Congratulations to Sarah Renberg and Veronica Sikora as the LSA Honors Program’s 2021 recipients of the Otto Graf and Jack Meiland Scholarships respectively.  
These awards honor the late Professors Otto Graf, who served as director of the Honors Program for eighteen years, and Jack Meiland, who championed interdisciplinarity in the Honors curriculum.  They are given to rising seniors whose academic and co-curricular achievements exemplify the program's engaged liberal arts philosophy:

  • Evidence of exceptional depth engagement with and understanding of issues within one's academic specialization.
  • Evidence of broad intellectual curiosity.
  • Co-curricular accomplishments that supplement or complement one's academic pursuits and demonstrate sustained commitment, leadership, and concern for the well-being of others.

Sarah Renberg (above) is majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and completing an Honors in the Engaged Liberal Arts (HELA) capstone project with her “How to Student” podcast.  Sarah is heavily invested in discussions of well-being and how these ideas can be incorporated in both individual lives and organizational structures.  A former hockey player who has learned to live with lasting effects from a head injury herself, Sarah is a researcher in the Michigan Neurotrauma Research Lab and the Children’s National Medical Center.  She is also a leading national advocate with organizations such as the Headway Foundation and Love Your Brain Foundation.  Sarah plans to continue this dual focus in a career in academic medicine.  She has served as peer mentor and wellness advocate for fellow students in the Honors Program.  In her interview, Sarah talked about personal interests and hobbies such as her love of cooking and baking.

Regarding her Honors experience, Sarah writes: "Honors has defined much of my Michigan experience. It's given me my best friends, key mentors, and innumerable opportunities to both explore intellectually and pursue my interests with fervor. Looking back, I think Honors has been a catalyst for personal growth. The program’s support has given me confidence in my ability to navigate challenges and has shown me the value in my own ideas.”

Veronica Sikora (below) is a double major in Philosophy and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology.  She is a research assistant in the C. Duan Lab, where she works with zebrafish models to study the role of mitochondrial metabolism in epithelial cell proliferation. She is also the managing editor of the Philosophy Department’s undergraduate journal, The Meteorite, and founded Comet, a virtual philosophy seminar series meant to make philosophy accessible. 

Indeed, one of the most impressive aspects of her interview was Veronica’s ability to toggle back and forth between her two fields, making each understandable and compelling to non-experts.  She will continue this work with a podcast series on bioethics for her HELA capstone project in senior year and in her future career as a genetics researcher and ethics/policy expert.  The committee thought it especially poignant that a philosophy student should win the award named for Jack Meiland, who was a Thurnau Professor in the Philosophy Department.

Veronica writes about her Honors experience: "Honors is an incredibly supportive community that has encouraged me to question my self-imposed limits. Whether it's battling my fear of heights in a Honors high ropes obstacle course or challenging myself with Honors core courses, Honors has given me many outlets to grow both socially and academically. But if I could give rising Honors students some advice: do the work and reach out. Take initiative and you'll be rewarded with plenty of opportunities and inspiring friends. Your experience may not come for free, but it'll certainly be priceless."