IC Honors: Welcome Back

Dear Honorites,  

Greetings and Happy New Year!  I’m writing to introduce myself and share my excitement as I begin as the Director of the Honors Program. 

I’m thrilled to work with the whole Honors team—students, faculty, staff, administration, and community partners. It’s clear we have a fabulous curriculum, and a creative, dedicated community. I began meeting some of you last semester.  I can tell you’re an amazing bunch, and I can’t wait to know all of you.

In this message, I want to tell you a bit about me, let you know about some exciting developments for Honors in 2017, and ask for your input for this coming year.   

 New Director: I’m coming to Honors as a tenured faculty member in the department of sociology.  My research and teaching are about social change. I work with a national network of organizations committed to building a movement to end poverty, with the regional Food Bank of the Southern Tier, and with grassroots organizations around the world. I also bring experience with service learning, civic engagement, and international programs.

I love working with curious, engaged students and am committed to connecting you with exciting opportunities. My own involvement in inter- and cross-disciplinary projects gives me deep respect for the rigor such efforts require. For example,

  • My food justice research connects me with natural and social scientists, chefs, farmers and business owners working to build sustainable food systems.
  • In the movement to end poverty, I am guided by homeless people, farmworkers, low-wage workers, student activists, and health care advocates who use art, stories, poetry, theater and music to agitate, educate, and organize.
  • I’m inspired by health professionals, earth scientists, citizen scientists, chemists, ecologists, and policy-makers who critically examine fossil fuel extraction to address climate change.

At IC, I’m thrilled to work with students who strive to build a better world, who want to solve puzzles, and overcome barriers. Whatever your major, whatever your talents, I’m excited to get to know you.

More personally, I love Ithaca and upstate New York. I love visiting forests, ponds and waterfalls, on foot, on a bike, or on skis if there’s snow.  I love my family. My parents live nearby, and I have a little nephew in Texas who calls me “Yi.” My husband and I were foster parents last year, and the baby we helped raise is now successfully reunited with her biological parents. We enjoy getting to play with her every week. I also love singing with the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers, a community choir led by IC’s amazing music education professor and maestro, Dr. Baruch Whitehead.  (Come hear us sing sometime!)

Building on what works: I’m really excited to work with the big crew of people who make this program what it is. This includes the Honors Steering Committee and the Student Advisory Board, the staff of our Residential Learning Community, as well as people from every school and every unit in the College.  I’m grateful to Tom Pfaff for his leadership since 2013, especially on implementing the curriculum around academic challenge, global citizenship, cultural engagement, scholarly achievement, and civic engagement. I also want to acknowledge prior directors Bob Sullivan and James Swafford, and founding director Hugh Egan. We’re now an all-college program and we’re known around the country. People are already contacting me to learn about what we do. (And I’m just learning myself!)   

New Administrative Assistant: This month we’re hiring a new Administrative Assistant to work with Honors and the Center for Civic Engagement. After helping orient the new person, Dylan Schoch will return to his role with the H&S Dean’s office. I’m grateful for Dylan’s capable support for Honors. His impeccable organization prepares us well for a smooth transition. 

 New Space: In January, the Honors Program is moving to a new space on the garden level of Peggy Ryan Williams Center.  The Provost invited us to make this move.  The Honors Steering Committee and Student Advisory Board discussed our options, and we’ve decided this is an exciting opportunity, even if it may take some getting used to.  

I’m happy to say this is a solid upgrade. We have a good deal more space than in Muller.  We’ll have a lounge and computer lab with printing, 24-7 key swipe access, sweet new furniture, spaces for collaboration and quiet study, and a shared conference room. We’ll also have coffee, tea, and cocoa, and a big shared kitchen with refrigerator and microwave.  I think you’ll find it comfortable, inviting, and cheerful!


Our office will share a suite with the Center for Civic Engagement, with recently hired director Dr. David Harker. We aim for this shared space to facilitate synergies between Honors and Civic Engagement.  Be on the lookout for an opening event, coming soon!    

This space is yours and we hope you’ll feel right at home! It’s a 5-minute walk from Campus Center. Our door on the garden level of PRW faces Job and the Business School and opens just below the Dillingham fountain. You can also walk indoors from Campus Center via the 2nd floor of Dillingham. 

New thinking, as always: An aspect of Honors that I find energizing is the opportunities for students and faculty to be creative, to innovate, and experiment through Honors.  I’d love to hear your latest thinking. Please click here to share your thoughts with me about the Honors Program. You can say what you love, give suggestions about the program, or volunteer to share your talents.  I’d love to hear about your passions and curiosities, and brainstorm with you about how you can put them at the center of your education here at IC.   

Please also stop by to say hello and introduce yourself.  In addition to the Opening Event at our new space, we’ll be hosting a series of informal conversations.  I have open office hours Tuesdays 2:45-3:45pm, Wednesdays 1-2pm, and Thursdays 11am-12pm. You can book office hours with me here.

Warmest wishes,