Kugelman Honors Scholars Plan to Thrive Beyond UWF

Pensacola – Keilani Hernandez said the professors and her fellow students in the Kugelman Honors Program became her family after she arrived at the University of West Florida.

“They were my foundation. I did not come from this area. I came from Southwest Florida, so I knew nobody here,” said Hernandez, who graduated in the spring from UWF with a master’s degree in anthropology and a specialization in archaeology. “They were my first friends, and through them I gained a lot of leadership experiences and opportunities. So it’s basically built who I am today.”

The Kugelman Honors Program allows students to complete their Honors requirements over the course of their time as an undergraduate at UWF. To graduate as a Kugelman Honors Scholar, each student in the program completes Honors coursework and an undergraduate thesis, performs a minimum of 100 hours of community service, and maintains a 3.25 undergraduate GPA.

“The living-learning community at the heart of the Kugelman Honors Program really delivers on the small-school feel of UWF while providing exceptional opportunities for student research, leadership development, and international study,” said Dr. Greg Tomso, associate director of the Kugelman Honors Program.

Hernandez is a member of the most recent graduating class of Kugelman Honors Scholars. Her undergraduate thesis dealt with Tristan de Luna’s expedition in Pensacola. She will begin graduate school in the Fall at UWF and will pursue a master’s degree in historical archaeology.

In the fall, Hernandez will begin a three-year pubic archaeology assistantship with the Florida Public Archaeology Network Coordinating Center.

“They will now pay for all my classes for three years, and I work with them getting a lot of hands-on experience with the public,” Hernandez said. “And then, at the end, I’ll have a public archaeology thesis that’s aimed at working with the public.”

Trevor Walker, another member of the most recent Kugelman Honors class, graduated this semester with a bachelor’s degree in pre-professional biology. His thesis focused on the cost and feasibility of converting Escambia County into a no-kill community for animal shelters.

Walker will attend the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine starting this fall. He plans to return to Pensacola after school to practice veterinary medicine.

Walker said the Kugelman Honors program allowed him to shift some of his focus to other subjects that weren’t tied to his major. In one of the Honors elective courses, he learned the art and science of brewing beer, which he has since picked up as a hobby.

“The Honors program exposes you to so many different things that otherwise you may not have a chance to, because you are locked into your discipline,” Walker said.

Another member of the most recent Kugelman Honors class, Caroline Gibble, will begin classes this August at UF’s Levin College of Law, where she will work toward a law degree and certificate in environmental and land use law.

2016 Honors Convocation
2016 UWF Honors Convocation.

“I think the most important aspect of the (Kugelman Honors) program are the mentors that are available to you,” Gibble said, mentioning Tomso, Dr. Jocelyn Evans and Dr. Greg Lanier. Gibble’s undergraduate thesis was an environmental policy assessment of the cattle industry.

“At this time, the main lapse in policy surrounds the under-regulation of greenhouse gases released through the biological processes of cattle and the management of cattle slurry,” Gibble said.

Gibble won the Kugelman Honors Program’s Outstanding Thesis Award at the 2016 UWF Student Scholars Symposium.

Tomso said the recent graduating class of Kugelman Honors Scholars “defined its commitments to leadership and community building.”

“We have a number of rising stars in this group who are already making their mark on campus and in the Pensacola community,” Tomso said.

Tomso said the incoming class of 2020 Kugelman Honors Scholars will be one of the largest at the University in recent years.

“Our efforts to recruit students from around the state have been paying off, and we are excited that UWF is a top choice for so many Honors students,” he said.