A junior political science major from Hastings, Emma Mays plans to attend law school and specialize in immigration law. This semester, she is part of the University Honors Program’s Civic Leaders Track. It is one of three experiential tracks launched at the start of the 2020-21 academic year to provide upper-class honors students with access to faculty and community experts to explore different issues from various perspectives while providing real-world opportunities for engagement.
The experiential tracks have been successful due to the support of faculty and staff five colleges (Arts and Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Journalism and Mass Communications, Engineering and Education and Human Sciences) and several other campus programs (including Student Affairs, Career Services, Explore Center and Global Strategies).
The experiential tracks — which include Civic Leaders, Environmental Stewards, World Leaders and (new for fall 2021) Future Healers — provide a small, cohort experience centered on a thematic focus. In the tracks, students like Mays have the opportunity to take specialized honors seminars, and are paired with community-based internships aimed at helping them prepare for future career goals.
For Mays, this has meant an internship with Catholic Social Services this spring, where she is working in the immigration services department to serve the local community alongside an accredited immigration specialist.
“The most valuable aspect of this opportunity is soaking in all the information about the immigration system,” Mays said. “Going forward, I hope to take not only the information I have learned but also a growing heart to serve underrepresented communities.”
In the fall, the University Honors Program will roll out a new offering for students interested in focusing their last two years at Nebraska on careers in healthcare. Developed in collaboration with the Explore Center and faculty affiliated with three colleges (Arts and Sciences, Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and Education and Human Sciences), the Future Healers track provides an avenue for students interested in all varieties of pre-health careers to gain professional skills and experience, and to network with faculty, community professionals, and other students.
“Changes in our society and new technology mean that universities need to think and act differently,” said Patrice McMahon, director of the University Honors Program. “Our track initiative ensures that our students have access to faculty and experts who can help guide them professionally and personally.
“The tracks not only benefit our students, but they help our community. This spring more than 50 honors students are working on campus, in community non-profits, or in Lincoln Public Schools through matches facilitated by the Honors Program.”
In addition to the unique course offerings and experiential learning opportunities available to them, students in the tracks receive additional support to develop their honors senior project or thesis, and create a professional portfolio which can be showcased to potential employers.
For Mays, track emphasis on meaningful experiences and professional development has made all the difference.
“I am so thankful that the Honors Program assisted in connecting me with this experience,” Mays said. “I cannot think of a better position to set me up for success.”