Paying it Forward


Graduate Photo November 18th, 2013 (Jupiter, FL)—At the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, students and faculty are always excited to hear about the accomplishments of alumni. Over the past three years, many graduates of the Wilkes Honors College have gone on to study and conduct research in diverse academic fields in universities throughout the nation. Recently, three alumnae took the time to update the current members of the Honors College about their activities and successes, and also to provide the next generation of graduates with some sound advice about pursuing graduate studies. 

Tamara Howard, who graduated from the Honors College in the spring of 2011, wasted no time in making a niche for herself at Florida State University, where she recently acquired her master’s degree. “After I graduated from the HC, I got my Master of Science in Higher Education in Student Affairs and began working as the Assistant Director of Career Experience Opportunities at the FSU Career Center,” says Howard. Employees at the Career Center make it their priority to match students with jobs suited to their unique needs and skills, and Howard is at the forefront of that effort. However, not all of her time is spent in an office. “I also co-instruct our Introduction to Career Development course and serve on a number of office- and division-wide committees,” she says. This program has allowed Howard to spend her time engaged in the thing she enjoys the most: helping students reach their full potential in and out of the classroom. “I recommend this program very highly to other Honors College students,” Howard insists.

“I can definitely say that the HC completely prepared me for graduate school,”says Adolfson

Another recent alumna is also making waves at Florida State University, although her efforts have been focused in a different area. Dawn Adolfson, who graduated from the Honors College last year after completing a concentration in Latin American Studies, is well on her way to reaching her dream of becoming a certified teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). While at the Honors College, Adolfson worked tirelessly as the coordinator of nighttime ESOL classes at El Sol, Jupiter’s Neighborhood Resource Center, where she developed curriculum to teach English to over 100 Spanish speakers in the Jupiter community. Her proficiency in Spanish and her passion for helping recent immigrants become accommodated to American society led her to FSU’s Masters of Science in Curriculum & Instruction, where she is focusing her studies on Spanish and ESOL instruction. In and out of the classroom, Adolfson is working to promote cultural exchange between students and community members from different nations. “I've recently became a part of a newly formed organization called the Hispanic Graduate Student Association which works to bring Hispanic students together in solidarity and support for one another, since most of them are international students that have little experience living here,” explains Adolfson. However, her drive to serve the community doesn’t end there. “I also volunteer once a week to work with a language partner from Peru through FSU's Center for Intensive English Studies,” she explains. “I assist my partner in bettering his conversation skills and pronunciation so that he can pass the TOEFL exam and study for his PhD at FSU.” She is also employed as an ESOL instructor and assistant to the Adult Education Specialist at Tallahassee Community College. “I can definitely say that the HC completely prepared me for graduate school,” says Adolfson. “I came in knowing how to write papers, study and read the textbooks and how to work with my professors. I am not daunted by the projects and assignments I have to do in my classes.” For her, the years she spent at the Honors College have provided the critical skills she needed to launch her into the career that she loves.

"It’s been a tremendous advantage to have developed confidence speaking among all settings," says Blythe

For alumna Rachel Blythe, reaching her goals meant looking beyond the state of Florida. After graduating from the Honors College, Blythe packed her bags and headed to the University of California, Berkeley, where she is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Health degree in Environmental Sciences. Despite the competitive environment and the distance from home, Blythe feels that she has been well-equipped to take on the challenges of a rigorous graduate program. “The HC definitely prepared me for the challenges of graduate school, especially when it comes to my presentation skills,” she explains. “It’s been a tremendous advantage to have developed confidence speaking among all settings.” She maintains that it was the social environment as well as the academic rigor of the Honors College that has helped her acclimate to the pace of graduate school. “The friendly competitiveness of HC students prepared me for success when going after co-curricular opportunities at the School of Public Health. For instance, I was recently selected to be a Fellow with the Center for Health Leadership, a competitive process through which I was grateful for my experiences at the Honors College,” she says. “I’ve realized that at the HC, I found mentors not only in professors, but also in my classmates.” Blythe encourages current Honors College students to carefully consider their options as they explore possibilities for graduate study. “I encourage them to keep their career and life goals in mind. Students considering a graduate program will do themselves a favor by taking serious account of the job opportunities that are available within their field of interest,” she says. “It’s important to make sure that graduate education will align with the type of work and atmosphere that the student seeks.”
As these three alumnae continue on their academic and career journeys, another generation of Honors College students is preparing to join them. The examples provided by these three graduates, as well as the many other Honors College alumni now pursuing academic and career goals, have given current students a great place to begin their own journeys, and they look forward to continuing the prestigious tradition begun by their predecessors.

About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit

Last Modified 11/8/16