Meet our Inaugural A&S Honors Scholars

In the fall of 2017, we selected seven students to join us for our first A&S Honors Scholars cohort. We are excited to introduce them to you!


Image of A&S Honors Scholar Kallia Cooper standing infront of McMicken hall next to one of the McMicken Lion statues

Neuroscience and Philosphy

Kallia Cooper has a bright future ahead in research and she has gained an early start at UC, taking advantage of as many opportunities as she can. One such opportunity Cooper found was the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. This past summer, Cooper participated in this ten-week research experience in which her research included analysis of how estrogen loss may impact the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

This type of research provides a solid stepping stone for Cooper’s future. “After I graduate with my bachelor’s, I hope to continue on to get my master’s and doctorate degrees in neuroscience,” says Cooper. “I hope to do research in cognitive neuroscience, particularly in language and learning.”

Some people might not logically pair neuroscience with astronomy, but Cooper—a second-year Honors Scholar majoring in Neuroscience and Cognitive Studies—does just that. She takes part in UC’s astronomy club, NeuroSociety, and Women in Leadership and Learning.

“I joined the astronomy club because I have always had an interest in space and saw the club as a way to expand on that interest and learn more about it,” Cooper explained. However, galaxies aren’t the only thing on Cooper’s mind. “Joining these organizations, I learned the importance of prioritizing what’s really important to you, as well as time management,” Cooper adds.    

As an Honors Scholar, Cooper can attest firsthand how useful those time management skills are. “Between trying to be involved with the community, schoolwork and the meetings for program, I can honestly say I was never bored,” said Cooper. “I think I had a few more responsibilities than the average student, but the experience was definitely worth it.” Cooper said she took advantage of the Learning Commons’ assistance in keeping up with her schoolwork. “My first year was busy but really fun,” she added.

Cooper stated that the Honors Scholars Program has benefited her from the beginning. “The program has made a difference in my life in many ways. The scholarships I received from the program helped me afford to attend college here, which is definitely appreciated,” she says.

Cooper says she particularly appreciated the first-year mentorship she received through the program. “All the people I’ve met in the program, from my peers to mentors to Professor Durst himself, have continuously helped and supported me,” Cooper notes. She also elaborates on how the program assisted her overall: “The program benefited me by giving me a community to relate and communicate with, as well as by giving me scholarships [and] a mentor,” she says.

She explains that the Honors Scholars Program helped her learn the importance of being responsible and self-sufficient. Although the program provided resources and opportunities to grow, Cooper says, her mentors also emphasized the importance of learning how to find such opportunities herself.

Cooper pictures the program as being beneficial in her life beyond the academic college experience. “I see the program as a means of continuing to meet new people and grow my skills, as well as helping me become more well-rounded by encouraging and supporting my desires to study abroad,” says Cooper. “These are things I will be able to carry on with me throughout my life.”

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Image of A&S Honors Scholar Andi Dorning standing infront of McMicken hall next to one of the McMicken Lion statues

Spanish and Political Science

Arts and Sciences Honors Scholar Andi Dorning ended her first year more focused than ever, she says. “I don’t think it could have been better, and [I think] that is because of the program,” she adds, flashing a wide grin.

Meeting with mentors, along with the other scholars, influenced her outlook on the future. “They encouraged us to really think about what we want and the why.” Majoring in both political science and Spanish, Dorning has not decided on a career path yet, but is interested in conducting research and attending law school.

This summer, Dorning is working on undergraduate research through the University Honors Program (UHP), Discover. She qualified and was accepted to participate in a hands-on, experiential learning project in political science. She was matched with Thomas Moore, a professor of political science, where she and her peers conduct research on Moore’s study, ‘Exploring International Relations in an Era of Globalized Economic Activity.’

“In my view, it can be useful for students to see firsthand what the professional world of research is really like. What they see is that research projects, however interesting, require patience, persistence, and tremendous attention to detail,” says Moore.

Their research includes data collection and analysis of global economics and international policy. “The thing I like about this project so much is that we’re taking economic and financial data, but looking at it from a geopolitical standpoint,” Dorning says. She says she is eager to work on the project to gain insight on whether research is what she wants to make a career of.

Dorning says she has grown as a result of the A&S Honors Scholars program. “We got so many good mentors, and [we] got to meet with Russel regularly. [Our mentors] encouraged us to apply for nationally competitive awards and [gave us] information about so many opportunities because we’re in the program.”

Dorning wasted no time preparing for the upcoming school year. She has already met her mentors to discuss her plans for the upcoming year, and she hopes the process will continue to give her guidance. She wants to remain involved in the Arts & Sciences community and take advantage of the travel opportunities the program provides.

If she was not in the program, Dorning says she would be unsure of her current path. The faculty mentors and meetings with other scholars are a huge part of that, she says. “[The program] definitely pushed me to be better this year. [Our mentors] made us define ourselves as who we want to be and where our goals are. Without that help from the mentors and the other scholars, I don’t think I would be as sure as where I am.” 

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Image of A&S Honors Scholar Gordon Goodwin standing infront of McMicken hall next to one of the McMicken Lion statues

Arabic and International Affairs

Most students would balk at the idea of spending 75 percent of their career abroad, but Gordon Goodwin wants to do just that. Goodwin explained that he found his dream field of embassy work requires spending 15 of 20 years abroad. “They say it almost like a warning, but I think it’s up to your interpretation,” grinned Goodwin. “I read that and I was like, ‘Alright! I’m excited!’ I think it’s the right career path for me – I think ‘excited’ is almost too light of a word.”

Goodwin is studying Arabic to facilitate communication, he says. Now in his second year of college, as a first-generation Honors Scholar, Goodwin has kept the same double major of International Affairs and Arabic Language and Culture and now is considering a third major. International Affairs will conclude in two years while the Arabic program will last four.

One of Goodwin’s mentors suggested choosing a third major for his third and fourth years. Goodwin is considering that advice—he believes it would increase his versatility. Goodwin reported that the Honors Scholars Program provides him with impressive advising. “The advising has been really good, and I almost can’t describe how unexpected that was, because I never really had that opportunity [before],” said Goodwin.

Goodwin mentioned he is grateful for the program arranging his mentorship with Professor Frederic Cadora, the director of the Arabic department. Goodwin said Cadora is a supportive professor who tries to see things from students’ perspectives. Cadora also said he is fond of Goodwin. “His meritorious achievement in class was evidenced by his excellent attitude, remarkable initiative, and insightful comments. We share a sense of humor full of puns that we both cultivate, appreciate, and enjoy,” says Cadora.

Cadora noted that the Honors Scholars Program obviously affects Goodwin positively. “[The program] allowed Gordon to construct and focus on a meaningful educational program that transcends a list of required courses, allowing him to build programmatic strategies that would fulfill his goals,” said Cadora. Goodwin explained he also sees the program’s benefits. “In the future I’m going to have a better eye for […] opportunities that maybe not everyone else is seeing,” remarked Goodwin.

During the summer, Goodwin interned for Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, helping her staff research and write. He says the position provided a good opportunity to experience the government career field. Goodwin said despite the position seeming boring, to him, “It’s very exciting!” Goodwin now looks for his next steps. “From what I’ve seen already this year, I already have so many ideas of ways I can put myself forward next year,” Gordon smiled. 

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Image of A&S Honors Scholar Katie Huang standing infront of McMicken hall next to one of the McMicken Lion statues

International Affairs

Like many college students, Katie Huang feels uncertain about her career decision. “I definitely am leaning toward doing work in humanitarian aid,” she hesitated, “but I’m not 100 percent sure, because social justice work is also really important to me.” Huang explained the two differing fields are often associated because they both aim to alleviate societal suffering. “Being in humanitarian aid, you cannot take sides, that’s one of the biggest factors; and social justice, it is taking sides, and saying, ‘I’m going to fight for what I think is right’,” she says.

Regardless of whether it will be humanitarian aid or social justice, it is easy to imagine Huang in any career that will allow her to alleviate suffering. Durst fondly described Katie as an “impressive student with a big heart, and real ambitions to do good work in politics and international relations.” Huang double majors in political science and history. She has additionally engaged in summer University Honors Program Discover research. Huang described her project, Brand-Aid, as analyzing “how quick fixes can make the problem worse in the long run.” 

The UHP Discover project Huang contributes to will publish a book on current world points of contention. Her team’s book has four chapters, each focusing on a main country and controversy. The chapters included peanut butter in Haiti, Walmart factories in Bangladesh, water ATM’s in Kenya, and women’s guns in India. With the UHP Discover research, Huang hopes to show that research is not just for STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine) fields.

Huang explained that STEMM advances would not integrate well without first understanding the culture. “Culturally, you need to be aware of what you’re going into, and what’s happening,” Huang emphasized. She cited a medical program that used pictures instead of words so patients could understand documents, but everything read left to right and the receiving culture read the opposite way. Researchers could have avoided this with cultural research, asserted Huang.

“Without humanities, without learning languages, without understanding how people feel, [...] you’re not going to be able to be as successful,” said Huang. However, Huang did not discount the value of STEMM research itself. “When you combine those things,” she continued, “you’re able to get the full picture, and use technology to promote human rights.”

Huang explained the program gives her many opportunities in addition to research. “I’m able to study abroad, which is something that’s an incredible gift,” said Huang. “[It gives] me a lot of room to personalize my decision.” Durst has seen Huang grow and mature over the past year. “She’s a good example of how it’s what you put into a program, an experience, that really determines what you get out of it,” he remarked. “[Huang] is a student who really takes advantage of opportunities and seeks them out with a great sense of adventure and discovery.”

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Image of A&S Honors Dhruv Maroo standing infront of McMicken hall next to one of the McMicken Lion statues

International Affairs

Dhruv Maroo’s fiery ambition led him to the United Nations Leadership Summit in June, where he and his peers interacted with UN ambassadors to lobby for increased funding for human rights programs. “It’s pretty cool, [I think] because, as college students, we [had] the floor of the Senate and the House,” he says. “The Honors Program is the reason I picked UC. I came [here] because of the [benefits] that the program was giving me.”

“Working in a community with people like me, with hands-on learning, has been an amazing experience,” says Maroo. He is pursuing a double-major in political science and international relations with a minor in Arabic. He’s also working toward certificates in Middle Eastern studies, security studies and international human rights.

Although Maroo is not in UHP’s Discover program, he is working alongside Dorning to conduct research this summer for Moore’s ‘Exploring International Relations in an Era of Globalized Economic Activity’ research project. “Student participation on faculty research projects is a win-win. Students get experience and faculty get assistance from smart, diligent, curious students like Andi and Dhruv,” Moore says.

Maroo credits the program and his mentor, Richard Harknett, for his professional growth in the past year. He says the discussions they had guided his plan for the future. Harknett, the head of UC’s Political Science Department, travels often to focus on international security and international relationships. “His career is exactly what I see myself doing. That’s what I want to do, so this is the path I need to go down,” Maroo says. “Now I know where to go, and also how to get there, because of his mentorship.” 

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Image of A&S Honors Gabriel Roig-Francoli standing infront of McMicken hall next to one of the McMicken Lion statues

Philosophy, Political Science & Spanish

Gabe Roig-Francoli credits the encouragement of his peers and faculty mentors, along with his experience in UC Boxing Club, for his success as a first-year student. Boxing taught him resistance and perseverance, while the program gave him discipline, he says.

“Having people like Russel who were invested in my success as a student helped keep me on track,” he says. “An average student does not have a network of people like this to help them achieve their goals. Being a part of this group means that there are always people available to help you get where you want to be.”

During his first year, Francoli interned with UC alumna Connie Pillich during her campaign to run for governor. He says his experience gave him valuable insight into how change is enacted in the world. “Change just as often starts at the bottom as the top,” he says. As for the future, Francoli is focused on growth: “I need to focus on the things I want to get good at, and see where it takes me.”

Francoli took advantage of the program’s resources to pursue his Spanish minor in Madrid, having been granted funding to study abroad this summer. Although academics are his reason for visiting, Francoli benefits from the experience in other ways as well. He says his experiences abroad are widening his worldview and understanding of cultural differences.

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Image of A&S Honors Scholar Oliver Voyten standing infront of McMicken hall next to one of the McMicken Lion statues

Classics and Archaeology

“My first year was amazing! Much more so than I was anticipating,” says Oliver Voyten, a classical civilization and history major. Voyten credits his peers with taking the stress off of starting college. “Knowing people—other passionate and curious people—made the transition [from high school] not just easier, but exciting,” he says. “I was excited to explore and grow with them.” His experiences as a first-year student have led to him pursue a certificate in biblical studies.

Voyten says the opportunity to meet with faculty was the program’s best resource. “Oftentimes, I’ll have an idea I’m not sure how to pursue, and the program guides me there and [then I] make it happen.”

During his first semester, Voyten volunteered with Music for Youth (MY) in Cincinnati, and joined the Classics club with his peer, Gordon Goodwin. In his spring semester, he presented at Taft Research Center on “Halperin and Hellenica: A New Handling on Homosexuality,” which proposed a new way to approach the topic in academia.

Voyten says professor John Brolley was a huge influence in his academic career. As a student of Brolley’s first-year seminar course on creation stories, the pair built a meaningful relationship. “He’s supportive and engaged,” Voyten says.” “He opened up the door for me and made me excited [to pursue the certificate]. He’s a professor I know I can go to with crazy questions, and have discussions with genuine interest.”

Brolley says the mentor-mentee relationship happened organically, and feels more like chatting with a friend. “Once Oliver and I met for one-on-one discussions, he immediately demonstrated an extraordinary level of general intellect and critical thinking skills,” says Brolley.

As for the future, Voyten’s ready to shine. “I want to continue presenting at conferences, and I want to have the connections I need to succeed wherever I choose,” he says. “I want my name out into the world for people to know and watch out for.”

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