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2009 News

Honors College Students Present Research at National Cell Biology Conference

5 Honors College students
at the San Diego conference

Jupiter, FL (Dec. 4, 2009) - Dr. Nick Quintyne, Assistant Professor of Biology at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, joined five Honors College students at the 49th Annual Meeting of The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in San Diego, California from December 5 – 9, 2009.

The ASCB Annual Meeting, held at the San Diego Convention Center, brings together students and scientists in academia, government, industry, and higher education.  The conference allows attendees to hear and discuss cutting-edge discoveries made in cell biology and to gain a broader view of research in the field.  With between 7,000 and 10,000 participants each year, it is the largest cell biology conference in the world.  As Dr. Quintyne said, “It’s basically five days of hard-core, intense cell biology and, at the end of it, your brain is so full that you come home and try to digest it all.”
There are over 100 scientific sessions and 3,500 poster presentations covering all disciplines of cellular and molecular biology.  The students that Dr. Quintyne took to the conference this year presented their research during the poster sessions.  “I’ve attended the conference with students for the past three years now; so this will be the fourth year that I’ve done it.  I took one student in 2006, one student in 2007, and then last year, I took four students to San Francisco.  This year, I will be going with five.  All of them will be presenting their research at the meeting,” said Dr. Quintyne.  “This means they will be disseminating their own work and illustrating the quality of research Florida Atlantic University does at the undergraduate level.  The students will be presenting in the full poster sessions, so they will be responding to questions from the best names in the field.  We will be treated as equals in terms of the research.” Cancer conference

Dr. Quintyne (middle)
with students in San Francisco
at the 2008 conference

Dr. Quintyne presented his own work on topics related to molecular motors.  Students Laura Alsina and Lindsay McCullough discussed their research into molecular motor functions, Erik Raborn and Nisha Nagarsheth presented original work in the field of cell division, and Ericka Gold discussed her findings on protein purification.  Dr. Quintyne concluded, “This is one of those conferences where you work hard all day, each day, and it’s not a vacation because you’re constantly being immersed in new discoveries.  But if everything goes right you can also find a nice afternoon to explore the San Diego Zoo.”

byline: Tamara Howard

HC Professor Studies Ecological Impact of Overfishing

Jupiter, FL (November 18, 2009)Dr. Jon Moore, Associate Professor of Biology at Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, was very busy while on sabbatical during the 2008-2009 school year. Dr. Moore began his year away from FAU by teaching two ichthyology classes and conducting research on fish molecular evolution at Yale University in the fall of 2008.  His fish molecular evolution research is an attempt to work out the evolutionary development of bony fishes and the relations of different groups on the same family “tree.”

“There are over 27,000 species of bony fishes, so ways of organizing that diversity are helpful. That tree can also then be used to examine how aspects of body form and ecology have changed as fishes evolved into the many different subgroups,” according to Dr. Moore.

In the spring of 2009, Dr. Moore spent five weeks on a research cruise to Antarctica aboard a Russian ship. The primary goal of the cruise was to investigate the fishes and invertebrates around the South Orkney Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula.  The South Orkney Islands were the site of intensive overfishing in the 1970s and 1980s, resulting in greatly reduced numbers of fish and invertebrates.  In 1990, the area was closed to all commercial fishing. 

“In 1999, a research vessel went back to that area to determine whether stopping the fishing had improved the populations of fishes and invertebrates. They actually found little improvement. So, our trip was to investigate whether nearly twenty years of no fishing had helped the populations. It turns out that the populations were finally improving. This says a lot about how long it takes for fish and invertebrate populations to rebound from overfishing,” said Dr. Moore.

The cruise also examined fishes from the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, collected oceanographic data, studied penguin and fur seal colonies on some of the Antarctic Islands, and picked up scientists who were returning from work at two field stations.  Dr. Moore said, “Not only did we get a lot of information on the fish and invertebrate populations and how they recovered from fishing, but we also found several species unknown to science (including quite a few invertebrate species and possibly two new fish species). In addition, we discovered invertebrate reefs made of sponges and bryozoans. We wrote a preliminary report on the results of the cruise, but I am working on a formal paper listing all the fish species we caught and what we discovered about their biology.” 

That type of first-hand research is just one of the ways in which Wilkes Honors College professors help introduce their students both to current developments in their fields and to the techniques by which new insights are acquired.

byline: Tamara Howard

Honors College Students and Professor Visit Guatemala

guatemala Jupiter, FL (October 19, 2009) – This past summer, nine students from the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University traveled to Guatemala as part of a six week study abroad experience led by Dr. Timothy Steigenga, a Professor of Political Science at the Honors College.

Dr. Steigenga comments: “In general terms, I wanted students to understand the reasons for and impact of immigration in both sending communities in Guatemala and receiving communities in South Florida and elsewhere in the U.S. From the beginning, I wanted to frame the course as interdisciplinary and co-taught with Central American academics. My hope was that students would come to understand migration as more than just a policy issue—and to understand the multiple and complex personal connections that motivate migration, establish networks, and tie together communities that cross borders.”

The program was far more than an academic exercise.  “I wanted the students to have fun and enjoy the adventure of learning about a new country. I fell in love with Antigua (and Guatemala in general) when I was an undergraduate and I wanted to give my students the chance to have the same adventure. Getting to know your Guatemalan teachers, fellow students, host families, and neighbors in Antigua is one of the most important aspects of the program. For many students this was the first trip outside of the country and their first experience with immersion in another language.”

Kristina Klaas, a junior pursuing a concentration in International Studies with a minor in Spanish, was extremely positive about her experience.  “The best part of the trip was being immersed in a completely different culture.  I loved the weather, environment, food, culture, language, and all of the aspects that encompass Guatemala.  It is difficult to choose the best part as we went on many different excursions, such as visiting Tikal, that provided new encounters (like doing a zip line tour through the jungle)...One of the most challenging parts was climbing up Volcán Picaya: a grueling climb up the steep mountain through changing atmospheric pressures.  Nonetheless, it was one of the most rewarding experiences due to the beautiful and panoramic scenery [and] the rare experience of climbing to the peak of a volcano and running away from the flowing lava.”

Brendon Parsons, a senior with a concentration in Chemistry, stayed in Guatemala for an additional 5 weeks, during which he interned with a coffee farm and museum, Finca la Azotea. “The best part was living in Antigua, getting to go to many local businesses, and getting to know the owners and employees, and communicate with them in Spanish.  One of the most rewarding experiences was shortly before I left, when I showed a couple of tourists (new to Antigua) around the city, and at every business, people knew me.”

Dr. Steigenga concluded by saying, “Honors College students are a resilient bunch and I like to think that trips like this enhance our ability to see the world from different perspectives, appreciate the richness of other cultures, and overcome our own preconceptions about others and ourselves.” The Guatemala study abroad program will be offered again during the summer of 2011.

Byline: Tamara Howard

Portrait of Wilkes Honors College Alumna Kathryn Lewis

lewis (October 5, 2009) - When heading off to college for the first time, many students choose to move far away from their hometown. Others may find that staying close to where they grew up is the best option, especially when Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College is right down the road. Kathryn Lewis decided to pursue an opportunity almost in her own backyard when she graduated from Jupiter High School in 2000 and began college at the Honors College in August of the same year.

“I chose the Honors College after paying a visit to the campus and having the chance to speak to many of the professors personally. I was attracted to the idea of living in an academic community where ideas were exchanged freely between students and professors – as opposed to attending a massive university where I’d be one of five hundred students sitting in a lecture hall,” says Ms. Lewis.

While at the Honors College, Lewis concentrated in political science and was quite active in Student Government. Some of the roles she assumed were a campus at-large representative and an Associate Justice on the Student Court during her senior year. She says that the Student Court was the organization that affected her the most. “The Student Court certainly affected me. We made one decision in particular that affected not only a student’s position in student government, but also may have had an affect on how students’ academic standing was calculated,” said Ms. Lewis. Additionally, Lewis was on the Dean’s List and Honor Roll on numerous occasions because of her outstanding academic performance. During her senior year in 2004, she received an Outstanding Thesis Award for Political Science, and the Outstanding Scholar Award.

“I was part of a small, close-knit academic community and the faculty valued my ideas, opinions, and academic work just as much as I valued theirs,” said Kathryn Lewis. She is still a part of that community, not just as an alumna, but also as a member of the advisory board of FAU’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College.

Kathryn has also had an opportunity to pursue her passion in life. She is currently an associate at Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart, a West Palm Beach-based law firm where she practices primarily in the areas of commercial and employment litigation. Lewis conducts research on a variety of legal topics; drafts complaints, answers, and motions; works with partners to discuss case strategies; attends and argues at hearings; prepares and takes depositions; negotiates settlement agreements; and works with clients to ensure that they are fully apprised of, and involved in, all aspects of the litigation.

Kathryn credits the Honors College with helping prepare her for her current occupation in two key ways. “First, the HC prepared me to be an excellent writer. Though my writing skills continue to develop and improve, I believe that the HC taught me to communicate clearly and effectively. Second, the HC prepared me to be an excellent speaker. Because our professors encouraged us to speak out in class and volunteer our opinions and arguments enthusiastically, I was much more comfortable doing so in law school and am more comfortable doing so in court,” said Ms. Lewis.

Kathryn Lewis had many memorable experiences at the Honors College, but her favorite memory involves an activity close to her profession. She said, “I’d have to say that the best HC experience I had was going to Downtown West Palm Beach with several professors and classmates the day after the 2000 presidential election. Having the opportunity to witness those events first hand — and to discuss and analyze them later with students and faculty — was simply an amazing experience. We truly were a part of history!” Her advice for graduating Honors College students is simple: “Pursue your passion!” And day after day Kathryn Lewis is doing just that, right in her community.

Byline: Tamara Howard

Funds for Student Travel are Available

Limited funds are available for students to use for research-related travel. Examples of activities for which travel might be funded include: (1) giving papers at conferences; (2) attending a field site to gather research or otherwise engage in the research process; (3) attending a meeting of a professional society or association for the purposes of networking within the field or otherwise gaining insight into the professional activities of the field.
Any and all students who will be traveling for research-related purposes may apply for funds from this program using the application form.
Applications must be submitted at least 3 weeks before the research-related travel will begin.
Review of applications will take place on an ongoing basis. Since funding is limited, students are encouraged to submit applications as soon as they have the relevant information about their research-related travel opportunities.

Wilkes Honors College Student Kelly Novinski Receives National Recognition
September 14, 2009 (Jupiter, FL) – Kelly Novinski, a freshman at Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, was the sole recipient of Honorable Mention in a national essay competition on the topic of civic engagement.  This prestigious competition, sponsored by the national non-partisan website Our Voice Our Country (www.ourvoiceourcountry.org) drew 564 essays from students who posted concise, articulate descriptions of what they observe to be urgent national problems. The students also suggested plausible solutions or nominated experts in the field, who might be able to address each problem.

Kelly’s essay concerned the preservation of the Florida wetlands.  As she stated, “[Wetlands] provide us with flood protection, help prevent shoreline erosion, house a variety of diverse species of flora and fauna, and serve as a venue for recreation. There is no doubt that wetlands are a vital resource, but they are seldom recognized as such.”
When told of this new distinction, Kelly said, “I’m delighted to have received Honorable Mention for discussing something I’m so passionate about.  It’s nice to know that so many people care about what I had to say about protecting the wetlands.  When you’re my age, it can be hard to get your voice heard, but Our Voice Our Country helped me do just that.  I’m particularly proud that I was able to represent the Wilkes Honors College, especially at the national level, and I’m excited about the coverage that it will bring to my college.”
Before arriving at the Honors College, Kelly was chosen for another important distinction. She was offered the Henry Morrison Flagler Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship that provides student-leaders with an opportunity to pursue their higher education goals with a full fellowship and annual enrichment programs.   Dr. Jeffrey Buller, Dean of FAU’s Wilkes Honors College, noted that Kelly is already making her college proud.  “All of us here at the Honors College are delighted that Kelly has received this impressive recognition.  Each year’s Flagler Scholars arrive with exciting achievements and incredible experiences.  Kelly’s certainly living up to this high standard.”

byline: Tamara Howard

A Winning Formula: Honors Education + Undergraduate Research  = Innovation
Jupiter, FL (September 8, 2009) - The students at Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College were hard at work this summer.  Seven of the Honors College junior and senior students in the mathematics program participated in various Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer programs. These programs, sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, are extremely competitive and each provides 6 to 12 outstanding and highly motivated undergraduate students with a unique opportunity for summer research.  Typically, students work in a specialty area of the host institution for eight weeks, and each student is associated with a specific research project, in which he or she works closely with the faculty and other researchers.
            William Severa, an Honors College senior concentrating in mathematics, participated in the REU “Algorithmic Combinatorics on Words,” a program at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.  William’s topic was “Abelian Repetitions in Partial Words.”  He found the summer experience to be a great opportunity to do research on his own.  “Working independently on original topics is really exciting.  It was great to not only do math but to create new concepts and theorems.  Also, meeting and working with other qualified students from around the world was fantastic.  It was interesting to see the differences in educations, ideals, practices fostered by the different schools.”
            Robert Lang, a junior concentrating in mathematics with a minor in economics, attended an REU at Brigham Young University where he spent thirty to forty hours a week examining mathematical problems and developing conjectures that he and his peers then attempted to prove.  His team eventually submitted a paper to be published in the Electronic Journal of Linear Algebra, and they concluded their program by presenting independent research at the Mathfest conference in Oregan.  Of the eight members from that REU that attended the conference, six of them, including Robert and his partner, received awards for their research and presentations.
            “Mathematics and research aside, the whole experience was very rewarding. Everyone involved in the REU had a wonderful time. BYU was able to organize numerous social events that included taking us hiking through the mountains, white water rafting, and jet skiing. In addition, all of the participants in the program worked really well with each other and we have definitely formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I am truly grateful for this experience and would recommend it to anybody.”
            Stephen Rowe, a senior with a double concentration in mathematics and physics, was accepted to the Matrix Analysis and Frame Theory REU group at Texas A&M University where he worked under Dr. David Larson, a well-known operator algebraist.  “It was a fantastic experience that helped me to confirm my suspicions that I wanted to be a pure mathematician and do research in the field of Functional Analysis and Operator Theory. I was able to set up my own problem and do my own independent research, study whatever I want, and explore and invent new topics independently, or cooperatively if I so chose.”
Stephen’s ultimate goal is to get a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics, possibly at Texas A&M University.  He believes that the Honors College has been a tremendous help to him, particularly because of his close relationships with the faculty.  “The Honors College’s fantastic faculty, specifically Dr. Hõim, has been absolutely invaluable in helping me find my field of interest and she has given me so many independent studies and classes that have been incredibly helpful to me. At other schools, I might have a larger course catalog with more classes to choose from, but I wouldn’t have the wonderful independent studies and small classes that the Honors College has provided me.”
            Dr. Hõim, an Associate Professor of Mathematics at the Honors College, is really proud of the outstanding work that her students did this summer. “Almost every Honors College student who participated in this year’s REU program came back with a publishable manuscript. Ultimately these papers will be published in internationally acclaimed leading mathematics journals.  Many of these students have decided to enlarge their summer research topic into their honors senior thesis. I am excited to work with them and I’m looking forward to a great group of outstanding honors theses next spring.”  That’s the type of innovative research that helps make honors education such a winning formula.

Byline: Tamara Howard

Profile of Wilkes Honors College Student Nathan Van Zee

Jupiter, FL (August 27, 2009) – Nathan Van Zee is a senior at FAU’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, with a concentration in chemistry.  His hometown is Lake Worth, Florida, and Nathan graduated from Summit Christian High School in West Palm Beach, Florida, in 2006.  Nathan chose to go to FAU’s Wilkes Honors College because he “appreciated the small class size[s] and the fact that that even the freshman classes are taught by actual professors and not just graduate students or teacher assistants.”  Like many other Honors College students, Nathan was also excited about the school’s close proximity to Scripps Research Florida.

Nathan has been an outstanding student since his arrival in Jupiter.  He was chosen to receive the prestigious Henry Morrison Flagler Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship that grants student-leaders a full-tuition fellowship and the opportunity to participate in annual enrichment programs.  Nathan’s name also appears frequently on the Dean’s list and President’s list because of his high academic performance.  In the summer of 2009, he received another honor by being awarded the American Chemical Society’s International Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Scholarship, which covered his expenses to conduct research in Germany and attend to conferences in Washington, D.C. 

During the 9-week REU program at the Institute of Food Chemistry at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart, Germany, Nathan investigated halogenated natural products in marine sediment and water samples collected from the Great Barrier Reef area off the coast of Queensland, Australia.  “Since this was the first time I had travelled out of the country, I was extremely excited to live in Stuttgart and see the surrounding area. I was able to visit a couple large German cities such as Munich, Mannheim, and Cologne.  I also explored a number of smaller towns including Heidelberg, Tübingen, Esslingen, Konstanz, and Bad Urach. I made side trips to Strassbourg in France and the Rhine Falls in Switzerland, and found the area to be absolutely beautiful.”

A faculty member at the Wilkes Honors College helped cultivate Nathan’s research skills.  “Last semester, I began working on organic chemistry research here at the HC with Dr. Veljko Dragojlovic. It has been a great experience working with him and gaining additional research experience. We were very excited to publish our results in Organic Letters this past summer. This work will ultimately be a part of my thesis.”

Nathan also credits the Honors College with helping him to achieve this success.  “The HC has given me an excellent education in chemistry. It has provided me with the knowledge and skills necessary to be competitive for scholarships and other opportunities such as those I received in Germany. Ultimately, it has successfully prepared me for attending a competitive graduate school and pursuing a career in chemistry.”

For prospective Honors College students, Nathan Van Zee has this to say: “Be ready to do a lot of work. The only way to be successful here is to put in a lot of time studying, working and interning. It is a huge amount of work, but it is extremely rewarding. It will pay off.”

Byline: Tamara Howard

"A Small Community Can Bring you the World": Profile of WHC student Heather Chase

chase Jupiter, FL (September 1, 2009) - The Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University has a long history of excellent students gracing its halls, and this tenth anniversary year is no different. Heather Chase, a student concentrating in International Studies with specialties in North Africa/Middle East and Latin America, has been a shining example of what it means to be a Wilkes Honors College student. Since arriving at the college, Heather has been a volunteer with Corn Maya, a non-profit organization that provides immigration services, translation, emergency services, and education for immigrants concerning their rights and responsibilities in American society.

During her sophomore year, in 2007-2008, Heather received the prestigious National Security Education Program David L. Boren Scholarship to study in Morocco. She attended the Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco where she took classes in Arabic, Comparative Politics, and the Politics of the Middle East. The Boren Scholarship also came with a year-long government service requirement, which Heather began meeting by working at the American Embassy in Rabat, Morocco. She was an intern at the Embassy for 11 weeks where she was active in the Political Section.

“That experience gave me the opportunity to learn what it’s like to be a Foreign Service Officer, both from an employment perspective and in terms of living overseas for an extended period of time. One of the most interesting aspects of the job was the chance it provided to talk with the regular employees, most of whom had families and young children. My main projects for the Embassy were research and reporting on human rights abuse and reform in Morocco and Western Sahara, as well as an individual project on the political role of music festivals.”

In true Wilkes Honors College tradition, Heather impressed everyone during her internship. “Judging from the written evaluation that her direct supervisors did on her performance, her work at the embassy was stellar,” said Dr. Miguel Vázquez, Associate Professor of Hispanic Literature. She was also able to enjoy the work that she was performing. “I loved the work that I was doing, and the people I worked with. They were always willing to help and give me direction or more challenging assignments if I asked for it. They ensured that the internship consisted of far more than just making photocopies. I actually learned a great deal about both Morocco and the Foreign Service.”

Partly because of her internship, Heather plans on entering the Foreign Service someday, perhaps even within the next year or so. She is also considering various graduate school programs in International Relations, Foreign Policy, or Middle East Studies. “I had planned on applying to the Foreign Service even before the internship, but the experience has confirmed for me that this is what I want to do.”

Heather believes that FAU’s Wilkes Honors College has provided a truly unique experience for her that has helped shape her future. “The small community of the HC has been great and allowed me to create my own plan for my four years, which I don’t think would have been possible on a larger campus. The professors and administration here all know me by name and can write amazing recommendations for whatever program I’ve decided I want to try, and they support the untraditional path I’ve chosen. For highly motivated students who really want a challenge, the college is an unbelievable opportunity.”

Byline: Tamara Howard

Move-in Day 2009

106 New Honors College students moved in on August 19, 2009, helped by staff and returning students (shown above). The new entering class includes five Valedictorians and two National Merit Finalists, and 11% are international students.

Four New Faculty Join the Honors College for Fall semester 2009

Meredith Blue, Instructor of Mathematics: Dr. Blue received her Ph.D. in Math at University of Texas-Austin. She was a visiting instructor at the Honors College in the past, taught at Eckerd College and the University of Texas-Austin, and worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratories, before joining us this Fall.

Carmen Caňete Quesada, Assistant Professor of Spanish: Dr. Canete Quesada received her Ph.D. in Hispanic Literature from Vanderbilt University, after receiving her M.A. in Hispanic Literature, University of Florida, and her B.A. at the University of Cordoba in Spain. Dr. Canete Quesada’s research interests embrace issues related to exile, race, and post coloniality in the Hispanic Caribbean and Spain since the Spanish-American War 1895-1898. She is now preparing a manuscript for publication based on the experiences of three Spanish writers – Juan Ramon Jimenez, Maria Zambrano, and Eugenio F. Granell – who took up exile in the Hispanic Caribbean after the Civil War in Spain 1936-1939. Dr. Canete is a member of the Editorial Board of the Afro-Hispanic Review and Voces del Caribe.

Amy Clukey, Visiting Assistant Professor of American Literature. Dr. Clukey received her Ph.D. in English from Pennsylvania State University, where she also received her M.A.; and received B.A.s in both English and Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. Dr. Clukey's research focuses on 19th and 20th Century American literature, transatlantic modernism, Irish literature, and theories of regionalism and cosmopolitanism.

Rachel Luria, Visiting Instructor of Writing. Ms. Luria received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Carolina, her M.A. in American Studies from the University of Maryland and her B.A. in Psychology from FSU. She teaches freshman composition and creative writing.

Former HC Student is Commentator for moneynews.com

Dan Mangru was a member of the Honors College's very first class in 1999. Presently he conducts interviews of leading politicians, business and academic leaders for moneynews.com and other media venues. Dan is the founder of The Global Advisory Group, a Palm Beach, Fla. advisory firm that focuses on globalization, real estate development, strategic partnering, mergers & acquisitions, media, and new business development. Mangru has helped advise a wide array of companies and groups in a range of areas, including education, sports, real estate, document delivery, internet search, telecommunications, non-profit, and politics.

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich

Interview with T. Boone Pickens 

Interview with US Senate Candidate and Euro Pacific Capital President Peter Schiff

Interview with Dr. Jeremy Siegel - Wharton Professor of Finance

Interview with Wells Fargo Chief Economist - John Silvia

Interview with William J. O'Neil - Founder of Investors Business Daily

Wilkes Honors College 10th Anniversary Celebration


  • August 28, 2009   Wilkes Honors College Forum, AD 119 (1-2pm) featuring 3 alum, Justin Pacific ’03, Walteria Tucker ’04 and Cynthia Avari ‘08
  • September 26, 2009   Palm Beach County Day at FAU Football Game, Lockhart Stadium
  • October (Date TBD) Alumni Pub Crawl in Abacoa
  • November 5, 2009  Community Open House 10th Anniversary Reception
  • November 13, 2009  Named Scholar Recognition Ceremony with Special Guest: Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and FAU alumna Mirta Ojito, author of Finding Mañana, 1-2pm
  • December 12, 2009  Wilkes Honors College Evening Reception and Alumni Event
  • March 17, 2010   Palm Beach Symphony Concert at the Lifelong Learning Maltz Center Auditorium
  • April 9, 2010   Wilkes Honors College Research Symposium, with Special Guest Speaker
Honors College Student Participate in Summer REU Internships

12 Honors College students are participating in prestigious Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs in the math and sciences this summer. REU's are highly competitive programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation. More information about REU's is available online. A follow-up story is also available online.

  • Nathan van Zee was awarded the American Chemical Society's International REU Scholarship, which covers his expenses to conduct research in Germany and attend two conferences in Washington, D.C.
  • Lindsay McCullough is at Carnegie Mellon University doing single molecule motor tracking in cells.
  • Justin Owen is at Cornell University studying fractals.
  • Stephen Rowe is researching matrix analysis and fractals at Texas A&M University.
  • Sara Crimi is participating in an REU in mathematics at Duke University.
  • Isaac Defrain is working on problems in functional analysis at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire (Isaac's roommate has an internship at NASA @ Langley labs in Virginia, working on applications of lidar to ozone).
  • William Severa is working on Algorithmic Combinations at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.
  • Other Honors College students are participating in REU's at Colorado State, James Madison University in Virginia, University of South Carolina, Brigham Young in Provost, UT, and Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI.
Graduation 2009

The Wilkes Honors College Class of 2009 graduated on April 30, 2009. Students received medallions from their faculty advisors at the medallion ceremony on the Jupiter campus in the morning (see photo below), and had their degree conferred by President Frank Brogan at the graduation ceremony on the Boca Raton campus that afternoon.

Class of 2009
Graduating class of 2009

During the Medallion Ceremony the graduating class was addressed by Dean Jeffrey Buller, as well as A.J. Chase (Associate Dean of Student Affairs), Sunil Mathews '09 (presenting the graduation address on behalf of the students), Kathryn Lewis '04 (representing the Wilkes Honors College Alumni Society), and Dr. Chris Ely, Professor of History, who presented the Student Recognition Awards.

Fourth Annual Wilkes Honors College Student Art Exhibit
The 4th annual Wilkes Honors College Student Art Exhibit took place Friday, April 17, 2009 in the Hibel Art Museum, organized by Art Professor Dorotha Lemeh.

Student Theresa Rytz (left) and
Professor Dorotha Lemeh (right).

Laura Ray

Student Laura Ray in front of her work.


Professors O'Brien and Nur-tegin enjoy the exhibit.


Dean Buller enjoys art and conversation.

HC Students travel to Egypt during Spring break, 2009
Dean Buller with four Honors College students
at King Tut's Tomb

When you think of Spring Break, the words that might come to mind are “beaches,” “Florida,” and “excitement.”  So where do college students from Florida go on Spring Break?  This year at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, nine students, along with family members, professors, and community supporters, took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Egypt.

The Honors College group visited sites such as the east bank of the Nile, including the Temple of Karnak and the Temple of Luxor; Edfu, where they visited the city’s massive temple dedicated to the god Horus; Kom-Ombo where they explored the strange dual temple of Kom-Ombo, dedicated to the gods Sobek and Haroeris; Aswan where they saw the High Dam, the Unfinished Obelisk, and the Temple of Philae; Elephantine Island, the Botanical Garden, and Agha Khan; the west bank of the Nile, including the Colossi of Memnon, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Deir El-Bahari, and the Valley of Kings; and finally, they visited Cairo, where they experienced the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel of Saladin, the Alabaster mosque of Mohammed Ali, the three pyramids, the Great Sphinx, and the Old Bazaars of Khan El Khalili.

Several of the students who participated on this trip brought with them ample knowledge of Egyptian history and culture.  They are part of a course entitled “Honors Ancient Egypt,” which is currently being taught by Dr. Jeffrey Buller, Dean of the Wilkes Honors College.  “I love teaching the Honors Ancient Egypt course in the format we had it this semester.  We spent seven weeks surveying Egyptian history and culture from the predynastic period through the Romans.  Then, over spring break, some of the students traveled to Egypt to see in person the things we have talked about.  Finally they’re spending the last eight weeks of the course developing, writing, and revising an independent research paper about ancient Egypt.  Since this is an honors-level course, they also learn the basics of the Egyptian language and how to read hieroglyphs.  It was amazing to see students who, seven weeks earlier, might have looked at an inscription as just a series of meaningless pictures now entering a temple and making sense of the inscriptions on the wall.”

The travelers each had different reasons to go, and they each viewed the experience in varying ways.

Allison Bailey, a third-year philosophy student, wanted to visit Egypt because of an interest sparked during her childhood.  “When I was in elementary school we did a unit on Ancient Egypt, and I have been fascinated with it ever since.  I was very excited to be able to take the Ancient Egypt course offered by Dean Buller.  I knew that the sites we were going to see would be more interesting if I understood their significance beforehand.”  On reflection of the impact of the trip on her life, Allison said, “I have been interested in learning Arabic for the past few years, but this trip made me want to even more.  Arabic is one of the languages that Americans don’t get much exposure to.  Although most of the people I met on the trip spoke English, it was still the most I have ever encountered Arabic.  I would love to learn more about Arabic and Islamic culture.”

Blaine Pflaum, a third-year student with concentrations in economics and mathematics, says that he has always been interested in archeology and ancient civilizations, and this trip was a chance for him explore to these interests.  “I thought the trip provided a good balance between information from the tour guides and just walking around enjoying the sites.”  One of the unique parts of this trip was the group composition.  There were 76 travelers in all, including Dr. Jeffrey Buller and Dr. Miguel Vázquez, Associate Professor of Foreign Languages.  Blaine thought that the mixture was a positive thing, and enjoyed being with the adults on the trip.  “Overall, it was a great group of people with interesting stories to tell.”

Alexa Billow, a second-year student interested in biological chemistry, says that she’s been “obsessed” with ancient Egyptian society since she was four years old, when her aunt gave her a book about Egypt.  “My imagination utterly failed to supply the vibrance of the people I met and saw, how in some ways their differences make them seem even more alive than the people I know already. As you sail up the Nile, rugged red cliffs rise all around you, with the narrow green river between them. It was breathtakingly beautiful, and far more dramatic than I imagined.”  Billow’s favorite part was reading the hieroglyphs on the monuments.  “They’re not pretty magical pictures; they’re words, and I can read them. Well, some of them. It’s really amazing to see the buildings and the people who built them come alive through the messages they left.” “I learned a lot,” Billow says, “and I’m still digesting it, but I’m more eager than ever to see more of the world, learn more languages, experience other cultures…Egypt is EGYPT to me, this giant pinnacle in my mind. Seeing the various historical sites was a lifelong goal fulfilled.”

Byline: Tamara Howard

Honors College Alumnus Pursues Graduate Degree at the University of “The Student Prince”
Profile of Wilkes Honors College Alumnus Paul Fletcher

Paul Fletcher Jupiter, FL (February 9, 2009) – Paul Fletcher once studied at Palm Beach Gardens High School, but now is working on his doctorate at the University of Heidelberg in Germany.  Fletcher describes his research as seeking to understand the role played by the telegraph in nineteenth-century colonial governance, particularly in communication between London and colonial Sri Lanka (Ceylon).  At the same time that he completes this graduate degree, Fletcher is studying both German and French, and he will be learning Sinhalese in April.  What made a graduate of Palm Beach Gardens High School want to attend one of Europe’s oldest universities and to immerse himself in the history and culture of southern Asia? Fletcher credits the background he received while an undergraduate student of Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L.  Wilkes Honors College.

Fletcher says that he chose to attend the Honors College for two major reasons.  First, he wanted an education that would provide him with “training for the highly competitive field of academic scholarship by sharpening [his] writing skills, introducing [him] to a variety of exciting areas of liberal-academic research, and allowing [him] to specialize in and contribute uniquely to a specific area of study.”  Second, he was eager to “challenge [himself], to pursue a form of education which, in [his] opinion, far exceeded that of most other departments of Florida public universities.  It was the allure of the Honor College’s small, intimate community of teachers and students, combined with the reputation of the school’s demanding but rewarding, curriculum that constituted the Honor College’s appeal of academic superiority.”

While studying history at the Honors College, Fletcher was also involved in Theater in the Raw, the school’s student-run theater club.  “Theater in the Raw affected me the most, not only because it was my favorite organization, but because the experience was amazing.  The people I worked with were incredible; the plays we performed were extremely fun; and the fact that we put the plays on independently (except for the guidance of Dr.  Michael Harrawood) and created something from scratch for the enjoyment of the [Honors College] integrated me into a community, the likes of which I have yet to find anywhere else.”  Fletcher notes that some of his best experiences were being able to read at the beach in the afternoon, writing his extended thesis, and making lifelong friends.  “I liked the community experience of the Honors College.  I liked knowing people and feeling like I was part of something.  It is a unique experience, and it will be hard ever to surpass it.”

When considering how the Honors College prepare him for his graduate work at the University of Heidelberg, Fletcher said, “the Wilkes Honors College excels at preparing students for conducting academic research and critical analysis, thinking unconventionally, and engaging with peers at an extremely high level.  More than this, however, because of the Honors College’s rigorous curriculum and, at times, intense work load, I have the self confidence to grapple with the demands of a PhD and the conferences, seminars, and other academic flotsam and jetsam that go along with it.” 

Fletcher also states that if he could change anything about his time at the Honors College, it would have been to stay longer.  “I tried to extend my studies, but my Spanish professor, Dr.  Miguel Vázquez, finally told me that I ‘had to fly from the nest.’” That flight has now given Fletcher the opportunity to fulfill one of his most cherished dreams.

Byline: Tamara Howard

To Make the World a Better Place, Start in Your Home Town
Profile of Wilkes Honors College Alumnus Jocelyn Sabbagh

Jocelyn Sabbagh Jupiter, FL (February 10, 2009) - Jocelyn Sabbagh, the Director of the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center in Jupiter, is having a busy day.  Nearly 4,000 clients are registered to use El Sol’s services, and those clients include migrant workers and their families, employers, and local homeowners.  Within this diverse population of constituents, Sabbagh coordinates all programs offered by the facility, such as the hiring center, courses in speaking English, reading Spanish, and mastering computer skills.  Naturally,Sabbagh can’t provide all of these services herself.  She works closely with 63 partners (religious, international, private, and public institutions), more than 120 volunteers, and a professional staff.

It’s a huge task for someone who’s been out of college for less than two years, but Sabbagh says that she’s up to the challenge because of the education she received as an undergraduate student of Florida Atlantic University’s Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College.

Sabbagh was a frequent recipient of awards and recognitions while she was an FAU student.  During her years as a student in the Wilkes Honors College, she won more than a dozen awards, including a recognition as Outstanding Senior at the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College and Owl of the Year for the John D. MacArthur campus in Jupiter.  Sabbagh was also a member of the Golden Key Honor Society and the Sigma Delta Phi Spanish Honor Society.

Many of these awards reflected Sabbagh’s high level of service to the Honors College community.  She served as a senator in the Student Government Association during her sophomore year and chaired the Senate’s Rules Committee.  When she was a Junior, she became the president of the local Hillel and was very involved in the Jewish life on campus.  One of Sabbagh’s most rewarding activities involved the non-profit organization Corn Maya, with which she worked since her second semester at FAU.  In coordination with Corn Maya she helped create an English as a Second Language (ESL) program that benefited the local immigrant community.  During her last year at the Honors College, Sabbagh created the Corn Maya Club with several other students to continue the exchange of community service between the Honors College and the immigrant community of Jupiter.

Sabbagh states that each of these organizations affected her equally, but that her involvement with Corn Maya has been the most influential in her professional life. The ESL program that she helped start five years ago still runs successfully under her supervision.  Since its inception the program has graduated over 200 students and been recognized by the Palm Beach County School District.  While reflecting on her time at the Honors College, she notes that her best experiences were when she had the opportunity to participate in several important events made possible by her advisor, Dr. Timothy Steigenga.  She met Guatemalan Nobel Peace Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu, served as interpreter for the “Sister Cities” signing ceremony for Jupiter and Jacaltenango, Guatemala, and provided interpreter services for the Guatemalan President Oscar Berger when he visited Jupiter.

Sabbagh notes that she “loves the chance she was given to mold [her] own experience and make the most of [her] education.  It is very easy to get involved at the Honors College.  The personalized attention you receive there is priceless.”  Sabbagh says that she is “very proud to have received [her] education at FAU’s Honors College and to have had the opportunity to learn from exceptional professors and classmates.”

Byline: Tamara Howard

Debate Team Success at Florida State Championship
debate team

Pictured: Pick, Gray, Mathieu

The FAU Debate Team had another successful performance, at the 2009 Florida Intercollegiate Forensic Association's State Championship Tournament, held at Florida Southern College over Valentine's Day weekend. Team President and Wilkes Honors College student Alan Gray was crowned the State Champion in five events; and team Secretary Wesley Mathieu, another Honors College student, was named the State Champion in Parliamentary debate.

Freshman David Pick, also of the Honors College, was the first competitor from FAU to enter the Persuasive Speaking and After-Dinner Speaking events. Gray also competed in Impromptu and Dramatic Interpretation, and Mathieu in Impromptu and Extemporaneous Speaking. Together, the team won the State Debate Sweepstakes, and for the second consecutive year, the Division I Sweepstakes. The team placed fourth overall. Next year, the team will host the tournament on FAU's Jupiter Campus.

Honors College Student Wins Legacy of Excellence Award

David Pick February 3, 2009 - David Pick was awarded the Legacy of Excellence Scholarship by the newly established Delta Tau Delta fraternity. David, a freshman at the Wilkes Honors College who is concentrating in Biology, has been an active member of FAU's Debate Team, has volunteered teaching first through third graders about a variety of science topics, and was responsible for creating lesson plans, designing hands-on activities, teaching the lesson, and producing homework.

"In teaching this class," he said, "I set an example for my students. I hope one day they will become scholars, teachers, and leaders themselves." The award is a book scholarship worth $250, and was presented by Jameson Root, the Chapter Leadership Consultant responsible for expanding Delta Tau Delta to Florida Atlantic University. Two other Honors College students, Alan Gray and CJ Kwan, were semifinalists for the award.

Honors College students selected to display their art at Artigras 2009
Click here to see a video of HC student Michael Metzner on WBPF TV.
Two Honors College students, Michael Metzner and Jeremy DeChario, were selected to participate in the nationally recognized art festival Artigras. As invitees to this event, Mr. Metzner and Mr. DeChario are included in a newly developed program ‘Homegrown Art” that seeks to mentor emerging artists who are not yet established as professionals in the art field. The Homegrown Art program has gained the attention of many non-professionals and emerging artists and is highly competitive. Artigras attracts over 150,000 visitors to the Jupiter area. This year it takes place Feb. 14-16 at the Abacoa Town Center.

In March, 2009, Jeremy DeChario also was selected to present his work in the the Polk Museum of Art's Mayfaire exhibition.

Last Modified 11/21/13