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Fall '22 Honors Scholarship Recipients

Meet these outstanding scholars!
Pictured Above: (top row) Emma Wheeler-Volz, Andrew Jenkins, Ashley Chase (middle row) Suzy Yi, Ryan Ridgway, Joshua Stevenson, Emily Takamasa (bottom row) Elijah Davis, Sally Wynn, Emma Kratz, Adam Johnson

We are excited to announce this fall’s Honors scholarship recipients, who have demonstrated impressive Academic Excellence through their service and scholarship. Each year the Honor’s programs awards these scholarships to students who have worked hard and stretched themselves academically. We congratulate them for their achievement and progress in Honors, those who are just beginning their undergraduate journey as well as those who are nearing graduation. Keep reading to learn about them and the scholarship opportunities available in Honors, and submit your application for Winter 2023 by this Friday!

West Family Scholarship

Established by the West family, the West Honors Program Endowed Scholarship is awarded to Honors students who demonstrate their commitment to excellence, are first-generation college students, and are early in their undergraduate career.  The scholarship aims to both provide financial support and a welcome home in Honors at BYU.

Elijah Davis, Freshman majoring in Neuroscience
In the short time I have been able to live and study here at BYU, I have already gained a new sense of appreciation and gratitude for my life leading up to this point, as well as the opportunities to grow and progress in the future. I am a very goal-oriented person and enjoy setting and accomplishing goals. That is partly why I decided to participate in the Honors program. In a community of like-minded peers, I hope to contribute my own perspectives and insights during intellectual inquiry and be shaped by those around me. Through the qualities of discipline, academic excellence, and critical thinking I hope to gain and refine through the Honors program, I believe I will be significantly more equipped to accomplish my long-term goals, including medical school. Being able to graduate with a published thesis through the BYU Honors program, I believe, will also help in my pursuit of this post-secondary educational path. My decision to be involved in the Honors Program and my aspirations to achieve these goals are not in spite of the challenges that accompany them, but rather because of them. Through the exciting yet difficult challenges I will inevitably face as I strive for success in these endeavors, I believe I will have more opportunities to fail and therefore more opportunities to learn and grow.

Ryan Ridgway, Sophomore majoring in Political Science
Since I was about 5 or 6 years old, I have wanted to be a United States Senator. I attended the University of Arizona and during my studies, I decided that I wanted to serve a mission. Having been born with several birth defects, I had to face a few trials before I could leave on my mission. After numerous surgeries and several years of waiting to turn my mission papers in, I was finally able to report to the MTC in October of 2019. Yay! Or so I thought… Only 5 months after my mission began, it ended. COVID 19 ravaged the world and ended the mission I had worked so hard to serve. Devastated but not defeated, I set out to go back to Arizona to finish my degree. As I was down on campus getting things set up, I felt prompted to wait till the next year. Confused but willing to obey a prompting I knew was from the Spirit, I waited until August of 2022 to go back to college. Then, in January of 2022, I felt prompted to go to BYU. This was very difficult for me as I loved the University of Arizona and had a very comfortable and successful set up down there. Nevertheless, I obeyed the prompting and transferred to BYU. Upon arriving here, I discovered the Honors program, and I could not sign up fast enough! The Honors program here at BYU will help me to strengthen my academic abilities and make connections with a wide range of people in my career field. It also exposes me to other possibilities in my life. I look forward to working on my Honors thesis. As I am not sure about which major, I am going to pick, I plan to use the opportunities provided by the Honors program to explore interdisciplinary career possibilities that could help me in my ultimate goal of becoming a United States Senator.

Robert K. Thomas Scholarship

The Robert K. Thomas Scholarship is named after the founder of the BYU Honors Program. Dr. Thomas “felt a special affinity for the aspiring few and truly believed they would set a standard that would raise the level of academic achievement throughout the university.” This scholarship is awarded to Honors students each semester who are currently working on their theses.

Emma Kratz-Bailey, Senior majoring in Civil Engineering
While at BYU, the Honors program has effectively formed the backbone of my learning and thinking. My Great Questions Essay has become one of my favorite undergraduate experiences, encouraging me to ponder the interaction of civil engineering, psychology, and art while answering questions about space. My Honors Thesis, on the development of a cost-effective self-centering system for use in earthquake-prone areas, has made my undergraduate experience that much richer already. As someone who hopes to get higher degrees in the very technical field of structural engineering and the more artistic field of architecture, learning how to bring together seemingly incongruous ideas has allowed me to construct a foundation for learning that I will continue to build upon. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to explore questions and issues that interest me while an undergraduate: both my Great Questions Essay and Honors Thesis have allowed me to develop ideas and theories about the buildings I am so passionate about while still young in my educational journey. Additionally, the encouragement to learn about everything and to give place to passions and curiosities will help me realize my goals of being someone who truly gets to know people and who is a lifelong student. In my future, when I am hopefully helping to design temples, I am sure that I will continue to feel and be grateful for the influence of BYU and the Honors program while I was an undergraduate.

Ashley Chase, Senior in News Media
I have been involved in the Honors program since I first came to BYU as a freshman in 2017 and was grateful to take one of the best undergraduate classes I've ever had before leaving on my mission to Spain. That class, a class taught by Dr. Pool and Dr. Cutchins in a class combining literature and biology to study diseases in both a biological sense and in literature and history, changed how I saw college classes and discussions and created a foundation for a love of learning and the Honors Program. I felt that the flexibility, class discussions, and unexpected connections I made in that class formed the foundation for my love for learning and commitment to the Honors program. I was lucky enough to attend thesis conferences, Friday chocolate chats, a variety of other social events sponsored by the Honors program, and even volunteer as an Honors ambassador, despite some setbacks during the pandemic, and have made both lifelong friends and wonderful faculty connections through my participation in the program. This summer, I travelled to Korea on a study abroad and to collect material for my thesis on celebrities in Korean pop music and how they are exploited by the companies that recruit and contract them, societal expectations of idols, and fan worship of them. After graduating with my journalism degree in December, I hope to work in my field for a few years to gain experience and connections in the political and journalism spheres. I hope to work in production for a news television or radio station and potentially move into political communications. I also want to use my Spanish skills in creating bilingual content and translation in these same fields. I hope, either in the near future or a later future, depending on the course of my career, to return to college to get a Master's or doctorate degree.

Andrew Jenkins, Senior majoring in Cell Biology and Physiology
Being in Honors has led me to pursue paths I never would have thought possible when I was in high school. Learning about all that BYU offers in terms of research and personal development, I was led to rethink my then desired major and academic engagements. Striving to find interesting topics to research and to understand better led me into my current major, Cell Biology and Physiology, where I found my love for life science research. My thesis topic involves discovering genes involved in helping a unique form of bacteria survive and thrive in very high salt environments. Not only does this amazing organism survive in these high salt conditions, when plants are inoculated with it, they also survive better in extremely salty soil. This incredible microbe has the potential to provide immense benefit to millions of people whose acres of agricultural land lay unused due to their high salinity. Without my experience in the Honors program and the mentor’s structure of support it provides, I do not believe I would have been able to have so many exceptional learning experiences. These are the experiences that have shaped my life goals and plans, turning me towards future academic research and the pursuit of discovery.

Adam Johnson, Senior in Political Science
The Honors Program has played a large role from my first semester of college through to now as I work on my Honors thesis. The Honors Program has allowed me to meet passionate, good people, have meaningful opportunities such as the ambassador program, the fellowship program, and HSLC, and has taught me to think deeply about my field of study and the world. I am writing my Honors thesis about how communication strategies used to reach COVID-19 skeptics can be applied to reach climate change skeptics. My research at BYU Law school, my course work, and my personal interest led me to this topic. I believe that by looking at the similarities between industries we can find creative solutions to problems plaguing the world. I don't know exactly where I'm going to end up professionally, but I do know that I intend to improve the world. Upon graduating I hope to work as a management consultant working on maximizing efficiency in the social and public sector. My thesis is giving me important experience learning to creatively solve difficult problems.

Joshua Stevenson, Senior majoring in Linguistics
I’m from Purcellville, Virginia and am the third of seven children. I enjoy reading—especially the Washington Post and political biographies—as well as hiking, biking, and playing piano/organ. The Honors Program has greatly enriched my undergraduate experience, especially its general education component. My favorite “unexpected connections” course was Honors 221. Taught by comparative literature professor Michael Call and biologist Richard Gill, the course focused on relationships between biological evolution and storytelling. We studied why humans evolved a capacity for crafting narratives, while also examining a literary analogue to biological evolution: how certain, archetypal stories (mostly fairytales) have changed over the centuries. I think that my most meaningful takeaway from the class was realizing the ubiquity of story. I had never given much thought to why so much of life, from the micro- to the macroscale, is structured around and organized by stories. The working title of my Honors thesis is “The ‘Missionary Voice’: Bona Fide Sociolect or Figment of the Mormon Linguistic Imagination?” As both a linguistics major and returned missionary, I couldn’t resist examining this phenomenon. After graduating with my B.A. in linguistics and a minor in editing next April, I’ll hopefully complete a nine-month Fulbright fellowship in Moldova. Afterward, I plan to get a master’s degree in public policy and then join—eventually—the Foreign Service. I’m grateful for the rigor of the Honors Program, which has given me the analytical and interdisciplinary tools I’ll need to succeed in graduate school and public service.

Emily Takamasa, Senior majoring in Family Life Studies
I have loved my experience in the Honors program. In my freshman year, Honors courses challenged my thinking and put me in an environment with people who are equally as ambitious as I am. I met so many professors from all areas of study that challenged and helped me reconsider my worldview. My Unexpected Connections courses challenged me to look beyond myself, and my Great Questions Essay pushed me to have conversations that I had previously been too uncomfortable to engage in. The platform the Honors program has provided for me was the steppingstone I needed to see my potential and be motivated enough to reach it. My Honors thesis topic is on BIPOC teenagers and how they achieve ethnic identity, considering multiple factors such as parental roles and racial discrimination, which was a topic I had begun exploring in my Honors classes and in conversations that had spurred from them. I plan to attend graduate school to study human development and hope to continue researching ethnic identity development. I am grateful for the Honors program and the structures it has provided in allowing me to ask questions and produce research that can benefit the lives of others.

Sally Wynn, Senior majoring in Psychology
Honors has really shaped so much of my experience here at BYU. I love talking with people and learning about their stories, and I am convinced that Honors Graduates will change the world. I love being a TA for Honors 110 and seeing all the new faces, as well as working with all the amazing staff in the Honors Advisement Office! I am researching levels of anxiety, depression, and mindfulness in college musicians, seeing if the instrument a person plays is correlated with those levels. I have just closed my survey and am beginning to dive into the stats and hoping for significant results. It was fun to practice my questionnaire on my musician husband and bring in my high school marching band experience to my Psychology research. I hope that once I graduate, I will be able to get a good job while applying for master’s programs in School Counseling. I really want to go back and work with high school students and give them the resources and guidance that I wish I had in high school. As a student advisor, I get to do this with Honors students all the time, and my Honors experience and classes have expanded my worldview to communicate with other people and be open to their perspectives.

Suzy Yi, Senior majoring in Political Science
I am from Colorado Springs, Colorado and am in my senior year studying political science with a minor in philosophy. My favorite part of the Honors Program is seeing the community and camaraderie between students and professors. I loved being on HSLC last year and getting to know more of the Honors community while bringing people together at events. The Honors Program has also helped me narrow down what specific topics I am genuinely interested in and has provided me with the resources I need to truly delve into research. I have received so much guidance and encouragement from Honors faculty and professors, which I greatly appreciate. I am currently conducting my thesis on Asian American political participation and how group identity and Covid-19 changed our political presence and perceptions. While taking Honors 320 last fall, I became fascinated with the intersections between immigration, assimilation, political power, and race relations. In that class, I was able to focus on specific interactions and explore why these topics were deeply important to me. I then wrote my major capstone on Asian American voter turnout in 2016 and 2020 and have been using that paper to help guide the larger research outline for my thesis. After graduating, I plan on attending law school to specialize in immigration or civil rights law. The Honors Program has helped solidify my interest in immigration and civil rights and has helped me learn more about what I can personally do at smaller levels to make significant changes.

Khona Scholarship

The Khona Scholarship was established by the Khona family to benefit Honors students majoring in business-related fields.  It is awarded to Honors students each semester who are business majors and currently working on their Honors theses.

Emma Wheeler Volz, Senior majoring in Media Arts Studies
As an aspiring documentary filmmaker, I love to learn about people and their inspiring stories. Film has enabled me to both express myself creatively and tackle complex issues and ideas in the form of visual storytelling. The Honors program has helped me develop the skills I need to step out of my limited experience and try to see the world in a more nuanced way. My Honors classes have helped shape my approach to addressing life's greatest questions. I strive to reflect that interdisciplinary approach in the films I choose to create. To highlight my undergraduate experience, I chose to make a documentary about a remarkable woman I met while serving as a full-time missionary in Cusco, Peru. I admire Norma deeply and love the people of Cusco. As a school teacher, Norma has dedicated her life to teaching young children and has integrated the native Andean language of Quechua into her curriculum. Her efforts to preserve this unique part of Cusco's culture coincide with her own reflections on her identity as a Cusquenan. The film will touch on both her personal experience with Quechua and provide a glimpse into its role in Cusco's rich history. I am convinced of the power documentary film must give voice to the voiceless and exalt the beauties of everyday living. After graduation, I hope to make filmmaking an integral part of my life. My Honors thesis has helped me gain valuable filmmaking experience and has opened my eyes to a world much fuller and more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

You can find the applications for all of these scholarships here on the Honors website. We are accepting applications for Winter 2023 through this Friday, Nov 4th.