Honors Grads Exemplify UT's Educational Excellence

Published: May 12, 2008
On Saturday, May 10, more than 900 students were honored in The University of Tampa’s 124th Commencement ceremony, including 66 students expected to graduate with Honors Program distinction. The three Honors graduates profiled here represent some of UT’s best, carrying with them a tradition of educational excellence as they pursue different post-graduate goals.

Nicole Ortega – Prattville, AL

As one of three summa cum laude graduates in the Class of 2008, Nicole Ortega’s list of academic achievements is eye-catching even compared to those of her fellow Honors students. A double major in marine science and marine biology with a minor in chemistry, Ortega has received numerous academic awards and honors throughout her time at UT. This includes, most recently, the outstanding senior in biology and life sciences award from the College of Natural and Health Sciences.

In her final year at UT, Ortega spearheaded a research assistantship concerning the exchange of parasites between Cuban treefrogs, an invasive species to Florida, and the native amphibians. Her presentation of the research earned her an award earlier this year from the Florida Academy of Sciences in Jacksonville, FL.

“She’s just exceptional all around,” said Wayne Price, dana professor of biology, who supported Ortega’s research. “There is no doubt that she is one of the best students I’ve had in class and as a research assistant in my more than 30 years of experience.”

Upon receiving her degrees, Ortega plans to continue her research with Dr. Price while exploring the possibility of teaching high school-level chemistry classes. She also plans to pursue a master’s degree in parasitology.

Adam Kemp – Mexico Beach, FL

Arriving at UT as a transfer student in his junior year, Adam Kemp quickly joined the Honors Program and also quickly made the most of what it had to offer. In his two years at UT, Kemp twice attended the Harvard Model United Nations as well as the Southern Regional Honors Conference. Both experiences, he said, greatly enhanced the value of the education he received in the classroom by putting him in touch with fellow Honors students and other high caliber individuals from all over the country.

Time spent studying abroad in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic also provided a unique global perspective to his studies as a double major in finance and international business.

“Adam exemplifies what we want in our students at UT,” said Cheri Etling, associate professor of finance. “He not only works hard to learn the concepts and skills for himself, he is also willing to work patiently with other students to help them master the information as well.”

A magna cum laude graduate, Kemp was one of two student speakers at UT’s commencement on May 10. A member of the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society and recipient of an award for outstanding graduate in international business, Kemp’s post-graduation plans will take him for five months to Milwaukee, WS, for training with Marshall and Ilsley Bank. He will then be assigned to the bank’s Sarasota branch as a business banker. Plans to pursue an MBA and a law degree are also on the distant horizon, he said.

Steve Knauss - Allentown, PA

For Steve Knauss, the Honors Program not only enhanced the value of his studies as a sociology major at UT, but also was key in securing his post-graduate plans at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

In the fall of 2006, Knauss spent a semester in England as part of the Honors at Oxford program, earning credit toward two courses in sociology and history. The courses consisted of a regular one-on-one presentation of research to one of Oxford’s professors. It was at the conclusion of his semester abroad that an Oxford professor strongly encouraged Knauss to apply to the university for graduate school.

In the fall of this year, that idea will become a reality as Knauss was recently granted a full scholarship at Oxford in order to pursue as master’s degree in sociology.

“In the Honors Program, you get out what you put into it,” Knauss said. “It challenges you to push yourself in ways in which you aren’t aware you can succeed. I never would have applied to Oxford without the Honors Program.”

A magna cum laude graduate, Knauss’ time at UT has also included a year as editor-in-chief of UT’s student newspaper The Minaret, participation in an Honors symposium on American public discourse, and membership in the Alpha Chi and Alpha Kappa Delta honor societies.