Jesup Scott Honors College

2020-2021 Student of the Week Profiles

Donovan Cleggett

The impactful research of Honors students comes in all forms, not always involving beakers and objective data sets. Sometimes the most important insights into our shared experience are reached through qualitative analysis and interviews of complex human subjects – a truth highlighted by the work of graduating Honors senior Donovan Cleggett.Donovan Cleggett

This Criminal Justice major is writing his Honors thesis about the experiences of Toledo police officers during interactions with minority citizens – to see if these encounters differ based on the officers’ ethnicity and race. Donovan explains, “Unfortunately, many of the issues within the criminal justice system are deeply rooted and hard to ‘quantify’ or see without a qualitative lens. I hope that through my future work, I will be able to shed some light on areas that desperately need improving to create a more just and safe society for all.”

After graduation, in addition to rounding out his thesis research that was hindered by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Donovan will be working with City Year in Los Angeles. The nonprofit organization helps under-resourced school systems by pairing them with graduating college students on a gap year. These graduates then help create more effective learning environments through hands-on activities and one-on-one time with the students.

When asked about his favorite element of being in the Honors College, Donovan responded that his selection couldn’t be narrowed down to one moment. Instead, the JSHC has granted him enriching relationships and experiences in a hard-working, passionate environment. Being around like-minded individuals motivated him further, established friendships, and created cherished memories.

Honors Student Insight: “When I initially began my Honors work in Criminal Justice, I was wary about having to rely so much on Honors Learning Contracts. However, through the Contracts, I was able to create much more personal and enriching relationships with many of my professors.”

Hannah Lapoint

On the verge of graduation and excited to start her career, Hannah LaPoint says she owes a lot to her experience in the Honors College. The specialized courses and enhanced opportunities she enjoyed in her Environmental Science major as an Honors student deepened her understanding of the field and showed her what she can do to advance it as a budding Hannah Lapointprofessional.

After attending a research conference, Hannah identified a vexing environmental challenge that offered direction for her Honors capstone project. She is studying the concentration of the pesticide atrazine as it leeches into an aquifer under an active farm field. Her research will demonstrate what attributes of the soil affect the flow of the pesticide into the aquifer and eventually a nearby creek. “The data can then be used in future agricultural research to find cost-effective methods for preventing runoff into waterways so that the pesticide doesn’t bioaccumulate in higher trophic levels of the ecosystem,” she says.

Hannah has accepted a position as a Natural Resources Technician working with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources after graduation. “Being involved in projects like the UToledo Student Green Fund and the installation of the Health Science Campus Tech Park Solar Field, I got to make a lasting impression on this university that will benefit students long after I am gone,” she said. “That is the whole reason I became an environmentalist – to leave the planet in a better state than when I found it.”

Favorite Thing about Honors: “The tight-knit community provided by the JSHC allowed me to get to know my professors and enjoy potlucks, movie nights, and pumpkin painting with other students through the Honors Learning Community. It made my experience at UToledo that much better and helped me form bonds with my peers outside of the classroom.”

Rayan Muhsen

Rayan Muhsen gained more than just grant-writing skills, some Honors credits, and executive public speaking experience when he took HON 3010 “Community Engagement.” The Exercise Science major had a philosophical breakthrough then in Rayan Muhsen2019 when he learned that making a positive change requires just a few variables: a problem, passion, and good intentions. Now in the process of finishing his Honors thesis, this equation is lining up for him to make more positive change through his research.

Rayan is studying absorbance data related to triglyceride content in skeletal muscles. He hopes to determine if there is a difference in levels of the lipid among slow and fast muscles. “There are potential clinical applications to knowing if there is a difference,” he explained. “For example, if a patient has muscle atrophy due to metabolic disturbances involving issues with triglycerides after being in a cast, they could be prescribed a high-fat diet to help their muscles build back to normal size.” Rayan is excited to see the outcomes of his research, knowing the tangible effects it could have in the world of medicine.

After graduation, he will earn a Master's degree in Biomedical Science in Medical Sciences at UToledo. Rayan feels that the Exercise Science curriculum has prepared him well for this next step and recommends the major to anyone considering medical school. “The field’s hands-on emphasis is what really made this learning experience valuable,” he says, “being able to see and practice my passion outside of a textbook.”

Favorite Honors Memory: “My standout academic memory was working on my group presentation in HON 3010. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about the rich history of the ProMedica Ebeid Center and about reducing disparities in infant mortality in Toledo.”

Olivia Bias

As an Honors student majoring in Social Work, Olivia Bias’s academic path began relatively uncharted. She was a little concerned about completing the Honors medallion requirements at first. But through her Honors experience, Olivia has been able to work closely with her professors, commit to interesting research, and practice surveying, grant-writing, Olivia Biascollaboration, as well as community presentations!

In her HON 3010 “Community Engagement” course, she partnered with the Wayman D. Palmer Community YMCA to find solutions for the pre-kindergarten instructional crisis in the Toledo community. Now in her last semester and working on her thesis centered on human trafficking, Olivia has had the opportunity to interact with the head case manager at the Salvation Army's RISE program and the Education committee co-chair for the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition. Olivia’s thesis explores the impact of human trafficking policies on social work practice through interviews with direct social service providers. She has concluded such providers should be more familiar with these policies at the national, state, and local levels. Olivia also suggests that a more diverse panel of policymakers is needed to draft these rules.

Unsurprising given her scholarly interest in civic involvement, Olivia has also been an active participant in the Honors Learning Community. She has most cherished the JSHC trips to see symphonic orchestra performances and musicals. “My favorite was going to the Stranahan Theater to see Rent,” she said. “The show was sold-out and was the last major school event before the pandemic shutdowns began. The energy was electric – palpable, even!”

Next Steps: “I will be returning to UToledo to earn my Master’s of Social Work degree in the Fall and am also working on becoming a licensed social worker.”

John Young

Being an Honors student means more than preparing for a profession. By the time of graduation, JSHC students are trained to be well-rounded persons positioned to take an active role in questioning and changing society. With graduation just weeks away, John Young is ready to leave his mark.John Young

This Political Science major, who will be attending law school in the Fall, has written his Honors thesis scrutinizing the pivotal issue of data privacy in our increasingly digital lives. In it, John explores the ways in which both governmental and corporate policies shape data privacy, how our data is being used by these entities, and the American public’s attitudes about data privacy. He ultimately concludes that, because of a lack of public interest and a strong corporate incentive in maintaining the status quo, that data privacy has been and may remain largely unprotected in the United States.

As an Honors student in Political Science, John benefited from faculty mentorship on his thesis project rooted in the many Honors Learning Contracts he took in his courses to earn the JSHC medallion. He relished this opportunity to work more closely with professors on additional projects and learn more through them, developing in the process, “great relationships with my faculty which have been quite beneficial to me,” he said.

John hopes after law school to either become a U.S. Attorney or work as corporate, in-house counsel for a large company. “Either way, I am very excited to start studying law this coming Fall, as I have been working towards that point in my academic career for the past three years!”

Interesting Personal Fact: “I love being on the water in any way possible, and I am even a certified scuba diver!”

Chi-Chi Igwe

“Community engagement” is more than just a class title for Honors students – it’s a way of life. Chi-Chi Igwe embodies this value through and through, a member of several service organizations on campus and an aspiring physician eager to care for those often overlooked by our healthcare industry.

Chi-Chi IgweA minority student on the pre-med track, Chi-Chi says, “There are many low-income and under-served communities who deserve physicians who look like them. When this happens, the patients see themselves reflected through the doctor caring for them, which often leads to a better understanding of and treatments for the patients.” The Biochemistry major added, “While being a minority pursuing a career in medicine is quite tough, the need for more minority doctors overshadows that in my eyes.”

This sense of overriding purpose clearly animates Chi-Chi’s involvement on campus, too. She is a Presidential Ambassador, a Senator in Student Government, an Event Coordinator in the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students, and a member of Toledo Students for Life as well as the African People’s Association. She’s also an ecstatic member of the Hot Chocolate Club!

Interesting Personal Fact: “I am a huge advocate for mental health. I've recently been practicing and placing a bigger emphasis on self-care in my life. I have come to find that discipline is the best form of self-care, as it takes discipline to eat right, exercise, get work done, and practice mindfulness.”

Sabrina Cady

Sabrina Cady will admit, Honors hasn’t exactly been what she expected it to be. Fortunately, she means that in the best way possible! She ended her sophomore year wondering if Honors was worth it or just amounted to extra work. The capstone project seemed especially daunting – a culminating research experience to be completed right before Sabrina Cadygraduation. Now that she’s in the middle of it, this graduating senior wants anyone questioning Honors to know it’s not scary at all! In fact, it has given her an opportunity to critically reflect on the state of her desired profession before entering it.

An Accounting major, something surprising is happening to her field. With advances in software and technology, the work being done by accountants is evolving. In her capstone project, Sabrina is attempting to understand the “what,” “why,” and “how” of these changes – including alterations in licensure exams and everyday accountant protocols.

Sabrina’s capacity to question the shifting assumptions and goals of her field has its roots in her favorite Honors course – HON 1010. Dr. Page Armstrong led discussions there that delved into anything and everything but always connected those topics with real-world application. Lending hands like these can really help students make huge impacts in their fields, just like Sabrina is doing today!

Interesting Personal Fact: “With my red hair and blue eyes, I have physical characteristics that only 0.17% of other people have!”

Onefuwa Akande

Anyone who knows Onefuwa Akande can already sense the crater-sized impact this first-year student will have on her community. A pre-Psychology major with a pre-med concentration, she is enthusiastically taking steps toward her desired career as a physician. On campus and in Toledo, she is an outreached hand for students and healthcare patients alike.

Onefuwa AkandeOnce aware of Onefuwa’s active participation in the Food Recovery Network, PERIOD-MEDLIFE, and the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students, you would think she is already going above and beyond. These efforts to resist food waste and hunger, challenge taxes on menstrual products, and to increase the pipeline of minorities into health professions is just part of the story! The most incredible thing about Onefuwa is her involvement in a pre-health seminar team. Amidst the pandemic, many meeting spaces were closed to promote physical distancing and access to medical resources has become strained. Her team has tenaciously tackled these obstacles and continues to educate over one-hundred students on issues plaguing the delivery of healthcare services to marginalized populations. Educational outreach and the work to overcome societal barriers to health simply cannot stop for a global pandemic.

Fueling this activism, Onefuwa embraces the Honors experience as a way to see past the surface level of what exists both in college classes and the world. “It’s just truly inspiring to genuinely learn information, absorb it, and apply it,” she says, highlighting that Honors classes encourage higher-order thinking.

Interesting Personal Fact: “I am involved in the Zen Buddhist Student Association, where I hold the position of Treasurer. It is a place of solace and connection, and I love attending our weekly meetings.”

Sanskar Lamsal

Currently serving as the Vice President for both the Association for Computing Machinery and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers as well as an Honors Student Ambassador, Sanskar Lamsal is one accomplished sophomore!
Sanskar Lamsal
His extensive involvement in campus life reflects the emphasis Sanskar and his Honors faculty have placed on interpersonal development. “Some of my favorite memories are in HON 1010,” he said, “a small class based on discussion where we would sit roundtable to discuss the assigned stories or novels before analyzing them and writing about them individually. As a result, I was able to advance my written and verbal communication skills.” These same opportunities for personal growth Sanskar has found in the Honors sections of his Computer Science and Engineering classes where he has worked closely with his major faculty.

Though he has a few years left before graduation, Sanskar is already excitedly mulling over ideas for his Honors capstone project. Whatever shape it ends up taking, he knows he wants it to be an original idea that will one day help him start a company of his own. “After I graduate, I want to work for a company that values me and helps me develop my skills – experience I can eventually use to generate a business idea that would create a positive change in society,” he said.

Interesting Personal Fact: “I love being outdoors and enjoy nature and wildlife photography as well as biking and hiking!”

Allie Boyer

While UToledo is committed to the success of every Rocket, Honors students like Allie Boyer leverage enhanced coursework and unparalleled access to faculty to create their own growth opportunities. When meeting with Dr. Welivitiya Allie BoyerKarunarathne to discuss his Honors "Analytical Chemistry Laboratory" course last year, for example, she unexpectedly secured a position in his lab as an undergraduate researcher!

Honors sections of major classes allow Allie and others to meet with professors in small groups to complete supplemental lab work and projects. “This has been exceptionally beneficial in my Chemistry courses because they are usually on the larger side,” she said. “The Honors sections make it possible to get to know my professors and ask detailed questions about the course material.”

Outside of the classroom, Allie serves as the fundraising lead for the UToledo Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society. She also became an Honors Student Ambassador last year to share the benefits of JSHC membership with prospective students. Through the Pre-Health Advising Center, she also volunteers at UTMC’s Comprehensive Care Center taking temperatures and screening incoming patients. “I enjoy helping in any small way possible during the pandemic,” she said. The experience will serve her well on her road to medical school before pursuing a career as an emergency room physician.

Favorite Thing about UToledo: “It has to be how the environment here encourages involvement. Both the student body and the faculty are always promoting extracurricular activities, which makes it so easy to get involved!”

David Heuring

Though a student of the past, David Heuring’s purpose aims boldly toward the future. The sophomore History major aspires to teach the subject in high school after graduation and is excitedly planning ways to first gain hands-on insight into the field. “Aside from initially getting some internship experience, I’d also like to travel the world – visiting historical David Heuringsites to understand more about our past and how it has shaped the present world,” he said.

As a member of the JSHC, David has taken out Honors Learning Contracts to explore in-depth concepts that his professors would not have time to address outside of a personalized setting. These experiences have allowed him to reach across disciplines and thus appreciate more fully the historical forces that have led us to this moment in time. “Regarding my time as an Honors student, I am happy to say I have had a wonderful experience,” he said.

David isn’t merely committed to getting the most out of his classes, though. He is the President of the Chinese American Student Association and is involved in Levis Leadership UToledo, the College Democrats, and in LiftOff UToledo as a group leader. What more will David accomplish as a Rocket only time will tell!

Interesting Personal Fact: “I am an Eagle Scout! My project was to remove trees and bushes that were obscuring the view of the road from the parking lot at Side Cut Metropark a few years ago.”

Merina Varghese

Growing up, Merina Varghese was always interested in the sciences – particularly anatomy and physiology. Now, with a goal of attending medical school and becoming a physician, her longstanding passion for understanding the human form has evolved into a body of work emphasizing major research and volunteering.

Merina VargheseBy taking several of her Psychology courses for Honors credit through Honors Learning Contracts, Merina has gained several professional growth opportunities and found her mentor in Dr. Cin Cin Tan. Assisting in his research has allowed Merina to further explore and thus solidify her interests in developmental psychology. “I truly feel that Honors has provided me with the opportunity to engage in many experiences that have furthered my knowledge in the field as well as motivated me to pursue my passion in medicine,” she said.

Also serving as the President of the Red Cross Club and as an American Red Cross volunteer since high school, Merina is already advancing health outcomes in her community. She works with other club members and the American Red Cross to support blood drives, emergency preparedness training, disaster relief, and other initiatives. “To be a volunteer means to put another’s needs and time before your own, which I believe is a crucial element in our busy lives,” she said. Merina is also the Secretary of Alpha Epsilon Delta, a health pre-professional honor society that helps its members gain exposure to the healthcare field.

Interesting Personal Fact:I am an avid tea drinker, and I enjoy collecting different kinds of tea from across the world. I think it’s a great way to relax and connect with loved ones!”

Teja Ravi

As an undergraduate researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences, a pre-med Honors student, and a competitive member of the traveling club tennis team, one might wonder when Teja Ravi ever has time to sleep. It’s a common misconception, though, that driven students cannot participate in activities for fun or to nurture their mental health. Teja RaviEndlessly innovative, Honors students find a way!

“I always talk to peers and incoming students about how pre-health students can still be academically competitive and get involved in non-medical activities as long as they can manage their time efficiently,” Teja said. “I make sure to say when they ask me about how I balance playing a sport with pursuing a competitive, rigorous major that stimulating one’s mental health is extremely important.” She notes that, by participating in an activity that excites or relaxes, that student in the end can perform better in school and in other volunteer or work activities.

To top it all off, Teja is also entering her third consecutive year serving as a student researcher under Dr. Heather Conti! “Knowing I am a part of the Honors College, Dr. Conti appreciates my effort and drive to be an active member of the lab experience. She constantly pushes me to explore new methods and procedures,” Teja said.

Favorite Thing about Honors: “Through the JSHC, I have been given an opportunity to excel in my major and extracurricular interests, thus advancing my undergraduate experience by paving a way to my future career in medicine.”

Hannah Myers

An Adolescent and Young Adult Education major with a passion for creative writing, Hannah Myers started her college career intent on studying neuroscience. This intersection of interests now finds powerful expression in The Magnus Effect, Hannah Myersan online journal Hannah publishes annually – the inaugural issue of which appeared just last month.

“The pandemic forced many writers into their dark caves – either filled with frustrated creativity or simply in need of a pinch of excitement,” Hannah said. While some might prefer a fluffy literary magazine filled with escapist fantasy, she opted instead into risky, experimental, and unhinged compositions. Hannah maintains it’s exactly this style that’s needed as a relief in these desperate times. The works are inspired by the genres of absurdist science fiction, suspense, horror, and other “uncomfortable” styles by writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Cristina Moracho, Gillian Flynn, and Chuck Palahniuk.

The value of the Honors experience for Hannah is, after all, its capacity to push boundaries and promote experimental collaboration. She believes Honors courses should be required for every student, as they train us not to take for granted what we think we know and to remember that others were not necessarily taught the same things we were.

Favorite Thing about Honors: “In my JSHC courses, we’ve done what is mostly classified as ‘learning how to think,’ which includes studying philosophy, questioning the world, and, most importantly, learning how to solve problems or partner with others.”

Seham Abutaha

While all Honors students must wrap-up their JSHC core courses by the end of their senior year, for Seham Abutaha, that milestone came unusually early – in high school! Indeed, she graduated as valedictorian and class president from Toledo Seham AbutahaEarly College High School last year having already earned 65 college credits from UToledo. The only student in her class accepted into the Honors College, she joined as a TECHS sophomore and began taking Honors courses as a junior. By the end of high school, she had completed all of her required HON courses on the Gold track.

These courses, Seham says, offered her socially enriching, professionally engaging, and culturally fulfilling experiences as well as the opportunity to have insightful discussions with her Honors peers. She even joined the Honors Student Ambassadors so that she could help guide current and future JSHC students through its curriculum.

“My choice to get involved in the Honors College has been an impactful and eye-opening experience,” she said. “There is no doubt that the JSHC carries a distinguished legacy in its efforts to create an experiential learning environment for its students.”

Favorite Thing about UToledo:
“UToledo encourages its students to explore every opportunity and to make informed decisions using their curiosity in order to become the best version of themselves.”

Molly Riordan

Honors students grow in the classroom by acquiring knowledge, in lab spaces pushing the boundaries of discovery, and in their clinicals and co-ops as aspiring professionals. But for Molly Riordan, service to the broader campus community has been just as illuminating.
Molly Riordan
Since her freshman year, the junior Economics major and Data Analytics minor has been involved in the Christian Leadership Program at Corpus Christi University Parish and in the Catholic Student Association. Being a part of these organizations has provided her the opportunity to give back to the Toledo community and make lifelong friends.

“My favorite event I have participated in through CSA is Songfest,” Molly said. One of the oldest traditions at UToledo, the singing and dancing competition is a philanthropy event aimed at raising money for a charity. “My freshman year, after months of late-night practices, we won the co-ed division and CSA reclaimed their first-place trophy for the second year in a row!”

In addition to being involved with CSA and CLP, Molly is also an Honors Student Ambassador. “I have enjoyed my time as an Ambassador and getting the chance to connect with incoming and prospective students about what makes Honors such an amazing experience at UToledo,” she said.

Interesting Personal Fact: “I used to be a competitive Irish dancer for thirteen years, an experience that left me with amazing memories and friends. I got the chance to travel around the country dancing at many shows and competitions, even placing in the top twelve at a major regional competition.”

Beth Ziegelmeyer

The global pandemic has slowed down a great many things in our daily lives, but it hasn’t stopped Beth Ziegelmeyer from being busy! In fact, it has inspired the junior Chemistry student all the more to show the world what science can do to Beth Ziegelmeyermake it a better place.

As the Secretary of the UToledo Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society, she has worked with faculty and students of her department to communicate the importance of chemistry within UToledo and the surrounding community. She is also the President of the newly formed student chapter of Clean Water for the World, a group committed to providing purification units to communities without clean drinking water. “I'm really looking forward to spreading an awareness of the importance of water accessibility around campus through the organization,” she said.

Beth’s advocacy at home and abroad was fostered by her one-on-one work with professors in upper-level Honors Chemistry courses. “The most meaningful experiences in my major have been completing unique projects in the student-driven Honors sections of my classes,” she said.

This encouraged Beth to begin research in a lab, independently working on projects funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research. Her personal favorite involved a chemistry-related Wikipedia page that she improved by researching the subject and editing the page to make it clearer. Aside from eventually becoming active in campus organizations, Beth also began contributing to collaborative work destined for publication.

Interesting Personal Fact: “I was planning on studying abroad in Sorrento, Italy in June, but the trip was unfortunately cancelled due to the pandemic. Instead, I used the time to paint two wall murals – the Cleveland one which I finished over Winter Break!”

Kayla Clough

Some soon-to-be graduates struggle with “senioritis” in their last semester, the allure of a post-collegiate life obscuring opportunities (and responsibilities) in the present. Nursing major Kayla Clough, however, is not among them. She has instead been using her final semester to conduct her Honors capstone research, laying the groundwork for a Kayla Cloughcareer in healthcare.

Kayla has been working with a local ProMedica hospital as part of a research team focused on surgical site infections in knees and hips. The team has analyzed data on the best practices for preventing infections in their operating rooms and will recommend these measures as a care bundle to ProMedica. “It has been hugely beneficial for me to see how a real research team works, which is experience I’ll definitely use in the future,” she said.

More than just an effective collaborator, she is also the President of the Student Nurses’ Association – a powerful experience that has allowed Kayla to enhance her leadership skills. Serving in the role has also connected her with student peers and practicing nurses on a professional level.

“While I am still deciding where to accept a position, I know that I want to eventually become an operating room nurse or work in an intensive care unit,” Kayla said. “No matter where I end up, though, I will feel confident with how the Honors College has prepared me for success.”

Favorite Honors Memory: “My favorite JSHC memory centers on a class trip we took to the Toledo Museum of Art. It was interesting to hear everyone's different reactions to each piece of artwork. I loved having the opportunity to interact with like-minded students outside of my major and in such a fun environment.”

Yaminee Patel

Landing a job with one of the world’s largest companies would be a significant achievement in any season, but doing so in the midst of a global pandemic is next level. Whether the odds are long or stacked high, Rockets like Yaminee Patel soar over them and demonstrate where talent and hard work can take you. In her case, it’s all the way to Amazon’s Seattle Yaminee Patelheadquarters!

Yaminee, an Electrical Engineering major, will join the company’s Robotics Deployment Engineering team in January after interning with the group over the summer. “I got to work with a great team there and contribute to some really valuable projects,” she said. Her new role will focus on project management and capitalize on her technical training (she designed for her Honors capstone project a device that can determine whether a baseball player is safe at first base using live audio and cell data) as well as her leadership experience.

Over the years, Yaminee has participated in several organizations – most notably the UToledo Engineering Council for a whopping seven semesters! The council functions as a voice for students at the College of Engineering and hosts community, campus, and professional events for their peers. She has served on the group’s Campus Outreach and Professional Development committees in addition to chairing the Member Appreciation and the New Member committees. “I love the bonds that I have made on the council over the years – it will always hold a special place in my heart,” Yaminee said. “I look forward to coming back to speak to the council as an alumna and helping guide the future engineers at UToledo!”

Next Steps: “I've lived in the Midwest for my entire life, so I'm looking forward to experiencing a city on the West Coast! I know I am so lucky to have landed an incredible role during these hard times. I feel blessed to hit the ground running and start my career so soon after graduation.”

Morgan Inskeep

Morgan Inskeep has spent a fair amount of her time as a Rocket helping others. Through both extracurricular service and her coursework, the senior Exercise Science major and soon-to-be Honors medallion recipient has already touched the Morgan Inskeeplives of many.

As a member of Delta Rho Tau, a professional physical therapy fraternity, she participated in a service-learning trip to Mexico through an organization called International Service Learning. While there, she and her fellow Delta Rho members conducted a physical therapy clinic for locals and did in-home visits for those that could not come to the clinic. “There are vast differences between the healthcare systems in the U.S. and Mexico, so seeing that firsthand was impactful,” she said. “I got valuable experience working with some amazing patients in multiple settings.”

Instead of combating health challenges abroad, the aim of Morgan’s Honors thesis is local – centering on the American opioid crisis. She investigates its causes and contributing factors but also proposes solutions available through physical therapy. Morgan also implemented as part of the research a survey to understand the impact opioids have had on the local community. Beyond the potential impact of her work to save lives, the thesis also gave her an opportunity to work with one of Morgan’s favorite faculty members as her project mentor – Professor Julie Coyle. “Prof. Coyle is one of my favorite instructors that I have had at UToledo,” Morgan said. “She is so kind and wants to see all of her students succeed.”

After graduation in a couple of weeks, Morgan will be moving to North Carolina where she will continue her education in a physical therapy assistant program.

Interesting Personal Fact: “I was an exchange student in Guatemala for a summer when I was in high school!”

Yash Shingan

When he arrived on UToledo’s campus, Yash Shingan was in search of a sense of belonging. After just a year, the sophomore Media Communication major has dedicated himself to creating that same sense of community for others.Yash Shingan

Yash serves as the Executive of Marketing and Public Relations for the International Students Association. “As an international student myself, ISA means a lot to me,” he said. It helped me make new friends and get access to resources when I was new in the U.S. and was feeling lost. I want to help provide those same resources and fellowship for others by serving on the ISA executive board.”

Yash also works with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion as one of their Inclusion Champions. The group gets together once a month to discuss ways to contribute to a feeling of connection on campus. “As a queer kid growing up in a not-so progressive country like India, I know what it feels like to be left out and I want to do everything in my capacity to ensure someone else doesn't experience that,” he said.

Interesting Personal Facts: “I am involved as well in the Rocket Dhamaka Bollywood Fusion Dance Team, the Free Pizza Improv group, and the Honors Student Ambassadors. I was also proud to represent ISA at Homecoming and was excited to win the title of Homecoming King!”

Jose Castillo

Though his last semester at UToledo probably didn’t end up looking the way he thought it would when he started his undergraduate journey, the future for Jose Castillo is nonetheless bright. He hasn’t been on campus much this semester Jose Castilloamidst the global pandemic as a commuter student. But come July, this Mechanical Engineering major will be starting his job with GE Appliances!

Jose credits landing the position to the co-op experiences that UToledo offers its students. The value of this kind of professional development relative to UToledo’s cost was not lost on him when he was selecting a university. “Toledo is my hometown, so it was close to me, and the tuition is affordable – especially for a commuter,” he said. “When you combine that with the quality classes and co-op experiences here in the College of Engineering, it was an easy decision.”

Being in the JSHC additionally provided Jose with constant opportunities to personalize his education and deepen his expertise through lab work and specialized projects. “In Honors Physics II, for example, we were paired into groups to present on how physics can be used to enhance the world around us,” he said. “My group chose refracted and reflecting light and how fiber optic cables help us transfer data at tremendous speeds.”

Interesting Personal Fact: “I am a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The group has been a great opportunity to get to know the other aspiring engineers I am in classes with and it has allowed us to shadow in certain companies.”

Payton Kamer

As one of UToledo’s prestigious Presidential Scholars, Payton Kamer doesn’t let opportunities slip her by – she seizes them. A sophomore Chemical Engineering major with a minor in Chemistry, she is involved in the UToledo Engineering Council and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, serves on an Engineering student advisory board, and is a mentor group Payton Kamerleader for freshmen in her major.

As a Toledoan, attending UToledo has allowed Payton to get more involved in the community she loves. She has met local leaders as a Presidential Scholar and has had access to professional mentors. “I really enjoy being a positive representative of the school and city,” she said. “Every experience here seems to reaffirm that I made the right choice of where to spend my college years.” Through its mandatory co-op program, she will be starting her first rotation at BP this Spring – her dream job since high school. “I’m looking forward to working alongside chemical engineers and learning from their industry expertise,” she said.

As if she didn’t have enough to keep her busy, Payton also joined the Honors Student Ambassadors this year! She works with Honors faculty and other students to demonstrate all that the university and the Honors College have to offer prospective Rockets. Reaching out to them with video messages, personalized notecards, as well as information sessions on-campus and online has allowed her to give back to the JSHC for enriching her college experience.

Ambassador Insight: “It seems like every 7:30 am Friday meeting is a fun story, given the contrast of people early in the morning. I am not a morning person, and some people in the meetings – Dean Appel in particular – are always extra cheerful and give my morning brain a run for its money!”

Alex Martinez

Hailing from one of the largest colleges at UToledo, senior Mechanical Engineering student Alex Martinez found in the Honors College a cozy counterbalance to large lecture halls and class participation via clickers. Instead, the JSHC offered Alex Martinezhim a close-knit community emphasizing personalized instruction and camaraderie.

The small class sizes of Honors sections allowed Alex to rotate through his Engineering curriculum with the same group of close friends and benefit from accessible faculty mentorship. It’s with these friends that Alex is currently working on his Senior Design Project – a mobile generator that Toledo Metroparks visitors can hook their bikes up to and create energy by pedaling. The generator will be able to run small electronics including phone chargers, computers, and lights.

Outside of the classroom, Alex is proud to serve as a Young Life volunteer leader and Christian mentor to high school students in his local Petersburg school district in Michigan. He’s also preparing to get married in December following graduation and has been busy fixing up his and his fiancée’s first home!

Interesting Personal Fact: “I’m an active outdoorsman and am currently on my way home from a king salmon fishing trip in northern Michigan!”

Jannet Frias

Originally from Florida, Jannet Frias was nervous coming to Toledo for the first time – having chosen a university in a brand-new city where she knew no one. “When I first set foot on campus, however, I felt at home,” she said. “I felt welcomed by the lovely staff – including Dean of Students Dr. Sammy Spann and a few others from the Honors College, Jannet Friassuch as Dean Heidi Appel and Josh Martin. I knew instantly UToledo was the best fit for me and, three years later, I continue to call it my home.”

A Special Education Intervention Specialist major, Jannet initially gravitated toward UToledo for its selection of education majors. But when she applied here, she was offered the prestigious Herb Scholarship in recognition of her talents and promise in the profession. The award, which is made possible through the generosity of Judith Herb and her family, cultivates the leadership skills of promising educators of tomorrow. The investment seems to have paid off! Jannet is the Vice President for the Multicultural Greek Council, President of Alpha Psi Lambda National, Inc., a member of Order of Omega, and a member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society.

While this leadership experience has helped prepare her for professional success, doing so while enrolled in the Honors College has been invaluable. Jannet has been able to network with education professionals through the JSHC as well as explore more of Toledo through courses such as HON 2010 “Multicultural Toledo” and HON 3010 “Community Engagement.” The former, taught by Dr. Carla Pattin, has been her favorite. It was through this class that she was able to explore Toledo and completed a project working with Adelante – an area non-profit organization dedicated to empowering Latinos and offering support services to the community at-large.

Best Thing about HON 2010: “Being able to learn about the city and show my peers what the Latinx community has to offer here in Toledo was a great experience!”

Kyle Cotner

As an aspiring physician, Kyle Cotner’s undergraduate journey has been defined by a passion for helping others. He has studiously prepared for a career treating disease and other maladies, majoring in Biology with a pre-med concentration Kyle Cotnerand another in neuroscience alongside a minor in Chemistry. But with medical school yet in front of him after graduation, Kyle’s dedication to others found powerful expression through Honors Spring Break service learning trips to Nicaragua in 2018 and Guatemala in 2019.

“In Nicaragua and Guatemala, we were helping impoverished villages in the garbage dump communities,” Kyle said. “Seeing the conditions those children are growing up in is a raw experience that cannot be adequately expressed in words. It struck me to my core and has propelled me to engage in medical mission trips as a future medical student and practicing physician – to provide the healthcare these communities desperately need.”

Shortly before heading to Guatemala, Kyle additionally traveled with a small group of Honors students to Ecuador on a Winter Intersession course led by JSHC Dean Heidi Appel. “These experiences provided me an opportunity to witness firsthand how people in other countries interact with their environments,” he said. The following academic year, Kyle participated in the UToledo-Salford Exchange Program by taking major classes at England’s Salford University. He met new people there, visited countries all over Europe, engaged with their cultures, and joined the Salford University Diving Society while fulfilling one of his lifelong goals of becoming scuba certified!

“The Honors College has fundamentally shifted the way I view the world,” Kyle said. “I have been exposed to so many incredible people with differing life experiences here, and that has propelled my personal growth dramatically over the past few years.”

Favorite Thing about Honors: “My Honors experience thus far has been incredible! I have taken courses that have opened my eyes and broadened my horizons in a way that is unique to classes offered through the JSHC.”

Jay Houke

While some college classes rely on instructor lectures where students are mere spectators, Honors Biology major Jay Houke found something quite different in HON 1010. Jay is instead encouraged by Prof. Dan McInnis to come to their own conclusions about images they analyze free from context. Prof. McInnis acts more as a moderator for discussion and Jay Houkefacilitates the flow of thoughts in the classroom, so students learn from their peers.

One image the class reviewed was a French magazine cover depicting an African child soldier. “I was confused why there was such a young boy in a military uniform performing a salute, especially an African on a French magazine cover, because I had no knowledge of the origins of the photograph,” Jay said. “After I read the text associated with the image, I realized that it was produced by the French government to promote nationalist propaganda about the citizens of countries such as Burkina Faso whom the French have oppressed, suggesting that they should serve in the French military.”

The frequent feedback to assigned work in Honors classes helps reinforce this creative independence. In their HON 1010, Prof. McInnis offers his thoughts on student papers and journal entries scrutinizing images in the textbook. The insight is then shared by the class during group discussions – as recently happened when they watched Who The #$&% is Jackson Pollock. The film follows a woman who bought a painting at a thrift store which she finds might have been created by Pollock, a famous artist. “As a class, we reflected on whether the painting should be worth the $5 it was bought for or the millions of dollars it was suspected to be worth,” Jay said. “We also discussed what makes art valuable and how a painting could end up having such a high price!”

Best Thing about HON 1010: “Prof. McInnis always allows his students to express their opinions in a respectful manner by never judging us and by encouraging a creative atmosphere.”

McKenna Dowd

McKenna Dowd, a junior majoring in Physics with a concentration in astrophysics, originally joined the Honors College with one particular perk in mind – solitude. The single occupancy rooms in MacKinnon Hall reserved for JSHC students would allow her to focus on her studies undisturbed. It didn’t take her long, though, to appreciate some of the other perks McKenna Dowdof her membership in Honors – its vibrant community and student programming.

Since the Honors College has hosted so many events in MacKinnon, McKenna could pop in, meet new people, and stay engaged before making the quick trek back to her room (and homework). The convenience of this balance has allowed her to get the most out of her college experience. “One of my favorite memories was going to the Toledo Zoo for Lights Before Christmas with the Honors Learning Community,” she said. “It was unforgettable!”

McKenna’s introduction to the Toledo community went far beyond fun outings to its attractions, however, because of her favorite JSHC class – HON 2010 “Multicultural Toledo.” A native of Medina, the course invited McKenna to reflect critically on the history and development of Toledo through the eyes of its communities and institutions. “Seeing on our city walkabouts different cultures and experiencing what felt like entire worlds I didn’t know existed outside my campus grounds was so impactful,” she said. “I learned so much and grew to love Toledo even more.”

Interesting Personal Fact: “I am a part of the UToledo Orchestra as well as a member of the Ritter Undergraduate Observing Team through the Department of Astronomy and Physics.”

Chandler Leeka

Though he always thought he’d find himself at a larger university, German major and junior Chandler Leeka ultimately Chandler Leekaattended UToledo for the outsized support and attention he would enjoy from the faculty in a smaller program. The opportunity to work closely with his instructors was then amplified by his enrollment in the Honors College, given its emphasis on student-driven research tailored to their unique interests.

“Being an Honors student provides experiences that you can’t get anywhere else – like Honors courses, it’s really nice to be able to have classes that challenge your perspective and expand your worldview,” Chandler said. “For the most part, there aren’t many pre-existing Honors sections available in my major, but that means I get to pursue Learning Contracts and get the most of my experience.”

He added, “I have a strong interest in LGBT+ history, and that pairs well with the courses I’ve taken. For a lot of my cultural courses, for example, I try to approach them though an LGBT+ lens.” In his “History of German Literature” course, Chandler studied the history of German LGBT+ works through an additional project that converted the course to one counting for Honors credit.

Favorite Honors Course: “It’s a hard choice, but it would have to be HON 1020. Professor Alysha Cook was great and having a class size of about 10 was a welcome change of pace – since that is actually on the larger side of classes I’ve experienced in my major. Even though it was Spring 2020, and we had a very odd semester, it still was amazing.”

Branigan Lyczkowski

Branigan Lyczkowski attended UToledo for many of the same reasons other Engineering students do – notably the mandatory co-op program familiarizing them with their anticipated careers and potential employers before graduation. The values of hands-on learning and widening one’s community have, however, come to define Branigan’s time at UToledo Branigan Lyczkowskimore than most!

She is a member of several professional and cultural organizations, such as the Roy and Marcia Armes Engineering Leadership Institute and the Presidential Ambassadors. She has developed in these groups a comfort talking to CEOs and university donors as well as a commitment to setting lofty goals for herself – not to mention an expanding resume! She is also part of the Filipino American Association on campus.

Membership in the Honors College has further given Branigan the opportunity to explore the Toledo area and learn about the diversity, local art, and different cultures that make it thrive. Having her experience all of this in the company of likeminded students with the same critical thinking skills and desire to learn, Honors has helped change her perspective on the world.

Not surprisingly, Branigan identifies HON 2010 “Multicultural Toledo” taught by Dr. Carla Pattin as her favorite Honors class. It challenged her to think deeper about an array of topics surrounding us in everyday life. One of her favorite things the class did was analyze clips from Disney films and discuss the problematic portrayal of some of the characters – such as Belle’s responsibility for redeeming the abusive Beast. They also walked around campus and analyzed how accommodations for disabled students could be improved. “Challenging my beliefs and letting myself grow has been one of the biggest and most beneficial lessons I have learned from the JSHC,” she said.

Favorite UToledo Opportunity: The Filipino American Association has become a second family to me, as they have taught me that different perspectives and backgrounds are what make a group stronger – that learning and accepting everyone’s unique qualities is important.

Bailey Holmes-Sparks

Hello, Rockets! I’m the new Honors Communications Intern who will be writing about some of our amazing JSHC students and alumni this semester in The Medallion, but first I’d like to introduce myself. I'm a senior in Communication Studies, a resident advisor at Parks Tower, and I’m on the executive board for the Residence Halls Association as well as the Student Bailey Holmes-SparksBroadcast Association. I’m very active in campus life, especially in the Honors community!

Before this, I was an intern in the UToledo Office of Marketing and Communications, where I worked from August 2018 until last semester. I wrote news, features, and preview stories for UToledo News as well as for the university’s news website. I also directed all news programming and updates at WXUT 88.3, the student broadcast station.

My favorite part of being an Honors student is the community. All of my best friends at college are people I met and lived with during my time at MacKinnon and Tucker Halls. Even though we all live separately and are pursuing our own goals now, I know we’ll be friends for life.

Beyond that, working to graduate with the Honors medallion in my major has been a welcome challenge to the limits of my creativity. Without many courses in my field offered specifically for Honors credit, I have had the opportunity to generate some engaging Learning Contracts. They test my knowledge and skills, sometimes in more than one class a semester, and I really appreciate that.

And now, being an Honors Communication Studies student has also presented me with the amazing opportunity of this internship!

Favorite Honors Class: I’ve enjoyed every JSHC class I’ve taken, but my favorite has been Dr. Barbara Mann’s HON 2030 Multicultural Literatures: North American Experience course. It really opened my eyes to how different perspectives are around the world from what we’ve grown up being taught in the United States. It also inspired me to earn my Intercultural Competency Certificate, which I completed last Spring. Thanks, Dr. Mann!

Nick Huss

Having attended nearly every Rocket home football game since 2012, Nick Huss’ enrollment at UToledo after high school might have seemed an inevitability. But when it came time to select a college destination, this aspiring physician and Nick Hussemerging student leader considered his options carefully. His hometown university ultimately did not disappoint. Nick was accepted into the Bacc2MD medical school pipeline program, was offered a Levis Leadership UToledo scholarship (among others), and was won over by an Honors College that emphasizes hands-on learning.

Nick says he owes his involvement in Dr. Heather Conti’s lab studying the fungus Candida albicans to the networking connections created by the JSHC. “The best part of being involved in a lab is that you can use the knowledge learned through your courses and apply it to real-world issues,” he said. It’s in these enhanced classes that Honors students like Nick build valuable relationships that eventually lead to invitations for professional development. “They are generally smaller, so you are able to interact more with other motivated students as well as your professor,” he said. “This fuels meaningful conversation and personal growth.”

Just now starting his sophomore year, Nick is already a leader on campus. He became an Honors Student Ambassador earlier this year, helps promote equal access to success on campus as a member of the student organization Inclusion, and even cofounded a group dedicated to enjoying hot chocolate!

Favorite Honors Class: It has definitely been HON 1010 with Professor Dan McInnis. We explored various visual media to gain a more in-depth understanding of them, ranging from funny commercials to memes. We had thought-provoking conversations about society and the impact it has on each person through visual media.

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Last Updated: 9/25/23