now we’re getting into people making prosthetics, toothpaste, and everything in between. I think it’s cool how engineering can be brought into medicine and make the world a better place.
What are you looking for in your Honors experience?
When I went to Jesup Jam, I got the chance to meet Dean Appel and Dr. Scott Molitor, the College Honors Director in Engineering, and they both showed us the great opportunities we have in the Honors College. You can go on trips to Guatemala or Nicaragua, pursue undergraduate research opportunities, and take courses designed specifically for Honors students. The “Community Engagement” course, where you try to solve a problem that is actually affecting people in the local community, really stood out to me. I think Honors opens a lot of doors to pursue what you’re passionate about and dive more deeply into stuff that interests you.
What would you say has had the biggest impact on you coming into college?
My parents have been the biggest role models for me. A lot of the qualities they have aren’t necessarily things they taught me, just stuff I learned watching them and trying to mimic what they do. I was born in the Philippines, so we emigrated here. Both my mom and dad have worked multiple jobs at the same time and sacrificed everything for my siblings and myself. It’s been awesome to see them proud of me for working hard and see things come full circle!

Click here For 2017-2018 JSHC Student Profiles


Click here For 2016-2017 JSHC Student Profiles

Last Updated: 1/18/19