An Honors College Roadtrip
By D. Aidan Wright
   In February, members of Honors College ventured out into the part of Texas known to some as “The Hill Country”.  We traveled with The Friends of the Library and I was there to document the sights and experiences of the trip.                                                                           Our first destination, after starting out bright and early, was the Presidential Library of Lyndon B. Johnson.  The LBJ Library was beautifully designed: the main hall had a high lofted ceiling in a room that seemed to be made of marble.  The gleaming stone stair case leads to the base of an enormous wall of red bound documents from the Johnson Administration, stories of books behind glass walls.
  The museum was highly informative as well.  It provided new insights into the Johnson Administration and America at the time: LBJ’s Great Society project, his impact on the Civil Rights movement, his struggle with Vietnam, his programs to help the environment.  One could also tell that the museum was also trying hard to combat the poor opinion that many American’s hold him in.  My grandmother’s remark that he “was the crookedest man to ever get into the White House, but he got things done” seems to be a generalized sentiment.  Also, the dislike that he garnered for the Vietnam War was trying to be down played as the exhibits kept insisting that LBJ tried hundreds of ways to extricate the US from Vietnam, but to no avail.
   The upstairs of the library contained the oval office of Johnson’s time and Lady Bird’s office.  There were also some very interesting photographs of Barak Obama and the First Family from their visit to the LBJ library.  There was in fact a photo of Obama looking at an exhibit posted next to that exhibit.  It was an interesting way to view the march of time and the continuity of the Presidency.
   There was also a life-sized photograph of Johnson that one could pose with in imitation of the Johnson Treatment.  LBJ was famous for his ability to get things done by being pushy and in your face, oftentimes even literally. 
   The students went out to dinner together.  We sampled the local German cuisine at Auslander.  The food was delicious, and the schnitzel burger was a hit.  The only drawback of Auslander, it was decided, was that the chicken was somewhat dry.
   After dinner we strolled up and down Main Street and saw the old buildings, peeked in the windows of closed shops (it surprised us to learn that almost everything closed down at about six o’clock),  and passed by many venues with live music.  The most intriguing shop we visited was an upscale furnishings store called Vaudeville.  It was cutting edge in its styling and everything had remarkable craftsmanship: gold laced glass sets, micro-etched dodecahedrons as conversation pieces, cowhide chairs, a brass bike, origami wall decorations, extensive abstract wood sculptures, a wood carved chair that was sleek and followed a minimalist style, and, if one had such an inclination, gold edged tins to keep cannabis in.  A veritable wealthy hipster’s dream.
   The next day we were back on the bus, heading for the LBJ Ranch.  The countryside around it was beautiful; rolling hills of a rich green, horses, goats, and Hereford cattle grazing in the distance.  The Texas White House, where Johnson conducted his presidential affairs when he tired of the Capital, was spacious yet homey.  It had the air of a grandparent’s home writ large.  However there were telltale signs that this was the President’s house.  There were telephones everywhere, a phone in every room of the house, 3 in some, including the bathroom and one attached to the dining table so Johnson could talk with one hand and eat with the other.  If anyone needed a mobile phone, it was President Johnson. Both the living room and the bedroom had three television sets that would be turned to the three existing channels at the time so Johnson would be up to date on what the media was saying about him.
   The LBJ ranch turns out to still be a working ranch, though most of it has been farmed out to other people.  On our way out, our bus driver was kind enough to show us how to rope a cow in the show barn.  It reminds you that you’re in Texas when even the bus driver can throw a lasso.
Catching up with Alumni – Mariam El-Rayes
   Mariam El-Rayes, 2015 graduate of UTA, explained how important her membership in the Honors College has been for her even after she completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science and Sociology. Joining the Honors College in her sophomore year, Mariam had a limited amount of time to complete the required number of Honors credit hours. Although it was a hard path, she observes that the experience was more than worth it. Contracting classes gave her an opportunity to connect with and build relationships with her professors, which led to even more opportunities for her.
   During her time in the Honors College Mariam learned about the Archer Fellowship program, which sends UT System undergraduates in any major to Washington, DC for one semester to take classes in public policy, government and communication. She explained that her time in Washington was a once-in-a-lifetime experience filled with a good mix of fun and learning experiences. She completed a full-time internship with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and took classes taught by UT System faculty, living in Capitol Hill brownstone apartments with some three dozen other Archer Fellows.
   As an undergraduate, she also won the Petsche Scholarship for independent study abroad from the Honors College in summer 2014. Her passion has long been helping stateless people, including Palestinians and others dispossessed from their home countries. She utilized the Petsche award funds to travel to the Dominican Republic for several weeks, where she met with directors and staff of NGOs and the Peace Corps who are assisting refugees of the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Most of these persons crossed the border into the Dominican Republic very shortly after the earthquake, with neither passports nor other documents that certified their citizenship, and thus they are unable to return home.
   Currently Mariam, who enrolled after graduation in Teach for America, is a sixth-grade social studies teacher at a middle school in South Oak Cliff. She believes that every child should have equal access to education, and she describes this as what drives her to continue in this challenging profession.
Graduating Seniors
Pictured above are the Honors College Graduating Seniors for Spring 2016 who attended the Honors College Senior Dinner May 2nd. They are from left to right (back row): D. Aidan Wright, Austin Black, Ali Mohamedi, Sami Ghubril, Alissa Hendricks, Nicholas Watson; (third row): Grant Pham, Roopak Karulkar, Kaustubh Shinde, Lorenzo Marconi, Mayrena Hernandez, Peter Hedleston; (second row): Sarah Merchant, Wendy Hurtado, Olufunke Ogunjobi, Jacob Smith, Sfsoon Gazor, Jasmine Lucero; (first row) Julia Johnson, Pragya Neupane, Miti Rupani, Amanda Patrick, Eli Brown, Jennifer Davis, Danah Fakhreddine, Shradha Chaulagain.
Austin Black, Political Science
Senior Project Title: Systematically Shutting Doors: The Keyman System in Texas Grand Juries.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Ignagni
Elizabeth Brown, Geology
Project Title: Constraining the Timing and Provenance of Cenozoic Fluvial Sandstone in South Texas Using Detrital Zircon U-Pb Geochronology.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Majie Fan
Whitnee Broyles, Biology
Senior Project Title: Predator-Driven Evolution of Brain Size across Three Predation Intensities in Natural Populations.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Matthew Walsh
Shradha Chaulagain, Information Systems
Senior Project Title: Social Networks: Understanding the Behavior of Individualson Facebook.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sridhar P. Nerur
Jennifer Davis, Nursing
Senior Project Title: Characteristics of Nursing Mentors in a Healthcare Setting.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Susan M. Baxley
Danah Fakhreddine, English
Senior Project Title: Re-classifying Edith Wharton: Naturalism in The Age of Innocence.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathryn Warren
Afsoon Gazor, Biology
Senior Project Title: The Effect of Parental Depression on Child Temperament:An Exploratory Genetic Analysis.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jeffrey R. Gagne
Sami Ghubril, Political Science
Senior Project Title: Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Examining the Unfair Consequences of Establishing Fairness.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Joseph Ignagni
Peter Hedleston, English
Senior Project Title: Pragmatism in Mark Twain‘s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathryn Warren
Alissa Hendricks, Biomedical Engineering
Senior Project Title: Interchangeable Arsenic Filter for Individual Use.
Faculty Mentors: Dr. George Alexandrakis & Dr. Kytai Nguyen
Mayrena Hernandez, Kinesiology
Senior Project Title: Core Stability and Hip Range of Motion Changes Using Three Different Short-Term Interventions Aimed at Muscle Flexibility and/or Motor Control Strength.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Cynthia Trowbridge
Wendy Hurtado, Architecture
Senior Project Title: Intervention within the Urban Fabric of Fort Worth.
Faculty Mentor: Dennis Chiessa
Julia Johnson, Biology
Senior Project Title: Investigation of the Nrf2-Oxidative Stress Response Pathway in Python Bivittatus, Crotalus Viridis and Nerodia Rhombifer Species.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Todd Castoe
Roopak Karulkar, Mechanical Engineering
Senior Project Title: General Mobility Assistant Sit and Lift.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Raul Fernandez
Jasmine Lucero, Industrial Engineering
Senior Project Title: Airbus Helicopter Blade Installation Cell Redesign.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jamie Rogers
Kevin Luciani, Biology
Senior Project Title: Drug Discovery: Novel Compounds for the Treatmentof Alzheimer‘s Disease.
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Walter Schargel & Dr. Frank Foss
Lorenzo Marconi, Broadcast Communications
Senior Project Title: Canterbury on the Airwaves: Anglican Radio Broadcasting in the United States.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Andrew M. Clark
April Martinez, Nursing
Senior Project Title: Alarm Fatigue: Nurses‘ Perspective.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Deborah Behan
Sarah Merchant, Psychology
Senior Project Title: Endorsing Forced Sexual Contact but Denying Rape: A Bewildering Discrepancy.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Daniel S. Levine
Ali Mohamedi, Biology
Senior Project Title: Determination of Mitochondrial Toxicity and Potential Apoptotic Pathways of Ruthenium Polypyridyl Complexes.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Frederick MacDonnell
Hussain Mucklai, Software Engineering
Senior Project Title: Industrial RGB-D Camera.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christopher McMurrough
Kinsley Munoz, Education
Senior Project Title: Comparison of the Newbery and Bluebonnet Awards in Children‘s Literature.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. John Smith
Pragya Neupane, Computer Science Engineering
Senior Project Title: Robotic Wheelchair Platform with Autonomous Mobility.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Christopher McMurrough
Olufunke Ogunjobi, Economics
Senior Project Title: Depreciation of the Naira against the Dollar.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. William Crowder
Amanda Patrick, Mathematics
Senior Project Title: A Mathematical Model of Recycling.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Benito Chen-Charpentier
Michael Perez, Psychology
Senior Project Title: Aggression, Gender, Feasibility, and Brainstorming Factors in Relation to Perceived Novelty and Enjoyment.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jared Kenworthy
Grant Pham, Biology
Senior Project Title: Wave Energy Measurement of Copper Oxide Nanoparticles for Singlet Oxygen Production.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Wei Chen
Miti Rupani, Biology
Senior Project Title: Celiac and Other Autoimmune Bowel Diseases: Is Gluten Intolerance or Urbanization the Main Culprit?
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Malgorzata Wilk-Blaszcza
Kaustubh Shinde, Electrical Engineering
Senior Project Title: Comprehensive Performance Evaluation of a Wireless Grip Strength Measurement System for Telemedicine.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. George Kondraske
Jacob Smith, Political Science
Senior Project Title: The Relationship between Terrorism and Its Sponsors: A Case Study of Syria.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Cichock
Nicholas Watson, International Business
Senior Project Title: Specialty Coffee: How Special is Coffee to Global Consumers?
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Jorge F. Jaramillo
D. Aidan Wright, Interdisciplinary Studies
Senior Project Title: The Ides of Richard Lawrence, or How to Be a King: History Applied Creatively; A Thoroughly Researched Historical-Play in Progress.
Faculty Mentors: Dr. Donna Akers & Dr. Dennis Maher
Annual Celebration of Excellence by Students (ACES) Awards
Morning Undergraduate Oral Presentation Awards:
President’s Award: Jessica Lilley, Kinesiology
Honorable Mention: Caitlynn Reeves, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Undergraduate Poster Presentation Awards:
Provost’s Award:  Afsoon Gazor, Psychology
Dean’s Award: Elizabeth (Ellie) Brown, Geology

Introducing Honors College Advisor Brittney Kwan
   Brittney Kwan advises students who are new to the Honors College; every new member meets with her to discuss Honors College requirements and benefits. She also meets with students during their second year in the College to ensure they are making sufficient progress toward their Honors degree.  In between advising appointments, Brittney coordinates the admissions process, and also organizes Honors College scholarships. Throughout the year, Brittney helps the College recruit new members and plan special events.  She also maintains the Honors College social media accounts and always keeps a plentiful supply of chocolate on her desk. 
   Brittney is originally from Memphis, Tennessee. She received her B.S. in Communication (majoring in journalism and electronic media) from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she was an honors student. She completed her M.Ed. in Higher Education at the University of Missouri, Columbia (in educational leadership and policy analysis). Her previous job was interim assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at Mizzou, and she has had much experience additionally in student programming and news writing.  
   In her spare time, Brittney enjoys spending time with her husband, Long, and her dog, Ellie. She is a self-proclaimed foodie who is always in search of new restaurants to try (send names of your favorite local spots her way!).  Brittney also likes traveling; she hopes to one day visit all 50 states. Sweepstakes are her guilty pleasure, and she has won prizes ranging from a year’s worth of food from Chipotle to front-row tickets to a Justin Timberlake concert.
Ali Haider
   At our spring 2016 graduation dinner we broke with tradition and invited Mr. Ali Haider, a 2012 Honors College alumnus, to deliver the commencement address.
   Mr. Haider received his Honors Bachelor of Science (Magna cum Laude) in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. He he will receive his MD in Spring 2017 from the Texas A&M University College of Medicine.
   Mr. Haider already has a remarkable record of accomplishment. He has received two distinguished medical student fellowship research grants, one from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. He has held several medical student leadership positions in neurosurgery during his brief tenure as a medical student. He served as a researcher at MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2013. Working with renowned medical researchers, he has already co-authored papers in two different international medical journals, and has three more in preparation, for two of which he will be primary author.
   While he was at UTA, Mr. Haider was president of the Honors College Council, and he led his fellow HCC officers in programming an extremely ambitious agenda of academic, social and community service activities. He was profiled in the UTA President’s report of 2011 for his work in civic engagement. He was a peer mentor to classmates, and a member of the Honors Advocates. He volunteered at John Peter Smith Hospital. And with all that, he still had time to captain an intramural co-ed soccer team.
   Mr. Haider reflected on his Honors experience and how it prepared him for his current academic and leadership obligations. He urged this year’s Honors graduates to keep their eye on their goals and to be true to their values; and to always remember family and mentors who supported them as they pursued their education.
Honors College Scholar meets Chief Justice Roberts
By D. Austin Black
   I met Chief Justice Roberts at a small reception for the U.S. and Canadian Supreme Court Justices.     
   Every three years, the U.S. Justices meet with their Canadian counterparts to discuss various happenings in the area of the law. The location for the meeting rotates between Ottawa and D.C., so every six years the meeting is in D.C.  It just so happened that the meeting was scheduled to occur during the semester I was interning at the Embassy of Canada!  I was given the assignment of working on the guest list and RSVPs for the reception, so my boss allowed me to attend the reception as well.  In attendance with the Justices were various members of the legal and arts communities in D.C., such as deans of local law schools, presidents of state bar associations, and directors of various Smithsonian museums.       
   During the reception, I had the opportunity to speak with Chief Justice Roberts for about five minutes, during which time we discussed the nature of the relationship between the U.S. Supreme Court and the Canadian Supreme Court.  I mentioned that I was  going to attend law school, and he asked which school.  After I said UT Law, he replied "That is a superb school."  It felt quite nice to have my law school choice approved by the Chief Justice of SCOTUS!


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