Michael W. Combs, who died in 2019, was a beloved professor of political science, colleague and community member. Now, Huskers will continue to know his legacy and aspirations for them through a student organization named in his honor.
The Dr. Michael W. Combs Honors Scholars is a new student organization, under the leadership of Honors Program students and staff, that seeks to build a community for students of color, offering leadership, networking and mentoring opportunities.
“We wanted to use ‘scholars’ in the organization’s name, because that’s the term Dr. Combs would use for his students, indicating their present and potential,” said Shannon Mangram, coordinator for community engagement, retention, and recruitment in the Honors Program and co-adviser to the organization. “The name is fitting because of the way he interacted with his students, the way he expected excellence and the way he reminded scholars to expect that same excellence of themselves. That’s what we want to do for students through this organization.”
Combs Honors Scholars is open to any student with a GPA of 3.4 or higher, and they do not need to be in the Honors Program to be involved.
The idea for an organization that focused on high-achieving underrepresented students came about in the spring, when a handful of Nebraska Honors students wanted to make positive change on campus for their peers.
“It was a good intersection of initiatives in that the Honors Program was working to add more support structures for underrepresented students,” Mangram said. “And around that same time, we had students approach us with concerns about communities for students of color.”
Honors students Daniela Chavez and Dulce Garcia set to work at getting the organization up and running, and Mangram and Jordan Soliz, professor of communication studies, and Honors Program Faculty Fellow, volunteered to serve as advisers. Chavez and her fellow executive council members spent the summer term solidifying a plan, writing the organization’s mission statements and constitution, and submitting the proposal to the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska for approval. Now, they are actively recruiting and engaging members. Its approval as a Recognized Student Organization is pending.
“With all of the other things we are doing in the Honors Program — with adding more structure for students — it felt like the right time to do this,” Chavez, a fourth-year art history and studio art major, said. “There are many things that we’re doing for students of color, but we felt like something like this was needed, too.”
Chavez and Mangram hope the Combs Honors Scholars will build out a community of engaged students and provide important support and resources as they progress through their college careers.
“Some students automatically know where to get information about internships, scholarships and fellowships, but a lot of students don’t,” Mangram said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many students who don’t know are students of color, so initiatives like this one address their current experience and seek to provide increased access to that community.”
Chavez said the executive council is finalizing details for upcoming meetings, which will be virtual for now, but she hopes members will still be able to begin socializing and forming that community.
“We’re talking about ways to host discussions about professional opportunities and internships, as well as planning for a big event each semester to bring everyone together,” Chavez said. “Each semester, we want to focus on a different goal for the group.”
For more information about the Combs Honors Scholars, or to join the group, email Mangram at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about what Nebraska Honors is doing to foster inclusive excellence here.