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Category: Info for Current Students

UHP Students Win SEED Awards

November 13, 2014

The Office for Equity and Diversity's Scholarly Excellence in Equity and Diversity (SEED) Awards program honors and acknowledges diverse students who are doing outstanding work at the University of Minnesota, both in and out of the classroom. Recipients of the 2014 awards were honored at the seventh annual Equity and Diversity Breakfast held on November 12. Of the seven University of Minnesota–Twin Cities students honored, five are UHP students. We're incredibly proud to be so well represented in this exemplary group of undergraduates. Congratulations are also in order for the other SEED Award recipients, Lawrence Karongo (UMTC/Economics), Jayce Koester (UM-Morris English/Political Science), Michael Prideaux (UM-Morris/Philosophy, GWSS), and Kimiya Rabu (UMTC/Elementary Education).

President's SEED Award for Outstanding Academic Achievment

This award is given in honor of outstanding academic performance and demonstration of engagement with and commitment to issues of equity and diversity.

Mary Gao is a third-year UHP student majoring in economics and psychology and pursuing minors in statistics and management. In addition to her work with disadvantaged youth in education, she is also one of the founding members of the Psychology Student Diversity Council, promoting and providing support for underrepresented students to seek research opportunities and graduate education. Mary does research through the College of Liberal Arts and the Carlson School of Management and plans to attend graduate school for a PhD in industrial organizational psychology.

Sue W. Hancock SEEDs of Change Awards

Multiple awards are given to students demonstrating impressive engagement with and commitment to issues of equity and diversity through outstanding academic achievment and activism.

Maria Lee is a third-year UHP student majoring in Geography and pursuing minors in Park and Protected Area Management and Outdoor Recreation and Education. Maria is passionate about ensuring access to outdoor spaces for all people. Currently, Maria works to connect students in Minneapolis and St. Paul schools with local outdoor spaces through the Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventure program. On the Twin Cities campus, Maria works with the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and helps others connect their passions to community organizations as a peer advisor in the Community Service—Learning Center.

Gabriel Ramirez-Hernandez is a fourth-year UHP student majoring in psychology and French studies. His activities outside of the classroom focus on service to underrepresented students in education. He has served as a mentor for the Multicultural Family Literacy Program for the past two years and as president of the Latino International Student Association for the past year. Through these positions, he has found opportunities to promote cultural awareness and share information about higher education options among underrepresented students in South Minneapolis. Gabriel is currently learning abroad in Montpellier in southern France.

Liandra Sy is a fourth-year UHP student majoring in psychology and English. Liandra spent the first 12 years of her life in the Philippines. After moving to the United States, her dual identity as a first generation immigrant and naturalized American citizen impacted her views on social inequity, especially in education. She hopes to pursue literary studies with an emphasis on postcolonial literature to understand the role of language and literature in relation to oppressive status quo ideologies.

Ian Taylor, Jr. is a fourth-year UHP student majoring in English and African American & American Studies. Ian was born in New Orleans and raised in Woodbury, Minnesota, and his passion for community empowerment has taken him from the streets of Minneapolis to Africa—he's currently learning abroad in Kenya. He strives to make a powerful impact in every community he joins by adding value and learning more from others. After graduation, he plans to spend a year working and preparing for law school.


November 12, 2014

fridays@noon is a series of events hosted by the University Honors Program throughout the course of the academic year, typically featuring Honors students sharing something unique about their undergraduate experiences here at the University and around the world. This year, we've expanded the series to include several musical performances by our talented students.

At one of our October events, parents, friends, and staff gathered for a triple-bill featuring tuba duets by Connor Neil (first year, Neuroscience) and Jonathon Meyer (first year, Electrical Engineering / Computer Science), a classical guitar performance by Tyler Tracy (third year, Music / Political Science), and a vocal performance by Madison Holtze (first year, Music):

There are still a few excellent fridays@noon events this semester, including a chance to meet Northrop's 2014 McKnight International Artist, Cuban choreographer Osnel Delgado on November 21st! The full list of fall 2014 events is as follows:

Upcoming (note: please double-check our calendar to ensure accurate and up-to-date info.)

  • November 14: Joelle Stangler, a junior Political Science and Journalism major and current president of the Minnesota Student Association (MSA), talks about getting involved in student government at the University.
  • November 21: Renowned Cuban choreographer and Northrop's McKnight International Artist in residence, Osnel Delgado, joins us for a special edition for fridays@noon. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Study.
  • December 5: Feeling intimidated by the medical school application process? Our panel of UHP seniors have been through the gauntlet and survived to share their stories!


  • September 19: Sarah Bening, a senior Biomedical Engineering major who works in the Living Devices Lab and spent this past summer working in a research program at MIT, shared her experience with undergraduate research.
  • September 26: Arianna Wegley, a freshman majoring in music, performed on the cello.
  • October 3: Quincy "Sherlock" Rosemarie, a senior majoring in Genetics, Cell Biology & Development, uncovered the truth about her experiences with undergraduate research and internships at Mayo Clinic and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in St. Paul.
  • October 17: Joshua Quinn, a senior majoring in political science, talked about his experience traveling to Beijing for a year with the CET Intensive Chinese Language program.
  • October 24: Kieran McCabe, a senior Aerospace Engineering major and president of Gopher Motorsports, talked about building open-wheel sports cars for the Formula SAE competition.
  • October 31: Tuba duet from freshmen Connor Neil and Jonathon Meyer; classical guitar performance by senior Tyler Tracy; vocal performance by freshman Madison Holtze.
  • November 7: Emily Myers, a senior Anthropology major, spoke about her experience last summer in Cuba with the SPAN program, which offers opportunities for faculty-directed research abroad. Evelyn Anderson, the Administrative Coordinator from SPAN also attended and answered questions about the program.

Joelle Stangler and John Reichl have recently been elected as President and VP of the Minnesota Student Association! The MSA veterans are currently serving on the executive board of the University Honors Student Association (UHSA) and will begin their term at the start of the 2014–15 academic year.

Stangler, a sophomore majoring in Political Science, has been serving as Ranking Representative to the Board of Regents for MSA. She sees her new role as an opportunity to give back to students on campus. "I would encourage every UHP student to join MSA, even if it's only for a semester," Stanger said. "You will learn how to change policy, lobby effectively, and lead groups on projects."

Reichl, a junior majoring in Finance, is the current President of UHSA and also serves as a Representative to the Board of Regents for MSA. He cites his experience with UHP and UHSA as preparation for his new role in MSA, and encourages all UHP students to become more involved. "To be an effective advocate for students, it's crucial to experience the breadth and depth of the entire undergraduate experience here at the U of M," Reichl explains. "MSA would be strengthened immensely by drawing on the unique perspectives, talents, and knowledge of UHP students."

To learn more about opportunities with MSA, check out their website.

Congratulations, Joelle and John!

A University of Minnesota–Twin Cities undergraduate has been named a 2014 Barry M. Goldwater Scholar, and two UMTC undergraduates have received honorable mentions in the competition. The prestigious Goldwater Scholarship is awarded annually to outstanding sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research-oriented careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The scholarships provide up to $7,500 per year for up to two years of undergraduate study.

University Honors Program student Rachel Soble is a 2014 Goldwater Scholar. Rachel is in her third year of a five-year undergraduate career pursuing Bachelors of Science degrees in genetics, cell biology & development (College of Biological Sciences) and computer science (College of Science and Engineering). She plans to earn a Ph.D. in computational biology and to develop new computational frameworks for investigating microbial ecology and physiology. Rachel is a National Merit Scholar and a Robert C. Byrd Scholar, and holds a prestigious American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship this year. As an Amgen Scholar in summer 2013 she conducted microbiology research at Columbia University. At the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, Rachel conducts research in Professor Jeffrey Gralnick's microbiology laboratory. Her project is the application of a new genetic technique called Tn-seq to study interdependence in a synthetic cooperative community of bacteria, with the goal of contributing to the scientific understanding of microbial cooperation. She has also worked on computational biology projects in Professor Chad Myers's research group. Rachel is co-author of a forthcoming article and has presented her research at national conferences. She is involved in many campus activities including Teaching SMART, a student group that teaches lessons in local schools to spark children's interest in science. Rachel grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana and attended Brookfield High School in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Rachel Soble on her experience at the Gralnick Lab—Engineering Bacterial Cooperation.

Moriana Haj received an honorable mention from the Goldwater Scholarship Program this year. Moriana is a junior chemistry major in the University Honors Program and the College of Science and Engineering. Originally from Edina, Minnesota where she attended Edina High School, Moriana plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. She aspires to participate in interdisciplinary research efforts to solve major scientific problems, in areas ranging from drug discovery to sustainable materials development. As an undergraduate researcher in Professor Thomas Hoye's laboratory, Moriana has been studying various aspects of a newly uncovered chemical reaction, the hexadehydro-Diels-Alder (HDDA) reaction, a variation on a classic transformation that is fundamental to the field of organic chemistry. Moriana takes inspiration from the creativity and open-mindedness that led Hoye's research group to explore the HDDA reaction, which they first observed while attempting a routine reaction in an unrelated study. She is a National Merit Scholar and the recipient of several scholarships to support her research activities. As the recipient of the Robert C. Brasted Fellowship, she is completing a teaching apprenticeship with Professor Jane Wissinger, for which she is developing a new experiment for the organic chemistry laboratory course.

Robin Lee also received honorable mention. A native of Bel Air, Maryland and a graduate of Bel Air High School, Robin lived in South Korea for many years before coming to the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities to pursue his interest in cancer genetics. Now a junior in the University Honors Program, he is completing an undergraduate degree in genetics, cell biology & development in the College of Biological Sciences. Robin has conducted research with Professors Craig Eckfeldt and David Largaespada on the pathways of growth in NRAS, a gene frequently mutated that causes abnormal growth in acute myeloid leukemia. Over several summers in high school and college, he has engaged in neurobiology, genetics, and cancer research at the University of Ulsan College of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea. His first-authored articles have been published in Gene and The Journal of Genetic Medicine, and he has received an Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program grant and other awards to support his research and travel to present at conferences. Robin plans to pursue a Ph.D. in genetics and hopes one day to establish an international cancer genetics research consortium.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. This year, 283 scholars were selected nationwide from a field of more than 1,166 students who were nominated by their colleges and universities. Each institution many nominate up to four students.

A total of 55 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities undergraduates have been Goldwater Scholars since the program's inception in 1986. UMTC students who are interested in applying for the scholarship in the future may consult the Office for National and International Scholarships.

For more information on the Goldwater Scholarship, visit

Two University of Minnesota students, Melanie Paurus and Johnathon Walker, have been named Katherine E. Sullivan Scholars for 2014–15. The Sullivan Scholarship is the University's most prestigious scholarship for study abroad. It supports a fifth year of undergraduate study in another country for one or more outstanding seniors from any campus of the University of Minnesota. The annual scholarship competition is administered by the University Honors Program at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, and the fund is managed by the Global Programs and Strategy Alliance.

Melanie Paurus is majoring in Spanish and Global Studies at UMTC with academic interests in human rights, drug trafficking, migration, and incarceration. She will spend the 2014–15 academic year in Jerusalem studying intensive Arabic at the Hebrew University. Melanie has volunteered and completed internships in Mexico, Columbia, and Ecuador, including a women's prison in Quito. Her concern for people caught up in the destructive fall-out of the drug trade has led her to study the structures of international trafficking, and she plans to expand her knowledge to the trade in opium through Central Asia and the Middle East. Her expertise with Spanish has shown her that speaking a local language is essential, so she will study Arabic in order to gain access to the cultural, social, and political dynamics currently shaping the region. Melanie is from Cottage Grove, MN and is a graduate of Park High School.

Johnathon Zelenak Walker is a student in the University Honors Program at UMTC, with majors in Global Studies and Political Science and a minor in Spanish Studies. Inspired by growing up in rural Minnesota and his extensive travel throughout rural communities in Mexico, Venezuela, Peru, and Bolivia, Johnathon's interests are agricultural politics and networks of solidarity in resistance to the state and capitalism. His research examines the use of art and technology to build solidarity between dispersed autonomous communities across cultural and territorial boundaries. Next year, Johnathon will attend the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito, Ecuador and continue his fieldwork in South America. Johnathon is from Clear Lake, MN and is a graduate of St. Cloud Technical High School.

Contratulations, Melanie and Johnathon!

Lee Stecklein, a UHP student in the Carlson School of Management, was the youngest player to skate with the United States Women's Hockey Team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Stecklein and her teammates won a Silver Medal. "It was the experience of a lifetime," Stecklein recently told The Minnesota Daily. "It didn't turn out exactly the way we all wanted at the end, but [it was] still something I'll remember forever."

Stecklein, who helped the Golden Gophers women's hockey team to a National Championship in her freshman season, will return to the University to resume her studies—and her college hockey career—this fall.

Read the full article in the Daily to hear more about Stecklein's Olympic Experience. Congratulations, Lee!

Honors Seminars in the News

February 10, 2014

Honors Seminars (HSem) are some of the most fascinating courses at the University, offering students the opportunity to explore a variety of topics in a discussion-based setting with expert faculty and instructors.

Our fall 2013 Honors Seminars were an extraordinary bunch, covering topics from modern Chinese culture to 21st century cognition. Two of these courses were featured in recent publications. Chang Wang's (adjunct professor, Law School) final lecture to students in HSem 3801H (Modern China: Law, History, and Culture) was published by China Insight, and Professor Lee Pen (Chemistry) was featured in the Minnesota Daily for her innovative use of cell phones to analyze solutions in HSem 2513H (NANO! Small Science, Big Deal.

UHP Students from all disciplines are invited to imagine the future of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities and to create a work that responds to that imagined future. Comprehensive information about this opportunity will be available at two upcoming information sessions in 12 Nicholson Hall, on Thursday, October 10th from 10–11am and on Friday, October 11th from 2–3pm.

How will people gain access to the water? What wildlife will inhabit this corridor in the city? How will the region's long history be evident? These are just examples of the questions you might ask yourself about this place. Projects will take the form of a proposed research project, work of art (visual art, music, performance, etc.), audio/visual media, or other means of expression. A panel of judges (faculty, staff, and community partners) will review all proposals and select a number for further development by mid-December. Students whose proposals are selected will work in conjunction with faculty or community partners to complete their work by late March, and the work will be presented during the grand re-opening celebration at Northrop on April 16th. We will review each selected work to determine whether it can be used to fulfill an Honors Experience.

For more information on River Futures, download the program brief.

To learn more about the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities, and to get links to sources of information about trends and patterns affecting the river, visit the River Life website.

We're very pleased to share a selection of photos from the 2013 Honors Recognition Ceremony. The ceremony was a great success, with an audience of 700 students, families, friends, staff, and faculty gathering at the Ted Mann Concert Hall to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our 2013 graduates. Thanks for making this event a memorable one.

All photos courtesy of Patrick O'Leary, University Relations.

Plans for the 2014 Ceremony

The University Honors Program will be moving its offices to the third floor of the revitalized Northrop Memorial Auditorium in late December of 2013—so we're very excited to announce that the 2014 Honors Recognition Ceremony will be held in the beautifully renovated auditorium. Mark your calendars with the following details, and stay tuned for further information early next Spring:

  • Thursday, May 8th, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
  • Northrop Memorial Auditorium

Meet Katrina Klett. With a major in Asian languages and literatures/Chinese and a minor in sustainability studies, Klett focuses on beekeeping as a means to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity in developing countries. Dr. Marla Spivak, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Apiculture & Social Insects, has worked with Klett on her research and calls her "the most remarkable young woman and undergraduate I have ever met," noting her "incredible potential to make an enormous impact in international development and environmental sustainability."

After winning two prestigious scholarships this spring—both the Harry S. Truman Scholarship and the Udall Scholarship—Klett will return to the University of Minnesota for the final year of her undergraduate experience in the University Honors Program, and plans to pursue a Masters degree in Public Affairs at Columbia University. We had the chance to catch up with Katrina before the end of the spring 2013 term.

Photo by Patrick O'Leary for University Relations.

UHP: You've been around bees for much of your life. Can you tell me a bit about your family's business and how it shaped your experiences as a young person?

Klett: We moved between North Dakota and Texas all my life. We are queen breeders, so we breed queen bees in the South and produce honey in the North. This meant we were on the road together quite a lot of the time, moving between our seasonal work. As a child, I spent a lot more time with my family and less time with friends than other kids did. We worked, moved, and socialized with other beekeeping families that also were migratory, and we still do. Our business is a central part of my life and always has been.

UHP: Bees have been in the news lately—unfortunately, mostly due to declining honeybee populations. There have been stories on NPR and in U.S. News and World Reports about the challenges faced by bee populations—specifically "Colony Collapse Disorder." What do you see as the most significant challenges faced by bee populations now and in the future, and how do you hope to be involved in meeting those challenges?

Klett: To risk oversimplifying the problem, a lot of what is happening is a result of the ultra modern agricultural system in the United States today. Our bees are flying out into pesticide-laden dead zones of monocrop agriculture—particularly corn and beans in this part of the world. Of course there are many things that are impacting honeybee health, but in a nutshell, ultra efficient industrial agriculture isn't good for bees. I am quite focused right now on working in developing countries that are starting to look to industrialized nations for examples on how to develop their own agriculture. I want to help farmers, beekeepers, and local governments understand that following directly in our footsteps is not the right direction for their apicultural industries. There are better, lower impact ways to increase income, to increase food production, and to maintain environmental integrity. As for U.S. issues, my family is focused on breeding a more disease-resistant honeybee. This is our contribution to the bee health issue in the U.S. After I graduate from the U, I want to get involved in policy advocacy, especially with issues surrounding the Farm Bill.

UHP: You're the beekeeping expert for Shangrila Farms in China's Yunnan region. You're also studying Chinese here at the U. How did these interests first intersect, and how did your interest in bees first bring you to China?

Klett: I have always been a lover of foreign languages. I keep bees because I have always been around bees, but the study of language is a real hobby of mine! I was studying Chinese and was paying attention to the controversy here in the U.S. about Chinese honey production practices. It's a very touchy issue here. The Chinese are accused of dumping honey on our market, and so relations are not very good between Chinese and American beekeepers—yet they are the number one producers of honey. The Chinese Government is quite liberal in their funding of apicultural research, and the species diversity of bees in China is very rich. I wanted to go over there and see for myself, I guess. There isn't much exchange of real information between beekeepers in China and the United States, I guess because of anger over trade issues—but trade is one thing, and bees and beekeeping are quite another. I wanted to establish contacts and learn about their bees and beekeepers. I wanted to have a bit of an exchange, and it turned into a long journey.

UHP: Can you tell us a bit more about the organic beekeeping process at Shangrila and the surrounding region in China?

Klett: Shangrila Farms is a brand of honey and other natural products sold in Beijing and around China. It was started by Sahra, Alia, and Safi Malik, who purchase coffee and honey directly from farmers in a fair trade manner. In addition to supporting farmers with a guaranteed market, they support training programs to teach farmers how to produce coffee or raise bees, which is where I come in. We started very small, but have expanded our outreach considerably and are going to expand even more this coming year. They are absolutely wonderful people to work for, and their model of socially responsible business as a way to give back to the community is really a great model.

UHP: What can bees teach us about the importance of biodiversity and sustainability?

Klett: I think bees teach us that our current method of agricultural food production in the U.S. is not sustainable. Before World War II, when farming was still done on family farms, bees were flourishing in this country. Admittedly, honeybee decline is not a simple problem with a clear, smoking-gun culprit. But it is very clear to researchers and people who work in the beekeeping industry, that when you lose biodiversity in the form of natural areas, or small family farms which grow a variety of crops, you create large monocrop areas where pollinators (as well as other life forms) cannot survive. Bees struggle to survive with the level of pesticides needed for such intensive agricultural production and they struggle to find adequate nutrition when they forage over miles and miles of a single crop species. In this country, we have turned our diverse prairies into fields of corn and beans, most of it not even for human consumption. Our bees now fly out into a landscape completely altered by humans, and we are finding that they cannot easily make it. If this is the case for the Midwest, what was traditionally our largest honey-producing region, then we can say that the deaths of our honeybees are like canaries in the mineshaft. This should be sounding the alert to everyone that we need to seriously rethink how we grow food and operate our agricultural industries, as well as how we write our agricultural policy.

UHP: Here at the University, you've worked directly with Professor Marla Spivak, who focuses on Apiculture and Social Insects in the Department of Entomology. Can you talk a bit about how you were connected with Professor Spivak, and about the research you've been doing?

Klett: I received a UROP undergraduate research grant to study the mechanism by which bees collect propolis. Propolis is a sticky plant sap, which has been found to also act as a kind of pseudo immune system for honeybees. It is very amazing stuff, propolis. It's well known that bees dance to stimulate foraging behavior for honey collection—the dance communicates the location and quality of the nectar source. We wanted to see if they were doing the same for propolis. It turns out that they do not seem to dance to stimulate propolis collection, but it was good information to establish. It was also my first real experience in research and in a laboratory, and I learned a great deal working in Dr. Spivak's lab.

UHP: You've been pretty busy lately, with Truman and Udall Scholarships to show for it! You have one more year here as an undergraduate at the U—can you tell us about what you hope to achieve next year, and beyond?

Klett: Well I'm very interested in urban agriculture that is starting to crop up (no pun intended) around the United States. Lately people have been talking to me about Chicago and Detroit as examples where agriculture in the urban environment can sometimes revitalize certain neighborhoods and communities. I have also watched with interest as they have changed the policy in Minneapolis about keeping bees on rooftops. They are now making it much easier to do that, by eliminating the need for 80 percent of nearby dwellers to sign an agreement that hives can be kept. I would love to get involved in some of these kinds of efforts. I am excited to see the new Minneapolis 2025 initiatives and I hope that urban agriculture and bees are going to play a part in some of the exciting new plans in the works. After graduation I am going to move to New York, where I will be applying for an M.S in Environmental Science and Policy at Columbia University. A little further into the future, I see a potential Ph.D. and more rural development projects. I am hoping to partner with people who are focused in environmental public health, because I think we do can some really interesting things together. And of course, my goals always include going home to work in my family's business, which is very close to my heart.

I also want to talk a bit about the University Honors Program and how they have really shaped my experience at the University of Minnesota. I started at the University of Minnesota as a transfer student in 2007. I transferred directly into the UHP and met Sally Lieberman (Associate Director for National & International Scholarships) early on. I am really grateful that UHP has Sally on its staff. She is so dedicated to her work with students and national scholarships. She leaves no detail unexamined, and really pushes students to refine their writing, future goals, and overall worldview. Sally quite literally changed the entire direction that I am headed after graduation.

I also have been very fortunate to have Tim Jones as my UHP advisor. He has gone way above the call of duty to assist me in my academic goals. He even took the time to introduce me to an NGO leader in the Twin Cities community so that I could seek advice and learn more about this person's professional development. Being a UHP student is probably the best thing I could have done at the U, because I have been in this very close advising community. UHP sends me email about scholarships and grants that I seem eligible for, and they just really believe in their students and try to help us refine our goals and ourselves. I always love it when I have an excuse to go see them!