As Provost Kurt Wood ‘76 placed a special medallion around the necks of five graduates during the 2016 Commencement ceremonies, the first students to complete the Upper Iowa University Csomay Honors Program were officially recognized for academic excellence. At the same time, the award recipients – Lucas Braun, Jesup, Iowa; Sydney Cyzon, DePere, Wis.; William Kenney, Coon Rapids, Minn.; Bradley Kuboushek, Calmar, Iowa; and Dustin Osier, Greene, Iowa – left the stage ready to provide leadership with each new challenge they face in their respective lives.
“Because of all the work they have completed and all the work to still be accomplished in their lifetime, it was both humbling and an honor to see the first graduates of the Csomay Honors Program walk across the stage to receive their medallions during the 2016 Commencement ceremonies,” Janet Shepherd, UIU associate provost, later commented.
“Their influence on younger students in the program is evidenced by the work ethic each of them displayed both in and out of the classroom,” she added. “Their hard work is mirrored by the upcoming students, as well as the attitude of giving back to the community and University. Picking up trash alongside of the highway is not very glamorous, but it displays a commitment to the greater good.”
While taking pride in playing a part in the development of a new program at the University, the five recent graduates agreed that the Csomay Honors Program provided an added opportunity to be actively involved with all future leaders of UIU.
“Being in the Honors Program not only helped me balance a heavy course load with challenging classes, but it also expanded my networking capabilities through the various events that we’ve attended with faculty and alumni,” said Cyzon, a biology major. “While being involved with various campus activities and reaching my academic goals, I was also able to obtain my ultimate goal by being accepted into Marquette University’s School of Dentistry.”
“Honestly, I initially applied for the Honors program because I thought it would look good on my résumé,” admitted Braun, a psychology major. “However, I stayed in it after making great new friends, who had fun even when we sometimes struggled together. I especially enjoyed the alumni weekends and meeting so many people who continue returning to their alma mater. It is something I know I will look forward to doing in the future.”
“I enjoyed the friendships I made during the program and it made me more confident in myself,” added Osier, an all-science major. “It definitely provides a large challenge with a high reward.”
Students admitted to the Csomay Honors Program in any given year take the same courses as their fellow Honors students during the first two years of their undergraduate studies. Each course generally is interdisciplinary and sometimes team taught, with active, participatory learning.
Shepherd explains the program begins with an Honors Freshmen Seminar followed by Honors courses in Arts and Humanities, Behavioral Sciences and Natural Sciences. Other courses are offered for each term. Seniors complete an honors project in their area of interest. Extra-curricular experiences such as service learning, attending professional conferences and other special events are an integral part of the program.
“One benefit of the Csomay Honors Program is for each member to challenge themselves to be the best academic student,” said Shepherd. “Another benefit is to think beyond themselves. In a self-centered society, it is illuminating to walk outside of yourself to understand the plight of others. This perspective enables leadership roles to emerge.”
While acknowledging some of the freshmen courses were especially challenging, Kenney said the added effort they required groomed him into a better student.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a minor in creative writing, he noted, “The Csomay Honors Program mission statement emphasizes being a global citizen, which is something I strive to be. Not only did the academic requirements better prepare me for my upper level course load, but the extracurricular activities opened up a whole new level of opportunities and experiences for me in the UIU community and across the country.”
As an example, Kenney and three Honors Program underclassmen attended the 2015 National Collegiate Honors Council in Chicago. In addition to traveling to the city, he enjoyed getting to know his fellow Peacocks better, communicating with other honor students from across the nation and opening up a whole new wave of networking possibilities.
“The program can help you deal with classroom adversity found in challenging courses, and teach you how to be more responsible in your own life,” added Kuboushek, who majored in accounting, finance, and management. “My interdisciplinary project really helped me build relationships across the university and expose me to potential employment opportunities.”
Strongly encouraging incoming students to consider joining the UIU Csomay Honors Program, Cyzon said, “The program allows you to experience other aspects of higher education outside of the classroom, and you are able to build a support system among your peers in the program over the course of four years. Personally, the Csomay Honors Program has helped me academically, as well as gain confidence in my communication and leadership skills. All of which will pay dividends in my future career.”
The creation of the Csomay Honors Program
Born in 1925, Barbara (Rankin) Csomay graduated with a teaching degree from Upper Iowa in 1946. Her teaching career began in Fayette on an Emergency Teaching Permit during World War II. She also taught in Heidelberg, Germany; Garner, Iowa; and Parma, Ohio.
In 2010, Barbara returned to the University to present a commitment of $847,000 toward the creation of the Csomay Center for Honors on the Fayette campus and the Csomay Endowed Scholarship. The UIU alumna died at the age of 90 in November 2015.
According to the program’s mission statement, graduates of the Csomay Honors Program have a broad interconnected and ever-evolving view of the world. They are adaptable, self-motivated individuals who constantly challenge their assumptions about the world and their role in it. They have developed the capability to be innovators and leaders in a dynamic global community.
Students who have at least a 26 ACT score and at least a 3.5 high school grade point average are invited to apply to the program. Students who don’t quite meet the 26 ACT score and 3.5 high school grade point average are welcome to apply if they believe they can make a strong case for their consideration.
For additional information on the program, visit uiu.edu or contact Shepherd at email@example.com.