Nine Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus students made history by being the first people to graduate from the Honors Program.

Since the program started in the fall of 2014, the seven women and two men completed an additional 24 hours of coursework within their major while also working with faculty mentors.

Coming out of high school, they had to have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.75, an ACT composite score of 28 or higher and an SAT score of 1250 or higher.

A couple of them were sophomores at IUPUC when the program started, so their qualification was based on their college GPA.

Of the nine graduates, three of them are from Jackson County — Abbigail Young of Norman, and Michael Foist and Jordan Jones, both of Seymour.

They were honored during a ceremony a few hours before graduation May 13 at Columbus East High School. They each received a medallion with the school’s Discovery statue on it to wear at graduation.

“We really have made history, and that’s something that we’ll always be a part of,” said Young, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. “I’ll have an IU degree that’s globally known, and to have an honors mark by that, as well, is just a very big honor and a very big accomplishment.”

Foist, a communication studies graduate, also considered it a good accomplishment.

“It felt good just to get to the end of the four years, just like that marathon of every semester, I would have to get excited for a new lengthy project,” he said. “Looking back at all I had done, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into grad school if not for the work I did on these things, so it was just like I owe some debt of gratitude for my future to the Honors Program, how they pushed me to be the best me I could be.”

Young and Foist both started at IUPUC in 2013 and were invited to participate in the Honors Program when it started the next year, while Jones qualified right out of high school in 2014.

“Any way that I could better myself, I absolutely wanted to do that,” said Young, a 2013 Brownstown Central High School graduate. “It was a great opportunity when you graduate to have that mark.”

Foist graduated from Seymour High School in 2007 and then worked in retail for a few years until deciding to enroll at IUPUC. His 4.0 GPA as a freshman qualified him for the Honors Program, and he maintained that all four years.

“I was happy to be able to be involved in it, but I also knew it was going to be a lot of work,” he said. “I was up for that challenge because I like being challenged through things. I knew I would be challenged, and I thought it would be rewarding, so that was my main reaction, just wanting to do something else and kind of stretch my wings.”

Each semester, Young said she worked one-on-one with a professor to determine what extra project she could do to earn the three credit hours she needed for the Honors Program. A couple of times, she did that in two classes in a semester.

“It did get simpler as you went because you got familiar with how the process worked, but as far as the extra work I was doing, I felt like it got more difficult because I could find more ways to add things with it as I went because I did become more familiar,” she said. “My workload did pick up.”

Foist said he wrote a few rigorous research papers, which helped him receive opportunities to share his findings at communications conferences in Wisconsin, Michigan and Utah.

He said he was the first person to receive three Office of Student Research grants to pay for travel and registration for those conferences.

“There was a learning curve, for sure,” he said. “I had never written anything that long before, and it had to be very research-heavy. It was difficult at first, but eventually, I got into the groove of it.”

Along with trying to keep his GPA at 4.0, Foist also went through the challenge of having his left leg amputated two years ago.

He stepped on a glass cup at a pool when he was younger and over time kept getting bone infections that wouldn’t heal properly. He eventually was told amputation was the best course of action.

“Before amputation, I was getting two antibiotic treatments a day while going to school and taking a full-time course load,” he said. “It was hard to kind of keep everything in check, but I managed to do it somehow. I don’t know how, but I did it.”

Even though they commuted to campus during their careers, Young and Foist were involved in several organizations.

Both of them were members of the Alpha Lamba Delta honor society, with Foist serving as treasurer two years. Young also was in the education honor society Kappa Delta Pi, serving as president her senior year.

All four years, Young was a member of Student Ambassadors, where she introduced the university to high school and new college students. She was vice president her junior year and president as a senior.

During her time at IUPUC, she also was a peer mentor to freshmen; was the division marshal for the education department at graduation her junior year, where she carried the banner in front of the education graduates; and coached volleyball at Brownstown Central High School.

As part of her degree requirements, Young was a student-teacher for Brownstown Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Jamie Temple for eight weeks this spring.

In the fall, she will be a fourth-grade teacher at the school.

“That’s another goal that I’ve achieved,” Young said. “That has always been my goal to be back at Brownstown, so I’m very excited to be back and give back to the community that I grew up in.”

Foist was vice president of the Communication Club for two of his four years and was a writing tutor at the Academic Resource Center for two years. He also maintained a job as a disc jockey for a radio station in Columbus.

He now plans to head to the University of Utah to pursue master’s and doctorate degrees in communication studies. His ultimate goal is to become a college professor and researcher.

Young and Foist both encourage anyone planning to attend IUPUC to consider the Honors Program.

There are now 33 students enrolled in the program, including Young’s brother, Jacoby Shade, a 2016 Brownstown Central graduate.

“IUPUC is just growing in general in numbers, and they now have more majors,” Young said. “It’s exciting that all of these students can be a part of it.”

Foist said the Honors Program helped him determine a career path. He initially wanted to work toward a sports-related career, but that changed after he became involved in the Honors Program and talked to his advisers.

“I think the Honors Program gives people the ability to kind of change what they thought about themselves and what they are capable of,” he said. “I had a career change idea just in the first few years I was there because of the Honors Program, so it lets people kind of reassess what they believe in what they want to do.”

At a glance

2016-17 Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus Honors Program graduates

Name;Major;Hometown

Ashley Autumn Dieter;Finance;Columbus

Michael Francis Foist III;Communication studies;Seymour

Mikala Brianne Greenlee;Finance and management;Hope

Jordan Allan Jones;Marketing and management;Seymour

Sabrina R. Schipper;Biology;Columbus

Samantha Ann Skirvin;Psychology;Franklin

Holly Ann Stockhover;Nursing;Columbus

Carissa Dawn Walls;Psychology;Columbus

Abbigail Morgan Young;Elementary Education;Norman

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.