Jesup Scott Honors College

Student of the Week Profiles


Maggie Bennekamper

While many Honors students relish the opportunity to learn from their peers in small courses centered on discussion, Maggie Bennekamper’s favorite JSHC class was defined differently. “Multicultural Literatures: The North American Experience” was the first in which Maggie felt her perspective was also valued by others instead of just the other way Maggie Bennekamperaround!

Of course, as a Psychology major, Maggie is naturally curious about the minds of others. She dedicated her Honors thesis to unpacking patients’ perceptions of anxiety treatments that use open-label placebos. Her goal was to identify how social information impacts treatment decisions as well as how it can be manipulated to increase patient perceptions. After receiving funding from the Office of Undergraduate Research to conduct her work, Maggie presented her data at several conferences and is now working on getting it published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Looking forward to graduation, Maggie will next begin her post-baccalaureate work at the University of Delaware to earn a doctorate in Social Psychology. After falling in love with research at UToledo, Maggie is excited to merge her interests in applied health research with anti-racist and intersectional feminist initiatives.

Favorite Honors Social Memory: “Outside the classroom, I really enjoyed the events I attended with the Honors Learning Community – especially the trips to the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, Toledo Museum of Art, and the Toledo Zoo. As someone who is not from Toledo or the surrounding area, it has been nice to see what it has to offer in terms of arts and culture. I have the Honors College in part to thank for that.”

Anna Rowland

For Anna Rowland, participation in the Honors College was at its core an exciting opportunity to expand on topics that she’s passionate about in her academic work. The culmination of this – and Anna’s development as a History major over the last four years – has been her Honors thesis. Titled, The Afterbirth of a Nation: “Hamilton” and the Perceptions of the American Anna RowlandRevolution, it explores the importance of people of color and women in historical narrative as well as the role of public discussion and social media as influences on that narrative.

Unsurprisingly, some of Anna’s favorite JSHC memories have revolved around this defining achievement. One such moment took place during a trip to the Toledo Museum of Art along with some Honors peers while Anna was in the middle of conducting her thesis research. They viewed there Titus Kaphar’s Beyond the Myth of Benevolence, which depicts a portrait of Thomas Jefferson being peeled off the canvas to reveal a black woman peering around the rolled portrait. The image symbolizes those enslaved by Thomas Jefferson as well as the cloaking of their stories in our cultural imagination by the predominant presence of the Founding Fathers. Seeing the painting and sharing the moment with her peers was powerful for Anna, particularly in light of its relevance for her research.

The confidence to offer her own analysis of the sweeping forces of history did not come naturally to Anna and was developed over time in her Honors classes. In Prof. Dan McInnis’ “Science and Cinema” seminar, for example, students ended the course by creating their own documentaries. “It was a lot of fun to make something completely from scratch that I did not have a lot of experience in,” Anna said. Like all JSHC classes, the assignment encouraged students to find and cultivate their authentic voice before considering the impact they can have on the world. On the cusp of graduation, Anna’s eventual impact will surely be amplified by her forthcoming enrollment at UToledo’s College of Law.

Fun Personal Fact: “I am a powerlifter and a part of UToledo’s powerlifting club!”

Anna Walker

Anna Walker is no ordinary Honors student – the Honors Bioengineering major is also currently the UToledo Student Government President! Every day brings another set of challenges balancing responsibilities as a student and as President. Anna Walker“My favorite part of holding the office has been the opportunity to see changes being made on campus for the benefit of the students,” Anna said. “Not every change is a big one, but it's so incredible to work with faculty and administrators who really care about students and are here to improve the college experience for all of us.”

Anna’s planner has this semester been indispensable. Not only the student body President, Anna has also been applying to graduate programs throughout the last semester to pursue life’s next steps. That next step: attending The Ohio State University to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Epidemiology in the Fall. The goal is to become an environmental epidemiologist for FEMA or another government organization, ultimately improving the daily lives of millions. Bioengineering was discovered as a junior in high school when Anna’s father suggested engineering as a career track. Bioengineering won out as a focus because it links so many fields of interest together – math, science, healthcare, and research – and would allow Anna a desired career in public health.

As the presidential term and undergraduate career come to an end this May, Anna is leaving campus feeling more confident and skilled after being pushed out of a comfort zone. “While it has been a fast-paced, stressful year, it has also been a year of rising to challenges, expanding my personal and professional skills, and learning to advocate on behalf of others,” Anna said.

Fun Personal Fact: “I got to watch the Homecoming football game in UToledo President Gregory Postel's suite in the Glass Bowl. That was an incredibly cool way to watch a game!”

Leslie Sacoto

Despite the pandemic, Leslie Sacoto has been pleasantly surprised by how involved she has been able to get in campus life at UToledo! The junior majoring in Biology serves as the External President of the Global Latinx Student Union – an organization offering Latinx students a safe and comfortable space to commit to cultural discussions, coordinate volunteer Leslie Sacotowork, and even celebrate their heritage! This semester, the group has focused on discussing Latinx issues including representation in the media, morphing culture, and mental health.

The GLSU is currently preparing for one of their biggest events of the semester, “Celebrando Success,” which celebrates Latinx students and their achievements. On Saturday, April 30th from 7 pm until 9 pm in the Student Union Auditorium, they will be hosting live music, food, and fun. “We would love to see more students come and support us,” Leslie said. “We are inclusive of everybody, so please join!” Learn more about the event and how to register for it on the group’s Instagram page @glsu_utoledo.

Beyond the GLSU on campus, Leslie has also been engaged with Global Medical Brigades to provide free healthcare for people living in Guatemala. The trip was an exciting opportunity for her to see the healthcare system in Guatemala and an excellent way to develop interpersonal skills. Lastly, Leslie is also a mentor for the PRIMOS Mentorship Program run by the Office of Multicultural Student Success. “Being a mentor has allowed me to develop a close connection with my mentee and offer her the help I wish that I would have gotten as a first-year student,” Leslie said. “I think it helps to be a mentor because you can assist a student who is in the same position you used to be in – to allow them to advance further in their experience at UToledo.”

Favorite Honors Memory: “My favorite Honors memory was going to the Toledo Walleye hockey game during my freshman year. I got to meet a lot of new friends and have fun learning about what the Honors College is like!”

Zoe Farrugia

Zoe Farrugia is an eager near-graduate in Nursing deeply committed to success in her field. Honors has often reminded her, though, through fun activities such as ice cream socials, that it’s integral to connect with people outside of one’s discipline. Zoe FarrugiaAs a student in the JSHC, she’s been able to study psychology, culture, arts, literature, and so much more. Zoe may sometimes forget the world that exists outside of Nursing, but she is immediately reconnected with it through these kinds of diverse conversations in the Honors College.

Recognizing the importance of community, Zoe has worked hard to promote critical dialogues in the healthcare system. She attended a seminar as a sophomore, for example, exploring how violence in American society can affect the thought patterns and perceptions of those exposed to it directly or even indirectly through media. Her Honors Nursing classes have relatedly offered Zoe an opportunity to dive into community health challenges surrounding postpartum hemorrhage, infant mortality, and sepsis reduction.

As a culmination of these ideas, Zoe’s Honors capstone project has focused on reducing black infant mortality in the United States – which occurs at a rate more than double that affecting Caucasian infants. As a result of this research data, she is working “to identify areas of potential racial bias in Nursing students and correct this bias before they ever hit the floor,” Zoe said. “Our aim is to educate nurses on culturally competent and congruent care, with the overall goal of decreasing the gap in infant mortality rates between races.” When finished with this project, Zoe can’t wait to apply more of these ideas to her career. She has accepted a position at the Cleveland Clinic as an intensive care nurse for after graduation!

Favorite UToledo Experience: “I am very passionate about studying language to better understand my patients and provide more culturally competent care. I have even earned a certificate in World Language Proficiency and the Global Seal of Biliteracy!”

Isaac Kaba

While all transfer students at UToledo begin their college journey elsewhere, Isaac Kaba’s has been longer than most – he was formerly enrolled at the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo! Through extensive research and career exploration, Isaac discovered here his goal of becoming a professor and researcher to serve his community andIsaac Kaba help solve pharmaceutical problems.

As a Medicinal and Biological Chemistry as well as a Pharmacology-Toxicology double-major, Isaac recently joined Dr. Ghassan Abushaikha’s lab. Isaac works on the design, synthesis, and biological evaluation of small molecules for anticancer therapies – an area of research he’s gaining interest in quickly. This lab work has fueled his passion for research and is preparing him to embrace his future academic and professional career. “Being a faculty researcher means there will be many opportunities for me to mentor students and bring science to society, but also to grow through the need to publish and conduct research,” Isaac said.

This desire to evolve and lead is also evident in Isaac’s involvement in student organizations. He serves in several leadership activities on campus, including as an Executive Board member of the Congolese Students Association, where he promotes Congolese culture across campus and leads the French Conversation Table in collaboration with the Department of World Languages and Cultures. He admires the diversity at UToledo and he loves meeting a variety of people from diverse backgrounds. “What I like the most is the sense of belonging to a real community, regardless of your cultural background,” he said.

Fun Personal Fact: “I am thrilled to have been selected as a recipient of this year’s Balanced Man Scholarship offered through the UToledo Foundation and Sigma Phi Epsilon!”

Samantha Meklus

Samantha Meklus, a senior double-majoring in Urban Studies and Economics, is all about building bridges. Her Honors thesis, after all, offers a cost-benefit analysis of cleaning and building a pedestrian bridge around the Maumee River! Increasing foot traffic around downtown Toledo, however, is just one of the many ways she hopes to create connections in Samantha Meklusher community.

After earning a Master’s degree in Public Administration at UToledo, Samantha dreams of running her own non-profit organization that will provide Catholic resources to the impoverished. “I want to focus on contributing to a moral basis in young middle schoolers going into high school, and then translate those values into leadership opportunities later in life for participants,” she said.

Samantha’s vision for the future has been deeply influenced by her Honors curriculum. In particular, she loved reading The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini in Prof. Walter Denk’s HON 2030 “Multicultural Literatures: North American Experience” class. The novel changed her outlook on the world and its capacity to rapidly change. These JSHC courses have additionally provided her with multiple perspectives through courses rich in discussion. “I learned how to effectively have conversations with others possessing alternate viewpoints without quarreling with them,” Samantha said. “It is important to be able to understand the other side of an argument rather than just fight against it.” Whether debating or inspiring others, the Honors College has increased her confidence in speaking – a skill she will utilize throughout her continuing education and future career.

Favorite Honors Activity: “My favorite Honors College memory was playing trivia at Jesup Jam before the start of my freshman year!”

Erica Sacoto

Erica Sacoto, a Multicultural Emerging Scholar, has a fierce passion for the criminal justice system. After her first semester as a Biology major, she realized that a STEMM career was not for her and soon after discovered the pre-law track. Equipped with a major in Criminal Justice and a minor in Legal Specialties, Erica aims to become a lawyer helping clients facingErica Sacoto injustice.

Serving others comes naturally to Erica, who helps lead a campus organization dedicated to uplifting the Latinx community here in Toledo. She serves as the External Vice President for The Global Latinx Student Union, a group which has hosted events making piñatas, Día de los Muertos celebrations, lotería nights, Bachata dance performances, and R&B Bubble Tea game nights. “At our events, we often serve delicious Latinx food and drinks such as tamales, empanadas, tequeños, tres leches cake, horchata, and traditional candies,” Erica said.

One GLSU project she is particularly proud of was inspired by a discussion of Afro-Latinx representation. That sparked the creation of the “GLSU Spotlight Member of the Week,” a platform for Latinx voices. “I’m delighted with how successful our first spotlight entry was, which was uploaded to our Instagram (@glsu_utoledo) earlier this month,” Erica said. There, members of the group can talk about cultural issues, celebrated traditions, and experiences as a Latinx student.

Erica credits the project’s momentum in large part to her participation in the Honors College, which has encouraged her to think outside the box in terms of impacting her community. The knowledge she has gained in classes such as “Multicultural Toledo” led her to think about the issues that people face within our surrounding community – issues that can be explored through these GLSU student interviews.

Favorite Hobby: “This past September, I earned my black belt in karate! I truly learned how to push myself beyond my limits at my black belt test. It was honestly one of the toughest days of my life, but it was worth all the effort I poured into karate for all these years.”

John Hutchinson

John Hutchinson, an Honors junior earning simultaneous degrees in Chemical Engineering and Mathematics (with a few minors to boot), is nothing if not ambitious. He possesses a deep curiosity about the world around him and is drawn to John Hutchinsonresearch analyzing its natural phenomena. With his Fall graduation less than a year away, that ambition seems poised to earn him a doctorate in Chemical Engineering and eventually a faculty position in the field.

John’s drive to achieve was formed early in life – stretching as far back as first grade. It was then that he became involved in Scouts BSA and even joined the ranks of the elite Order of the Arrow. There, John served in numerous leadership roles, including as a member of the Erie Shores Council Executive Board. “For most of my life, I have been in the Scouting program,” he said, “and it has given me much of my drive to succeed and the confidence to lead.” John continues his involvement in the organization to this day and wants to help others grow through the same traditions and values.

The drive instilled in him as a Scout combined powerfully with the critical thinking skills he has encountered in his Honors classes – notably HON 1010. The freedom to select a section of the course that focused on his favorite literary genres proved engaging. “When I took this course, we discussed works of science fiction and fantasy,” he said. “I have long been a fan of these genres as was practically raised on Star Trek and Doctor Who.” Loving a good challenge, John has appreciated the rigorous classes and research opportunities provided by the JSHC to motivate him and his peers. “The added effort demanded by the JSHC has allowed me to push myself to my academic limits,” he said, “and I believe that I am a better student for it.”

Fun Personal Fact: “I currently serve as the President of Omega Chi Epsilon, the Chemical Engineering honor society.”

Aditya Acharya

Since his formative high school years, Aditya Acharya, has been defined by a passion for his future career as a healthcare professional. The last four years of Biology classes and professional development opportunities for this Bacc2MD Honors student have decidedly paid off. Mere months separate him now from his crucial next step into that future – enrolling at the Aditya AcharyaUToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

As a volunteer in the emergency room at his hometown hospital, Aditya witnessed how various healthcare professionals work together to stabilize life-threatening cases. He later assisted at the UToledo Medical Center in the Lloyd A. Jacobs Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center, shadowing physicians there. “I was fascinated with the use of their in-depth knowledge to provide detailed diagnoses through investigation of symptoms,” he said.

The countless hours spent volunteering have been matched by Aditya’s commitment to his research. Undertaken in Dr. Malathi Krishnamurthy's lab, Aditya’s Honors thesis, “contributes to the current literature regarding the role of Ebola viral proteins in interacting with specific components of the OAS/RNase L pathway – a specific innate immune pathway known to help clear viral infection,” he said. This experience has allowed Aditya to enhance the conceptual connections between his courses and grow as a collaborator by working with the graduate students in the lab.

Even Aditya’s extracurriculars have helped him prepare for his future. He is the Director of Service Coordination for HOSA – Future Health Professionals, the Treasurer for the Indian Student Cultural Organization, one of the founding members of a series of podcasts sponsored by UToledo’s Pre-Health Advising Center, and a volunteer with the CommunityCare Clinics. “These opportunities have and continue to help me develop the many necessary skills that I hope to carry with me throughout my educational journey,” he said.

Favorite Honors Memory: “Right before my freshman year, I was invited to Jesup Jam, and my table won the opportunity to have lunch with Dean Appel at Phoenicia Cuisine!”

Laana Abutaha

Laana Abutaha is one of three sisters in her family to assume a leadership role in the Jesup Scott Honors College! Her older sister, Eanas, graduated from UToledo summa cum laude in 2020 and Seham, her younger sister, is currently a sophomore proudly serving as a JSHC Student Ambassador. “Both of my sisters are great personal role models,” Laana said. “They are Laana Abutahahardworking, dedicated, compassionate, and intellectual – there is no doubt that they will prosper in their respective dental school journeys!” Despite her impressive lineage, though, Laana herself is one in a million!

Mapping out her own path to career success, the senior majoring in Biology is determined to serve areas and populations most often neglected by our healthcare system as a physician assistant. Laana hopes to alleviate socioeconomic barriers and become an ally for the marginalized in the role – something for which Honors has prepared her well. Through her small classes and JSHC programming, Laana has gained connections with talented and motivated individuals from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life. One that stands out was Dr. Mohamad Moussa, the Program Director for UToledo’s Emergency Medicine Residency Program – himself a successful alumnus of the JSHC. "Meeting Dr. Moussa at a ‘Conversations in Real Time’ event allowed me to participate in meaningful discussions about real-world issues surrounding healthcare and offered eye-opening insight into the day-to-day challenges of medical work," Laana said.

Laana observed these dynamics first-hand during a year-long medical internship with The Halim Clinic in Sylvania where she learned to always give freely and to extend kindness and gratitude without expecting anything in return. “I will forever be grateful for this valuable and rewarding experience where I was able to help provide Toledo’s underserved community with the quality care they deserve,” she said. “This experience has by far been the highlight of my undergraduate career.”

Favorite Honors Memory: “I was offered a grant to conduct research alongside Dr. Heather Conti in the summer of my freshman year to develop antifungal treatments combating drug-resistant infections and presented it at the undergraduate research symposium!”

Yogesh Gurung

Junior Yogesh Gurung aims to graduate having cultivated as many connections in his major as possible. As an international student originally from Nepal, progress was slow at first. But after enjoying a surplus of support from his Mechanical Engineering peers and faculty during his first semester, Yogesh has since become one with the UToledo community.Yogesh Gurung

He is especially thankful for the Cedar Point trip he took with the Honors Learning Community during his first year. Yogesh was able to meet new Honors students then and become more adjusted to American culture. “I even challenged myself to ride Millennium Force,” he said, “which was one of the scariest choices as my first roller coaster experience!”

One of his favorite academic memories so far at UToledo also took place during that first year when Yogesh participated in the Angel Pitch Competition. The contest challenged Mechanical Engineering freshmen to develop an invention for everyday use. Through this professional development opportunity, he pitched an idea to a room full of investors and, as a result, honed his problem-solving and team management skills. His group created a magnetic flashlight glove for automotive mechanics that could use easily retrieve lost nuts and bolts from inside the hood – which won first place!

Favorite Honors Class: “It was HON 1010 with Prof. Dan McInnis! The most amazing thing was how he taught us to evaluate the arts in fresh manners.”

Lee Harms

Midnight blue and gold shade the college experience for all Rockets, but for Lee Harms, the two blend together vividly to paint a career and a calling. Ever the green thumb, the Honors senior majoring in Environmental Science has spent his campus years promoting agricultural efficiency and access in the Toledo area – and hopes his next steps in life will be spent doing more of the same!
Lee Harms
Lee has worked closely with Toledo GROWs and the Toledo Human Relations Commission to promote volunteer engagement in the city’s community gardens. After conversing with several garden directors in the area, his team created a plan to increase volunteer retention rates.

When working on his Honors thesis under Dr. Todd Crail, Lee researched the best way to grow food in Toledo areas that have high rates of food insecurity. “Utilizing materials already present at The University Church’s community garden, we are developing vertical garden systems inside a heated greenhouse,” Lee said. “This allows for food to be grown in the winter, creating an additional source of produce when it cannot be grown outside.” Having already set up a watering system and planted leafy greens there, Lee is investigating now for his thesis the ideal watering time and best method for growing nutritional food with the least amount of interaction.

When he graduates in May, Lee intends to work in the field of urban agriculture for a couple years before attending graduate school. The time spent working will allow him to settle on a career concentration in botany, community sustainability, or urban agriculture. “In the future, I would love to run my own permaculture operation in Toledo, supplying healthy produce to the Toledo community in partnership with Earth's natural systems,” he said.

Favorite Social Memory: “My favorite fun Honors memories took place my freshman year – playing countless hours of ping pong and Bloons Tower Defense in the Tucker Hall lounge. I met a couple of my closest friends in the dorms!”

Taylor Cook

Taylor Cook, an Economics major with a minor in Criminal Justice, is fascinated by the connections between the two disciplines. The Honors senior is planning on working in criminal intelligence as an analyst after graduation in a just a few short months. In this role, she will analyze patterns to suggest new or altered policies with the goal of reducing crime. “I’m Taylor Cooknot sure where I’d like to work specifically,” she says, “but I’ve been exploring different job openings and seeing what would make a good fit!”

Taylor is tackling in her Honors thesis a classic bit of lore in this vein – that crime rates spike during full moon phases. “To do this,” she explains, “I am completing a regression using 911 call data from the Toledo Police Department in different neighborhoods around the city.” She will then be able to analyze the relationship crime has with lunar phases. “I’ve already made many connections through this project! I thank Dr. Kristen Keith for agreeing to be my thesis advisor and for helping me so much already with the project.”

Beyond her thesis research, the Honors College has notably helped prepare Taylor professionally through her “Multicultural Toledo” course with Dr. Carla Pattin. In HON 2010, students conduct small group walk-abouts in Toledo and investigate a specific neighborhood for a formal class presentation. Together, they will jigsaw what they have learned or experienced to achieve a fuller picture of the city. “I remember initially being nervous to have to interview people in the community and present what we learned, but I gained a lot of confidence as time went on and was ultimately excited to give our final presentation,” Taylor said. “It was such a valuable class that helped me look at this city that I grew up in in a brand-new light.”

Fun Personal Fact: “I spend most of my time outside of class tutoring or working at Imagination Station.”

Cecilia Bono

Cecilia Bono is an Adolescent and Young Adult Education major with aspirations to go the distance in higher education! After graduating with her B.Ed. featuring a concentration in integrated mathematics by Spring 2023, Cecilia will pursue a Cecilia BonoMaster's degree, work in foreign nations, and potentially earn a doctorate to become a professor.

Though her goals are lofty, Cecilia is well on her way as an Honors student to realizing them. The junior has already completed an Honors Learning Contract that explored adding integrated reading supports into upper-level math curriculums and created a process that makes learning math more attainable for students at all linguistic levels. She has also worked closely with a handful of professors, each of whom has given her a glimpse into future innovations of higher-level teaching. Some of those concepts include modular arithmetic, coding, linguistic supports, and adjusted teaching styles. Cecilia writes, “If I was not in the JSHC, I would not have had the resources to explore all of these topics, nor would I have been exposed to all of the eye-opening courses that the Honors College has to offer.”

As if helping to revolutionize primary education wasn’t impressive enough, Cecilia is also a tutor and academic coach through Student-Athlete Academic Services, has been in the color guard in the Rocket Marching Band for three years, and has been the captain of color guard for two!

Fun Personal Fact: “I am fairly fluent in Spanish and have enjoyed traveling to Spain – I would love to work there some day!”

Yunyue Qian

Accounting major Yunyue Qian says that her field isn’t as daunting as most people make it out to be. In fact, it’s a perfect option for people who love to solve puzzles and thread logic through numbers! She explains it as the language of business that “uncovers the essence of appearance and description,” as an accountant will take a value and use numbers to Yunyue Qianunderstand and later explain to others why that value is what it is. Paired with her minor in Information Systems, a means to learning Python computer programming and deepening her knowledge of data analysis, Yunyue’s path to career success couldn’t be better calculated.

As a senior, her goal is to pass the Certified Public Accountant exam and Graduate Management Admission Test before graduation. Yunyue believes that persevering and working hard always brings good results, but that a person shouldn’t distract themselves with situations and decisions that aren’t yet present. She thinks of this as keeping your feet on the ground. “People should be aware of the present and worry only about controlling the things they can influence, such as their grades and their health,” she said. “But they shouldn’t worry about the future until the future becomes the present.”

Though Yunyue tries to avoid speculation about the future, the soon-to-be graduate has had occasion recently for fond reflection on her years as a Rocket. She was heavily influenced by Dr. Mary Templin’s HON 1010 course, for example. Centering discussion on human identity, through the lenses of origin and progression, Dr. Templin used stories from foreign countries to explain differing perspectives in culture and how those perspectives stream into identity. Yunyue loved these lessons, appreciating both how a respect for multiculturalism can improve human development across the globe and how the course had refreshed her mind.

Favorite Honors Contract: “I completed thorough research on the NVIDIA and AMD corporations, which produce computer graphics cards, for an Honors Learning Contract in BUAD 3010!”

Charles Reed

Though research can be routine and formulaic, JSHC students are at their best when they are challenging assumptions, breaking barriers, and working between fields and traditions. Senior English major Charles Reed illustrates this powerfully with his Honors thesis. He first opted to write a traditional paper analyzing similarities between various stories with similar Charles Reedthemes, but later he was inspired to pen a short story accompanying his argument!

In it, Charles scrutinizes poverty, the American Dream, and the impossibility of bootstrapping one’s way to success. “My overarching argument is that capitalism requires exploitation and employs certain tactics to manufacture your consent to that exploitation - exploitation which happens on all levels and is participated in by the exploited,” he said. The short story he wrote to pair with his argument offered commentary on the lasting effects this exploitation has on the future of society. “I tried to look at how society will change if unfettered capitalism is allowed to continue prioritizing profits over humans and the environment, where that breaking point is, and what will happen when we hit it,” Charles added.

Honors English students such as Charles are required to take a writing seminar course for the thesis. There they work through a rigorous process, produce multiple drafts, engage constantly with their peers, present their research at an undergraduate showcase, and defend their thesis to a committee of at least three professors.

This undertaking was one of the most rewarding experiences Charles has gotten out of the JSHC. Not only was he able to actively work with dedicated peers and professors inside and outside of class, but it prepared him for what’s to come in graduate school! In the long run, Charles hopes to make a living as a writer. “I adore how writing impacts the world,” he said. “Being able to produce a work that evokes emotions out of someone is one of my favorite things.”

Favorite Honors Class: “Definitely my ‘Science and Cinema’ seminar with Prof. Dan McInnis!”

Madison Hoffman

Madison Hoffman has been trained by her Honors experience to challenge any information presented to her earnestly and to critically analyze her surrounding reality. With a plan to earn an M.B.A. while committing herself to a career in the health and wellness field, understanding the truth behind everyday variables will push this Health Care Administration major to become her greatest self!Madison Hoffman

Preparing to graduate this December with the medallion, Madison has already begun to leave her mark on this community. For her Honors thesis, she’s exploring at a local facility the discrepancy between the number of days that patients are actually staying in the hospital and the number of days that each diagnosis typically calls for. Because of the caps that insurance companies place on the number of days they will financially cover, the issue has had disastrous clinical, financial, and operational impacts. In her project, Madison identifies the obstacles that contribute to extended lengths-of-stay, its implications, and recommendations to resolve the issue.

Research is surely not new to Madison thanks in large part to the opportunities provided to her in her Honors classes and extracurricular activities. One of her favorite projects was for an Honors Learning Contract where she analyzed the unconscious biases women face in negotiation settings before proposing solutions for the injustice. Another JSHC opportunity she was grateful for was the Q&A session with the director of Recovery Boys. Madison says, “The documentary really opened my eyes and gave me a greater understanding of the opioid epidemic as well as the obstacles that those in the throes of addiction or even recovery face.”

Advice to Honors Students: “I had the opportunity to join the Klar Leadership Academy a few years ago, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to pursue it! The personal growth I experienced throughout my time with the group is unmatched, and it is a huge part of who I am today.”

Kevin Fruth

Kevin Fruth has had a college experience defined by a unique theme – cars! The Chemical Engineering senior set to earn his Honors medallion and graduate this semester is, after all, fresh off an incredible win at the 2021 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Annual Student Conference Chem-E Car Competition in Boston.

Kevin FruthThe goal of the competition was to devise and build a car the size of a shoe box that could travel a target distance and be propelled and stopped by chemical reactions. Kevin served as the team captain for multiple years, organizing his peers as they spent hundreds of hours in the laboratory preparing for the competitions. This year, against twenty other teams from around the world vying for the championship, the UToledo team utilized a homemade zinc and nickel oxyhydroxide alkaline battery to propel their car and a chemical “chameleon” reaction to stop their car. They named it “Zinc-asaurus Rex.” “Our Chem-E Car Team’s recent victory in the international competition was the perfect way to cap off my last semester serving as team captain,” Kevin said, “and I am excited for our team to build upon this success with better and more ambitious cars in the future.”

Before finding success with a miniature car, Kevin built fond Honors memories with an oversized Cadillac. He worked with The Voice of Honors for the 2017 UToledo Homecoming Parade to decorate the vintage convertible owned by JSHC faculty member Dr. Page Armstrong. But, when the car failed to start, he helped her push it into a parking lot instead of walking in the parade. Though sad to have missed out on the parade itself, he was elated to learn that The Voice of Honors won first place in the float car division!

Kevin will move into a position after graduation at BP’s Toledo oil refinery as a Process Engineering Challenger. What his college years have shown him is that hard work really does pay off. After pouring exhaustive effort into each course and extracurricular activity, including the pancake-eating contest where he tied for first place after consuming twenty, his dedication has earned him enduring friendships and meaningful classroom experiences.

Interesting Academic Fact: “I had the honor of being selected as one of the College of Engineering’s two Fall 2021 Senior Scholars for graduating with a perfect GPA!”

Amaka Njoku

With the ambitious goal of dental school in mind, Amaka Njoku is committed to taking advantage of every opportunity she has as a Rocket. Pairing her rigorous Bioengineering curriculum with the critical thinking skills emphasized in her Honors classes she expects will give her a decisive edge in her career. In fact, it’s already paidAmaka Njoku off! She heard about Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, where she is currently on co-op despite pandemic obstacles to getting hired, from a friend in the JSHC.

Amaka attributes her growth as an Honors student in particular to Professor Dan McInnis. “His HON 1010 class really made me more confident speaking in public and sharing my ideas,” she said. Amaka also learned a lot listening to the other students’ viewpoints in the course, getting a glimpse thereby of the world as they see it.

Her Honors section of BIOE 1000 presented Amaka with another unique chance to excel. During her freshman year, she worked as part of a group to design a novel device – a timed lamp. “The idea was to make the lamp useful for studying,” Amaka said. “It blinks after a set amount of time so you don’t have to use your phone to check the clock, which could lead to distractions.” When her group finished it, they were invited to present the device at the Senior Design Expo!

Favorite Pastime: “I also discovered my love for art through my HON 1010 class. I eventually started producing beats and posting them on my YouTube page. You can find them under my username, ‘Prod By Amaka!!’”

Phoebe Kahler

While her Nursing major has equipped her for success in her career, completing its curriculum as an Honors student has elevated Phoebe Kahler’s preparation for the future to a whole other level. Because of her involvement in the JSHC, she now possesses sharpened clinical skills and even has a publication under her belt!
Phoebe Kahler
For her Honors capstone project, Phoebe studied ways to prevent surgical site infections in postoperative patients – work that will undoubtedly improve the health outcomes of those in her care. The research should also aid her eventual transition into graduate school, she says. After graduating in December, Phoebe will work in an intensive care unit at ProMedica Toledo Hospital before becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

Phoebe’s Honors coursework also led to her authoring a publication with ProMedica Toledo Hospital! With other JSHC students in her cohort, Phoebe researched the effects of social media on nursing education and concluded that it can be powerfully utilized to enhance learning. “In a society widely influenced by social media,” she says, “it's beneficial for educators to find ways to incorporate its use to better reach students in a collaborative environment.”

Value of Honors: “The Honors College has had a huge impact on my college experience and has really improved my critical thinking skills – essential for my career!”

Pawandeepsingh Dhingra

Engineers don’t just design and build walls – they sometimes break right through them! Pawandeepsingh Dhingra, a junior in Electrical Engineering, has dedicated himself to tearing down the barriers at the edge of his comfort zone to achieve continuous growth. He advises incoming Rockets to try different things and to meet new people, including those who don’t think the way you do – to not be afraid to fail. “Every opportunity is a chance to learn, so don’t worry if you fail,” he Pawandeepsingh Dhingrasuggests. “Failing is far worse than not trying, and certainly you need a good story to speak about when celebrating your eventual success!”

Pawandeepsingh took his own advice recently, deciding to join a JSHC trip to Imagination Station though he knew little about the interactive science museum. There, he met a slew of new acquaintances, built and raced air-powered cars, rode on a cable-wire bike suspended high in the air, and defied gravity. “With the pandemic taking so much from students, I’ve really enjoyed using the Honors College as a way to explore campus and Toledo as well as have critical yet fun discussions with my peers,” he said. “Embracing growth in this manner has been so freeing!”

The strategy has also been comforting and has offered a boost to Pawandeepsingh’s mental health. “Before coming to America, I was very anxious about living in a country where I didn't know anyone,” he shared. “To ease this pressure, I started to vlog about my experiences.” Discussing everything from the UToledo campus to how to get a driver’s license to what destinations to visit in the Toledo area, he found that these vlogs were also helpful for other international students planning on studying in the U.S.!

Favorite Activities: “I love cinematography and being outside enjoying nature. Visiting parks and hiking are my favorite things to do on weekends. I’m also passionate about CNC machining, robots, and autonomous driving – which I plan on taking with me into the automation and robotics industry after graduation. Eventually, I would like to have my own start-up and work towards the betterment and ease of human life as an entrepreneur.”

Khoi Ho

When asked to identify his favorite academic and fun memories at UToledo, senior Khoi Ho said that the best of them intertwine. If you’re having fun, hopefully you’ve learned something and, if you’re learning something, hopefully you’re having fun! Luckily for the Finance and Information Systems double-major, he is doing a lot of both in his Honors Khoi Hoexperience.

For example, Khoi explained how much he enjoyed exploring the Old West End with his peers in Dr. Emily Bedwell’s HON 2010 “Multicultural Toledo” course. It wasn’t just an entertaining field trip. It also made Toledo feel far more intimate to him – a place with history as well as a place of comfort. He also recalls the fun he had conversing with his classmates in Prof. Dan McInnis’s HON 1010 “Ideas and Society” class. There, Khoi was exposed to both interesting and novel viewpoints while also strengthening his critical thinking skills.

At UToledo in general, he has also been able to grow through his professional fraternity, Pi Sigma Epsilon. Khoi said, “In this organization, I have held several positions, represented my chapter in college-wide and nationwide competitions, and have become a mentor to the other members by providing support and guidance whenever they need it.”

Interesting Campus Job: “I work as a tour guide on campus. I have had an awesome time talking to prospective students and their families on the tours. There is one good thing and one bad thing about this job. The good thing is that the more I work, the more UToledo grows on me. The bad thing is I'm not ready to graduate in Spring and leave it all behind!”

Jacob Connolly

In a pool of applicants 5,000 deep, with only 68 awards ultimately grants to students in his field, Jacob Connolly nevertheless stood out and beat the odds. The senior Bioengineering major earlier this year became the second Honors student over the last three years to receive a Goldwater Scholarship – one of the country’s oldest and most competitive Jacob Connollyrecognitions in the areas of science and mathematics.

Jacob earned the prestigious distinction for his research into the role of paraoxonase enzymes in the kidneys, where he studied connections between a variety factors on the speed of cognitive decline in the presence of chronic kidney disease. Jacob explains that his success came mostly from making connections in his field. “There are so many advisors, professors, and mentors at UToledo who are willing to help you achieve your goals,” he said. “I always tell other students to reach out to them and use their knowledge and experience to your advantage. Success won’t come automatically, but if you work hard, put your mind to it, and use the resources around you, you can achieve just about anything.”

Jacob also credits the JSHC in no small part for the achievement, as Honors classes have allowed him to work more closely with professors and gain a deeper understanding of the course content. The JSHC also connected him with a group of students who are similarly driven and have interests close to his, providing Jacob with an academic support system as well as friends to engage with outside of school.

Advice to Honors Students: “What you get out of your college experience is based on what you put into it. If you are willing to invest the time and effort into your academic work, extracurricular activities, and social engagements, there is no limit to what you can achieve.”

Diego Gamboa Pabon

Though moving from another continent has not been without its challenges, international student Diego Gamboa Pabon is grateful for the opportunity to grow amidst the transition. After all, the Colombian’s life motto points out that anything uneasy in life can be morphed into something helpful so long as you remain passionate about what you do.
Diego Gamboa Pabon
For example, Diego wasn’t originally planning on conducting research in his Chemical Engineering major prior to his senior year. But, with his motto in mind, he decided to begin working early with Dr. Ana Alba-Rubio on issues related to catalysis. Diego discovered through the labor something even more interesting than his lab results. His newfound zeal for research has led him to a goal of earning a graduate degree in his field so that he can continue this work.

Understanding the importance of this philosophy on his own life prepared Diego well to engage with prominent themes in his HON 1010 class. Under Dr. Leslie Chambers, the class watched and interpreted famous movies through the lenses of different critical theories. Diego particularly found enjoyment in watching Monsters, Inc. and psychoanalyzing the characters. After doing so, he says he has been able to understand people more clearly though their needs and emotions rather than their actions.

Recommendation to Students: “I would encourage you in this kind weather to go outside and take naps on the grass or do your homework outside. You will regret not seeing the view – it’s just you and yourself, nurturing your soul.”

Clare Krzykala

While many students aspire to a career helping others, Clare Krzykala has grander ambitions. “My dream is to do more than ‘help’ – I want to lead, heal, mentor, inspire, encourage, and advocate for others who have experienced adversity and trauma in their lives,” she said. The Law and Social Thought and Pre-Psychology double-major hopes to do this by Clare Krzykalaeventually earning a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology.

Fittingly, Clare’s favorite Honors course centered on discussions of monsters and what defines the “monstrous.” Alysha Cook’s HON 1010 encouraged Clare and her peers to reflect on how best to treat others by conversely discussing works of fiction with sinister plots and characters, such as Grendel and Coraline, as well as the nature of evil.

Another JSHC course, HON 3010, has also been a formative experience on Clare’s journey. By working in a multi-major student team with a non-profit organization in the Toledo area, Clare says she’s learning much about creating solutions to real-world problems impacting our community. Her group is collaborating with Women of Toledo to support female Toledoans in enriching their social and professional networks. “I’m interested in starting a nonprofit organization in the future myself, and I feel that this class is preparing me well to implement the kind of change I want to see in the world.”

Interesting Personal Fact: “I’m always busy being active: playing basketball, canoeing, camping, cooking, and even performing.”

Mai Mang

The transition to college from high school can be a challenging time for any student, but especially so for those who experience the milestone thousands of miles away from home. Originally from Vietnam, Honors Pre-Business major Mai Mang wisely jump-started this process by finishing her last two years of high school in the United States. The initial Mai Manghomesickness, language barriers, and culture shock were replaced by campus involvement, leadership, professional growth, and friendships by the time she became a Rocket!

Just a few weeks ago, Mai attended Rhiannon Giddens’s performance at the Toledo Symphony Orchestra along with the Honors Learning Community. The event featuring the renowned musician who plays multiple instruments and can sing in multiple languages did not disappoint. “I had never been to a symphony performance before, so that was super awesome,” Mai said. She also has been actively involved in the First Look series with Dean Heidi Appel where they have visually analyzed photos, discussed imposter syndrome, and even drew their own cartoons under the guidance of a published cartoonist.

Mai’s self-growth has mirrored her professional development in her classes. Her entrepreneurship project in an Honors “Introduction to Business” course stands-out in this regard. “I get to become an entrepreneur, to come up with a product idea and work through the development process,” Mai said. The product will fulfill current market needs, solve content-specific problems, and accompany a mini-business plan reflected in a narrated PowerPoint.

Fun Personal Fact: “I have been elected by my peers to serve as the Public Relations Chair for the MacKinnon Hall Council. It will be a great opportunity for me to enhance my leadership skills and get to know more people!”

Sarah Atallah

As a Biology student, Sarah Atallah’s days are pretty consistent – listen to lectures, study for tests, and experiment on rats. Though she adores this routine (even the rats!), she finds her JSHC core classes indispensable for how they develop her public-speaking skills and self-growth as an individual. “In HON 1010, we read The Plague by Albert Camus," Sarah recalled. "The in-depth discussion that followed about how the book related to the COVID-19 pandemic was so Sarah Atallahinteresting!”

As an Honors Student Ambassador, Sarah has relished the opportunity to pay-it-forward with incoming Rockets. Her favorite event in the role thus far has been Jesup Jam, where she clued new Honors students into what they could expect in their academic future. “Doing so was incredibly fulfilling," she says, "and I really felt like I was helping some of them become a little less nervous about their classes.”

This investment in her community is hardly unique, though. Sarah additionally serves as an Admissions Ambassador for the university and as the Visual Arts Chair for Campus Activities and Programming, a group which plans events to foster a fun and stress-free environment for all Rockets. She is also a member of Camp Kesem, which hosts a summer camp for children battling cancer, and is the Vice President of PERIOD-MEDLIFE. This group combats the stigma surrounding menstrual health and promotes global access to water, food, shelter, and healthcare that is free as well as adequate.

Interesting Personal Fact: “My sister, Marina, graduated from UToledo with her JSHC medallion earlier this year. She is actually one of the reasons I joined the Honors College!”

Sami Alchakaki

Sami Alchakaki is, as a future medical student, on a mission. After learning that college is all about doing your best to succeed in as many areas of life as possible, he’s identified the Honors College as one of the most helpful tools to do so. “When you’re in college, nothing is straightforward and simple,” he says. “You have to think about how you’re going to Sami Alchakakiexcel in your classes and your social life as well as how you’re going to become a better person.” He sees this issue a lot in his Biology major, where you must read between the lines of the lecture and see past the data into the real-life scenarios.

As it turns out, excelling in Honors classes isn’t all that challenging. Since these courses tend to be smaller than normal, Sami finds his professors can devote more time to each student while they enjoy more freedom to bounce ideas off each other. “Taking Honors classes gives students different pathways and opportunities than a core subject may make available on its own,” he notes. Sami was also surprised in HON 1010 “Ideas and Society” how manageable it was to juggle reading two books at once, and how doing so clarified parallel social and political tones in the texts. The course also made it easy, he says, to relate its content to the real world while allowing students to open-up about their personal pasts and opinions.

To boot, the JSHC’s own Dr. Heidi Appel is the most welcoming dean Sami has ever met. He cites her as one of the main reasons is so passionate about Honors. He got to meet her over a Zoom meeting during the summer where she connected him more deeply to the JSHC to develop his future goals. What stood out most was when she told Sami, “If you need anything, I’m there for you.”

Interesting Personal Fact: “I’ve been observing the night sky with my own telescope for the last few years! I want to further expand my interest in this hobby and possibly turn it into a side job, where I work somewhere part-time that involves observing the night sky or analyzing resultant data.”

Andrew Gerts

Now a senior Biology student, Andrew Gerts walked into his freshman year on campus without knowing a soul. Fast forward, and Andrew is deeply involved in the campus community and beyond! Attempting to improve the lives of as many Andrew Gertspeople as he can, his gratitude for others has morphed into a personal mission to support medical personnel around the globe.

“I have been volunteering at a free clinic for the last three years,” Andrew said. “During my first year there, I noticed many doctors didn’t know the medical abbreviations for some of the diagnoses. They would often ask Siri what the medical abbreviation was for a certain condition, but Siri wouldn’t know.” In response, Andrew co-developed an app that provides the medical abbreviation for any condition.

His zeal for helping others has also been demonstrated on the international stage. One of his favorite memories in college was traveling to Jamaica with the Honors College in April 2019. “We stayed there for about a week, and it didn’t feel like enough time,” Andrew says. On the trip, he met amazing people, handled supplies and held workshops with the citizens, and was even able to play soccer with the local children.


Fun Personal Fact: “In my free time, I love doing anything auto-related. I really enjoy working on cars and I built a replica Shelby Cobra from the ground-up.”

Michelle Cherian

Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in and day-out. This concept has optimized Michelle Cherian’s discipline and success with online classes, molding friendships in student organizations, furthering her career aspirations, and strengthening her leadership skills. Few things can be considered “huge tasks” when you break them down into bite-sized Michelle Cherianand low-stress pieces!

This may be why Michelle’s favorite Honors class has been the eye-opening HON 2010 “Multicultural Toledo” taught by Dr. Emily Bedwell. Michelle learned there about the rich history of the Toledo community – not through lectures and textbook readings, but through encountering the city on her own. The class emphasized in-person engagement by assigning neighborhood walkabouts, asking students to journal about the experience and sharing their reflections with each other. Doing so educated Michelle and her peers about the socioeconomic development of Toledo as well as its intersections with religion, race, and community groups.

In January of 2020, Michelle was also able to travel to Honduras with Global Medical Brigades. Though traveling abroad is no “small effort,” it was the little victories during the trip that made the world for the communities she served. There, she showed children how to wash their hands and brush their teeth as well as taught adults about their general health and gynecology. Last March, Michelle also traveled to the Galapagos Islands with JSHC Dean Heidi Appel and six other Honors students. There, through exploration and conversation, they learned first-hand the importance of biology and conservation within the region.

Favorite UToledo Experience: “My trip to Honduras taught me about the privileged position I occupy living in the United States. It forced me to re-evaluate my own life and remain appreciative of the things and experiences that I have the ability to enjoy.”

Eryn Close

Eryn Close lives by a simple motto: it’s important to remember that, when you put yourself out there and take professional risks, the worst thing that can happen is someone tells you “no!” Though simple, the Exercise Science major attributes her success with job opportunities (even those she might not feel qualified applying for), making Eryn Closefriends, and her work in the Motion Analysis & Integrative Neurophysiology Lab to that mindset.

Just starting her second year at UToledo, Eryn has already gained a leadership role in MAIN HUB, a new research club on campus, and even acquired a job assisting with lab work. She also volunteers with doctoral students in collecting and processing data on adolescent running biomechanics and was accepted to present her work at the American Society of Biomechanics conference! Her abstract focuses on the ways in which different shoe types affect the joint angles of adolescent runners.

That same motto also encouraged Eryn to join the First Look program when she started her first month of college. Though COVID-19 restrictions would keep the group from interacting in-person, she thought, “Why not give it a try?” Since then, she’s been amazed by students and faculty participating in it from all different departments with unique specialties. “What really struck me was how involved the faculty were,” Eryn said. “They were engaged in activities and spoke to the returning students with comfortable familiarity, which really showed me how close-knit the Honors College is.”

Favorite Honors Course: “I loved the way HON 1010 ‘Ideas and Society’ was designed around a semester-long theme and was a discussion-based class. My professor, Alysha Cook, really valued our ideas about the texts as much as the texts themselves!”

Priyanka Pulvender

Though the lab can form the boundaries of many scientists’ worlds, days spent measuring or analyzing results and repeating experiments, Priyanka Pulvender’s horizons extend more broadly. Beyond her classes and research, the Priyanka PulvenderBioengineering major is focused on creating a more vibrant campus-life as well as an equitable society.

After beginning her academic journey, Priyanka quickly noticed that all of her favorite moments of college included socializing and welcoming arms: game nights with The Voice of Honors; being introduced to the city through HON 2010 “Multicultural Toledo;” and joining Campus Activities and Programming – which helps plan the fun parts of almost any come-one-come-all event on campus. Priyanka relishes the amazing feeling of being surrounded by like-minded people. Whether it’s through Honors classes or joining a club that engages your moral values or satisfies your expectations of a good time, a university that feels like home is the perfect place to stimulate important conversations and have the time of your life.

Considering that, Priyanka decided to found her own chapter of a club on campus. PERIOD-MEDLIFE focuses on ending period poverty, running educational workshops to challenge the stigma surrounding menstruation, and collaborating toward sustainability. The club has welcomed dedicated students from all over campus who are driven to service.

Interesting Personal Fact: “I’m excited to start as an Honors Student Ambassador and to work with prospective Rockets after my co-op this semester concludes! I would really like to express my appreciation for all UToledo has done for me.”

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Last Updated: 6/27/22