Awesome Honors began in Winter 2021 as a visual way to highlight some of the extraordinary things being done by students in the Honors program. As graduation came closer, some features are Awesome (Graduating) Honors. Enjoy this snapshot look!


April 19, 2021

Congratulations to Sarah Renberg and Veronica Sikora as the LSA Honors Program’s 2021 recipients of the Otto Graf and Jack Meiland Scholarships respectively. These awards are given to rising seniors whose academic and co-curricular achievements exemplify the program's engaged liberal arts philosophy. Link here for details about award criteria, as well as Veronica's and Sarah's academic achievements.

Regarding her Honors experience, Sarah writes: "Honors has defined much of my Michigan experience. It's given me my best friends, key mentors, and innumerable opportunities to both explore intellectually and pursue my interests with fervor. Looking back, I think Honors has been a catalyst for personal growth. The program’s support has given me confidence in my ability to navigate challenges and has shown me the value in my own ideas.”

Veronica writes about her Honors experience: "Honors is an incredibly supportive community that has encouraged me to question my self-imposed limits. Whether it's battling my fear of heights in a Honors high ropes obstacle course or challenging myself with Honors core courses, Honors has given me many outlets to grow both socially and academically. But if I could give rising Honors students some advice: do the work and reach out. Take initiative and you'll be rewarded with plenty of opportunities and inspiring friends. Your experience may not come for free, but it'll certainly be priceless."

April 12, 2021

While senior Arynne Wegryn-Jones majored in Microbiology, her interest in food waste led to a minor in Food and the Environment, from which she chose her Honors in Engaged Liberal Arts (HELA) project. Arynne began researching compost behavior and education on campus, keeping an eye on U-M's goal for FY25 which was to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by 40 percent (below 2006 levels). Throughout the process, she constructed compost awareness surveys, studying and sharing best practices for waste reduction, the results of which she recently shared at her HELA presentation. She welcomes "talking trash" with anyone interested! 



  • U-M's compost vendor, WeCare Organics, requires that at least 99 percent of waste delivered is compostable. Even a small amount of non-compostable material can render the whole bag unusable.
  • In FY19, U-M produced 25,602,000 pounds of landfill waste. This is about 64 blue whales' worth of trash!
  • In a landfill, food waste decomposes anaerobically, producing methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its heat-trapping potential. Composting allows the university to reduce GHG emissions. (Statistics from HELA presentation. 

April 5, 2021

Honors: You're an Honors PPE major/History minor. How do you find time to work on your art? What recommendations do you have for lower-division students trying to balance their multifaceted lives?

Julia Stavreva: I won't lie, to make larger pieces, investing a lot of time is essential, but having that time be a continuous chunk isn't. I definitely have the compulsion with any project, whether that be academic or creative, to "make" that time by ignoring all other aspects of my life, and it's easy to lose myself when I do that. Now, I try to remember to engage with my art in a way that relieves stress rather than adds to it. I think managing academics, extracurriculars, and college life in general has taught me the value of committing to art in small brackets of time: it's about balance. In terms of the meditative and restorative benefits I feel from creative expression, I find that working it in as breaks throughout the school day by sketching and doodling is really rewarding. For my more significant projects, even if I sit down for 5 minutes to map out what my next steps are for a painting, it keeps me engaged with my work. To any other students who are overwhelmed by the various aspects of their lives at once, my best advice is to remember that it's a marathon not a sprint, and a little it goes a long way when working towards a goal, because it adds up in the end! [P: Artist sits between two large oil paintings, both of women, in bold color palettes.]

March 28, 2021

Meghna Singh ('23) is currently a Student Associate Study Coordinator at the Healthy Minds Network (HMN). Meghna’s passion for mental health advocacy and suicide prevention efforts was sparked after her high school community faced two youth suicide clusters in five years. She joined the HMN team to help develop and administer the Healthy Minds Study for Secondary Schools (HMS2), an online study assessing the social and emotional wellbeing, mental health service utilization, and related factors among high school students. 

March 22, 2021

Jiani Fei (Physics '21) determined that using a set of functions derived from a theory created in 1925 may help physicists overcome one of the major limitations of modern quantum simulation. Fei and associate professor Emanuel Gull have discovered that a set of functions called the Nevanlinna functions can tighten the interpretation step, showing that physicists may be able to overcome one of the major limitations of modern quantum simulation. The work, led by this Awesome Honors undergraduate, was recently published in Physical Review Letters. (Excerpted from Image: Jiaqi Lei.)

March 15, 2021

Angelina Little (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, ’22) is this year’s recipient of Excellence in Upper-Level Writing Prize from the Sweetland Center for Writing. Written in Political Science 381 in fall 2020, Angelina’s paper, “Reevaluating the Economic Imperative to Learn,” spells out the plan for her PPE Honors thesis next year. It also got Angelina selected as one of the twenty Honors Summer Fellows for summer 2021.
 Angelina is currently taking a gap semester “WWOOFing” in the Pacific Northwest. WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms; Angelina’s opportunities on a goat farm have included friendships with multiple baby goats. 

March 8, 2021

First-year student Riya Aggarwal is a current blog contributor to arts at michigan as The Indian Artist. Her work focuses on Hindu culture, family, and traditions, which she explains is peace-inducing and cathartic. This piece, entitled American Dhulan, represents the dichotomous relationship between her Indian upbringing and American society.

We asked her to share a bit about her experience in Honors and what she’s anticipating, following winter term.

Aggarwal: Honors has been a great experience for me. Especially as an incoming freshman who had to live at home for the entire duration of my first year, it was really difficult to find some semblance of a “normal” college experience. However, through Honors 170, Honors core courses, and the close community of Honors students overall, I was still able to have a memorable first year experience and feel like I am a part of the U-M community. I am really looking forward to hopefully being able to work in a hospital this summer and volunteer in nursing homes. With the emergence of the vaccine I also truly hope for some normalcy for all of us again!

March 1, 2021

As a transfer student into U-M, Lance Ying ('21) became interested in Honors for the scholarship and research opportunities. He's taken a unique approach by combining majors across various areas of interest.

Honors: You're a quadruple major. How are you meshing or melding your Honors thesis work?

Ying: My research interest is very applied and interdisciplinary. I'm passionate in understanding human emotions and promoting psychological health. I started my first Honors thesis in Psychology in my junior year with Dr. Mari Kira. My study focused on how people perceive support differently in organizations across cultures. The perceived organizational support is strongly associated with a variety of health factors.

After that I got interested in the nature of human affect and cognition. I decided to do my computer science thesis in speech emotion recognition using deep neural nets and my CogSci thesis study attempts to build a Bayesian model of human emotion inferences based on Schachter’s two-factor theory. In the future (PhD, hopefully), I hope to conduct research in clinical diagnosis of mental health diseases, automated psychological counseling services, and human-computer interaction designs. I think my research interests very nicely combine my interests in all of the four majors.

February 22, 2021

Sam Lima (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology '20) was recently published in the January 25, 2021 journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, for her thesis work investigating how cottontail rabbits respond to different threats in the city of Detroit. Lima explains, "We found that in areas with high coyote and domestic dog activity rabbits tend to be more vigilant of their surroundings, but around humans they didn't heighten their vigilance." Says Professor Nyeema Harris, Lima's thesis advisor in the Applied Wildlife Ecology (AWE) Lab, "Her findings are significant in highlighting that expected predator-prey behaviors are maintained despite anthropogenic pressures emergent in a cityscape. We’re excited to share our work from Detroit, as this city is ecologically and socially distinct from others throughout the nation.” Coauthors include EEB doctoral graduate student Siria Gámez, Harris, and Nathaniel Arringdale, a lab technician in the AWE Lab at the time, currently a master’s student in the School for Environment and Sustainability.
(Excepted from the LSA EEB website. Photo: Gabriel Gadsden.)

February 15, 2021

Brooke Lennox (BA International Studies '20) was awarded the Janne Nolan Essay Prize of Special Recognition for her Honors thesis on National Security/International Affairs, sponsored by the Kissinger Center, in conjunction with CSIS and the Texas National Security Review. The competition is hosted by the Future Strategy Forum, an initiative that connects scholars who research national security with leading practitioners and elevates female talent in the field. 

February 8, 2021

Utsav Trivedi is in the U-M ROTC Navy program, pre-med, and is graduating this term with BMS Honors. The ROTC/Honors affiliation is unique, in itself. Combined with his post-graduation plans to serve three years with the Navy in a reconnaissance submarine as a chemical engineer, it's "awesome."
This photo, from the summer of 2019, is from his time aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham, on its showcase stop in NYC. Following his commission and active duty, Ustav plans to attend med school. Best of luck!

February 1, 2021

This week's Awesome Honors goes to Kathy Pham ('22), who led an Alternative Spring Break trip to Apopka, FL, where participants were involved in local farm work. For her "leadership and extraordinary vision," Kathy received the 2021 MLK Spirit Award. Says advisor Denise Guillot, "Since her first year, Kathy has shown commitment to social justice, inclusivity and cross-cultural collaboration through her involvement in multiple projects."

January 11, 2021

On December 23, Honors sophomore Gigi Guida ran a solo marathon (26.2 miles) in her hometown of Philadelphia, finishing in iconic Rocky-style at the top of the steps of the Art Museum. Not just that, but Gigi used her run to raise $3,351 in three days for the Loveland Foundation, which provides mental health support for Black women. 

Here's Gigi post-run, celebrating her first marathon. Way to Go Blue, Gigi!