Alumni Profiles (N - Z)

Alumni Profiles:   A–F   G–M   N–Z   Home

Hannah Norcini, '13

Hannah Norcini Hannah, who attended the International Baccalaureate program at Rickards High School in Tallahassee, FL, graduated from the Honors College with a concentration in psychology and criminology in the spring of 2013. While at the Honors College, Hannah was very involved in several campus organizations, including the MacArthur Resident Student Association, Honors College Ambassadors, and the Student Government Association. Most notably, she served as the Students Advocating Volunteer Involvement Director for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 academic years. Her time as SAVI Director motivated her to join the Peace Corps, where she worked as a Community Health Volunteer in Mpanda, Rwanda from 2013-2015. Now, Hannah is an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader at Florida Campus Compact in Tallahassee working with VISTA Members around the state. Hannah is thankful for her time at the Honors College, as it allowed her to grow intellectually and to form intimate bonds with both fellow students and professors. She credits her experience here as leading her on her path in the non-profit field today.

Melanie Oates, '16

Melanie“I was born and raised in Jupiter, FL and I attended William T. Dwyer High School. I chose the HC because of its small class sizes (which allow you to have better relationships with your professors than other colleges tend to allow) and it was very affordable (because it’s a state school) but has the feel of a private college in regards to its standards of education and the overall atmosphere. During my time at the HC, I was an International Studies major, an El Sol scholar, the President of the Spanish Club, Vice-President of the Corn Maya Club, a Kenan Scholar, and I took part in Dr. Cañete’s Madrid, Spain Summer study abroad program. I am now an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer working at the HC as the Mentoring Program Developer. More specifically, I am developing a new mentoring program between HC students, as the mentors, and low income children from a local elementary school, as the mentees. We have just established a partnership with Big Brothers Big Sister.”

Christopher Olbrych, '16

OlbrychHi all, I'm Chris Olbrych from Boynton Beach, FL. Before the HC, I attended the International Baccalaureate program at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, FL. I chose the HC because it felt like a family. Faculty, staff, and students are invested in our development as students and challenge and support us throughout our time there. While at the HC, I served as a Resident Assistant for on-campus residents in addition to joining and leading multiple clubs on campus including the Environmental Club, Newman Club, and Corn Maya Club. My time at the HC influenced me to continue serving students in the field of Higher Education. I'm currently serving in a graduate assistantship on the Boca Campus while pursuing a Masters of Education with a focus in Higher Education Leadership so that I may continue to play a role in developing well rounded individuals ready and willing to affect positive change in their communities. Feel free to reach out to me with questions you have about my experience or questions you may have at

Justin Pacific, '03

Justin Pacific Justin Pacific was one of the college s original Trailblazers. Hailing from Somers Point, New Jersey, Justin was part of the first freshmen class in 1999. After graduating from FAU in 2003 with an Honors College concentration in Psychology, Pacific remained at FAU for graduate school and received his M.A. in Psychology in 2006. He then entered the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Justin credits the Honors College with giving him a good foundation for these different programs. The discussion-based classes were a great preparation for graduate school and beyond. The comfort I obtained from routinely defending my ideas in front of my peers carried over to situations that required me to speak in other types of public settings, including making oral arguments during appellate processes and advocacy proceedings.
Looking back on FAU, Justin comments: I greatly enjoyed the friends that I made and the peer-level interaction I had with the faculty.

Alan Peña, '08

Alan Pena Alan Pena graduated from Cooper City High School in 2004 and went to the Honors College in the fall of that same year. He says that he chose to attend FAU's Honors College because it was highly recommended, close to home, and had good scholarship opportunities. He concentrated in Political Science and had minors in Law & Society and History. Alan was involved in several campus organizations including Corn Maya and the Student Government Association (SGA). He said, Both Corn Maya and SGA greatly influenced me. I thoroughly enjoyed helping the local community through Corn Maya and had the honor of being a part of its development and partnership with El Sol. SGA was a capstone to my Political Science concentration; everything I had studied, from campaigning to political decision-making to the legislative process to punctuated equilibrium, was represented microcosmically in my two years in SGA.
During his undergraduate career, Alan decided that he wanted to be a military officer, and he believed studying government and foreign policy would best advance that career. For a time, Alan was a commissioned officer in the United States Army stationed at Fort Riley, KS at the 1st Infantry Division. He now works at Family Elder Law. "I always go back to what I was taught at the Wilkes Honors College to execute my job effectively. I spent a year in military training at four different Army posts to learn how to be a Soldier, but an officer is required to advocate, organize, plan, write, research, speak publicly, present ideas, think critically, and solve problems through unfamiliar territory. The Honors College built the foundation of these leadership skills through the liberal arts education, tough classes, and the thesis process, as well as the extracurricular opportunities."

Shaleene Persaud-Vazquez, '04

Shaleene Persaud Shaleene majored in Biology/Pre-Med at the Honors College, graduating in 2004. Upon graduating from St. Matthew's University School of Medicine in May 2008, Shaleene will practice as a physician in under-served areas of Florida.

Niina Pollari, '06

Niina Pollari Niina Pollari is a poet, editor, translator, and graduate of the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 2006.  Niina’s outstanding thesis, “ …At the Ear of Eve”: Hearing, Gender, and the Physiology of the Fall in John Milton’s Paradise Lost, won an honorable mention in the highly competitive Undergraduate Studies Essay Competition from the prestigious database, Early English Books Online, in 2006.  Her thesis later led to an invitation to present her research at the Milton Symposium at the University of London in 2008. 
Upon graduation from the Honors College, Niina headed off to Sarah Lawrence College, where she received her Master’s in Creative Writing in 2008.  Since then, she has presented at several conferences, including the &NOW Literary Festival focused on experimental literature, where she gave a talk on narratorship in the work of Tytti Heikkinen in October of 2011.  Niina’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and The Warmth of the Taxidermied Animal, her translation of the poems of Tytti Heikkinen, was released in 2013 from Action Books, and she is also the author of two chapbook-length volumes of poetry: Fabulous Essential (2009, Birds of Lace) and Book Four (2012, Hyacinth Girl). In 2012, with Judy Berman, she edited a collection of essays called It's Complicated: Feminists Write about the Misogynist Art We Love. Currently, Niina Pollari is a project specialist at the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, where she's been since 2012, as well as coordinator for the POPSICKLE Literary Festival and a freelance translator.  She is scheduled to speak in June 2013 at Book Expo America on the topics of self-publishing and crowdfunding.

Kadeem Ricketts, '14

KadeemKadeem came to the Honors College in 2010 from Nova High School (Davie, Florida).  He was involved in many activities and organizations on and off campus including the Honors College Ambassadors, Special Olympics, Intramural Basketball and Volleyball and the Film Club. He served as the Treasurer of Student Government and the Treasurer of the student spirit organization “prOWLers.” 
Kadeem, concentrated in economics and minored in mathematics, decided to come to the Honors College because “The faculty and staff are all approachable and are deeply invested in the success of all of the students.  The small class sizes also create an environment where everyone is encouraged to and, in some cases, required, to participate.  The learning experience is unlike any other.”

Alexa Robinson, '14

AlexaAlexa came to the Honors College in the Fall of 2010 from Winter Park High School in Winter Park, FL. She was interested in music and fencing, and created the Fencing team Dumbledore’s Army on the Jupiter Campus. She was also involved with the Debate Team. Alexa likes the Honors College because “I can get to know my peers and professors better than I would at any other college. That really means a lot to me.”

Peter Salomone, '08

Peter Salomone Peter Salomone transferred to the Honors College in 2005 and graduated in 2008 with a concentration in philosophy. "I have been spoiled by the Honors College," he says. "A great campus, incredible professors, the freedom to customize my education... Any and all academic institutions I attend in the future are bound to disappoint. It's a wonderful price to pay for a truly unique undergrad experience." Peter has received his M.A from University of Florida and M.F.A from Wake Forest in documentary film. He produced a documentary on homelessness in Gainesville called Civil Indigent, and is presently working full-time in Miami as a video editor for a web-based travel series and enjoying the job very much.


Megan Selby, '06

Megan Selby Megan, who attended Indian River High School, majored in Environmental Science at the Honors College and completed her thesis on the role of zoos in the future of biodiversity conservation. She received a Masters of Environmental Science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. She is now working on a Ph.D. in Environmental Management, Conservation and Development at the University of Aukland in New Zealand and is currently researching gibbon conservation efforts in West Java, Indonesia.  Selby most recently purchased a zoo in Nelson's, New Zealand. Read the story about Selby and her zoo,  "We Bought a Zoo": The True Story; FAU Alumna Builds an Environmental Legacy in New Zealand .

Jocelyn Skolnik, '07

Jocelyn Skolnik Jocelyn Skolnik graduated from the Honors College in 2007 with a major in Political Science. During her years as a student she won more than a dozen awards, including a recognition as Outstanding Senior at the Wilkes Honors College and Owl of the Year for the John D. MacArthur campus in Jupiter. Skolnik was also a member of the Golden Key Honor Society and the Sigma Delta Phi Spanish Honor Society. While at the Honors College she met Guatemalan Nobel Peace Laureate, Rigoberta Menchu, served as interpreter for the Sister Cities signing ceremony for Jupiter and Jacaltenango, Guatemala, and provided interpreter services for the Guatemalan President Oscar Berger when he visited Jupiter. Skolnik notes that she loves the chance she was given to mold my own experience and make the most of my education. It is very easy to get involved at the Honors College. The personalized attention you receive there is priceless. 
She presently is the Director of the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center in Jupiter, FL where she coordinates all programs offered by the facility, such as a hiring center, courses in speaking English, reading Spanish, and mastering computer skills. She works closely with 63 partners (religious, international, private, and public institutions) and more than 120 volunteers.

Janeen Smith, '14

JaneenJaneen began attending Emory Law in the Fall of 2014.  Upon earning her J.D., she plans to seek a legal clerkship and eventually practice appellate law. 
"The best part of being an HC student is that my professors know me well and are able to guide me toward activities and academic pursuits that interest me. I also like the sense of camaraderie that I share with my fellow students. My favorite experience at the HC was participating in Moot Court. I had the pleasure of working with real lawyers and competing in a regional competition. It affirmed my decision to pursue a legal career. I would advise prospective students to visit and sit in on a class that interests them.  It is really exciting to see how engaging our classes are."

Richard Smith, '12

Richard Smith Richard came to the Honors College in the fall of 2008 from Port Saint Lucie High School (Port Saint Lucie, FL). He majored in biological chemistry with a minor in history. Currently, Richard attends Drexel Medical School in Philadelphia. He recently completed a year-long research experience at the NIH and has a paper up for review and publication.
He enjoys listening to a wide variety of music and playing ping pong. During his time at the HC, Richard was active in several campus organizations, including Student Government, Environmental Club, and Jupiter PrOWLers (campus cheer/spirit club). He also worked as an intern at Max Planck Institute in the Department of Digital Neuro-Imaging. 
Richard chose the Honors College primarily because of its small class sizes and its opportunities for science and medical research. “I didn’t want to get lost in a lecture hall of a large university, or be regarded as just a number or another face in the crowd by a professor.  So far, I haven’t regretted my decision of choosing the Honors College, and I have made the most of the available research opportunities by participating in internships at both Scripps Florida and the Max Planck Florida Institute.”

Alexis Stellner, '06

Alexis Stellner Alexis came to the Honors College from Cardinal Newman High School (West Palm Beach, FL) because of the professor-student ratio. She says she enjoyed the newness of the school because it allows the university to always try new ideas and include new classes, clubs, and student-made concentrations. An English Literature major, Alexis graduated in 2006 and attends graduate school at the University of Kent and plans on becoming a college professor.

Walteria Tucker, '04

Walteria Tucker Dr. Walteria Tucker is a native and lifelong resident of Belle Glade, Florida. In the summer of 2003, she became the first and only Honors College Student to receive a full merit scholarship at Bryn Mawr College s prestigious Institute of French Studies in Avignon, France (L Institut d tudes Fran aises). That summer she also earned her certificate in Business French from the Paris Chamber of Commerce with the second highest distinction ( avec mention bien). In 2004, she graduated from the Honors College cum laude, where she concentrated in International Studies and minored in Spanish Language and Culture. She was the first Honors College student to be awarded FAU s highest undergraduate distinction, the Kenneth R. Williams Leadership Award. In that same year, she was also named University Scholar and Owl of the Year for the McArthur Campus of FAU. In 2006 she was one of 25 recipients of a McKnight Doctoral Fellowship (Florida Department of Education) and in 2008 she was one of 88 doctoral students in the nation to be named a PEO International Scholar. 
In 2011, Walteria successfully defended her doctoral dissertation and graduated from FAU with a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies. Dr. Tucker s research focuses on race and representation in Hispanic and Francophone Caribbean Literature and on the literary images of Haitians in Hispanic Caribbean literature specifically. In August 2011, Dr. Tucker returned to the Honors College to teach Spanish and French language and culture. She currently teaches Spanish and Humanities at South Florida State College in Avon Park, Florida. Dr. Tucker plans to one day become the president of a Florida university. Most recently, Dr. Tucker was named the 2012 Distinguished Alumna for the Wilkes Honors College of FAU.

Christina Turn, '13

Christina Turn Christina, a graduate of Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School, is from Tampa, Florida, and enrolled at the Honors College in the Fall of 2009. She graduated in 2013 with a concentration in Biology, and now attends Medical School at the University of Florida. 
While at the HC, Christina worked as a laboratory assistant at the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. Outside of class, Christina spent her time completing undergraduate research and volunteered at the Children's Cancer Center of Tampa and at El Sol. On campus, she served as the president of the Corn Maya Club, the co-president of the Catholic Newman Club, and the volunteer coordinator for the Wilkes Honors College Premedical Society. She was also a member of the Honor Society, Phi Kappa Phi, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Yarnatics (a crocheting and knitting service club). Christina loved the Honors College because of its " atmosphere, its high academic standards, and the many opportunities for academic, social, and leadership growth."

Alejandra Uribe, '15

Aleja“I was born and raised in South Florida, but my family is originally from Colombia. I attended West Boca Raton High School and I graduated from the HC in May 2015.

I chose the HC because it just seemed like the perfect fit. It was close enough to home that I could visit whenever, but also far enough that I had to live on campus. The HC’s tight knit community allowed me to form long lasting friendships. While at the HC I was involved in basically everything. I was a student ambassador for the admissions office giving tours to perspective students and doing student panels whenever needed. I was also a choreographer for the Owelettes & Co Dance Team, I played soccer during intramural, and I was president of both the Pre-Law Society and Spanish Club. I was also involved in student government where I held a university wide position of Chief Justice of the Student Court where I helped organize events with other SG members.

I am currently a second year law student at Michigan State College of Law focusing primarily on criminal law. I am also vice president of the Latino Law Society and an intern with the admissions office.”

Fernando Varela, '15

FernandoFAU Honors College student Fernando Varela transferred to the Honors College from Palm Beach State College in the Fall of 2013. Varela attended the Honors College as one of the Wilkes Humanities Scholars. The small campus and research opportunities were the major reasons he choose the college. He regularly volunteers his time at El Sol resource center in Jupiter, Florida teaching English to Spanish speakers. He says he knows how it feels to be in their shoes, because he learned to speak English just five years ago. After he learned to speak English many more opportunities opened up for him and he wants to provide that ability to others.  After Varela completes his Bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Literature and Latin American Studies, he plans to attend Graduate School and pursue a PhD in Hispanic Literature.


Interview with Fernando


Maria Vizcaino, '04

Maria Vizcaino Maria went to a magnet High School in New Jersey, where she was exposed to small classes and a tight-knit school community. With the dream of becoming a marine biologist, she found the community and opportunities afforded at FAU’s Wilkes Honors College a “perfect fit” to pursue her dreams. The environment assisted in fostering strong ties with both fellow students and professors, which helped shape her future career. While at the Honors College, Maria took a microbiology class that expanded her awareness of the unseen world. With this new interest, she then pursued a semester at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute located in Ft. Pierce, FL, where she was able to incorporate both marine biology and microbiology with her love for chemistry. Being at the Honors College was “An amazing experience. I built life-long friendships, and was exposed to really unique experiences – I got to travel to the Amazon, take classroom trips down to the Keys, and sail from Tahiti to Hawaii during my Semester Abroad experience at Woods Hole”.  Maria graduated with a concentrations in chemistry and marine biology, and went on to pursue a Ph.D. at the Medical University of South Carolina where she studied the chemical role of marine microbes in corals. Maria is currently a postdoctoral associate at Yale University, and is currently working on identifying bacterial small molecules involved in regulating human-bacterial interaction. She aspires to continue focusing in the chemical ecological role microorganisms play in their hosts and hopes to work her way back to the marine environment. 

Connor Voirin, '16

ConnorConnor Voirin was a 2016 graduate from Winter Springs, Florida. He attended Winter Springs High School where he maintained a 4.2 GPA. He chose the HC because of “the small class sizes and opportunities to work at Scripps and Max Planck.” At the Honors College, Connor’s concentration was in biology where he worked as a biology lab TA, a lab animal technician, an organic chemistry summer tutor and lab TA. He did his thesis research on conservation biology about geckos and he worked in a neuroscience lab at Scripps. As of Fall 2016, Connor is an M1 at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Taylor Welling, '15

TaylorTaylor is the 2012-2013 Shoaf Memorial Scholar and Director of Jupiter Campus Recreation. 
"I chose the HC because I greatly value the rigorous academics and the environment of high intellectual standards and pursuits," she explains. "Aside from the amazing academics, the thing I like best about being a student in the Honors College is that I am not only in complete control of my own academic success, but my peers and I have the great privilege of having a huge voice in the direction our campus takes in certain issues. After spending just one week in Student Involvement and Leadership, it is clear to me that this is a student-run campus (with the support of our amazing advisors, of course)." 
Taylor tells new HC students to "[get] involved in something you like as soon as you can. You'll find people with similar interests, forge amazing relationships, grow as an individual, and make an impact on the community of the Honors College."

Robert Wicks, '09

Robert WicksRobert 'Bobby' Wicks graduated from Jupiter High School in 2005. In 2009, he graduated from the Honors College with a concentration in American Studies. That summer, he attended Columbia University s Publishing Course, studying all aspects of book and magazine publishing. He currently lives in New York, where he works at Oxford University Press as a publicist. Every day at the Honors College was a defining experience for me, he says. There was never a time when I felt as though I wasn't growing as a person, thanks to the efforts of the faculty and staff. There is a genuine culture of excitement towards learning shared by everyone at the HC, and the benefits of an education there follow a person far into the post-collegiate world.



Last Modified 6/26/17