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The Honors College

Guthrie House

1200 Ivinson St.

Laramie, WY 82070

Phone: 307-766-4110

Fax: 307-766-4298


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Honors in the News

Amy Nicole Olson

man standing outside

Old Shipping Pens
By Amy Olsen
The old shipping pen stands
Drifted in with snow
Sun beating down
Wood dark brown
Some black Railroad ties hold the smaller posts
They’ve weathered many storms
Pounding rain, beating hail
Black bodies slammed into the wood at one point
Rough horseback gentleman used to open the gates
Sort apart the wanted from the leaving
Loaded the trailers
There weren’t aspens in the pen then
Their white bark a contrast to the dead ties
The white snow offers silence, solace
A contrast to the old days
The bawling pairs, whistling men, barking dogs
That, undoubtedly made a living in the pen
And made a life on the land
The snow kills the life
The pen remembers the flesh and the emptiness.

Amy's poem can be found here:

Catherine O'Connor


This April I attended the tenth annual Women in the World Summit in New York. This was a phenomenal experience. I was able to hear many women from all over the world speak on a variety of relevant issues. Everyone from Oprah and Hillary Clinton to CEOs of companies, entrepreneurs and frontline journalists shared stories and experiences that inspired me. This summit opened my eyes to the struggle that occurs throughout the world. I heard from women who have been exiled from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Women from China and Uganda who were putting their own lives and the lives of their families in danger by speaking out. I was challenged by every woman there to be bigger than myself and take every opportunity to change the world. The question of the summit was “Can Women Change the World?” The critical thing that I took away from this experience was that, yes, women can change the world and we are.

Rosemary Hopson


I am researching neighborhood effects on frugivory rates on a native Hawaiian plant species, Dianella sandwicensis. Oahu has no extant native frugivorous birds which has affected the seed dispersal of native plant species. Oahu also has a lot of invasive plant species that are competing with native plants. I am looking to see if the frugivory rates of D. sandwicensis is affected by its neighborhood in particular the abundance of nonnative and native fruits, focal plant characteristics, and concealment. I am on Oahu for 6 weeks this summer to collect field data and then will spend the next year analyzing data and writing a paper.


Josephine Tagestad

woman holding a distance listening device

I am working with audio recordings tracking the behavior of red-called manakins, Ceratopipra mentalis. I'm quantifying audio snippets of the various vocalizations made at a lek by the males in an effort to establish a non-invasive method for a) identifying individuals and b) establishing a system for population monitoring. So far, it seems that there is indeed a clear difference between each bird's calls, which is very exciting. I travel to Panamá this January to work with the birds myself, to address whether they can determine individual identity among their own peers and assess the effect that ambient noise has on their vocalizations. This research will provide insight into the effects of climate change in the tropics, as C. mentalis is a sensitive species, as well as address the overall population health, the effects of development on the environment, and create a new method for any reliable bird species to safely assess their population. It's a project at the forefront of bioacoustics that's reassessing some of the assumptions we've made about avian intelligence.

bird with red head

Courtney Kudera

woman with hand on wooden ladder

My name is Courtney Kudera and I am a senior in the honors program. For the fall semester I am abroad in India! Life here is entirely different from life in Laramie, and weather is only the beginning. Festivals, temples, color, flowers, and gardens are everywhere in the city. With delicious food and a rich culture, India is as entirely different from life in the U. S.  Study abroad is one of the best ways to learn everyday, inside and outside the classroom! 

Kristina Zaharas

woman standing outside

For the past year I have been conducting research in Dr. Jonathan Prather's laboratory, where we studied the circuits in the bird brain that are important to decision-making. Because technology present today lacks the ability to explore the human brain with sufficient resolution to understand the circuit and the cellular mechanisms that underlie the process, we rely on songbirds to act as a search image. Because the avian brain is so similar to that of a human brain, we can use our findings to better understand human decision-making as well.

Charles Johnson

man in nutcracker costume

My name is Charles Johnson and I am a senior in the Honors Program. This last fall I was in the University's production The Nutcracker as the Nutcracker Prince. I also worked on some of the costumes for the show at the University's costume shop. With many hours of rehearsal and sewing this was an experience I will never forget. Through the last three years the professors of the Honors college have taught me nothing is impossible and anything is achievable. Without their support I definitely wouldn't be the student and person I am today.

Tyler Julian


My name is Tyler Truman Julian, a recent graduate of the University of Wyoming's Honors Program, and while I was born and raised in Wyoming and my heart is still there, I currently find myself on the northern edge of the Chihuahua Desert in an MFA program at New Mexico State University. About a year and a half ago, before getting into this graduate program, I did not quite know where life would take me, and as I struggled with that question, I began to revise and edit my senior Honors project, a short collection of poetry about memory and loss and home that I had initially put together with Dr. Erin Abraham's guidance. Over the course of several intense months of revision, that piece turned into the book, Wyoming: The Next Question to Ask (to Answer), which is now on sale from Finishing Line Press. Without the support of the Honors Program (and many others), this book would never have come to be. The book is available for purchase online at

Katelyn Moorman

woman standing by brick wall

Katelyn’s piece is included in the Scribendi 33rd Edition. What a great achievement!

This is what Katelyn had to say about her article:

I wrote Pokémon NO! for CW 1040 and then decided to submit it to Scribendi. The piece is about the time my younger brother and I tried to scam the game Pokémon GO! by taping our phones to the ceiling fan so the game would think we were walking. It was poorly thought out, and we ended up breaking the TV. I chose to make it a humorous piece simply because my life is full of chaotic hilarity like this, which ultimately leaves me with two options: laugh or stress. I choose to laugh.

Aisha Balogun

woman standing with robot

Nao is a programmable autonomous (can act independently) humanoid (it takes the shape of a human) robot developed by a French company, Aldebaran Robotics. I have worked with Nao since my Freshman year. I develop interactive modules that I demo for students visiting the ECE department.

I also did some research that explored its implementation in regards to pediatric care. I did a demo of the module at the Wyoming Medical Society Annual Meeting in January last year. The main concept behind the project is that it would serve to inform and comfort pediatric patients while they wait to see a doctor/nurse. Based on the age of the patient, it could sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, play a game of riddles, or tell knock knock jokes.

Jasper Hunt

man in a lab

Jasper Hunt, a University of Wyoming student who grew up in Laramie, has been accepted into a neuroscience doctoral program at the University of Oxford in Oxfordshire, England. He is a senior majoring in psychology and philosophy, with minors in neuroscience and Honors.

Oxford University is consistently ranked as among the world's top 10 universities worldwide.

Hunt’s family moved from Michigan to Indiana to New Hampshire for his father’s work as an urban planner before settling in Laramie, where the younger Hunt attended Laramie Junior High School and Laramie High School.

After initial interest in philosophy when he enrolled at UW, Hunt became curious about the underlying mechanisms that give rise to personality and was drawn to psychology. He worked with Department of Psychology Associate Professor Robin Barry to study how writing style relates to personality. To gain an even deeper understanding of the actual processes behind brain functions and to satisfy his fascination with the mind, Hunt later turned to neurophysiology and, along the way, he worked with Associate Professor Kara Pratt in the Department of Zoology and Physiology.

Both UW professors have been instrumental in shaping his research interests, he says.

Last spring, Hunt spent a semester abroad at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and was able to take courses in brain plasticity and a computational modeling course on the neuroscience of decision making. He spent last summer reading research papers and learning the essentials in the Pratt Lab at UW for forming his own research questions. The groundwork has paid off.

Hunt was awarded an IDeA Networks for Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Fellowship for fall 2018 and spring 2019 for his proposal, titled “Tectal activity underlying phototactic preferences in the Xenopus laevis tadpole.” Hunt uses electrophysiology to link neural activity to behaviors in tadpoles.

“Whether he is at a conference or studying abroad, Jasper makes sure he networks with other students and faculty,” says Annie Bergman, UW’s INBRE Education Program director. “His ability to ask questions and forge more than superficial connections has served Jasper well.”

After submitting applications for various graduate programs, Hunt was invited to interview and present his INBRE research at the University of Oxford. Soon after that, he was accepted into the prestigious university’s doctoral program on a full-ride scholarship.

Hunt, who will graduate from UW in May, is excited to begin his Oxford experience this summer. His professional goal is to become a professor of neuroscience and to continue future research work.

“I’m incredibly excited to take the next step in my education and I’m so thankful for everyone’s help in getting to where I am now,” Hunt says.

Hunt will present his research at the INBRE Conference Undergraduate’s poster session Friday, April 26, in the Marion H. Rochelle Gateway Center and also at the Undergraduate Research and Inquiry Day Saturday, April 27.

Thomas Fenn

head portrait of a man

Scholarship Spotlight

(This article originally appeared in the winter 2019 AlumNews section of UWyo magazine.)

Thomas Fenn has the brains and character to accomplish his academic and professional goals of becoming a physician one day. Now, with a boost from the UWAA Premier Scholarship, he’s relieved of some of the expenses of those goals.
Fenn is about to complete his studies in physiology, neuroscience and the Honors College, finishing in three and a half years. He’s embarking on applications for various medical school programs, including WWAMI.

He has done all this while working the last three years at the neuroscience lab at UW and a night shift at the emergency room at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. He wrote a scholarly article, currently undergoing peer review. He also has found time to volunteer with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and enjoy what college life at UW is also about: making friends.

Fenn came to UW from Sheridan in part because his parents are alumni. “We were raised that we’d come to school here, and we came to town for games a lot,” he says. Besides that, many of his friends were Laramie-bound.

He looked forward to combining his school time with plenty of outdoor recreation, including hiking, fishing and skiing. “I was a little hesitant about what I’d heard about it being cold and windy,” he says. “But it has worked out.”

Earlier in Fenn’s life, he’d even thought that a ski shop, not a medical degree, could be in his future. But that was more of a fleeting thought than a real Plan B. When he was younger, Fenn had an illness, as did his father. “During this, I saw the positive aspects of medicine,” he says. Since then, volunteering at medical clinics working with underserved populations showed him medicine was what he wanted to pursue.
One issue now is which medical field to enter someday—perhaps neuroscience, or maybe orthopedic surgery. But first he must determine where to go to school, if he should receive numerous acceptances.

“My parents probably want me to be in WWAMI because then I’d stay in Wyoming,” Fenn says. That is a good thing, because that’s what he hopes for, too. “Once I get into medical school, I’ll be locked in for 10 years. Come January, it’ll be time to relax, hang out and wait to see what happens.”

Kenneth Ellis

man standing outside

My project examined the impact of safety behaviors related to traumatic experience on the underlying relationship of behavioral inhibition and Posttraumtic Stress Disorder symtpoms. We found that safety behaviors exacerbated the relation between behavioral inhibition and PTSD arousal symptoms.

I graduated in spring 2018 with bachelor's in psychology, mathematics, and statistics and a minor in the honors program. I have recently accepted an offer from the University of Notre Dame to pursue my PhD in quantitative psychology.

The honors thesis can be found here:, and was published in The Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Contact Us

The Honors College

Guthrie House

1200 Ivinson St.

Laramie, WY 82070

Phone: 307-766-4110

Fax: 307-766-4298


Find us on YouTube (Link opens a new window)

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