Five students from the Csomay Honors Program graduated during the 2019 May Commencement ceremony. Recognized for their academic excellence were Caleb Robbins, a financial management major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa; William O’Neill, an environmental science major from Mason City, Iowa; Alison Leuchtenmacher, an accounting and psychology major from Elgin, Iowa; Hayley Cessna, a chemistry and life science major from Spring Valley, Illinois; and Jacquelyn Arbegast, a birth-grade 3: inclusive settings major from Sheffield, Iowa.
“We have participating students from all walks of life, and our honors students are ambitious, hardworking, engaged and culturally aware,” Csomay Honors Program director Dr. Meghan Jordan said. “Students in the honors program represent the university through community involvement and engagement, and through their success as students, athletes and professionals. They are leaders on campus and in their own communities.”
According to Jordan, the many benefits of the honors program include challenging coursework, preparation for graduate school and careers, and participating in academic conferences, a speaker series and other extra-curricular activities. The honors program now includes a by-contract course proposal so students can take non-honors courses for honors credit. The program plans to bring instructors in to teach new courses so more options can be offered to students.
“Due to the changes we’ve rolled out in the last year, I am most proud of the increased flexibility of the program,” Jordan said. “I’m happy that we’ve been able to offer an increased variety of courses to challenge the students. I also enjoy serving as a sounding board for student concerns, and they come to me with all sorts of questions about campus, their professors and life in general.”
Cessna joined the Csomay Honors Program because she wanted to be a part of a group that would push her to be the best student she could be. Serving two years as UIU Student Government Association president, Cessna was also actively involved in tutoring, the Gamma sorority and Peacocks for Progress. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public administration after graduating from UIU.
“I wanted the opportunity to meet other people who also took classes and studies as seriously as I do,” Cessna said. “As part of the Csomay program, I devoted myself to my classes and pushed myself to do everything to the best of my ability. I also surrounded myself with people who strived for the same excellence with similar work ethic. I will now be better prepared for classes in graduate school since the UIU science faculty pushed and challenged me.”
Academic success and seeking new challenges has always been important to Arbegast. She believes the Csomay program and the overall UIU experience has fully prepared her for an early childhood education career.
“I had great support and assistance while completing the Csomay Honors program in addition to my major and endorsement requirements,” Arbegast said. “The biggest challenge I faced was experiencing burnout as my senior year approached. I knew I could not give up and looked to my advisor, Dr. Billie Cowley, for assistance. I decided to add something new to my education by studying abroad in Ireland. This was also an amazing experience and renewed my enthusiasm for school.”
An honors student in high school, O’Neill always enjoyed challenging himself in the classroom and taking advantage of extra learning opportunities when they became available. O’Neill, who will now pursue an MBA at UIU, was informed of the Csomay program after accepting a Peacock football scholarship.
“There was no hesitation that I was going to submit an application,” O’Neill said. “From the coursework, to the friends that I’ve made, to the amazing faculty I’ve had the opportunity to work with, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of it all. Time management plays a large role in maintaining academic excellence and learning to balance school work with football practices, games and other related activities best prepared me for future success.”
A double major with intentions to attend law school in the fall, Leuchtenmacher also noted the importance of effectively scheduling a heavy class load and other activities.
“It was a lot of hard work and dedication to maintain academic excellence throughout the program,” Leuchtenmacher said. “It was rough but worth it. The honors classes were always interesting, and I got to know my fellow honors students and professors better.”
In what could be considered advice for any future college student, Robbins stressed the need to keep focused on achieving classroom success on a daily basis.
“Whether it’s putting in late nights to study or battling to stay ahead in class, academic success requires a consistently maintained effort,” Robbins said.
Before her death, Barbara (Rankin) Csomay ’46 established UIU’s Csomay Honors Program. To be accepted into the Honors Program, students must have at least a 26 ACT score and at least a 3.5 high school grade point average. Students admitted to the Honors Program in any given year take the same courses as their fellow honors students. Each course is generally interdisciplinary and team taught, with active, participatory learning. All honors courses require extensive, integrated, advanced writing skills. Seniors complete both an honors project and a thesis in their area of interest. Extracurricular experiences – such as service learning, attending professional conferences and other special events – are an integral part of the program.