Four Honors Program Students Earn UMKC Award

Four Honors Program seniors have been named UMKC Dean of Students Honor Recipients for Fall 2022. The award commends exceptional graduating students who have made significant contributions in leadership and service to the university and to the community while maintaining high academic standards. 

Dr. Michele D. Smith, Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, congratulated recipients at a ceremony on December 16. 

Students are nominated by faculty members, and competition is rigorous.

“I was happy that Christian Dang was recognized for his remarkable service to the university as well as the Honors Program,” said Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood, a Teaching Professor in the Honors Program who co-nominated Christian with Dr. Tara Allen of the School of Science and Engineering. “And I am impressed that four of the seven recipients were Honors students, who are among the most engaged and committed students on campus.”

The Honors Program students who won the award are pictured with Dr. Smith (far right) from left to right:

Christian Dang, School of Science and Engineering, nominated by Henrietta Rix Wood and Tara Allen; Hailey Armbruster, School of Science and Engineering, nominated by Kathleen Kilway; Carlyn Euritt, School of Science and Engineering, nominated by Peter Koulen; and Nathan Meshau, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, nominated by Rebecca Best.

Jetzel Chavira Focuses on Photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Honors Program student Jetzel Chavira stands in front of Manuel Álvarez Bravo’s photograph in the “Highlights from the Collection” photography exhibition she helped curate at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The exhibition features 85 photos related to transportation and is a small sample of the museum’s vast holding of photos dating from the advent of photography in 1839.

“Álvarez Bravo was a Mexican photographer, and I wanted to include him because there’s not a lot of diversity in the photography collection. My parents are from Mexico, and they could relate to this picture,” Jetzel said, studying the 94-year-old photographer’s self-portrait. Álvarez Bravo created the image by snapping his reflection in the side mirror of a truck in 1996 in Oaxaca, Mexico.

To the right of Álvarez Bravo’s photograph is the explanatory plaque Jetzel wrote: “Though Álvarez Bravo rarely took self-portraits as a young man, he made this image just a few years before he passed away, a literal and metaphoric self-reflection at the end of his life.”

During a recent tour of the photography show, Jetzel reflected on her role in the exhibition, her studies as a junior majoring in art history with a minor in Latinx studies who plans to pursue a doctorate degree in art history, and her interest in photography and the work of Mexican and Latinx photographers.

The Álvarez Bravo photograph is one of the ten images that Jetzel researched and wrote about as an Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial fellow at the Nelson-Atkins. She won the prestigious year-long fellowship, which is part of a national program seeking to create diverse curatorial cohorts in U.S. art museums, in the summer of 2021.

As a Mellon fellow, Jetzel worked with April M. Watson, the curator of photography at the Nelson-Atkins. “I never knew how much curators do,” Jetzel said. “I had hands-on experience.” 

For the exhibition, Jetzel spent many hours selecting ten images to interpret and compiling information about images by photographers such as Henri Cartier Bresson, the famous early twentieth-century French photographer known for capturing on film the “decisive moment.” One of her favorites is Carpoolers, a striking series of images of Mexican workers riding in the backs of pickup trucks from their homes to jobs in 2011-2012. Mexican photographer Alejandro Cartegna took the photos from a highway overpass that afforded a bird’s eye view of the trucks and workers and makes both artistic as well as social statements. Jetzel also conducted an interview with Cartegna interview that is on the Nelson-Atkins website at https://nelson-atkins.org/exhibitions/highlights-photography-collection-fulgal-2/

“Jetzel came into the fellowship with a passion for photography and a love for our collection. While still in high school, she was selected to participate in the selective Photography Scholars Program, a partnership between the Nelson-Atkins and schools in the Kansas City area that introduces teens to the collection and professional practice,” Dr. Watson noted.

Praising Jetzel, Dr. Watson said she “has a natural curiosity, is always eager to learn more, and brought insight to the interpretation of works in our collection. Embracing the museum’s goal to be more diverse and inclusive, she foregrounded the contributions of women and photographers of color in her research. Jetzel was up for any challenge and was an absolute joy to have as part of our curatorial team.”

Jetzel’s fellowship provided other important opportunities, such as attending two national conferences. She encountered Mellon fellows from across the country at a recent meeting in Philadelphia. At the Midwest Art History Conference in Houston, Jetzel became acquainted with a curator from the Chicago Art Institute who gave her a private tour of the renowned museum when Jetzel later visited Chicago.

The Mellon Fellowship also provides funding for fellows as they explore graduate programs. To date, Jetzel has visited Denver University and plans to investigate programs at the University of Arizona and the University of New Mexico. 

Looking back, Jetzel said the highlight of the year “was building connections with people in museums and having the opportunity to do research on a variety of different artists.”

The “Highlights from the Collection” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is free and can be viewed through April 2023; for more information, go to https://nelson-atkins.org/exhibitions/highlights-photography-collection-fulgal-2/

Local Mayors Meet Honors Program Students in New Leadership Class

Honors students asked hard questions and got honest answers about the challenges of leadership when they met with three Kansas City-area mayors on September 28 in Honors 360C, a new class about leadership and ethics.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, Mission Mayor Sollie Flora, and Prairie Village Mayor Eric Mikkelson talked about responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, dealing with critical and polarized constituents, and efforts to provide affordable housing. Mayor Flora, one of the few women mayors in the area, addressed assumptions about gender and leadership.

“We were impressed that three local leaders took the time to meet with our students and share their experiences and insights,” said Dr. Henrietta Rix Wood, a Teaching Professor in the Honors Program who is co-teaching Honors 360C with Margo Gamache, the Honors Program Student Services Director.

A funny thing happened to Mayor Lucas on the way to the meeting: he had trouble finding the classroom, so he used his Twitter account to ask for help and later posted a picture of the class.

Tweet from Mayor Quentin Lucas that says "I found my UMKC classroom and enjoyed visiting with students today on policy, communications, and what makes us unique - quite a question." Attached is an image of Mayor Lucas sitting in a classroom with students.

Honors 360C is the first class in the Honors Leader Program, which helps students develop the skills they need to solve social problems and address important issues. The program is a series of four one-credit courses focusing on the four Honors pillars: environmental sustainability, social justice and cultural awareness, leadership and ethics, and Kansas City history and urban engagement.

Gamache proposed the Honors Leader Program because students told her they wanted more opportunities to make a difference in Kansas City.

“Many Honors students already volunteer for campus and community organizations,” Gamache said. “The Honors Leader Program will allow them to connect with local leaders, learning from and with them about the needs of the Kansas City area.”

Honors faculty and staff will teach the Honors Leader courses, which will include discussion groups, guest speakers, and community service. One course will be offered each semester during a two-year period with the program repeating every two years.

“For more than forty years, the UMKC Honors Program has encouraged students to develop leadership skills through classes, student-led groups, and study abroad,” said Dr. Gayle Levy, Director of the Honors Program. “The Honors Leader Program extends our efforts to help our students, our university, and Kansas City. Many of our alumni are leaders, and we plan to call upon them to participate in the program.”

For more information about the Honors Leader Program, please contact Margo Gamache at gamachem@umkc.edu.