The Otto Graf and Jack Meiland Scholarships 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 - students whose educational careers and aspirations embody our engaged liberal arts pedagogical philosophy. In application essays and interviews, applicants are asked to reflect upon the depth of their specialization in their honors major, the breadth of intellectual curiosity displayed in their elective courses, the demonstrated leadership potential and commitment to improving the lives of others in their co-curricular activities. Many of our Graf and Meiland Scholars go on to become nominees for top national awards such as the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

Thomas Chen from St. Joseph, MI is majoring in Microbiology with a minor in Oceanography. Thomas is a 2023 Honors Summer Fellow and is planning to write an Honors thesis on how human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can interact with and evade the human immune system using its accessory proteins Vpr. He has experience as an undergraduate researcher at the laboratory of Dr. Kathleen L. Collins M.D., Ph.D., and was a 2022 Harvard Amgen Scholar at the laboratory of Dr. Sara Pai M.D., Ph.D. After graduating, he plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. in immunology with a research focus on host-microbe interactions.

Shelbie Taylor from Woodhaven, MI is majoring in Biology, Health, and Society. Shelbie plans to complete an Honors thesis on the effects of arsenic exposure on normal breast stem cells to analyze mechanistic pathways and phenotypes that predicate aggressive breast cancers. In 2022, she worked as a UM-SMART Summer Research Fellow and has also worked in the Colacino Laboratory within the department of environmental health sciences studying breast cancer health disparities. After graduation, Shelbie plans to take a gap year before applying to M.D. or M.D.-Ph.D. programs. During her gap year, she hopes to work with Doctors Without Borders or at an international clinic in Uganda or South Africa.

Pristina Koon from Burke, VA is majoring in Linguistics with a submajor in Southeast Asian Studies. Pristina is a Fall 2023 Honors 135 instructor teaching a course entitled Our greatest tool or deadliest obsession? revolving around how humans interact with language. She has also previously worked as a research assistant for the Talking Jejueo Dictionary Project under the direction of Dr. Moira Saltzman. Pristina plans to complete a linguistics thesis on historical contact between Indonesian and Javanese influencing their contemporary clitic systems. After graduation, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in linguistics with hopes of becoming a professor while increasing research on Southeast Asian Languages.

Kye Lynne from Sterling Heights, MI is a double major in Social Theory & Practice and Arts & Ideas in the Humanities with a minor in Art and Design. Kye was an intern with the General Baker Institute in Detroit, MI and attended a delegation to Cuba on their behalf in April 2023. They were also a research assistant for Professor Lydia Kelow-Bennet to assist in forming a pedagogy of Black Feminist thought. Kye plans to complete a historical analysis and ethnographic study of the National Poor People’s Campaign and plans to complete a creative thesis exploring the intersectionality of pottery/ceramics by creating a series and writing an analysis of the medium through the lens of Black Queer Theory. After graduating, Kye hopes to continue their education and eventually become a professor of Black Queer Theory.

Gigi Guida from Philadelphia, PA is completing a Honors Individualized Major Program in Urban People, Spaces, and Narratives with a minor in Spanish. Gigi’s Honors thesis research focuses on the Philadelphia City Hall as a site of mythmaking and how the architecture of the City Hall and the public’s relationship to it reinforces dominant narratives and power structures. Rather than a traditional academic paper, Gigi plans to complete the project in the form of a podcast series that will be available on streaming platforms. After graduation, she plans to take time off to get involved in some more creative personal projects. Then, she’d like to pursue higher degrees in either Education, History of Architecture, or American Studies.

Zongqi Yu from Guangzhou, China is a double major in Economics and Data Science with minors in Complex Systems and Business. Zongqi was a Chinese Youth Delegate at the 24th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and also portrayed the role of Vera Claythorne in the LIVE Immersive Theatre’s production of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Zongqi plans to complete an Honors thesis on speculative behaviors in multi-staged dynamic games. After graduating, Zongqi plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Data and Society with a concentration on sustainable systems.