From the Director
It’s been a busy and exciting year at the Georgia College Honors Program. We began last fall by welcoming a talented group of 91 freshmen with an average high school GPA of 3.82—a record—and an average SAT score of 1294. These students contribute a wealth of academic, artistic and athletic talents to the GC Honors community. One of our graduates is going to Macedonia as a Fulbright Scholar, and another to Cambodia as a Peace Corps volunteer.
We ended the year by celebrating the Honors graduation of 30 students. Many of these students are going on to some form of post-graduate education, including Ph.D. programs, law school, medical school, veterinary school and dentistry and pharmacy programs. Some are going into teaching, industry and the media, and others doing research and/or service projects before applying to graduate school.
Lots of wonderful and interesting things have happened in between Convocation and Commencement! Our chapter of Eta Sigma Alpha has been extraordinarily active under the very able leadership of Dorianna Dobson and with an expanded executive board. Eta Sig has provided an array of social and service events this year. Also, our Honors students have been busy presenting their research at various conferences around the country such as the National Center for Undergraduate Research Annual Meeting, the Georgia Collegiate Honors Council Annual Meeting, the Academy of Economics and Finance, the Mathematical Association of America’s Joint Mathematical Meetings, the Southeastern Psychological Association, the Association of Global South Studies Annual Meeting and the International Symposium on Biomechanics and Ecology Education and Research. Many of these research presentations came out of honors options in students’ junior and senior years.
We also embarked on a strategic planning process in the fall. We conducted a thorough needs assessment with input from the Honors Faculty Council, the students and an ad hoc external advisory committee, and had two National Collegiate Honors Council reviewers on campus this spring. Their report will help us develop our strategic goals for 2017-22 and progress towards the next level of excellence.
Thank you to everyone who supports and contributes to the GC Honors Program—faculty, staff, donors, parents and, of course, the students who are the heart and soul of our vibrant community. And finally, a special shout-out to our Honors student assistants—Beth, Emily, Jessica and Julia—who have been awesome this year!
From the Assistant Director
I have been serving as the assistant director of the GC Honors Program since July 2015. I am very excited to be working for the only public liberal arts college in my home state of Georgia, and I am particularly excited to be working with many of GC’s talented and driven students. I like that our Honors Program is small in size but large in presence, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know our Honors students over the year and a half that I’ve been on campus.
My chief role in the Honors Program is to plan many of our extracurricular activities, including our lunch seminars, dinner seminars and book discussions. In the Honors Program, we believe that learning should extend outside the classroom, and we are able to use these programs to help our students learn more about subject matter that they might not encounter in class.
Our dinner seminars and book discussions typically take place in the evening at a faculty member’s home. Students get to enjoy a home cooked meal while learning more about a faculty member’s area of research (in the case of dinner seminars) or while exploring the selected book (in the case of our book discussions). Some of my favorite book discussions and dinner seminars have been the discussion on Toni Morrison’s “Home” that our Associate Provost for Student Success, Carolyn Denard, hosted in her home, as well as the book discussion on the “Wizard of Oz” that retired English professor (and “Wizard of Oz” expert) Mike Riley hosted in his home.
Our lunch seminars are a little different. For these, we like to focus on professional and academic development. We’ve brought in representatives from the Teach for America, the Office of International Programs and a few other organizations and campus offices to help our students figure out ways to make the most of their GC experience and also to help our students learn how to prepare for their post GC lives. This year, we started holding lunch seminars on applying to graduate schools in different disciplines, and we plan to continue these into the years to come.
In addition to my work for the Honors Program, I also coordinate the National Scholarships Office here at GC. This is a separate role for me, but I enjoy encouraging students in the Honors Program to apply for nationally competitive scholarships and fellowships like the Fulbright, the Marshall and the Truman. Since I’ve been at GC, we’ve had students selected as finalists and semi-finalists for the Truman and Fulbright Scholarships. One of our students was recently awarded a Fulbright Student Scholarship to perform research in Finland, and another was awarded an English teaching assistantship in Macedonia.
I look forward to continuing to work with our talented current and future Honors students in the years to come.
From the Writer and Designer
I hope you enjoy this newsletter. As a junior mass communication major, I have been a member of the GC Honors Program for three years, and it has played an important role in my college experience, both academically and socially.
Through faculty-led book discussions and lunch and dinner seminars, I have been introduced to many fields of study I had never before considered. Also, some of my best friends on campus are Honors students I’ve met through Eta Sigma Alpha.
In the student success stories contained within this newsletter, you will read about traditional Honors classes as well as Honors options, which are student-designed projects that take a classroom experience above and beyond expected requirements for a particular course so that a student may receive Honors credit for that class.
This newsletter itself is an Honors option project for my publication editing class. This semester, I worked with our Honors director, Steven Elliott-Gower, and my publication editing professor, Pate McMichael, to design and develop this method of telling our supporters about the most recent developments in the Honors Program’s story.
So, please read and enjoy, knowing that this class project demonstrates my pride in my fellow students and the GC Honors Program.
“I came here because of the Honors Program,” graduating senior Kevin Morris said of his decision to attend GC.
When he first visited to find out if GC was right for him, Kevin said Elliott-Gower showed a more personal interest in his career and educational development than had faculty at any of the other schools on his list.
“I was really fulfilled and satisfied when I came here to GC and found that the Honors Program was exactly as how it had been sold to me,” Kevin said.
Kevin said his Honors freshman class embodied many different interests, majors and approaches to the overall college experience.
“To be surrounded by that level of intellectual diversity and extracurricular passion was really neat,” Kevin said. “I think the community is the best part, being surrounded by people who are passionate, ambitious, empathetic, intellectually curious and capable.”
Honors students flourish because they drive each other to succeed, Kevin said. Many members of his freshman class have already graduated from GC and are enrolled in graduate programs or other opportunities such as Teach for America and the Peace Corps.
“The number one trait of Honors students is that they care: they care about their grades, they care about each other, they care about the community, they care about where they’re headed and they care about the impact they have,” Kevin said. “Being surrounded by students who have that quality helped make sure that I sustained that in myself.”
Although Kevin graduates with a dual degree in history and economics in May 2017, he changed his major several times throughout his five years at GC. At one point he was a political science major, and at another time, a rhetoric major. He will leave GC with 54 Honors credit hours, more than any other student in GC Honors Program history.
In the fall of 2016, Kevin realized he had “accidentally” earned a minor in international studies from the wide variety of classes he had taken during his tenure at GC. He recommends that Honors students explore many different fields of study and take as many different kinds of classes as they can fit into their schedule. Before you graduate, Kevin recommends checking to see if you have incidentally earned any unintended degrees along the way, and get everything you can out of your college experience.
“If you have initiative and put yourself out there, you can make your college experience exponentially more enjoyable and rewarding,” Kevin said.
Kevin has presented at Academy of Economics and Finance conferences three times, as well as at the Georgia Collegiate Honors Council Annual Conference. He has submitted Honors option research to various academic journals, including The Corinthian, GC’s journal of student research. He is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the international economics honor society, a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society, and is both a member of and has served as a student vice president for GC’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious honor society for all academic disciplines.
Kevin also interned at the Department of Commerce in Croatia, the U.S. Department of State in Macedonia and the Port of Savannah in his hometown of Savannah, Georgia, during his summers away from GC.
During his final year at GC, Kevin worked with Anna Whiteside to apply for an English teaching assistantship in Macedonia under the Fulbright U.S. Student Progam. He became a Fulbright finalist in April 2017, and although he has yet to find out if he will be teaching at a high school or collegiate level, he is already planning to facilitate cultural discussions between the various ethnic groups living in Macedonia during his spare time. After he completes his assistantship in Macedonia, Kevin plans to work as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State one day.
Honors student and Milledgeville native Tevauri Mar-shall is a junior music education who said he joined the GC Honors Program because he wanted to surround himself with other academically serious students who would encourage him.
“The Honors Program gave me the opportunity to be around other people who are very smart and give me the motivation to be better myself,” Tevauri said. “I feel that the more that I expect from myself, the better that I’m going to be.”
Tevauri has been the lead male vocalist in a GC Department of Theatre programs, including musicals like “Anything Goes.” He is also the assistant conductor of GC’s university chorus. Although he performs several times each semester in both solo and in choral ensembles, Tevauri said he considers himself to be a teacher first and a performer second.
His major focus is high school chorus, which he would like to teach after he graduates if he does not go straight to graduate school for oral conducting or vocal performance.
Tevauri is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. As a member, he participates in mentoring high school and middle school students in their education, partners with his fraternity brothers on service projects and advocates for political activism through voter registration drives and political education.
Tevauri said the GC Honors Program has given him the confidence to expect the most from himself both as a student and as a performer.
Maria Bermudez, a junior history and philosophy double major, interned at the Washington D.C. office of former Georgia Congressman Lynn Westmoreland in spring of 2016. During her tenure at the congressman’s office, she learned about the duties of a congressional staffer and the demanding life of a member of Congress.
Throughout the course of her internship, Maria performed in a number of important capacities, such as summarizing dense legislation for constituents before a vote, serving as the assistant program coordinator for the 2016 Congressional Art Show competition and planning the congressman’s surprise birthday party.
Maria said the GC Honors Program gave her a solid foundation for her work in D.C.
“I was really able to put my attention to detail and my work ethic into usage, I think, so it gave me a solid background to be able to accomplish the tasks that they set for me to do,” Maria said.
During her time working in Westmoreland’s office, Maria was able to sit in on lobbying meetings, meet other congressional representatives at social and networking events in D.C. and have many other valuable experiences from which she learned about the inner workings of a congressional office and the path to the career of a congressional staffer.
After she graduates, Maria plans to return to work in D.C. one day, but whether that will be as a congresswoman herself, she has yet to decide.
Jordan Bracewell, a rhetoric major and junior, attended Oxford University for eight weeks through the Georgia College Experience in Oxford Program.
While at Oxford, Jordan took a total of 12 credit hours in two courses, for which she wrote weekly essays on various topics and defended them in sessions with her professor. She said the GC Honors Program’s book discussions and dinner seminars prepared her for the tutorial-style instruction she received at Oxford.
“Studying at a university that prestigious, with all of the wonderful people who have gone there throughout history, was just kind of a dream,” Jordan said.
Jordan said she knew she wanted to be a part of the Oxford Program after she attended an honors dinner seminar with Elliott-Gower to inform students about the program.
“I’d known that I wanted to study abroad for a long time,” Jordan said. “I’d never left the country before, and that was something that I’d always desired to do, and England was my number one place to visit, if I could go anywhere.”
Jordan worked with GC’s International Education Center to apply to be a student at Oxford University. During her time in England, she had all the same rights and privileges as Oxford’s full-time students, including being able to join resident student organizations like the Oxford Student Union.
Jordan said her study abroad experience gave her more confidence both in herself academically and in her ability to make her dreams of travel and classical study a reality.
Senior geography major and Honors student Jessica Craigg spent the fall 2016 semester in East Africa studying the environments of Tanzania’s national parks.
“In the mornings, we would go out in safari vehicles in the national parks, and we would study animal behavior, how it’s changed over time and how the environment is affecting it,” Jessica said.
Jessica’s group focused on lions, watching them hunt and observing their behaviors within their habitat and ecosystem, which is being threatened by the construction of the Serengeti highway.
During the last part of her study abroad, Jessica conducted an independent research project on the economic impact of national parks on the communities close to them. Through a translator, she conducted interviews with community members about their needs and found that the rough conditions of the communities’ interior roads challenged citizens’ daily lives.
She then mapped the roads near the villages and the flow of tourist traffic through them in order to highlight areas of improvement that would better the quality of life for village members near the national parks.
Jessica said that the experience of living with her Tanzanian host family and immersing herself in a culture so different from her own fit right in with her values as a GC Honors student.
“I think the Honors Program encourages open-mindedness and doing things that are different from what most college students do,” Jessica said. “Those two things definitely shaped my attitude towards wanting to study abroad.”
Honors student Shea Morris is a junior biology major participating in microbiology undergraduate lab research. She recently discovered two new mycobacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) in Milledgeville’s soil.
Shea first began studying phage after doing an Honors option project in a summer genetics class where she researched and mapped phage genetics.
“After that, I got super into phage because I had learned so much,” Shea said. “If it wasn’t for the Honors option, I wouldn’t understand what I’m doing as well as I do.”
She is currently sequencing the phages’ genomes with the goal of submitting them to GenBank, the NCBI genetic sequence database, an annotated collection of all publicly available DNA sequences.
In spring 2017, Shea worked with Anna Whiteside to apply to several summer undergraduate research programs. From the multiple acceptances she received, Shea chose to pursue an offer to conduct research at Texas A&M University. In fall 2017, Shea plans to work with Whiteside again to apply for a National Science Foundation research fellowship.
“Undergraduate research teaches you to learn to work on your own,” Shea said. “You really need to be innovative to survive in the job industry, and I think any kind of research forces you to be that way.”
After her graduation in May of 2018, Shea plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biology with the goal of conducting antibiotic research with phage. She hopes to one day lead the U.S. in combating infectious diseases that have become resistant to common antibiotics, like tuberculosis, by using mycobacteriophages to destroy the diseases.
Samantha Clapp, a senior mathematics major, has participated in three undergraduate research experiences for undergraduates. Her first was at the University of Washington at Bothell in the summer of 2015, her second was at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County in the summer of 2016 and her third was her capstone research project this year at Georgia College.
At the University of Maryland in Baltimore, Samantha participated in mathematics-biology research, testing pancreatic beta cells. Throughout the course of this research project, Samantha’s team mapped all of the oscillatory processes using mathematics and computers rather than working with actual human cells.
“I guess the benefit of math-bio is that we don’t have to do real tests,” Samantha said. “It’s easier to test a lot of different things with math, because it’s the push of a button and 10 minutes on the computer, versus months and months of lab work.”
Samantha’s senior capstone research has resulted in the creation of her very own theorem that describes classifying the Lie algebra structure of the generalized quaternion group.
“The Honors Program taught me to ask questions, to find the opportunity to learn everywhere,” Samantha said.
This year, Samantha worked with Anna Whiteside to apply for a Fulbright research study grant and was named an alternate to study in Budapest. After her graduation, Samantha plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics and a career in mathematics research.
Steven Walters, a sophomore honors student and mass communication major, is a member of GC’s Council of Student Ambassadors and an editor at The Colonnade, GC’s official student newspaper.
“Being able to have these student leadership opportunities is a great way for me to practice and get better at communication,” Steven said. “You need to know how to understand people and get them to understand you.”
Steven said he knew he wanted to become a student ambassador even before his first year at GC began. After admiring his initial tour guide, student ambassador Jonathan Brantley, Steven contacted the Council of Student Ambassadors that summer to inquire about membership.
“I saw the impact that he had on me to come here, and I wanted to do the same thing for other people,” Steven said.
A former baseball player, Steven said working for GC’s student newspaper as a sports editor was a fun way for him to stay connected to sports and the larger GC community. He said The Colonnade helps him maintain a broader perspective of what happens on campus beyond his day-to-day personal experience.
In February 2017, Steven was hired to be The Colonnade’s editor-in-chief for the 2017-18 school year. He said the Honors Program encourages a leadership mindset in its students by driving them to make the most out of every available educational opportunity.
“Being an Honors student, you have to want to be the best you can be, and you have to want to excel,” Steven said. “It gives you that opportunity to take your education further, and that’s what I want to do with The Colonnade.”
Honors student Macy Polk, a senior chemistry major, is captain of GC’s women’s tennis team. She said the same drive and determination that is required to be a successful Honors student in such a difficult major also helps her succeed on the court.
“As an Honors student, just in all the classes you have to take, whether it’s an Honors option or not, you have to take that initiative and be very hardworking, dedicated, and focused on that project,” Macy said. “I think that shows on the tennis court, because I feel like I try the best I can whenever I get out there, whether it’s practice or matches.”
It is rare for a student athlete to choose such a demanding science major. Macy said this presents a unique challenge during the spring tennis season, when she has to balance classes, lab work, practice with her coach, matches with her team and homework each night.
“It’s been both a challenge and been good for me in the sense that it pushed me to be the best that I can be,” Macy said. “It’s helped me learn how to stay on top of everything. And yes, it’s been very hard, very stressful, but I think it has helped me overall become a stronger person.”
Because of her hectic schedule, Macy has obtained all of her Honors credit hours through Honors option projects. She said this means that she has gotten to build relationships with her chemistry professors through mentored research.
Although she will continue to play tennis throughout her life, Macy plans to attend medical school with the goal of becoming a doctor or physician’s assistant.
Victoria Lara, a sophomore Spanish major, is the president of GC’s Latino Student Association, (LSA) a Community Advisor (CA) in Wells Hall and Eta Sigma Alpha’s campus involvement coordinator.
Victoria decided to become a CA because she wanted to provide the same fun experience for incoming freshmen students that her CA did for her when she was a freshman living in Parkhurst Hall. She said that she loves the social aspects of the job, such as organizing community programs and having the opportunity to get to know the residents in her building on a one-on-one basis.
“My favorite part of the job is being able to know that you’re doing something meaningful,” Victoria said. “Those moments—when they open up to you and let you in and are vulnerable with you and you’re able to be that person for them—are when everything’s worth it.”
She was inspired to run for LSA president after joining the organization as a freshman and gaining a better understanding of what her Latino identity means to her.
“Being in it last year as a member really pushed that part of my identity to the forefront of my mind like ‘this is a critical part of who you are, so you should learn more,’” Victoria said.
Victoria said that she has grown as a person as a result of having been in student leadership positions.
“I think those ideas that the Honors Program propagates, that idea of helping the individual to become their best self, has molded into my leadership style,” Victoria said. “I’m not the boss of people, but I’m giving them the resources and being their support system, to help them grow into the person I know they can be.”
Cameron Watts, a freshman majoring in economics and psychology, is a senator in Georgia College’s Student Government Association (SGA) and a member of the Council of Student Ambassadors.
“As an ambassador, I act as a liaison for the student body and representative to visitors on campus, whether it be prospective students, or prospective professors or even donors,” Cam said.
Cam said he enjoys the responsibility and privilege he has to promote the school, especially the Honors Program, when he gives tours to prospective students.
Soon after arriving on campus in August 2016, Cam sought the chance to represent his freshman class as a senator in SGA. He ran on the platform of turning his fellow students’ ideas on improving the university into tangible legislative action.
“Student leaders have a large effect on the school itself, just by having the tenacity and the confidence to speak their own minds and represent the rest of the students to administration and students from other colleges,” Cam said. “Our duty as student representatives is both to hold the administration accountable and keep them in the loop with student affairs.”
Cam serves on both the SGA appropriations committee and the SGA diversity and inclusion committee. He intends to run for a sophomore senator and continue to serve on SGA throughout his time at GC. He said his membership in the Honors Program complements his work on SGA.
“Being an Honors student definitely gives you the skills that are necessary to be an effective student leader,” Cam said.
Eta Sigma Alpha
From the President
The Georgia College Honors Program has provided me with wonderful friendships, numerous academic opportunities and leadership experience. As president of Eta Sigma Alpha, I have strived to strengthen the community and social aspect of the Honors Program.
I firmly believe that the ability for like-minded students to form bonds and relationships will better their academic experience at GC and give them the ability to make a bigger impact on the campus. This is why I consider networking to be one of the most important aspects of leadership because you can provide more resources to a broader audience.
The Honors Program wants to benefit its members, but also share resources with the student body at GC. Eta Sigma Alpha hosts formals, greenway days and community service events that anyone can take part in. We want Honors students to be highly successful inside and outside of the classroom, while also having a heightened social experience.
I have enjoyed the ability to expand the Eta Sigma Alpha executive board with an intramural athletics chair, academic involvement chair and campus involvement coordinator, which broadens the spectrum of opportunities that Honors students have at their disposal. The GC Honors Program is unique in that we have such an active honors society that is deeply rooted within the Honors Program.
Bell Hall is one of my favorite benefits of being in the Honors Program because first-year students get the chance to live in the only dorm that is on main campus. Throughout my freshman year, a large group of us who lived on Bell’s second floor frequently had lunch and dinner together and went on Milledgeville adventures on the weekends. The time we all participated in an Eta Sigma Alpha tubing event down the Oconee River will always be one of my favorite college memories. We also would pack into the Internet lounge on the second floor of Bell and get academic tasks completed. I am so thankful to have experienced such an uplifting living environment my freshman year. Many of us who formed that initial bond during freshman year are serving on the Eta Sigma Alpha executive board at present.
We have grown as leaders because we have challenged one another to be the best versions of ourselves. As I go into my last year at GC, I want to make sure the Honors Program and Eta Sigma Alpha’s leadership is passed on to students who will dedicate a lot of time and energy to the program. I want them to keep expanding and brainstorming ways to help Honors students, GC students and the community. Leaving a bobcat paw print on this campus means that you are objective in how you plan a program so that it can be well-received by many. I hope to think that the Honors Program and Eta Sigma Alpha continues to do this and strives to be the most productive it can be.
Eta Sigma Alpha
Anna Fontaine (’13) works as an actor and theatre-education artist in Atlanta. In the fall of 2017, she will travel to Colchester, England to pursue a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in international acting from University of Essex at the East 15 Acting School. She will have the opportunity to travel around the country performing with her fellow theatre students.
For more information on Honors Program alumni news and events, join our Facebook group at GC Honors Alumni, join the Honors Program alumni LinkedIn page and follow us on Twitter (@GCHonorsProgram).
The Honors Program relies on the generosity of faculty, alumni and friends to fund our book discussions, lunch and dinner seminars, undergraduate research and other educational and cultural activities. Please contact Dr. Steven Elliott-Gower at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.gcsu.edu/alumni/giving if you are interested in supporting our program. We are keen to build our base of support with gifts of any amount.