Learning How to Lead at UC
Arts & Sciences Honors freshman hopes to translate love of language into career in public policy
The University of Cincinnati (UC) was College of Arts & Sciences Honors Scholar Andi Dorning’s first choice because, she said, the Queen City is “a forum for culture and politics.”
Liberal arts studies particularly appealed to her, because they allow room for thoughtful exploration. In the humanities, risks are encouraged. They’re often the hallmark of compelling scholarship.
“Gray intellectual areas tend to frighten people, but they fascinate me,” she ventured. “The humanities respect and explore human irregularity and variation. They require empathy and an understanding of context. They seek the purpose, not the answer.”
Like her peers in the new Honors Scholars program, Dorning defies expectations.
She was a varsity cheerleader at Hebron, Kentucky’s Conner High School. She was also a three-year National Honor Society member who pulled a 4.5 weighted GPA and ranked 3rd in her graduating class.
“Knowledge is empowering, exciting, and engaging,” she said. “Although I am confident that knowledge has the power to change the world, I know that, if nothing else, it can change a single person – like it did me – and that matters.”
“Andi is one of our most accomplished first-year students and was an easy choice for membership,” said UC English professor Russel Durst, who serves as the head of the College of Arts & Sciences’ Honors Scholars program.
He said the selection committee was particularly impressed that she managed to amass 50 Advanced Placement credit hours and a nearly perfect GPA, despite working part-time and volunteering at a local hospital. An invitation to become one of the college’s first Honors Scholars was, thus, nearly a foregone conclusion.
“Andi’s leadership skills are strong, her level of engagement is high and her energy is boundless,” praised Durst.
An enthusiastic leader.
Dorning doesn’t do anything in half-steps. She has a deep interest in the Spanish language, and served as the president of both her school’s and the state’s Hispanic Honor Society.
“I knew that foreign language was meant to be part of my education and my future,” she said. “I picked up on Spanish extremely quickly, studied concepts my teacher hadn’t covered yet, and fell in love with the process of learning a language.”
As a volunteer after-school club leader at Cincinnati’s Academy of World Languages magnet school, she helps elementary schoolchildren to improve their skills and inspiring in them the same level of passion she has for foreign language studies.
Dorning noted that studying a foreign language is much more than learning how to understand and construct sentences. It’s an holistic study of a culture or, as in the case of a widely-spoken tongue like Spanish, the study of an array of cultures.
Matching up her love of Spanish language and culture with a study of its practical applications in promoting interpersonal understanding, in generating national policy and in law, which she says she may eventually pursue, seemed to her the next logical step.
“I developed a passion for people, policy, and the ways in which these two depend on one another,” Dorning explained. “Policy, at least in the democratic case, is a reflection of the desires and the values of a group of people.”
“The causes and effects, agreements and inevitable disagreements, motivations and actions, and regularities and differences that form a society and its dynamic – these are the things I want to explore,” she said.
Getting involved early and often.
Dorning’s been on campus less than a month, and already she’s seeking to shape its course.
She’s participating in UC’s Student Government Mentee Program, in which she works with an upperclassman mentor to learn about the form and function of student government.
That’s not all that strange for her. In high school, Dorning served as senior class president. Leading, she said, comes naturally to her.
“I feel comfortable taking that sort of position,” she clarified. “Whether I become a lawyer or administrator of some kind, I want to be a civic leader that has the power to make changes in Cincinnati and beyond.”
As a member of the A&S Honors Scholars Program, Dorning has also been assigned a professional mentor.
Hers is Dr. Adrian Parr — a bit of a rock star as A&S faculty members go — who, in addition to being a professor of Political Science and Architecture, is also the Director of the Taft Research Center and a UNESCO Co-Chair for Water Accessibility and Sustainability.
“I have really enjoyed meeting with her and discussing our views and goals together,” Dorning said. “I am lucky to have the support system and resources that [the A&S Honors Scholars Program] provides.”
“The A&S Honors Scholars Program seemed to be perfectly designed for me and my interests,” she explained. “I was excited to work closely with faculty at UC, get to know a small group of students with interests similar to me, and receive access to mentorship and internship.”
“For learners like me,” Dorning said, “this experience can be extremely rewarding, no matter where we end up after graduation.”