What are the people in the Honors Program like?
If you’re wondering what kind of people you can expect to
meet in the program, here’s a glimpse of a few of our students, faculty, and
“My (secret) dream job is to have my own television talk show, but we’ll
see how that pans out!”
Meghan Almaas, senior Public Relations major (with a minor
in business), is originally from Canada but graduated from high school in
She has been heavily
involved in the Honors Program. She was an Honors GURUS mentor and an Honors Ambassador for one year. She has also been an HON 100 Peer Facilitator .
During her time at the
university, Meghan has completed two internships—one with the Flagstaff
Convention and Visitors Bureau and the other with Phoenix Sky Harbor
While at the Flagstaff CVB, Meghan learned about
her local community and how travel and tourism is essential to the Flagstaff
Her internship at Phoenix Sky Harbor, where she produced copy for the
website and completed various projects, also provided valuable experience.
Meghan is interested in
film, music, and culture. She has tried to take at least one film class a year
since she entered the university. Meghan has been playing the piano since the
age of seven and continues to enjoy this hobby.
She also has a huge
interest in visiting museums and exhibits, though she says she doesn’t get to
do this as often as she would like.
future goal is to find a job in public relations. In the long term, she would
like to work in the sports, entertainment, or travel and tourism industry.
says, “My (secret) dream job is to have my own television talk show, but we’ll
see how that pans out!”
Learning to serve others
Rachel Gardner, senior
Biology major from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, began to get involved on campus as soon
as she arrived in Flagstaff.
During her freshman
year, Rachel joined Cowden Residence Hall’s Hall Council.
She was also involved
with the Habitat for Humanity chapter during her freshman year, an experience
she says opened her eyes to a world of need in her surrounding community, and
which inspired her interest in service.
commitment on campus is with Golden Key International Honor Society— she joined
her sophomore year and currently serves as chapter president.
Rachel is also an
active member of Tri Beta Honor Society within the Biology Department, which
gives her the opportunity to work with faculty and students in her field of
Rachel says her two-year
experience as a Resident Assistant has been one of the most meaningful times of
her life. In addition to being a Resident Assistant, Rachel has held several
part-time jobs during her tenure here.
She was an Honors Ambassador as well as a Media Assistant for Enrollment
Management and Student Affairs.
Rachel has volunteered
consistently at Flagstaff Family Food Center. She also had various volunteer
experiences with the Emergency Department at Flagstaff Medical Center and
on-campus events through clubs, organizations, and residence halls.
summers in Texas, she volunteered at Central Texas Medical Center and a
rehabilitation center.Though science is a huge
interest for Rachel, she thoroughly enjoys many other things. Catching up with
friends, trying new baking recipes, and exploring the outdoors when the weather
is nice are just a few fun activities for her.
Lecturer, River Guide, Writer, Hiker, Painter, Baker
Robyn S. Martin, a
fourth-generation Flagstaff native, passionately shares her knowledge of the
Grand Canyon and its surrounding regions with others.
Robyn loves to teach in
Honors; her specialties include argument, Southwestern and environmental
issues, and American studies.
Robyn has taught several outdoor,
environmentally-themed classes at the university, including one course on the
San Juan River, another on the Verde River, and a Colorado Plateau restoration
She hopes to continue to bring the Canyon and Colorado Plateau closer
to her students through meaningful, hands-on academic experiences.
Her university roots run
deep: her grandmother earned her teaching certificate from NAU (then the
Arizona Normal School) in 1922; her parents earned their education degrees from
NAU (then Arizona State College) in the 1950s.
Robyn earned both her BA in
English—where she also minored in History—and her MA in English (Rhetoric and
Professional Writing) from NAU.
Robyn’s research and
publications include ecological oral histories; some of that work was included
in the recent text What Has Passed and What Remains, published by
the University of Arizona Press.
She was also featured in Writers on the Range,
a series included in High Country News.
A life member of the
Grand Canyon River Guides Association, she’s lived and worked in and around the
Grand Canyon, where she ran the Colorado River for the first time at age 12,
and has been hiking and exploring all over the Coconino and Colorado Plateaus
since she was a child.
When she’s not hiking a
trail on the Peaks or stretching in a bikram yoga studio, Robyn can most likely
be found running a river somewhere on the Colorado Plateau, honing her skills
as an amateur watercolorist, or teaching herself how to bake the perfect loaf
of rye bread.
NAU artist in residence program teaches students
sense of place
Bruce Aiken, internationally acclaimed painter and 2012-2013 Honors Faculty in Residence.
Renowned painter Bruce Aiken is
involved at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in an exciting new way: the
Honors Department artist-in-residence, an innovative role designed to encourage
creativity in connection with the landscape of the Colorado Plateau.
By working with both art students
and honors students alike, he hopes to emphasize the importance of developing a
sense of place and how thinking outside the box in this dynamic landscape can
create opportunities for academic achievement in many fields.
“This landscape has so much to offer students
and I see my role at NAU as an opportunity to help students get in touch with
this place and use it is as a resource no matter what field they are interested
in,” Aiken said. “This unique landscape can provide for a lifetime of
accomplishments and you don’t have to go far from Flagstaff to see it.”
Aiken, who has been an iconic Grand Canyon landscape painter for over 40
years, is a perfect example of the success such a landscape can give to those
who seek it out.
In addition to being a presence on
campus, he is working to develop unique programs he hopes can become an
integral part of what sets NAU apart from other universities. One program was a
recent three-day drawing workshop, hosted by the Honors Program, where both
honors and art students went to the South Rim and Lees Ferry.
Aiken showed students how variable
this landscape can be and gave them a sense of what this place has to offer for
painting and drawing.
Another program Aiken worked with this past fall is the Grand Canyon Semester, a program with a long history at
NAU and a long history for Bruce, who has been involved as a guest lecturer
since its inception.
One student, Madeline McKain, a
senior photography major from Pittsburgh, Penn., who is both in Grand Canyon
Semester and was a participant in the workshop, was excited about the
opportunity to work closely with Aiken.
“Bruce is outside the academic
world, which is so important because he has a different perspective to
contribute. He can lead to exciting connections in this area that I would have
never had known about if he hadn’t introduced me to these ideas. Plus, he is really willing to help make these
connections and help students succeed and that is a really great support system
to have,” McKain said.
This current spring term, Aiken will be
even more involved in the art department by teaching a master painting class. Aiken is also planning another art
workshop through the Honors Program during spring break.
In addition to working with
students on campus, Aiken is also reaching out to the wider community of
Flagstaff as a part of his residency. He recently gave a talk as a part of the Cline Library lecture series called The Lens and Brush: the Impact of the Camera
on Modern Painters.
The talk covered the historic
aspects of the camera, how the camera affects artists working today and the
effect of the camera on Aiken’s own work.
Ultimately, Aiken sees his
residency as a step towards taking the NAU art department and programs to the
“Flagstaff is the ground zero for
everything Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau.
Innovative science and research monitoring is happening here, Grand
Canyon photographers live here, conservation initiatives start here. I want to connect NAU students to what is
available in terms of careers, creative energy and muses in this incredible
landscape. There is no reason NAU
shouldn’t be one of the premier landscape painting art colleges in the United
|Bruce Aiken's faculty in residence position is partially funded by a gift from Arizona Public Service|| |
Looking back to help others move forward
George (Wolf) Gumerman,
PhD, a professor of anthropology and the director of the Northern Arizona
University Honors Program, took the role of principal investigator of the
Footprints of the Ancestors project four years ago.
His goal was to help
connect Hopi youth to the traditions, language, and culture of their tribe, in
order to help preserve the customs and allow the tribe to thrive. What he
didn't fully realize was that the project might also rescue many of the
teenagers from the difficult circumstances they face in everyday life.
The Footprints project
brings together Hopi high-school students and elders, cultural specialists,
archaeologists, and anthropologists for trips to places of cultural
significance, usually archaeological sites in the American Southwest, including
Homolovi State Park, Navajo Nation Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Chaco
Canyon National Park, and the San Juan River.
While there, the youth
interact with the elders to trace the footprints of their ancestors, focusing
on themes such as health, food, community, language, and sustainability. They
volunteer to harvest crops, maintain orchards, restore gardens, or plan races
in honor of the running tradition of the Hopi.
The students document
their experiences along the way, working with Gumerman and others at NAU to
produce DVDs, websites, and museum exhibits that communicate their own
perspective on what they've discovered during their experience. Through the
collaborative learning, Gumerman often finds that the youth have life-changing
"To see what some
of these kids go through and how they survive in the face of problems like
alcoholism, you realize that it's a hard life that they deal with," he
says. "The purpose is to get youth connected with their past and build
relationships, but our secondary goals are to get them to stay in school and
help them apply to college."
And Gumerman knows those
goals are being realized. After a trip to Mesa Verde, he waited with one girl
for her mother to pick her up. When she finally arrived—after being delayed
with a flat tire—Gumerman took the opportunity to tell her what a wonderful
addition her daughter was to the program. The mother broke into tears,
confessing that prior to joining the Footprints project, the girl was ready to
run away from home.
"She told me what a
difference it has made in her daughter's life," he says. "I could see
that getting the youth out with the elders starts to give them a sense of
“NAU is great about employing undergraduates to assist
Isaac Bickford, a 2010
Honors Program graduate and Forestry major, chose our Forestry Program over
those offered at other universities because of our strong emphasis on ecology
and restoration rather than timber production.
Isaac knew he’d made the
right choice when Dr. Pete Fule, Associate Professor of Forestry and Managing
Director of the Ecological Research Institute, invited him to travel to
Northern Mexico to assist two graduate students in data collection.
While in Mexico, Dr.
Fule suggested that Isaac also collect data for a research project that would
be his own; they discussed several ideas, and together developed and refined
the scientific question they wanted to address, and how they would go about
“I was surprised at the amount of independence I was allowed in
this project,” he says.
“At the beginning of my
research project, I wanted to double check everything with my mentors, but
towards the end, I was more comfortable presenting my own ideas.
About half way
through, I realized that no one knew more about my project than I did, and that
I was the person who needed to start making the decisions. This realization
helped give me confidence.”
The goal of Isaac’s
project was to determine if two pine species in Northern Mexico differed in their
sensitivity to drought, and to see if this drought sensitivity varied across
the range of elevations in which they grow.
The results of this research can be
used to better understand how these species of pine trees will respond to
droughts predicted by climate change models.
Isaac has learned a lot
about science in general from studying the very specific questions addressed by
his research project. Isaac’s advice to incoming freshmen: talk with their
professors and express their interests.
“Most of these professors are involved
in research of their own,” he says, “or they have colleagues working on just
about anything that might interest someone... NAU is great about employing
undergraduates to assist professors.”