Dear Honors Alumni and Friends,
As the summer heat gives way to the autumn breezes, our students have settled into the rhythms of the semester and to the challenges of the new school year. They continue to thrive in and outside the classroom, and I am eager, as the new Interim Director of the Honors Program, to provide them with even greater support and opportunities. In this issue of Honorably Speaking, you’ll find a number of articles of interest about your alumni peers. But before we dive in, I’d like to introduce myself to each of you, and let you know what is happening in our program this semester.
As an associate professor in the Department of English, I've been a member of the Miami faculty for five years, taught in the Honors Program, and served on the Honors Program’s Advisory Committee for several years. I've seen firsthand just how hard our faculty work to create meaningful experiences for students and how fully our students embrace those opportunities. I am, indeed, excited to take up the role of directing this extraordinary program, a program dedicated to meaningful and excellent educational experiences.
Before my life began at Miami, I completed my BA at the University of Georgia and my MA and PhD at the University of Chicago. I then taught briefly at Harvard, Boston University, and Georgia Tech. All my degrees have been in comparative literature with a strong focus on Italian, French and English literature in the medieval and early modern periods.
My first book, Theaters of Anatomy: Students, Teachers, and Traditions of Dissection in Renaissance Venice (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), examined the rise of anatomy theaters and their impact on medical education, particularly on how medical students learned the practices of dissection. The research for this book took me to Italy: to Padua, where university archives hold the letters of medical students; to Venice, where libraries hold documents written by medical students who worked in Venice after their graduation; and to Florence, where I had time to think about my story and to write it down.
This fall, with the team in honors, we have begun to cultivate undergraduate research experiences to help students begin to explore their own stories. Our staff has worked to introduce students to research in a broad range of disciplines, connect students to faculty mentors, and encourage students to reflect on those experiences in their applications for prestigious national fellowships. Talking with students about their ideas and their goals, I am reminded again and again of how passionate, dedicated and thoughtful our honors students are. I am proud of the ways that our program—with its innovative curriculum and its extracurricular opportunities—challenges these students to work hard and achieve success.
In September, I attended a presentation by Joe Allen, an astronaut who was at Miami to award one of our honors students, Prashant Rajan, a $10,000 Astronaut's Scholarship. In his presentation, Joe Allen described the different missions he went on, shared his experiences in outer-space, and emphasized the role of discovery. For all the honors students, faculty and staff in the auditorium, it was a spell-binding presentation—truly magical to see photos of Joe Allen floating in space and to hear him reflect on a life dedicated to adventure, exploration, science and continual discovery.
As you may recall from your first year at Miami, students worry about their grades, experience homesickness and growing pains of all kinds; and I hope that these are balanced by the many wonderful opportunities—such as Joe Allen’s visit—across the university. These opportunities remind students that the university is not only a set of buildings—it is also a place of ideas, of intellectual work and rigor.
As the Director of the Honors Program, I believe it is my job to guide our students, to push them to return to the problem and probe it from a different angle, to help them to see their passions and their talent, to remind them of the pleasure that comes from clear thoughts, and of course, to provide them with encouragement along the way.
As you recall your own experiences as an undergraduate, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on your time in Oxford and consider providing support for a current or future honors students. Because of your generosity, I am able to offer our students support for their development. Your donations help the University Honors Program to offer exciting courses, fund students’ self-designed projects, and provide field trips and other intensive learning opportunities. Your contributions can and do enrich the learning and development of our students.
Please know that your involvement in the program is appreciated and critical.
With my best wishes,
Interim Director of the Honors Program
Associate Professor, Department of English