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Freshman honors students impress early

Posted: Nov 18, 2013

“I'm really looking forward to growing as a well-rounded, well-informed individual, a stronger Christian ready and willing to interact with the world,” says Michael Whalen (Sierra Vista, Ariz.), a freshman majoring in zoology and a member of Olivet’s newest cohort of Honors Program students.

Students selected to the Honors Program are undeniably academically talented. This year’s cohort of 30 freshmen entered with an average 31.5 ACT score. But these students have already impressed their professors with their oral discussion and critical thinking abilities.

“I have found this group to be bright,” says Dr. Timothy Stidham, one of this cohort’s professors. “These students bring energy to discussions and are writing very thoughtful reflection papers.”

Expanding horizons

Olivet’s Honors Program provides students with a curriculum designed for their distinct learning abilities. This semester, the group is taking “Faith in Humanity,” which Dr. Stidham teaches alongside Dr. Bill Dean, chair of the Department of History and Political Science. This course requires the students to watch preselected movies and relate them to specific lines from the Apostle’s Creed.

Carrie Leato (Flanagan, Ill.), an English education major, enjoys the theological and cultural value of this class. “I am learning how to really interpret a movie instead of letting everything wash over me,” she says.

Students committed to the program take four Honors courses together over their freshman and sophomore years, participate in service organizations and attend cultural events. Finally, each of them completes a substantial faculty-mentored research project during the junior and senior years.

“We hope that, in addition to graduating with University Honors, our students will have experiences from the Honors Program to enrich their lives,” says Dr. Charles Carrigan, professor of geoscience and director of the Honors Program. “We want to help them see themselves as servant-leaders, both here at Olivet and after they leave and move into the world.”

Growing together

Michael and Carrie, along with others in the cohort, credit the uniqueness of the Honors Program as part of what drew them to Olivet. The students in Cohort Seven come from 10 states across the country, with 19 from Illinois, and the remaining 11 from New York, Iowa, California, Oklahoma, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio and Arizona. Their majors represent all four undergraduate schools and 12 departments at Olivet.

“We are a very diverse and colorful group, filled with many different stories and histories,” Michael says. “But everyone is open to listening and learning from one another. I look forward to growing closer to these people in the next few years.”

Other members of the cohort and their majors are:

• Nicole Abraham (Poplar Grove, Ill.), Spanish Education
• Sarah Allison (Carthage, N.Y.), Psychology
• Jenna Ayers (Colfax, Ill.), Intercultural Studies
• Madylin Barker (Plainfield, Ill.), Music Performance — Instrumental
• Rachel Blunier (East Peoria, Ill.), Marketing — Commercial Graphics
• Cara Butler (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Biology
• Chase Fierro (Goleta, Calif.), Computer Engineering
• Shealeigh Funni (Island Lake, Ill.) Accounting
• Hannah Gorecki (Mokena, Ill.), Spanish Education
• Abigail Hancock (Indianapolis, Ind.), Intercultural Studies
• Holly Harlow (Joliet, Ill.), Math Education
• Lisa Hartman (Aurora, Ill.), Social Science Education
• Cassandra Hendrix (Oklahoma City, Okla.), English
• Victoria Hess (Chrisman, Ill.), Biology
• Ethan Hiles (Wheelersburg, Ohio), Chemistry — Biochemistry
• Grace Hohn (Grand Blanc, Mich.), Chemistry
• Heather Johnson (Elgin, Ill.), Music Education
• Caleb Lankford (Midlothian, Va.), Biology
• Emily Lohr (Middleburg Heights, Ohio), Intercultural Studies
• Ryan Marcotte (Herscher, Ill.), Information Systems
• Macy Murray (Keokuk, Iowa), Chemistry — Biochemistry
• Maggie Risher (Channahon, Ill.), Zoology
• Luke Salomone (Bridgeview, Ill.), Biology
• Brittany Sherwood (Pekin, Ill.)
• Emily Spychalla (Normal, Ill.), Dietetics
• Cody Stuart (Oak Forest, Ill.), History
• Matthew Wheeler (Gurnee, Ill.), Social Science Education
• Andrea Wojciechowski (Roselle, Ill.), Chemistry — Biochemistry

Percentage of Olivet freshmen who achieved ACT composite scores of 30 or higher (4% achieve this nationally)