Honors College Staff Spotlight: Dr. John Herron

Honors College Staff Spotlight: Dr. John Herron


Honors College Associate Director, Dr. John Herron, joined the Honors College as a Faculty Fellow before accepting his current position as associate director. Continue reading to learn more about Dr. Herron!

  1. What courses do you teach at UMKC?

I am a late 19th and early 20th century American social historian, so I teach a range of history classes from the introductory first-year survey to more specialized graduate seminars. My research focus is in the environmental sciences so several of my favorite undergraduate courses are in environmental history, a field that explores how the physical world impacted American life and culture. I have also been fortunate to teach several interesting film and history courses as well as an Anchor III class, the Artist in Society, where we explore the often controversial mix of art and politics. These courses were team-taught and my long list of co-instructors has included a very tall French horn player, a much shorter stage actor, an interesting scholar of Irish literature, a pragmatic philosopher, and a media studies professor. Back when we were still an Honors Program, I taught several honors-only classes such as the introductory Honors 100 and the capstone experience. And finally, I continue to teach summer study abroad courses.

2. Of the classes you are teaching in the fall, which class are you most excited about?

This sounds terrible I realize, but I am most excited that I will not be teaching any classes next fall. I have a campus administrative role that has reduced my teaching responsibilities. If this was a normal fall semester, however, I always get excited about teaching my 300-level environmental studies class. It is a great mix of history, science, and popular culture.

3. Where did you receive your educational background?

I grew up in the rural West. My family lived in northwestern Montana. For undergraduate, I attended my home state university where I majored in mechanical engineering. About halfway through my studies, I spent a brief period at Rutgers University in New Jersey, only to return home to complete my undergraduate degree not as planned in engineering but in history. After college, I worked a few quintessential western jobs with the Forest Service and the ski industry, before attending graduate school in New Mexico. After completing my PhD, I taught at Tufts University in Boston and the University of San Diego before arriving at UMKC.

4. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Free time? Like many Honors students, faculty in the Honors College gave up free time long ago. But when I do have free moments, I absolutely love to travel and to spend time with my two terrific kids (a 16-year old daughter and 11-year old son). And although I am not a big sports fan, I do enjoy baseball so watching the Royals (mostly lose) has become a strange form of therapy.

5. What is the best advice you would give to a college student?

My advice will sound clichéd, but will hopefully still ring true: spend time with wise but dangerous minds, dip your toe into cold water, be as academically adventurous as you possibly can. The rewards will be greater than you imagine.


Get to know your Honors Ambassadors: Hannah Pfneisel

Meet one of our newly minted Honors Ambassador, Hannah Pfneisel! Hannah is a second year pursuing a degree in biology. After graduating, she plans on attending a Physician Assistants’ program. Some of her favorite aspects of the Honors College are its wonderful support network, having the opportunity to meet motivated students from various majors, and participating in its various discussion groups. Outside of school, Hannah enjoys going on outdoor adventures, playing with dogs, having movie nights, and trying new restaurants and cafés.

Stop by the Honors Ambassador’s office in 430 Cherry Hall to come visit Hannah during her office hours:

Monday: 11 AM -12:30 PM, 7 PM – 8:30 PM

Wednesday: 2 PM – 4 PM

Thursday: 10 AM – 11:30 AM, 1 PM – 3 PM

Friday: 11 AM – 12:40 PM

Sunday, Sept. 30th: 5 PM – 7:30 PM – Oak Street Hall

Sunday, Nov. 11th: 5 PM – 7:30 PM – Oak Street Hall

Welcome to our new office assistant: Mary Zalmai!

Mary Zalmai grew up in Platte City, Missouri. Her family emigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan in the late ‘90s. A self confessed foodie, Mary thoroughly enjoys trying new things. She also enjoys the social commentary of reality television and the state of American society. Mary is acutely aware of the unfortunate maltreatment of immigrants in America today. It’s something she cares about deeply and is worried about in our current political environment of today. Mary is majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Psychology and hopes to one day attend Medical School.

Annie Crawford Presents at a National Conference

Honors College senior Annie Crawford’s research on Angelica Schuyler Church, who corresponded with some of the most famous figures of the early United States, reflects her passion for women’s rhetoric. To date, the most memorable experience of her study was presenting her work at the Conference on College Composition and Communication in March in Kansas City. The annual conference is the largest gathering of college teachers of writing and communication in the United States.

“It felt like going to the big leagues. I was surrounded by people whose scholarship I had read in my classes. I got advice about where to go with my project and where to go to graduate school. A few people gave me their cards and told me to look into their programs,” says Annie, who is an English major and is considering going to graduate school to become an English professor.

Annie began the project in Dr. Jane Greer’s class on women and rhetoric at UMKC. Intrigued by Schuyler Church’s character in the musical, Hamilton, which she saw in New York City in March 2016, Annie studied Schuyler Church’s letters to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. With financial support from the UMKC English Department, Annie attended the Naylor Workshop for Undergraduate Research in Writing Studies at York College of Pennsylvania and decided to expand her work into a senior honors thesis and a capstone project for her major. Guided by Dr. Greer as her faculty mentor, Annie received a SUROP grant to travel to Albany, New York, and tour Schuyler Church’s childhood home.

“I began to understand that women are remembered in unique ways in different places,” says Annie. “To remember them today, we have to shift the spotlight to their stories.”

As the former editor of Lucerna, the interdisciplinary undergraduate research journal published annually by the Honors College, Annie recognizes the many benefits of undergraduate research. “Working on a research project with my faculty mentor helped me develop my writing and presentation skills. It involved a lot of hard work, but I have no doubt it’s made me a better scholar.”

Medical School on the Horizon: Lauren Eide

Lauren Eide is from Olathe, Kansas. She is passionate about Pinterest and loves doing craft projects. She also enjoys exploring the cuisine scene of KCMO. She is a double major in Chemistry and Psychology and she’s also minoring in Biology. Her dream is to go on to medical school and one day become a primary care doctor. When she arrived at UMKC, she wanted to be a part of something where she could surround herself with like minded individuals and the Honors College seemed like a natural fit. She appreciated the array of opportunities that the Honors College offered her. She loved living in the Honors LLC her freshman year, where she made some of her best friends. One class that really stuck out for her was Honors Genetics. We are proud to have her be the embodiment of what being in the Honors College entails.

Bound for MIT: Elizabeth Hemenway

Honors College alumna Elizabeth Hemenway, who graduated in May, just moved to Boston to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I’ll be entering a PhD program through the Biology Department at MIT. I chose MIT because of its vibrant research community and many excellent biology labs. There’s also a lot of multidisciplinary research happening at MIT, which is exciting,” Elizabeth says. “The program at MIT is structured so that you take classes and choose a thesis lab the first year, and after the first year you are working on your thesis research, in the lab that you have chosen based on your interests.”
At UMKC, Elizabeth majored in biology, minored in chemistry, and worked in the lab of Dr. Scott Hawley for two years, where she discovered her passion for research. Her ultimate goal is to uncover fundamental biological processes using organisms that can be used to build a more complete picture of the mechanisms underlying human diseases and conditions. 
Elizabeth says the Honors College allowed her to challenge herself academically and learn about ideas outside her disciplines. She also enjoyed the community facilitated by the Honors College and volunteering in the after-school program at the Kauffman School.