We are extraordinarily proud of each of our graduating seniors this fall. We wish them all the best, and hope they know that we'll miss them. HPO President Savanna Hoyt checks in with them to see what they're doing next and what they'll carry with them from their Honors Experience
Ayla Oden (Comm.)
For Ayla, the faculty at South Alabama really made a difference. She says Dr. Mark in the communications department is the one that convinced her South was the school for her. LSU was originally her first choice in schools until she visited their department and saw how impersonal they were. Dr. Mark, on the other hand, took time to meet with Ayla before she had even applied to the school, just to talk about the program. Ayla says Dr. Mark is still her number one role model here at South.
Ayla is a communications major with a minor in English from Slidell, Louisiana. While at South, she was involved with RHA, the American Advertising Federation, Mortar Board Senior Honor Society, served as a resident assistant, and was a sister of Chi Omega. Additionally, Ayla was one of the first officers of SOAR, the Student Organization of Academic Research. Ayla says one of her favorite memories from Honors were the tailgates.
After graduation, Ayla hopes to pursue her masters degrees in mass communication or look for a job in strategic communications.
I asked Ayla her advice to others to help them graduate with honors. “Don’t let research scare you. Especially if you’re a humanities major. I really had no idea whether or not I would end up graduating with honors, because as a junior, I still had no prospects of research. That was until Dr. Trout approached me about doing an English thesis. Don’t be afraid to approach your teachers and ask them for research! It’s way easier to find than you would think. Of course, don’t be like me and just wait for someone to approach you about it, go look for the opportunities yourself.”
Justin Majors (PSY)
This week we are spotlighting someone that I know is near and dear to a lot of us. I've gotten a little bit emotional writing each of these, but I actually started to tear up as I worked on Justin's. RA Justin Majors was one of my first friends at South, and I know he was a voice of reason for many of us when we needed it most. I hope y'all enjoy Justin's story as much as I did.
If you would have asked Justin during his freshman year why he came to South, he would have said because it was far away from home. But, he has realized he came to South because of the people. Justin said “At South, we are a family and we care about each other; and I felt that feeling the moment I walked on campus.” The many opportunities South offered was a huge impact, as well. Before even starting classes, Justin became a part of EAP, Honors, and the Leadership Scholars. He says he thinks the combination of the great people and the opportunities is why he came here.
Justin has been involved in many organizations while being a student at South including: AED, Phi Eta Sigma, Wilmer Hall Tutoring, RHA, Students for Life, HPO, Honors Council, BMD Society, NRHH, Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM), and of course Housing (#RAJUSTINMAJORS). He says no matter what organization he got involved with, he found he wanted to follow his passions…Specifically with BCM, Housing, and Wilmer Hall. Justin says BCM taught him the need for support and safe haven in college. It also taught him a lesson in growth that eventually you will leave things (people, clubs, etc.) behind so that you have the opportunity to personally grow further. In housing, Justin learned Honors kids are crazy and are up to more than one would think… but really Housing taught him the importance of being true to yourself and trying something different in college. He also found his passion and how important it is to pursue your dreams. With Wilmer Hall, Justin learned the importance in investing in your local community, as well as a little love can go a long way and three college kids can actually make an impact on the world.
Justin is currently in the interview process for graduate school. He will be attending a University pursuing Higher Education while also working for a Housing Department.
Justin says his favorite memory from honors would definitely be having been the Honors RA. He had the opportunity to see two generations of honors students start at South as little freshman. They started out lost and causing trouble but he had the opportunity to see them grow, mature and become leaders on campus. Justin said “They have become leaders all over campus and I think their growth has been so inspiring to me and challenges me every day to be better because I am too an Honors Kid.”
Justin says the hardest part of school was actually following his passions and stop trying to please everyone else. He started at South as an Early Accepted Biomedical Sciences Student. He says he was always pushed to medicine and he generally thought it was what he wanted to do.. But, after he became an RA he found a true passion and had a desire to help students in any way possible. However, he didn’t immediately switch his major because he didn’t want to let other people down or have them think less of him. When he decided to switch his family told him he was throwing his life away and it was hard. But, he was so happy with his decision that it didn’t matter what his family thought because he was happy. Justin told me “I think to succeed in honors you need to do what you love if you are doing art, psychology, med, engineering, business whatever.. Love what you do.”
RA Justin Majors asked that I leave you with these bits of advice:
Follow him on Instagram @majorjust
Live on campus and GO TO RA PROGRAMS
Make love to your GPA
Invest in yourself
Talk to people (put you phone away)
Do crazy things
Keep your mental health in check
Make traditions and memories
Volunteer off campus (not for hours, for a class, or AED, but just for yourself)
“Enjoy your time because it goes by so fast and before you know it you will be in your last semester and one of your honors babies will be asking you about your life because you are graduating.”
Good luck in grad school, Justin! We'll miss you.
Hannah Brooks (BMD)
Hannah is a biomedical sciences major from Mobile with a minor is Spanish. Hannah says that she originally had her heart set on attending UAB, but once she was accepted into South Alabama’s College of Medicine early acceptance program, she decided to attend South and has never regretted it. While at South, Hanna was involved with AED, Honors, Catholic Student Association, and JagSuccess. These organizations impacted her time at South, not only by connecting her with some of her best friends but also by giving her an opportunity to give back to a community and university which she says has given her so much. After graduation, Hannah hopes to attend medical school at South.
Hannah researches in a lab in the BMD department. When she first began looking into research, she was trying really hard to avoid researching in a lab, but after a year of work, she says she is really enjoying her project. Hannah says “The most important advice I can give about research is find the right mentor. I don’t think that I would like working in lab as much as I do if it wasn’t for my mentor. You work a lot with them and it is crucial that you feel that they can lead you to success.”
Hannah’s advice to underclassmen is to persevere and find a group of people who can
remind you that your grades don’t define you. Remember that you need to work hard
to achieve your dreams, but staying sane when school seems to consume you is just
as important. It does get better!
Anisha Lee (Nursing)
Because we have so many seniors graduating this semester, we will be highlighting two each week. In addition to Courtney, we are also highlight Anesha Lee this week.
Anesha is a nursing major from Gulfport, Mississippi. Anesha says the atmosphere at South is what attracted her the first time she visited campus. Everyone was so friendly, warm, and welcoming. She instantly fell in love.
While at South, Anesha has been involved in HPO, African American Student Association (AASA), Abeneefoo Kuo Honor Society, Student Government Association (SGA), and First Year Council (FYC). From each of these organizations, she learned the importance of communication, teamwork, networking, hard work, effort and discipline.
Anesha’s research involves children with type one diabetes and their perspectives on the disease. While working on her research, Anesha said she realized that she has a passion for children with diabetes and helping others understand the disease, as well as what they can do to continue living healthy lives. Anesha says that she would not have discovered this passion if it had not been for her research.
Anesha says the hardest part of her time at South was learning time management and how to study effectively. She recommends trying different ways to study to find what works best for you individually and investing in a planner. She said over the last three years she has learned how important it is to do what makes you happy instead of trying to please everyone else. She also says to be true to yourself. Trust in the Lord and everything will fall into place the way it should.
Anesha’s favorite memory of Honors is one I can really relate to. “My favorite memory from Honors goes way back to Freshman year during our retreat at Camp Grace. We were all so nervous and barely knew each other, but by the end of the night, everyone was laughing, joking, and having a great time! I also enjoyed doing the ropes course with my peers. I had no idea I was afraid of heights until we got up there! I was very appreciative of my team because they were able to talk me through the course and we were able to work together to finish it.”
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Anesha. Congrats on your graduation
and good luck to you!
Cortney Hays (Pre-Physical Therapy)
Cortney chose South Alabama because South offers early acceptance opportunities into certain programs—such as the physical therapy program. When she found out about this opportunity, she knew she needed to check out South in more depth. Corney found that South Alabama offered multiple scholarship opportunities, smaller class sizes, and an amazing Honors Program. As she continued her search and compared South to other schools she was also drawn to how close South is to her hometown of Pensacola, Florida and the beach. After Cortney received her acceptance letters for the Honors Program and the Early Acceptance Program for Physical Therapy advanced undergraduate, Cortney knew South was where she was meant to be.
While at South, Cortney has been involved in the Pre-Physical Therapy club, Freshmen Leadership Scholars, Honors Program Organization, and has recently also been active in the Dance Marathon Organization. These clubs helped provide service, leadership, and learning opportunities. Best of all, they helped Cortney establish great relationships that she knows will last a lifetime.
After graduation in the Spring, Cortney will have the opportunity to stay here at South Alabama to continue Physical Therapy School.
South says her favorite Honors memory would probably have to be creating last year’s awesome SIYM buttons! They were a huge hit and she felt like she was able to contribute to HPO. Cortney says every time she wears it, someone asks “Where’d you get that?” and it gives her a great opportunity to brag about our program.
Cortney says the hardest part about undergrad was definitely figuring out research. Until recently, she was very confused on the process and barely understood what exactly research was. Thankfully, Dr. Doran and Ms. Pamm understand that research may be difficult for some students. They were very helpful and directed Cortney in the right direction.
Cortney says her advice to everyone is to start early and ask questions! Never be afraid to ask for help or to admit you are unsure about something. there’s no such thing as a stupid question or too many.
Best of luck to you, Cortney, I'm so glad we got to share your South experience.
Nick Grondin (Meteorology)
Nick is a Meteorology major with a minor in Mathematics and Geography. He is from
Newington, Connecticut. He came to South because he was looking for a university where
he could get a quality education in his field with a not too big, not too small environment.
He also liked how South was a growing university and was really investing in the quality
of student life.
Nick will be graduating in December 2016, and will be spending the spring semester here where he will be completing his certificate in Geographic Information Sciences (GIS). He plans to start a Master's degree program in either Atmospheric Science, Meteorology, or Geography next fall.
Nick says his favorite memory of the Honors Program was participating in Twelfth Night his sophomore year (2014), along with attending the NCHC conferences in New Orleans, Denver, Chicago, and Seattle.
Outside Honors, Nick was involved in the Meteorology Club, Mortar Board, and the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity during his undergrad years. He says all three of these organizations as well as honors, encouraged him to give back to his community in a meaningful way. In addition, he says he has made some of his best friends through his involvement in these organizations.
Nick says the hardest part of his undergrad years was definitely the first semester of his junior year when he took two of his hardest classes (Dynamics I and Physical Meteorology). That semester he learned more about himself and the kind student and person he has grown into. However, he made it through and is still going to graduate with honors.
I asked Nick to share some advice with you all on graduating with Honors.
"The advice I give to the underclassmen is two-fold: First, if you don't 100% love your major, change it. The only way you make it through your research and 300/400 level classes is by truly loving your field. My classes were very difficult, but my love of meteorology made them bearable. Second, balance your schoolwork/research with fun stuff. There is nothing wrong with taking a night or two off from schoolwork a week to go to a football game or out with your friends. Everything in life needs balance, and I think during my college years I truly realized that."
Nick will be defending his thesis this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. in LSCB Room 119. Please come by and support him, if you can.
Thank you for sharing with us Nick. We are so proud of you and can't wait to see you
succeed in your life after South Alabama.
Morgan Watkins (Social Work)
Morgan is from Montgomery, Alabama. She first visited South when she was 16 and immediately fell in love with the natural beauty of the campus. For her, acceptance into the Honors Program confirmed her desire to go to South, and revealed so many unique opportunities that she believes she would not have found elsewhere.
While at South, Morgan studied social work while minoring in Sociology and Spanish. She is also a funded researcher through the Department of Psychology.
Morgan will graduate in December 2016, and is planning to start graduate school in August 2017. She will be pursuing her Master of Clinical Social Work degree with her ultimate goal to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in psychotherapy.
Morgan worked in USA Housing for two years, where she served as a Resident Assistant and an Assistant Community Director. She was an officer for National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) for two years. She has also had the privilege of being a member of the Azalea Chapter of Mortar Board Senior Honors Society.
Additionally, Morgan has been volunteering with the USA Student-Run Free Clinic, an interdisciplinary health and wellness clinic that serves the homeless population of Mobile, since it began in 2014. This year in particular, she has served as an executive board member for the clinic. She truly believes her experience with the clinic has been one of the most educational and life-impacting things that she's had the privilege of being a part of.
I'll leave you all with Morgan's favorite memory from USA Honors as well as some advice from her to all of you still struggling through undergrad.
"My favorite memory related to the Honors Program was when I sang karaoke with Dr. ST my freshman year at the Honors retreat. The machine was set on random and Dr. ST and I got 'Love Shack.' It was as hilarious and weird as you're imagining!"
"If I could give any advice, I would advise every Honors student to pursue what sets their soul on fire. If that is more than one thing, find a way to incorporate them into your college experience through majors/minors, research, student organizations, or volunteerism. God gave you your unique passions for an incredible purpose; go out there and find out what that purpose is! You have priceless strengths that can make this world a better place."
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Morgan, and best of luck to you in your future
Campbell Walker (Anthropology)
Campbell grew up thirty minutes south of Mobile in Irvington, AL. He came to South because it was close to home and was a fiscally responsible move, however during his first year here he became excited that South fit him in ways he wasn't expecting.
Campbell studied anthropology while minoring in museum studies. After he graduates in December of 2016, he plans to take a gap year and then pursue his J.D. While at South, Campbell was involved in the Anthropology Club, the Independent Music Collective, and the Sustainability Council. He served as both president and vice president of the Anthropology Club at different times. I admired Campbell mentioning to me how strongly he supports the mission of the Sustainability Council, because they do amazing and incredibly important work on campus.
Campbell encourages anyone who hasn't explored the IMC to do so before they graduate. IMC works to put on shows at Satori headlined by artists from all over the world. He says IMC was very rewarding because after all the work put in, the product was great shows enjoyed by many.
When I asked Campbell about his favorite memory from honors, he told me he couldn't pinpoint a particular moment or event, but that he really enjoyed the interactions and conversations he had with anyone he happened upon, studying in the basement of the Bethel. He said, "Those have been some of the most intellectually engaging conversations that I have ever had, as it is often times between people from very different academic backgrounds and interests. The anthropologist in me just loves hearing how people perceive the world from their perspective."
I think some of the best advice I've gotten came from Campbell's advice to you all.
"My advice to undergraduates is to really earnestly reach out to your professors. These are some of the most passionate and intellectual people you will ever find in the world and they have spent decades of their life pursuing their passions. Not only are they knowledgeable about their own discipline, but often times their passions spill over to many other facets of life and they can not only give you guidance on how to establish yourself in your own interests, but also enrich your mind through conversation. Some of the best relationships that I have developed here at South are with the professors whose office hours I frequented. Also, go to lectures and cultural events on campus!! These events can only serve to benefit you, and who knows, you may hear something while you’re there that leads you to discover a new interest."
Campbell, I know I will miss seeing you at the Bethel. Thank you so much for sharing
your advice and time with us. We wish the best for you during your time after South.
Ieshia Smith (Business)
Ieshia is a Business Marketing major who was allured to South because of the proximity to her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi and the Honors Program.
After graduation, Ieshia hopes to take a break from school and do ministry work, while maintaining her status as a distributor of ItWorks .
Ieshia has been a member of FYC, Pinky Promise group, The Gathering campus ministry, AASA choir, and Women of Excellence. She was a SouthGuide for 3 years. She is also a member of ABK honor society. The most important thing she gained from these organizations was the importance of building friendships.
Her favorite memories from the Honors Program were the Relay for Life with Zac Foxx, and the Not So Beauty pageant where Dylan Shofner competed.
The hardest part of school for Ieshia was changing majors and trying to get into all of the correct classes to make everything work out. Her advice to other students would be to stay on top of your health: mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. She suggests making time for self care by eating well and exercising as well as finding time for prayer. She also wants to remind everyone that while time management may not seem important until your senior year, mastering it now will keep you from running into issues in the future.
Good luck with you post graduation pursuits, Ieshia, and thank you for sharing your experience at South with us.