Aarushi Dervesh

Aarushi Dervesh

she/her and they/them

  • Hometown: West Des Moines, IA
  • Major: Neuroscience, B.S. Minor: Art
  • Year: Senior
  • Points of Passion: I’m passionate about making the world a kinder and better place, through social activism, creative ventures, and working with people. I also really love learning new things, especially when I can apply them to things in my everyday life!
  • Future Goals: I’m pursuing a master’s degree in Neuroscience after I graduate from the University of Iowa, and past that will be looking into either a PhD program or medical school depending on which route I choose. I know that I want to end up working in neurology in some form or another, though! No matter where I end up, both research and clinical care are likely going to be very important to me.
  • Semester Update: I’ve finally been able to get back into doing my research project at the Wessel Cognitive Neurology Lab post-COVID, which is really exciting! I’ve also been continuing and adding on to my TTRPG games that I started in the summer of 2020 which is creatively really fulfilling. I’m also kicking things into gear with my Women of Color group that I run for the Panhellenic Council at the university. The newest development, though, has been finally switching from a Mac to a PC and being able to play computer games that I’ve been wanting to try out forever!
  • Favorite Thing About Honors: My favorite thing about Honors has been the continued community I developed starting my freshman year. Being in an Honor’s first-year seminar and living in Daum allowed me to meet people I likely would not have met otherwise, and some of those people are now my closest friends and so incredibly helpful to my college career. There’s nothing like staying up way too late with a group of people trying to get various assignments done and somehow also learning detailed information about topics you never would’ve encountered otherwise.

Previously Featured Students: 


Ross Brown

Ross Brown


  • Hometown: West Liberty, IA
  • Major: Computer Science and Engineering, B.S.E. Minor: Chemistry
  • Year: Junior
  • Points of Passion: I’m passionate about machine learning and hacking/data security. Outside of school, I'm passionate about music, woodworking, and fitness.
  • Future Goals: I am considering graduate school, but I would like to work in the field of AI and machine learning. 
  • Summer Update: I took a summer class and have been working on two research projects: one on molecular property prediction and another on cloud segmentation from satellite images. Both of my projects use neural networks. 
  • Favorite Thing About Honors: My favorite thing about Honors is the sense of community and having the extra network of people on campus.

Alyssa Ricke

Alyssa Ricke


  • Hometown: Sac City, IA
  • Major: Psychology, B.A. Minor: Sociology
  • Year: Senior
  • Points of Passion: I’m passionate about prison reform and reduction of recidivism.
  • Future Goals: In the future I hope to attend graduate school for clinical psychology and work as a forensic psychologist. In this area of work I can combine my interests of psychology and criminal justice. 
  • Quarantine Update: During my extra time at home during the pandemic I’ve watched a ton of great TV shows and have gotten back into reading for pleasure, something I hadn’t given myself time to do in awhile. 
  • Favorite Thing About Honors: My favorite thing about Honors has been my Service Learning opportunity. The program gives students a lot of freedom in choosing an organization or company to work with, so I was excited when I found the Inside Out Re-Rentry Program in Iowa City. This organization works with individuals re-entering the community from prison. In this experience I researched statistics about successes and failures across numerous re-entry programs. It was an opportunity to utilize my skills of analyzing research while getting to learn about a topic I’m passionate about. 

Mason Koelm

Mason Wyatt Koelm


  • Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
  • Major: International Relations B.A., Criminology, Law, and Justice B.S. Museum Studies Certificate, Anthropology Minor
  • Year: Senior
  • Points of Passion: I've loved museums since I was a kid. But the objects in museum collections often have a dark history. Western biases can overlook the spiritual and ceremonial significance of many objects, and many more were taken in violent colonial campaigns. Currently, museums like the Humboldt Forum, are committing to repatriation of pieces in their collection which were looted in military conflict. France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the EU have published reports and created new policies to address these historic wrongs. While this may seem like an issue of resolving past wrongs, antiquity looting is still occurring around the globe. Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS have bought and sold historic objects to fund their violent regimes. Destruction of cultural heritage sites removes objects from their context and disrupts scientific understanding as well as the ability for people to use these sites for ceremonial or spiritual purposes. As a global community, we have to band together to preserve mutual understanding and preserve the past for the future.
  • Career Goals: Next year I start law school at the University of Iowa. After that, I hope to use my degree to continue being an advocate and liaison for museums, collectors, countries, and groups to facilitate repatriation and loans of art and antiquities.
  • Current Projects: I have been using quarantine as an excuse to get good at cooking! My favorite recipes are shrimp scampi, chili, and chicken noodle soup, which was featured during the Hobbies Theme Week.
  • Favorite Thing About Honors: The Honors Community is the best thing about Honors. It makes a large university feel so much smaller and more welcoming. You see the same people in classes, you can meet lifelong friends in the dorm room, and there are plenty of social events to keep you busy in the meantime. 

Emily Swanson

Emily Swanson


  • Hometown: St. Louis, MO area
  • Major: Music Therapy Major with a Certificate in Writing
  • Year: Senior
  • Points of Passion: I am passionate about songwriting and storytelling... education and advocacy... and making people happy!
  • Career Goals: I want to work full time as a Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) and I have a particular interest in music therapy's role in social justice. I want the opportunity to work with system-impacted individuals, as well as those with learning or developmental disabilities.
  • Quarantine Update: I have been watching a great deal of shows and movies, as well as playing video games! Something I have been working on is a song album (my independent capstone project) for my writing certificate. I have also been planning a joint recital with another person in the music therapy program! We will be quarantining together in order to make this happen. If anyone is interested in watching the performance, the date is set for Saturday, April 10th from 5:30 to 6:30pm and it will be livestreamed on the School of Music's website!
  • Favorite Thing about Honors: My favorite thing about the Honors program was being able to work as an Honors Writing Fellow. I loved being a peer writing tutor. It gave me the opportunity to help other students view themselves as writers. I was able to help other students improve their work and writing skills. There were many students who stated that they "couldn't" write or that they dreaded writing. Many would apologize to me for having to read their "poor" work. I enjoyed being able to show these students that they can write, and that writing can be a positive experience.

Nicole Hobson



  • Hometown: Johnston, Iowa 
  • Major: Biomedical Sciences Major, Global Health Studies Certificate, and Spanish Minor.
  • Year: Fourth-Year

My biggest passion is definitely traveling and learning about new cultures. I love being completely immersed in a different place as it helps me understand my own culture better, discover new ways of living, and meet amazing people. This passion began in high school when I was a foreign-exchange student in Nicaragua. Thankfully, I’ve had amazing opportunities to spend extensive time so far in Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Italy, Kosovo, and Peru! I cannot wait for COVID to be over so I can continue this passion!

My future career goals are to be a patient-centered physician working with global populations. I hope to receive an MD and Masters in Public Health to learn how to improve refugees’ lives by forming programs to increase access to trauma-aware and culturally-aware health care, community programming, and job training. Another big goal of mine is to become a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in order to assist with high-risk pregnancies specifically with these populations as well.  

During quarantine, I have spent my extra time reading fun books (other than textbooks!), hiking, and making delicious charcuterie boards with all sorts of yummy foods. I’ve also broken out my old fondue pot for when I’m feeling extra fancy during a movie night with roommates!

My favorite thing about Honors is how the program pushes students to do work outside of the classroom. The required experiential hours have led me to do amazing things like working with ambassadors and researching indigenous communities in the Amazon!

Admin TY

For the January Student Spotlight, I'd like to recognize the hard work of the student administrators who do so much for the Honors Program. Amanda, Anna, Mason, Mishma, & Josh have all assisted with the successful implementation of the Honors Program shifting to a mostly virtual platform in 2020.

The Honors Program 4th floor of the Blank Honors Center is open by appointment only to meet with pro-staff so when you're calling the front desk, you're connecting with someone whose potentially not located in Iowa City due to the pandemic. It's incredible how adaptable and flexible this student group has been and I am thankful to have such a supportive, creative, and incredible team of students to work with.

I also want to extend my gratitude to Lydia & Thomas who've helped so incredibly much this last semester with graphic design and who will be joining the admin team in the spring semester! Additionally, the Honors Outreach Ambassadors and Peer Mentor Team are also phenomenal and do such great work for Honors! Without such a great group of students, Honors wouldn't be what it is. - Heidi Schmitt, Program Coordinator 

Madi Holm



  • Hometown: Johnston, Iowa 
  • Major: Nursing
  • Year: Third-Year

I am passionate about healthcare access and would like to ensure that everyone is educated enough to make informed choices regarding their health. With that in mind, I would like to be a Nurse Midwife and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner someday. In this field, I would like to help young women feel empowered enough to take control of their reproductive care and destigmatize the practice of adolescents seeking gynecological care.

During quarantine, I have rediscovered my love for puzzles and free reading, two things that I often don’t have time for during school.

My favorite thing about honors is the ability to connect with professors and peers that I otherwise wouldn’t have met. One such example is my first-year rhetoric class. Because my rhetoric class was honors, I feel like we were able to have more engaging and deeper conversations regarding the class topics and assignments than if it weren’t an honors class. I was able to become close with my rhetoric professors, and to this day I still keep in touch with her and help her class out a few times each semester. Because the class was a little more discussion based, I was able to meet my best friend. She’s an art history major, so without rhetoric bringing us together I never would have met her! In addition, due to my discussion and lab sections of Principles of Chemistry I & II being all honors students, my lab partner never failed to show up and I was always able to learn from and with my peers in discussion! Honors makes the large university seem a bit smaller and more personable!

Benjamin Harks 

Benjamin Harks


  • Hometown: Marion, Iowa 
  • Major: Mechanical Engineering but I am currently considering a switch to Biomedical Engineering with a Computer Science minor. 
  • Year: Freshmen 
  • Points of Passion: In High School I was very passionate about competitive robotics. I think what made me passionate about that was my drive to figure out how to make things work, especially if I get a vision for what my project should look like. 
  • Career Goals: I am still working on my career goals, but I would like to use my passion for designing solutions to create prosthetics. I see prosthetics as a field that will advance exponentially in my lifetime and I would like to see it grow. 
  • Quarantine Check-in: During quarantine I have used my time to get more familiar with computers. I have been getting comfortable with Linux operating systems and programming a few small projects. 
  • Favorite thing about Honors: I really like the smaller scale and more discussion-based classes that I would get through the Honors program. This year has not allowed me to experience it quite the same, but I am looking forward to Honors classes when everything is in person. 

Danielle Baltimore



  • Hometown: Ames, Iowa
  • Major: Economics
  • Year: Sophomore
  • Points of Passion: I genuinely treasure my time at school. I take satisfaction in participating in classes that further my knowledge about anything or aid me in perfecting skills. I also just recently joined Women in Business, which I expect will develop my professional skills, and I hope to take on a leadership role in the club in the future.
  • Career Goals: I am not sure yet, but I am leaning towards something in research. I really like my major-specific classes, and I would like to choose something where the information is always changing so I can learn new things constantly.
  • Quarantine Check-in: My time in quarantine has been very uneventful. I feel like I have more time to allocate towards my hobbies, and I like spending time (safely) with some of my friends when I get the chance. I’m pretty introverted, so I don’t mind the majority of my time being spent alone. I’ve also been meaning to learn how to cook more complicated meals.
  • Favorite thing about Honors: Since we are at a university with over 30,000 people, it’s nice to see some of the same people in my classes. No matter the subject, I can usually find a familiar face in one of the Honors courses.

Mallie S.



  • Hometown: Urbandale, Iowa
  • Major: Double Major Communication Studies/Film Studies
  • Class: Second Year now
  • Points of Passion: I'm passionate about helping friends, but also, I've been interested in helping the TransAlliance club here on campus. I'm currently the Secretary for the club as well. It's been a great way to meet other trans people, but also helpful with just forming connections between people. Though this year hasn't provided many opportunities I'm still eager to continue the club's activities.
  • Career Goals: My career goals are to hopefully end up working in film, and I have a heavy interest in becoming a Sound Designer at some point. Though I would also be interested in managing social media for films and production.
  • Quarantine Check-in: I have honestly been just trying to relax during quarantine, but other than that I've been meeting with friends online to chat and keep updated with them, writing up some story ideas I get, and working to better myself with better exercise and diet!
  • Favorite thing about Honors: Honestly, my favorite thing about Honors is the classes. I had a class last year that dealt with literature of old English plays, and I found it super interesting and unique to go through! I'd love to be in more honors classes after I finish up some of my Gen Eds this semester and want to try and find some niche topics to explore. It's definitely the classes that have made me most interested about Honors.

Want to get involved in Trans Alliance? 

TransAlliance is a group of Transgender, NonBinary, and gender noncomforming people on campus, along with allies who would like to come and support their fellow students. Meetings are focused on relaxing and spending time with one another while also discussing Transgender topics in an open space. We are currently planning on meeting Thursdays at 7:30 P.M. through Zoom! The details about these meetings can be asked primarily through the Instagram or GroupMe that we have set up! We are also working on setting up Engage for the club, so keep an eye on that!

GroupMe: GroupMe

Engage: Engage Site

Instagram: Instagram