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Stand Out Student: Meet the Undergraduate Teaching Fellows!

Publication date

April 11, 2019 7:00 PM


Tess Martin

Top row left to right: Riley Juenemann, Callie Belback, Samantha Hilburn, Lydia Wooley, Julia Prager-Hessel, and Ryan Braun. Bottom row left to right: Peter Michalakes, Ellen Waller, Abby Bean, Madeline Ninno, and Paige Montfort.

Undergraduate Teaching Fellows are Honors students who serve as teaching assistants to faculty members teaching the required Colloquium 1030 course, “The Quest for Answers.” In these positions, these students have offered valuable guidance and perspectives to the instructors and to the first-year students, after taking the Colloquium courses during their first year.

Abby Bean

Originally from Colorado Springs, Colorado, Abby is a member of the Class of 2021 who is majoring in political science and minoring in French. Because Abby lived in Wall her first year and took two Colloquia with John Howard, Associate Director of Tulane’s Murphy Institute, she feels that her Honors experience has helped her learn about how to think critically and engage in meaningful, thoughtful discussion. Abby is excited to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow so that she can help replicate the great experience she had in her Honors courses, encouraging engagement between faculty and first-year students.

Callie Belback

Callie is a sophomore from Batavia, Illinois, who is majoring in history and political science (international development) and minoring in Spanish. She took the course “How Should One Live?” with John Howard, Associate Director of Tulane’s Murphy Institute, her first semester, and she loved reading Passing by Nella Larsen and exploring the nuances and complexities of the narrative. In the spring, Callie took “Quest for Answers” with Adam Beauchamp, Research & Instruction Librarian, in which she enjoyed discussing power systems within education. She wanted to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow because she felt that her Colloquia provided a solid foundation for how to approach learning and how to conduct research in a university setting. Even as a sophomore, Callie has already had the opportunity to pursue field work when she was awarded funding from the Dean Jean Danielson Memorial Scholarship Fund through the Honors Program.

Ryan Braun

Originally from Frankfort, Illinois, Ryan is a sophomore studying cell and molecular biology, history, and Spanish. In his first year, his Colloquium was taught by three history faculty members, which influenced his decision to major in history. After taking the “Quest for Answers” Colloquium later that year, he felt that his first-year Honors coursework introduced him to resources available at Tulane and was instrumental in acquainting him with academic research in anticipation of writing an Honors Thesis his senior year. Because of these experiences, Ryan is excited to offer some of the useful insights to current first-year students. As an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, he has also challenged students to think critically about new concepts in hopes that they can have as fulfilling an Honors experience as he has had so far.

Samantha Hillburn

Samantha is a member of the Class of 2021 and originally from Shreveport, Louisiana. She admits that she entered college with narrow intentions to pursue one major and career, but she changed direction when her mentors in the Honors Program encouraged multidisciplinary exploration in search of what truly moves her. The “philosophical enigmas of existence” that she encountered in her Honors courses motivated changes of the heart and mind. Wishing to understand earth-shaping processes as well as the relationship between civilization and the environment, Samantha has declared a double-major in Geology and Environmental Studies. Because the Honors Program has so enhanced her Tulane education, she felt obliged to return the favor of positive influence to first-year students. As an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, she has been to facilitating deep discussions to inform students’ pursuit of knowledge through the Honors Colloquium and in small informal groups of students.

Riley Juenemann

Originally from Firestone, Colorado, Riley Juenemann is a sophomore majoring in mathematics and computer science, with a School of Liberal Arts Management Minor. Last fall, she took the Colloquium “Lies, Damned Lies, and Big Data” with Scott McKinley, Associate Professor in Mathematics, during which she frequently attended Professor McKinley’s office hours and formed a strong relationship with him, resulting in her completing an internship with him and working with him on a research project last summer. Riley has continued this work through the school year and plans to have a paper submitted to a journal by the end of the academic year. Additionally, she took COLQ 1030 with James Huck, Assistant Director for Graduate Programs in the Center for Latin American Studies, and loved that it was interdisciplinary in nature, learning greatly from the range of peer perspectives in their discussions. Riley wanted to become an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow because she feels that her passion and experience has allowed her to share valuable insights in discussion, impacting first-year students. She loves the Honors Program, and she was excited for this opportunity to help other Honors students get the most out of their undergraduate experience.

Peter Michalakes

A native of Portland Maine, Peter Michalakes is a junior on the pre-med track and majoring in philosophy. Peter has enjoyed his Honors experiences over the years, which have included living in the Honors residences and finding people with like-minded interests in school as well as taking Honors Colloquium courses his first year, with Rebecca Atencio, Associate Professor in Spanish and Portuguese, and with James Huck, the Assistant Director for Graduate Programs in the Center for Latin American Studies. In Professor Huck’s 1030 Colloquium, Peter has enjoyed learning from Dr. Huck about “how exciting research can be.” Peter looks forward to his experience as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow, delighted at the chance to work in a teaching environment and to help first-year students enjoy the Colloquium as much as he did.

Paige Montfort

Paige Montfort is a sophomore Stamps Scholar from Park Hills, Kentucky, who is studying public health and international development. From her experience in Wall and Weatherhead, taking part of Wall Societies and residence hall events, and meeting her best friends in those two residences, Paige feels that the Honors Program is home. In her first year, Paige took the Colloquium “Global Urbanization Challenges” with Colin Crawford, Director of International Development Studies, and “The Quest for Answers” with Mark Vail, Associate Professor in Political Science. In both courses, she loved the small class sizes and seminar-style meetings, where she was challenged to put together some of her best written work and where she met students and professors who are still important mentors in her life. Paige wanted to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow because she found that her Colloquium courses were the most formative, thought-provoking, and intellectually stimulating academic experiences she has had so far, and because she believes her hands-on research in the field will allow her to be a mentor to first-year students.

Madeline Ninno

Originally from Orlando, Florida, Madeline Ninno is a junior majoring in economics and international development with a minor in Spanish. In her first year, Madeline took the Colloquium “Global Urbanization Challenges” with Colin Crawford, Director of International Development Studies. Though Professor Crawford intimidated her at first, Madeline says he ended up being one of her favorite professors as well as a mentor, and his class led her to research urban business development and gentrification in Buenos Aires, where she studied last semester. Madeline wanted to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow so she could share her experiences with other Honors students, helping them find their areas of interest in the world of research.

Julia Prager-Hessel

A sophomore from Great Neck, New York, Julia is studying history and English with a minor in philosophy. She had Elizabeth Gross, Honors Lecturer, for both a “Great Books” Colloquium as well as the “Quest for Answers” course in her first year. She found that both of these courses gave her extensive insight into learning by self-examination as well as collaboration; she also felt that she improved her reading and analysis skills drastically through these experiences. Because of this, she has striven to pass on positive classroom experiences to first-year students as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow. In this position, she has been excited to continue to learn from the class in a different capacity, connecting to professors and resources in the Honors Program that have already proven so helpful during her time at Tulane.

Ellen Waller

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Ellen Waller is a sophomore Honors student studying mathematics. In her first year, she took both of her Colloquium courses with John Howard, Associate Director of Tulane’s Murphy Institute, thoroughly enjoying the many books such as The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Ellen wanted to be an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow because she feels as though these two courses were an integral aspect of her first-year experience, challenging her to think in new directions. She has valued helping first-year students step out of their comfort zones as well.

Lydia Woolley

Lydia Woolley is a sophomore from the Chicagoland area majoring in English and political science, with a minor in Arabic. She greatly enjoyed taking the Colloquium “Impossible Mothers” with Brian Horowitz, Professor of Jewish Studies, discussing current events, and watching Israeli sitcoms during her first semester, and she learned a great deal about research, ethics, and race, in the “Quest for Answers” Colloquium with Sean Knowlton, Scholarly Engagement Librarian for Digital Scholarship, during her second semester. Over the summer, funded by the Honors Summer Research Program, she worked with Molly Rothenberg, Professor of English, conducting and learning about the logistics of research, thinking critically about literary theory and texts, and working one-on-one with an internationally renowned professor. She is excited to share her research experiences, help first-year Honors students develop their critical thinking skills, and understand their unique perspectives on research and analysis in her role as an Undergraduate Teaching Fellow.