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Knocking It Out of the Park

Honors Program marks 15 years on campus.

From its rather humble beginning in 2002, Angelo State University’s Honors Program has blossomed into one of the campus’ power-hitter programs and a major recruiting lure for some of ASU’s top students.

The Honors Program was initially formed during an ad-hoc committee meeting of ASU administrators and select faculty. The first part-time director was Dr. Nick Flynn, then an associate professor of biochemistry, and there were only a handful of students in the first cohort, resulting in a first graduating class of five students in 2006. Director of ASU's Honors Program, Dr. Shirley EoffEarly membership in the program leaned heavily toward students majoring in the sciences.

This fall, there are more than 160 students in the Honors Program, which is also expecting its largest graduating class of about 35 students in spring 2018. History professor Dr. Shirley Eoff took over as part-time director in 2009 and then full-time director in 2012. 

“Today, it’s much more diverse,” Eoff said. “We have significant numbers from nursing and psychology, though there are not as many from the traditional English, history and political science fields. There have always been a few from those areas, but that is something I’d still like to see built some more.”

“The largest number of students major in the biology, chemistry and physics fields,” she added. “We are also getting a significant number of computer science and math students who are technically ‘science’ students. There is no real strategy to that, we just take the best applicants we get. We are allotted 40 scholarships, so we just try to choose the best 40 applicants.”

Eoff’s arrival as director also coincided with perhaps the most pivotal event in the Honors Program’s history. In October 2008, ASU alum Alvin New (Class of 1984) and his family donated $250,000 to create the Alvin New Family Honors Program Enhancement Fund.

“It has been absolutely transformative for the Honors Program,” Eoff said. “We could not do many of our special activities without it because of certain restrictions on different types of state funding. The New Fund has allowed us to gain national and even international recognition for our program. Without it, our students would not be in a position to compete for national fellowships and scholarships or other prestigious programs that require travel.”

One of the early beneficiaries of the New Family Fund was Sean Motl of Wall. Because the money was available, he was able to take a summer internship with the Global Youth Connect human rights delegation to Rwanda in 2012. Research he conducted in the genocide-ravaged African nation led directly to his being selected as a 2013 Truman Scholar by the Harry S. Truman Foundation, which included a $30,000 scholarship, and gaining acceptance to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

“These types of experiences are something typical ASU students couldn’t afford on their own,” Eoff said. “Yet because of the New Family funding, they are able to take advantage of these life-altering experiences. Then they go out and become the best ambassadors for ASU because they realize how fortunate they are to have been given those opportunities.”

The New Family Fund has also allowed Eoff to spread the wealth and provide prestigious opportunities for students majoring in all academic disciplines. This past summer alone, the fund helped send a history major to study in the Netherlands, nursing students to Argentina and the Philippines, a theatre major to an internship at the Powerhouse Theatre in New York, a kinesiology major to a rehabilitation engineering experience in Pittsburgh, and a criminal justice major to Russia for language training, among others.

“That, in turn, is something that has encouraged the breadth and diversity of students in our program,” Eoff said. “Initially, it may have appeared that the best opportunities were only available for the students in the sciences. But once we got the New Family funding, we were able to highlight the excellent students across the entire span of our program and of the university.”

“The New Family,” she added, “has not only been generous, but also supportive of us in every way.”

Some other perks for Honors Program students include the Honors Lounge on the third floor of the Porter Henderson Library and the Honors Housing block in the Texan Hall residence hall.

“The housing and the lounge really help build a sense of community,” Eoff said. “The lounge in particular gives the students an opportunity to de-stress. It’s also a really good study space, and we have a lot of small study groups going on all the time. Plus, what the students really like is the access to computers and free printing.”

“But for me,” she added, “the biggest benefit of having the Honors Lounge is that is where the students gather and have discussions from all these different perspectives. We have students from all across the academic spectrum, and their discussions have a depth and practicality that may not exist within single-discipline groups.”

But all these perks and special programs don’t come without a price. Honors Program students must maintain the academic excellence, leadership development and community service activities that helped them gain admission to the program in the first place.

In light of that, it should come as no surprise that nine of the last 11 ASU Presidential Award winners as the top graduates in their class came through the Honors Program, including each one from 2011-17. Honors students also enhance ASU’s academic status and can help motivate other students across the campus.

What’s unique about the Honors Program is that we highlight the university as a whole, not a specific department or discipline.

Dr. Shirley Eoff

“What’s unique about the Honors Program is that we highlight the university as a whole,” Eoff said, “not a specific department or discipline. ASU has always had a good reputation in specific disciplines, but when we take students from virtually every department to a national conference, it shows the excellence across the entire university. I think highlighting that overall academic excellence really impacts the university’s reputation.”

“Plus, students in the Honors Program get training that focuses on critical thinking, inter-disciplinary research and making connections,” she added. “They then impact their other classrooms by bringing that kind of thinking to the table.”

Eoff has been at ASU since 1981, has won several awards for her work with the Honors Program, and could retire with a true sense of pride in her ASU career. But every new class of Honors Program students just keeps drawing her back in.

“We are fortunate to have very strong administrative support,” Eoff said. “We’re also extremely fortunate to have a donor like Alvin New who truly believes in the program. And we’re fortunate that really good students continue to see the Honors Program as a place where they can grow, develop and get the most out of their college experience.”

“I’m the luckiest person on campus,” she added. “I have the best job because I get to work with these amazing students from every discipline. These students inspire me, and I get to live vicariously through them and their accomplishments. I loved teaching history, but this has been such an amazing experience.”

“I know the students who take full advantage of the Honors Program will always remember their time at ASU.”

Home Run Hitters     

Recent Honors Program Graduates

ASU Honor Student, Christian Garcia

Christian Garcia

San Angelo, B.B.A. in Accounting/Finance (2017)

  • 2017 ASU Presidential Award
  • 2017 Dennis Boe Award, Great Plains Honors Council (GPHC) Conference, Beaumont
  • 2017 Venture for America (VFA) Fellowship
  • 2016 Presidential Fellowship, Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, Washington, D.C.*
  • 2016 Internship at Goldman Sachs, Dallas
  • 2016 Goldman Sachs Scholarship for Excellence
  • 2016 National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) Conference, Seattle

Where is he now?

Christian is completing his two-year VFA Fellowship at Nuovo Real Estate in Denver, Colo.

“If I didn’t have the Honors Program, I probably wouldn’t have any of this. I definitely credit the program for a lot of my success. The curriculum taught in the program helps you approach problems in a different way. You also learn to broaden your mind and to have a different perspective on the way the world and society works.” – Christian Garcia

ASU Honor Student, Maigan Dunlap

Maigan Dunlap

San Angelo, B.S. in Geoscience (2017)

  • 2017 GPHC Conference, Beaumont
  • 2016 Lehigh University Geology Field Camp, Rocky Mountains*
  • 2016 NCHC Conference, Seattle
  • 2016 GPHC Conference, Siloam Springs, Ark.
  • 2015 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference*
  • 2015 NCHC Partners in the Parks Program, Great Smoky Mountain National Park*

Where is she now?

Maigan has been awarded a two-year internship as an environmental science officer at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. Following her internship, she plans to enter a Ph.D. program in geology. 

“The Honors Program really takes you above and beyond what you expect from your college experience. You’re exposed to different trains of thought and get to meet amazing students and faculty from all over the U.S. and the world. And my favorite place on campus was definitely the Honors Lounge.” – Maigan Dunlap

ASU Honor Student, Katie Macleay

Katelyn MacLeay

San Antonio, B.S. in Biology (2016)

  • 2016 ASU Presidential Award
  • 2015 GPHC Conference, South Padre Island
  • 2015 CoSIDA Academic All-American
  • 2015 AVCA All-American, Volleyball
  • 2014-15 Lone Star Conference Academic Player of the Year

Where is she now?

Katelyn was the first ASU student granted early acceptance through the Honors Program Early Acceptance Agreement with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine. She completed her first year with honors, and is planning a career in women’s health.

“Dr. Shirley Eoff, the Honors Program director, really opened doors along the way. She accommodated my athletic schedule and made sure I could be academically successful and participate in the Honors Program. Dr. Eoff was a huge part of helping me get into the program at Tech, and I could not be more thankful.” – Katelyn MacLeay

ASU Honor Student, Emily Perez

Emily Perez

Hutto, B.S.N. in Nursing (2016)

  • 2016 GPHC Conference, Siloam Springs, Ark.
  • 2015-16 NCHC Amazon Winterim in Peru*
  • 2015 GPHC Conference, South Padre Island
  • 2014 Cross Cultural Solutions Summer Program, Guatemala*
  • 2014 NCHC Conference, Denver

Where is she now?

Emily was the only graduate nurse accepted into the Seton Nursing Residency Program at Breckenridge Hospital (now Dell Medical Center). She is a registered nurse (RN) on the Cardiac and Oncology Ward.

“Because I came to ASU and joined the Honors Program, I’m set up to do so much more than I thought I ever could. I got to go on trips and see the world, and that really opened my eyes to what is out there. I had so many more opportunities, and I could tell that ASU really wanted me to succeed.” – Emily Perez

ASU Honor Student, Chelbee Farnen

Chelbee Farnen

Marble Falls, B.S. in Biology (2016)

  • 2016 GPHC Conference, Siloam Springs, Ark.
  • 2015 NCHC Conference, Chicago
  • 2015 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference*
  • 2015 Revolutions in Biomedicine Summer School, Imperial College, London*

Where is she now?

Chelbee is enrolled in the Ph.D. in Integrated Biomedical Sciences program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, focusing on molecular biology.

“Getting into the Honors Program has been life-changing for me. Without being an Honors Program student, I would never have been able to have many of my great experiences at ASU.” – Chelbee Farnen

ASU Honor Student, Jennifer deBie

Jenni deBie

Texarkana, B.A. in English (2015)

  • 2015 GPHC Conference, South Padre Island
  • 2014 New York University Writers in Florence Program, Villa La Pietra, Italy*
  • 2014 NCHC Conference, Denver
  • 2014 GPHC Conference, Fort Smith, Ark.
  • 2013 NCHC Conference, New Orleans
  • 2013 NCHC Partners in the Parks Program, Great Basin National Park*

Where is she now?

Jenni completed her M.A. in creative writing at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, and is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. in English program at UCC.

“The amazing number of opportunities that I and my friends had through the Honors Program, that utterly floored me. I have a friend who was a Truman Scholar. I went to Florence. Another friend went to Washington, D.C., to study in the U.S. Senate. It’s amazing the opportunities that are available.” – Jenni DeBie

ASU Honor Student, Aimee Denham

Aimee Denham

Bandera, B.S. in Biology (2015)

  • 2015 ASU Presidential Award
  • 2015 GPHC Conference, South Padre Island
  • 2014 Air Force Academy Assembly*
  • 2014 NCHC Conference, Denver
  • 2014 GPHC Conference, Fort Smith, Ark.
  • 2013 NCHC Conference, New Orleans
  • 2013 GPHC Conference, Canyon
  • 2012 NCHC Partners in the Parks Program, Sequoia National Park*
  • 2012 NCHC Conference, Boston

Where is she now?

Aimee is attending medical school at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center through the Joint Admissions Medical Program (JAMP). She also received the U.S. Army Health Professions Scholarship to fund her medical training.

“The Honors Program really drew me to ASU. It’s just an amazing program that encourages students to go above and beyond in their college experience and really get involved on campus and in the community. Almost all my friends were in the Honors Program, and we grew to be a close family. I really loved going to all the conferences with our Honors Program group. We got to travel across the U.S. and go to some amazing cities.” – Aimee Denham

ASU Honor Student, Duncan Knox

Duncan Knox

Ozona, B.A. in History (2015)

  • 2015 ASU Distinguished Student Award
  • 2015 GPHC Conference, South Padre Island
  • 2014 Presidential Fellowship, Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress*
  • 2014 Internship, Office of the Curator, U.S. Supreme Court*
  • 2014 Air Force Academy Assembly*
  • 2014 NCHC Conference, Denver
  • 2014 GPHC Conference, Fort Smith, Ark.
  • 2013 Fulbright Summer Institute for Young American Student Leaders, Bristol University, England*
  • 2013 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference*
  • 2013 GPHC Conference, Canyon
  • 2012 NCHC Partners in the Parks Program, Fire Island to Ellis Island*

Where is he now?

Duncan is working toward his M.A. in history at Texas Tech University. He was the only master’s candidate to receive the prestigious Lord Baltimore Research Fellowship from the Maryland Historical Society.

“The Honors Program is what really helped me get involved on campus and gave me the opportunity to interact with people outside my academic major. The student leaders of many campus organizations are in the Honors Program, and that helped me get linked in. Most of my travel has also been through the Honors Program, and I was able to be competitive for scholarships and fellowships on a national level.” – Duncan Knox

ASU Honor Student, Holly Miles

Holly Miles

Tehachapi, Calif., B.A. in Spanish and B.S. in Sociology (2015)

  • 2015 GPHC Conference, South Padre Island
  • 2014 Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship
  • 2014 Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference*
  • 2014 NCHC Conference, Denver
  • 2014 GPHC Conference, Fort Smith, Ark.
  • 2013 NCHC Partners in the Parks Program, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument*
  • 2013 NCHC Conference, New Orleans
  • 2013 GPHC Conference, Canyon

Where is she now?

Holly recently completed her Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship and now serves as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department.

“The Honors Program was the No. 1 reason I chose ASU. There are just so many opportunities available when you are in the Honors Program. The internships, the conferences and all the extra trips you have the opportunity to go on are things that the Honors Program offers, and I’ve taken advantage of a lot of them. They definitely fulfilled everything they promised when I signed up.” – Holly Miles

ASU Honor Student, Sean Motl

Sean Motl

Wall, B.S. in Psychology (2014)

  • 2014 ASU Presidential Award
  • 2014 Dennis Boe Award, GPHC Conference, Fort Smith, Ark.
  • 2013 Truman Scholar, Harry S. Truman Foundation
  • 2013 NCHC Conference, New Orleans
  • 2013 GPHC Conference, Canyon
  • 2012 Internship, Global Youth Connect, Rwanda, Africa*

Where is he now?

Sean has completed his fourth year at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and is entering the Family Practice Residency Program. He eventually hopes to work for Doctors Without Borders or a similar organization.

“I really enjoy the idea of partnership and cultural exchange. I hope to be living in a different country and having a partnership with its people, teaching them about health and human rights, and at the same time learning from them and learning about their culture. The Honors Program opened my eyes to that type of opportunity.”– Sean Motl

ASU Honor Student, Binhong Lin

Binhong Lin

Foshan, China, B.S. in Biochemistry (2014)

  • 2013 Internship, Harvard University Medical School*
  • 2012 NCHC Conference, Boston
  • 2012 GPHC Conference, Overland Park, Kan.

Where is he now?

Binhong is working toward his Ph.D. in chemistry at Stanford University.

“There are so many opportunities available in the Honors Program. I got to go to Boston to do research at Harvard, and that was a great experience. The Honors Program also does a lot of social events and community service, so you get to meet a lot of people. I got to present my research at several conferences, so I got to go to Philadelphia, Boston and Kansas City. There are just so many things you can take advantage of through the Honors Program.”

ASU Honor Student, Maxwell Kennady

Maxwell Kennady

Lenorah, B.B.A. in M.I.S./International Business (2014)

  • 2014 ASU Distinguished Student Award
  • 2014 Eben Tisdale Public Policy Fellowship, Fund for American Studies
  • 2014 Institute on Business and Government Affairs, Washington, D.C.*
  • 2014 GPHC Conference, Fort Smith, Ark.
  • 2013-14 Pearson Student Advisory Board
  • 2012 Internship, Institute for Philanthropy and Volunteer Services, Washington, D.C.*
  • 2012 Internship, North American Association for Environmental Education, Washington, D.C.*

Where is he now?

Max recently returned from two years with the Peace Corps and Malian Association for Food Security in Mali, Africa. He is currently conducting economic development activities for the City of Eden while applying for Master of Public Administration programs to prepare for work in nonprofit technology usage and management.

“When I was a mentor in the Honors Program for the freshmen, I would tell them about all the stuff they can do through the Honors Program. There are more available programs than ever before, and they are not just for students going to Ivy League schools or other large universities. The ASU Honors Program can also be a great path to being successful.” – Max Kennady

ASU Honor Student, Cassady Hossenlopp

Cassady Hossenlopp

Belton, B.S. in Biology (2013)

  • 2013 Dennis Boe Award, GPHC Conference, Canyon
  • 2012 NCHC Conference, Boston
  • 2012 GPHC Conference, Overland Park, Kan.
  • 2011 Internship, Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangkok, Thailand*

Where is she now?

Cassady has completed her fourth year at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center – El Paso, where she is entering the Pediatrics Residency Program.

“The Honors Program is one of the main reasons I came to ASU, and I learned so much from it. I would never have been able to do my Thailand internship without the Honors Program. The Honors classes really prepared me, and I got to go to various conferences. I also met some of my best friends through the Honors Program. I really love the Honors Program.” – Cassady Hossenlopp

ASU Honor Student, Blake McCracken

Blake McCracken

San Angelo, B.S. in Physics (2013)

  • 2013 ASU Presidential Award
  • 2013 GPHC Conference, Canyon
  • 2012 Rice University Research Experience for Undergraduates*
  • 2012 Internship, Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake Naval Base, Calif.*
  • 2011 GPHC Conference, Arlington
  • 2011 Internship, Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake Naval Base*

Where is he now?

Blake earned his M.S. in physics at the Naval Postgraduate School and is now working as a civilian at the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center in California conducting research into shock and detonation physics.

“I’ve always been interested in weapons development and defense programs, so I Googled ‘China Lake Internships’ and one link came up, so I applied for it and got in. Dr. Eoff really helped me with both my internship applications. She does an outstanding job helping Honors Program students take advantage of these types of opportunities.” – Blake McCracken

  *Directly funded through the Alvin New Family Honors Program Enhancement Fund, which was created in 2008 through an initial $250,000 gift from ASU alum Alvin New and his family.