Margo Gamache Rising Star Award

Margo Gamache, the Director of Student Services for the Honors College, has won the UMKC Rising Star Award for 2021!

You can watch and applaud as Margo is given the Rising Star Award today, Tuesday April 20, via YouTube! The event will begin at 3:30, and can be accessed here.

The Rising Star Award recognizes a staff member who makes significant contributions to their area and UMKC within the first five years of their service. The winner of this award demonstrates extraordinary commitment through their innovative ideas, passion, and leadership.

“I am honored to have been chosen for the Rising Star Award,” Margo said. “I am so thankful to my co-workers who offered support and suggestions every time I came with a new idea. Our Honors community is special, and I am honored to have the opportunity to nurture it. I look forward to helping UMKC students thrive well into the future!”

Honors College Executive Assistant Alisa Carmichael said she nominated Margo for the award because Margo provides “the best possible university experience for the students she serves. She is always willing to go above and beyond to see that students succeed, both in their present academic work as well as in their preparations for the future. Perhaps even more importantly at this time, Margo has a strong sense of empathy with students and the challenges they face. This has been particularly evident during the pandemic, as she has focused on ways to build a community of caring for our students, working to mitigate the isolation and uncertainty many students have felt during these periods of quarantine.”

Margo joined the Honors College in October 2018 after working at the UMKC School of Medicine for one and one-half years.

“Margo has accomplished truly impressive things during her two years in the Honors College,” said Honors College Dean James McKusick. “She has greatly improved student recruitment, enrollment, and retention, and she has made substantive innovations in our workflow and technology infrastructure.”

Dean Jim noted that Margo has helped increase enrollment by almost 100 students and achieve a record projected enrollment of 500 honors students for Fall 2021.

“Margo also has shown exceptional commitment to the development of ethical and effective leadership skills among the students who hold leadership positions in Honors College student organizations. Seeing that our various student groups needed to develop better interpersonal communication, she volunteered to facilitate a monthly Student Executive Council meeting where all of our student leaders can coordinate plans and develop consistent shared objectives for their respective groups. Under her careful guidance and mentoring, this monthly meeting has become a model for respectful and inclusive student self-governance within the Honors College,” Dean Jim said.

Commenting on Margo’s well-known “straightforward, no-nonsense demeanor,” Honors College Director Gayle Levy said that Margo “gives students confidence. She assists the students who are having difficulties in using the tools they have to resolve their issues and she emboldens those who are doing well to go further, whether that is to complete a senior honors thesis, to study abroad, or to apply for a research opportunity. The mentoring programs she created for the Honor College—Honors College Preceptors, faculty who informally mentor groups of students from varied disciplines—and the OWL (Older, Wiser Learner) program in which students mentor and socially interact with small groups of “joeys” or first-year students, serve as models for the greater UMKC community.”

Margo was born in Iowa City and grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She studied Mechanical Engineering and English at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and English at the University of Iowa in Iowa City before earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications-Publications with a minor in Marketing at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Margo has a master’s degree in Leadership in Human Service Administration from Bradley. She lives in Lee’s Summit with her husband and two young sons.

Congratulations to Margo and thanks to her for all that she does for the Honors College.

Honors student Niki Joshi wins prestigious fellowship

Honors College student Niki Joshi will never forget how she celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in 2021.

As the recipient of a competitive fellowship that will send her to Ireland this summer, she  appeared at an online event with US Vice President Kamala Harris, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland, Micheál Martin, and Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, Daniel Mulhall on March 17.

Mulhall introduced Niki and 13 other US college students as Frederick Douglass Global Fellows for 2021. The Douglass fellowship honors the famous nineteenth-century African American abolitionist and aims to help students of color develop skills in leadership, social justice, agitation for positive change, and cross-cultural understanding.

The program will be based in Dublin this summer to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the meeting of Douglass and Irish reformer Daniel O’Connell in Dublin in 1845 during Douglass’ campaign against slavery and oppression.

Nettie Washington Douglass, the great-great-granddaughter of Frederick Douglass, also attended the March 17 event.

Niki said she was grateful for the recognition of Harris, Martin, Mulhall, and Nettie Douglass, and for the discussion of the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. “It was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the emotional significance and impact that Douglass’s time in Ireland had on his development and activism. I’m deeply humbled and honored to have the opportunity to follow his journey and walk in his footsteps.”

 Niki looks forward to meeting the other Douglass Fellows in person in Dublin. “All of us are in a pretty active group chat where we often share news, personal updates, and words of encouragement. Not only are they all inspiring and accomplished leaders, but they’re also genuinely kind and supportive people,” she said.

 Douglass Fellows are selected for their academic achievement, communication skills, and commitment to social justice. Niki is a sophomore pursuing double majors in History and English—Creative Writing with a minor in Film Studies. She is one of seven UMKC Trustees’ Scholars for 2019 and has earned merit scholarships from the UMKC departments of English and History. As the senior editor and writer for Her Campus at UMKC, Niki recently reported on activist Jane Fonda and film director Ava Du Vernay. She also contributes to the UNews and is the video and production coordinator of TEDxRockhill.

Honors College Dean James McKusick said that Niki is an engaged student leader at UMKC who “has shown exceptional talent and dedication in her off-campus activities, which include pre-professional internships at three prestigious local firms, as well as volunteer service for UNICEF and dedicated work as a community organizer for a local advocacy group, March For Our Lives. Through these varied work experiences, Ms. Joshi has become deeply invested in building stronger communities in her hometown of Kansas City, and along the way, she has become adept at building bridges between people of diverse heritage throughout our metro area.”

To view the March 17 video, go to

To hear from Niki and other Douglass fellows, go to



Roo Honors Academy

The Roo Honors Academy invites high school students to participate in a fun and intellectually engaging one-week summer enrichment program, June 21-25, 2021, in the Honors Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Academy will offer non-credit classes on environmental justice, food culture, the evolution of cities and wildlife, and the culture and history of Kansas City. For course descriptions, click on

Participants will choose one morning course and one afternoon course taught by UMKC faculty members. All classes will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the Volker campus, near the Country Club Plaza.

Students need to provide their own transportation to and from the campus and bring their own lunch, except on Friday. Students who successfully complete each course will receive a “Recognition of Achievement” certificate from the UMKC Honors Program and a souvenir T-shirt.

The fee for the selective program open to thirty students in grades 9-12 is $265; children of UMKC employees are eligible for a $20 discount. Need-based scholarships may be available. For more information about scholarships or other questions about the Academy, please contact Margo Gamache, Honors Program Director of Student Services.

The application deadline is May 1, 2021, and applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Click here to complete the Roo Honors Academy application.

 To view the Roo Honors Academy video, go to


Lucerna Symposium March 11

UMKC students will share their research at the Lucerna Symposium on March 11, 2021.

Five UMKC students will present their remarkable research on topics ranging from Civil Rights photography to endangered species to historic preservation in Kansas City at the annual Lucerna Symposium, 5-6:30 p.m., Thursday, March 11 in Zoom.

These students are among the ten undergraduates whose scholarship appears in the new volume of Lucerna, the undergraduate research journal of UMKC produced by Honors College students that publishes the work of students in all disciplines.

UMKC Provost Jennifer Lundgren will speak at the Lucerna Symposium, which will conclude with a panel discussion by presenters.

The ten contributors and their topics are Samantha N. Hays, “Failing the Fight: The Historical Context of US Environmental Conservation and How Endangered Species Are Mismanaged in the Current Legislature; Sophie Jess, “Panhandlers: Why Kansas Citians Can’t (Pan)Handle Them”; Anna Ryan, “From Decreptitude to Diamonds: The Value of Preserving and Repurposing Historic Buildings in the Kansas City Area”; Lillian Taylor, “Intersex Adolescents and Medically Accepted Abuse”; Johnny Waggoner, “The Promise of Progress: Apollo and American Values”; William Burrus, “European Rail Nationalization and Income Inequality: An Empirical Analysis”; Annie Spencer, “Finding Eleanor of Acquitaine”; Yujay Masah, “Civil Rights Photography and Consensus Memory”; Kylie Brous, “The Mystery of Negative and Imaginary Logarithms”; and Gregory R. Troiani, “Thermal Constraints on Exoplanet Habitability.”

At the Lucerna Symposium, the faculty advisors of contributors will be recognized: Professor Peter Bayless, Dr. Virginia Blanton, Dr. Diane Mutti Burke, Dr. Richard Delaware, Dr. Sandra Enriquez, Dr. Zhongjin Li, Dr. Lee Likins, Dr. Jess Magaña, Dr. Linda Mitchell, Dr. Aaron Reed, Dr. Paul Rulis, Dr. April Watson, and Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood.

The Lucerna Symposium is free and open to the public. To attend the Symposium, please register here.

For more information, please email Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood at

Meet a Lucerna Author: Gregory R. Troiani

Gregory will present his study on exoplanet habitability at the Lucerna Symposium on March 11.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My paper, “Thermal Constraints on Exoplanet Habitability,” is a literature review of various papers on exoplanet habitability, namely on the types of planets and stars around which we might expect to find water-based life forms.

Why are you interested in this topic?

I think the prospect of life on other planets is one of the most interesting existential questions that we actually have the capacity to answer. The prospect of finding life elsewhere—or looking enough places that we can be statistically confident that we won’t find it elsewhere—would help us to calibrate just how impressed we should be by the fact that we’re here at all, as well as what we might expect for the future of humanity. When looking for a project topic, I couldn’t locate a concise explanation for the types of places we should be looking. So, I wrote one.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

The initial draft for this paper was written pretty hastily during finals week in December of 2019, so that was a pretty big challenge, and the changes made since then have been vast. However, it has been very beneficial as I apply to grad school to have publications on my CV and have a proper writing sample to submit when requested. It was also helpful to hone my skills as a science writer.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

Seek constructive feedback. Before I even submitted my work and began the more formal revision process with Lucerna’s editors, I had a professor and at least three colleagues give me edits and feedback. The published version is probably my seventh or eighth draft.

What are your professional plans or goals?

I intend to seek a Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and ultimately become professional scientist, either as a professor at a university or as a scientist at a national laboratory.

The Wonderful Dr. E

Dr. Laurie Ellinghausen, who has been active in the Honors College since 2014, has been promoted to professor in the English Department and recently published her third book, Pirates, Traitors, and Apostates: Renegade Identities in Early Modern English Writing (University of Toronto Press).

“This project represents a new direction for my career-long interest in labor, class, and social change in Shakespeare’s England,” Dr. Ellinghausen said. “Whereas my first book examined troublemakers within England, this one treats renegades—pirates, mercenaries, and ambitious upstarts—who traveled outside England to gain wealth, adventure, and esteem not available to them at home due to class-based social restrictions. Reading and writing about the lives of such figures took me to some new and fascinating territory.”

A scholar of Renaissance/early modern English literature and culture, Dr. Ellinghausen said that she always has loved books, classes, and new ideas. “But my undergraduate years at the University of Houston, where I was an English major and an honors student, really helped me decide to make education into my career. I had great professors there and great models for teaching and scholarship that I still call on today.”

Dr. Ellinghausen, also known as “Dr. E.,” has been an advisor to the Honors College Living-Learning Community at Oak Street Hall and to Lucerna, the undergraduate research journal that is produced by the Honors College. Dr. Ellinghausen also co-led the first Honors College Scotland Study Abroad Program in July 2017. Collaborating with Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood, Associate Teaching Professor in the Honors College, Dr. Ellinghausen co-taught an Anchor 3 class about the literature and history of Scotland, and a Discourse 300 class that asked students to interview Scots about important contemporary issues.

Looking back on Scotland, Dr. Ellinghausen observed: “This study-abroad experience, a first for both Dr. Wood and me, turned out to be quite the adventure. We explored Edinburgh, the Lowlands, and the Highlands with fifteen bright, high-achieving students who really made the most of the opportunity.  I hope we have the opportunity to do it again one day.”

The author of two other academic books and numerous articles, Dr. Ellinghausen grew up in Texas and earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is an advocate of public universities and noted that “for some time now, the biggest challenge to education in this region has been lack of adequate state funding for instruction. I believe that continuing to educate the public about the enduring value of public education—which includes everything from STEM to the liberal arts—is key to changing legislative priorities.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Ellinghausen already is at work on a new book, Literature and the Seaman’s Labor in Early Modern England. “It’s a study of how literary texts represented the common sailor during the formative years of Britain’s maritime empire. I’d like to integrate more of these materials into my courses as well. Apart from those plans, I’m open to whatever new opportunities might arise for scholarship, teaching, and serving students,” she said.


Honors College Alumni Going Places

(Pictured from left to right: Beth Hammock and Abby Dubisar)

Honors College Alumni Going Places 

By Beth Hammock, UMKC Development Consultant 

Abby Dubisar, Ph.D. graduated from UMKC in 2001 with a bachelor of arts degree in English with University Honors. Today, she teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Abby speaks at national and international conferences and teaches popular culture analysis, gender and communication, writing, and rhetoric. She is married to another English professor who she met in graduate school at Ohio State, Jeremy Withers. They have two young children.

I visited with Abby in a restaurant just off campus in Ames in early November. Here are highlights of our conversation. 

How did you decide to become an English professor?  

 After I graduated and was working for UMKC in the study abroad office I took a graduate course on “girls and print culture” taught by Dr. Jane Greer. (associate professor of English and Women’s & Gender Studies. (Dr. Greer had been one of my first English professors at UMKC; she taught my first-year honors writing course.) For the “girls and print culture” course I pursued an archival research project on writing done by the girls who lived at the State Industrial Home for Negro Girls in Tipton, Missouri, during the 1930s and 1940s. To conduct my research I went to Jefferson City to read the girls’ writing in the archives at the state capital. My extensive research got Dr. Greer’s attention. She encouraged me to go to graduate school.  Dr. Greer became one of my major influencers at UMKC and is still a close friend and mentor to me.

How did the honors program (now Honors College) help you? 

I made lifelong friends in the honors program. It helps the nerds who like to read find their peer group and form a community.  It also helped me find out about opportunities on campus. I wrote for University News and got that job through an honors connection. Drs. Dean and Mirkin also helped connect me with campus resources and were accessible faculty members who answered my questions.

What advice do you have for honors students? 

Get to know the faculty members who teach your classes and think of them as a resource, people who can help you achieve your goals. Dr. Greer is the epitome of a great mentor. I got to know her and her generosity has affected my whole life. She’s the model for how I mentor undergraduate and graduate students now.  

How do you balance work and family? 

Communication with my partner and quality childcare. We also have a supportive community in our town.

Tell me about your research. 

I have a diverse range of research interests, but they all center on feminist rhetoric. My latest archival research focuses on Ruth Buxton Sayre (1896-1980), an Iowa native who worked to convince farm women to see themselves as global citizens. She later became the only woman on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Agriculture Advisory Committee. She has a sizable archive, held at the State Historical Society of Iowa. This past summer I traveled to London to research the archive of the Associated Country Women of the World, which Sayre lead from 1947-1952. A couple of my recent publications analyze peace activist cookbooks. People may be surprised to know that cookbooks can be activist texts that adeptly subvert women’s domestic roles. The kitchen remains the place where gender and politics ferment!  

On this #GivingTuesdayKC, Consider a gift to the Honors College

Are you ready to be a part of #GivingTuesdayKC? It’s a global day of giving, happening right here in Kansas City!

You #eatlocalkc. You #shoplocalkc. Why not give local?

Please consider a gift to the UMKC Honors College! UMKC is Kansas City’s only public research university. Your support will provide merit scholarships for hardworking local college students who need your assistance to pay for their college tuition and books.

Give to the UMKC Honors College this #GivingTuesdayKC.


** In completing the online giving process, be sure to designate your gift to the Honors College.

Thank you in advance for your support !

Why do you support the UMKC Honors College? Post your #unselfie and tag #GivingTuesdayKC to show your support for honors education in Kansas City!

Honors College Work Study Positions Available


AFIA – Academy for Integrated Arts – Work Study Position

Kauffman School Work-Study Position