Honors Program

Honors Student Testimonials

*ordered alphabetically by first name

Ashley Salguero-Gonzalez ‘23

As a biology student, I feel honored to be part of the USM Honors Program. The interdisciplinary pathway challenges me to develop critical thinking in the STEM department. It has also broadened my perspective in the humanities, expanded my horizons across a wide range of topics, and inspired me to go beyond learning in the classroom by stimulating my intellectual curiosity and applying concepts in my daily life. For instance, my friends and I were able to present at the STEM Expo and share our passion for science through experiments with Portland schools and the community. Another memorable experience was learning about Maine history by following the Portland Freedom Trail and going on a kayak trip to Malaga Island. I started my own podcast program called “Maine Connected” at WMPG Radio Station and interviewed USM President Dr. Glenn Cummings. In the Honors Program, I feel a sense of a close-knit community that deeply cares for one another and values diversity. Faculty and staff are supportive and work hard to help make goals and dreams of students a reality. I feel proud to be a Husky!



Azlea Buch '21

My name is Azalea Buch, and I am a senior at the University of Southern Maine! I will be graduating with the class of 2021 with a double major in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Honors. I was born and raised in San Diego, California, and decided to move to Maine almost four years ago! I am incredibly grateful for my studies and travels and how they have helped shape how I view and comprehend current global issues. Following my graduation from the University of Southern Maine, I will be earning my Masters of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International studies, attending their Bologna, Italy campus. Throughout my senior year, I have been interning at Partners for World Health as a Global Non-Profit Management intern and at the New England Ocean Cluster (NEOC) as a Blue Economy Communications intern. Honors initiated my internship with the New England Ocean Cluster, and it has allowed me to gain experience in my field of study while earning academic credit. I traveled to China with Honors, exposing me to rich culture, beautiful language and provided me with the opportunity to see and experience a way of life that was once out of reach. The Honors program at the University of Southern Maine is a venue for well-rounded success. It fosters the values of service and interdisciplinary academic excellence. From traveling to China, working with the NEOC, and being a part of the Honors Student Organization, I am so thankful for the opportunities granted by Honors. I firmly believe my experiences in the program will serve me well as I continue my education at Johns Hopkins University!

Courtney Czechowicz '21 

Many think that Honors is just something that goes on your degree if you get good grades throughout your college years. However, here at USM it is so much more; it is a program filled with amazing opportunities and even better staff and faculty. I have been a part of the Honors program here at USM since my freshman year, and it was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made. Through the Honors program at USM I was able to study abroad in Iceland, something that I never thought possible for myself. I learned a lot about the connections between Maine and the Northern Atlantic, while also getting to experience a new culture and beautiful country. The Honors professors truly care about each and every student in their class, which has allowed me to study under some truly amazing professors as well as gain references for future job opportunities. The Honors community at USM has also fostered many lifelong friendships, and is a great community for both commuter and on campus students. The aspect I love most about Honors is that all majors come together in one class, creating great conversations and allowing for many different perspectives. Soon I will be a senior in college, and I know my time at USM will come to a close, but the connections and friendships I have made through this program will last a lifetime.

Elizabeth Chartrand ’22

I have been a member of the Honors Program at USM since my freshman year, and it has enriched my academic experience immensely. From my very first small-class college experience, to receiving a scholarship for traveling to Iceland, to the beginning of my honors thesis project, the Honors Program has led me to so many academic opportunities I would never have gotten otherwise. My favorite thing about the Honors Program is the tight-knit community. I have been able to grow close relationships with both my peers and with Honors faculty. Because the Honors Program is so flexible, it is an interdisciplinary minor. I have peers that major in all sorts of disciplines, which enriches my understanding of my own field. Close relationships with faculty allow networking opportunities that are so integral in the academic world. Now at the beginning of my senior year, I am ending my undergraduate career working with Honors Program faculty to write an Honors thesis that is a culmination of all that I have learned at USM. Without the Honors Program at USM, I don’t think I would have had an undergraduate career half as enriching as the one I have had. 

Grace Brenner '23

Throughout all of high school I never felt like I had my people. I bounced from friend group to friend group and I had low expectations when it came to finding a place where I fit in college. Before I committed to USM I attended the honors program informational presentation and immediately I felt welcomed and at ease. Two of the three student speakers were social work majors, like myself, which helped me feel connected to the program. For my first course, I had the honor of being in Rebecca Nisetich’s entry year experience course, and despite being the director of the program and a professor, Dr. Nisetich was always available for a question or a quick chat. Something that I greatly appreciate about the honors staff is how accessible and helpful they are. The honors center is my go to spot for everything and I never feel like I am in anyone’s way or like I am not welcome there. The honors program staff all listen intently to the students and want to truly design the program to benefit them. Even something as small as redecorating a side room that my friends and I spent a lot of time in doesn’t slip by them. It is easy to be consumed by a job like program director or professor, but the honors staff makes students feel cared for. Seeing as I just completed my first year, I have only taken one honors course, but I honestly can’t wait to take more. I feel challenged by the classes while also supported at the same time. Not only am I looking forward to the classes, but the travel abroad trips that the honors program offers are vast and an opportunity that I, and others, hope to participate in. All in all, my experience with the USM honors program has been the most positive part of my first year.

Jen Butler '23

As a junior now, one of my best decisions was declaring the honors minor. The program here at USM is one of the most worthwhile things I have ever participated in. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the classes I have taken and I really appreciate how they do have something for everybody. My professors have always been the most supportive and understanding and are willing to help in any way that they can. Working as a student assistant has also been very enjoyable because I am able to work any time I want without it interfering with my classes. My job itself is so fun and I love all of the writing experience it has given me. I don’t think I would be as successful here at USM if it wasn’t for the honors program and I’m grateful for everyone within it who has helped me with my success as an undergraduate.

Kabwit Emmanuel Mutshaila '22

My initial thought of honors was that it would be a program of an elect of student that would be a part of an honorary organization and thus I felt compelled to take it (what person does not want to belong to a distinguished election). I came to USM with the goal of a getting a degree in mechanical engineering, however as God would have it I was introduced into the honors program not really understanding what I had signed up for until the spring of my sophomore year, the program had now been engrafted into my academic journey at USM, and before I knew it I was told that Honors was a minor on my USM transcript. Well, having already taken three honors classes and seeing no point in turning around, I told myself “why stop now, let me finish what I started”. That statement sounded easy at the time, but the next year that followed of taking a minimum of 2 honors classes in addition to my engineering classes would challenge my statement and stretch my mental capacity beyond its comfort, but nonetheless I bless my God that I have made it till the end and am grateful for the professors and connections that I have made through these three years, and cannot wait for my years beyond USM.

Liam Dunn ‘22

The thing I love most about the honors program at USM is the customizability. Whether you’re hoping to gain scholarly research skills, study abroad or volunteer opportunities, the honors program is fantastic. In my time at USM, I’ve taken classes completely different from my major and been exposed to a wide range of topics that I would have never otherwise considered studying, such as a class I took with Assunta Kent on the cultural history of theatre. I also highly recommend writing an honors thesis, since it allows you to go in depth about a topic you are passionate about. Not only that, but it’s a great way to show potential graduate schools that you are capable of completing a long term project. For my thesis project, I am studying food waste and how circular economies are able to better control food waste and divert most of it back into the economy or to use as energy for new food(composting). Whatever your interests may be or the route you go down, I think Honors is a great addition to any degree!


Melissa Palumbo '21

Having earned my associate's degree in 2018, I returned to school in 2019 to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Analytics at USM. As a non-traditional transfer student – married, over 30, and working full-time while taking classes full-time online and in the evenings, I didn't think I would have the opportunity to be involved in much other than keeping my head above water in academics.
When I received the invitation to join the honors program, I was unsure what to expect but took on the challenge to add the Honors Minor. I'm so glad I did. For the first time in my life, I was in classes made up of other high-performing students with the same drive to succeed in academics. The courses offered in the minor added a much-needed breath of fresh air to my business program studies. They helped broaden my mind and exposed me to concepts and creative outlets I otherwise would not have experienced. Being a part of the Honors program gave me a connectedness to USM I may not otherwise have found as a non-traditional student.
I would encourage students to consider this program. Not only does it provide a sense of accomplishment by requiring a maintaining of your GPA, but it allows a look outside your program of study, a community, and a reflective look inward at yourself and your goals.


Wadak Harbi ‘24

While regular college classes teach students how to think “outside the box,” the Honors Program shows students how to build their own personalized box. Upon constructing their box, students get to choose whether they want to think outside of it, dig deeper within it, make a hole through it, or even build around it. In honors classes, students fully control their ideas and thoughts and how they want to apply them. As outstanding as they are, the professors provide the class with all the essential resources and information necessary to rise and succeed. To students, the professors are their teachers, mentors, and sometimes even friends. In my experience, my honors classes have been tremendously helpful, both academically and individually. The skills I was taught and the things that I learned- especially in Narrative Medicine and Neuropsychology of Implicit Bias- have changed the way I view the world. I now have a “third eye,” the critical, investigative eye that examines and studies my surroundings, analyzing people’s behaviors, and eventually understanding them. As a student who likes to find creative solutions to real-world problems, I am glad to be part of the Honors Program. It is genuinely an innovative tool that helps students thrive and flourish, similarly to how caterpillars mature into butterflies.