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Ten people stand in a line in front of a historic ship.

MAYMESTER: Students toured the Jeanie Johnston in Dublin, Ireland, and learned about immigrants who sailed to teh U.S. during the famine in the 19th century.

Bell Tower Magazine | Alumni | BT-CurrentOctober 20, 2022

Maymester: Honors Students at Home and Abroad

About two dozen UAFS Myles Friedman Honors Program graduates met recently to mark the program’s 10th anniversary. 

This group of young men and women went to college together and wrestled their way through courses together. They had, in many ways, grown up together. But when they get together, they talk about the trips.

Key to the honors program at UAFS is Maymester experience, which enables students to travel, domestically and internationally.

When Dr. Dennis Siler called the students together to get a group picture, he had a plan to make the students smile. “So, what would you say to an honors graduate Maymester trip?”

Instantly the group was a ring of smiles. 

To be clear, there is no plan for this trip. But if there were a trip, these proud and passionate alums would be ready to go. 

Siler is the director of the Myles Friedman Honors Program. Ten years ago, Siler and a group of faculty explored the idea of developing an honors program at UAFS. They had the support of then-Provost Dr. Ray Wallace, who, Siler said, had experience with an honors program at a different school.

“He understood the importance and value of the program,” Siler said. 

The Honors Program that the group of faculty and Wallace created emphasized interdisciplinary learning and international understanding.

In 2018, the program received a living trust from the Myles Friedman family, and the program was named in his honor. 

“We are so grateful for this gift,” Siler said. “We appreciate how this trust shows confidence in us and our students.” 

The Honors Program accepts students from any UAFS discipline, and their membership is noted on their transcripts. Siler said that note is helpful for students applying to graduate school, law school, or medical school.

Each cohort of honors students takes two Maymester trips: one domestic and one international. COVID-19 disrupted the schedule, but it will resume. 

Previous domestic trips explored the East Coast, Mississippi River communities, and the Great American Road Trip. Trips to Ireland and the UK were among international trips.

Several attendees talked about the self-confidence they gained through travel. 

Jackalynne Self, ‘19, had a slightly different experience than many. Her domestic trip was more domestic-adjacent: Canada. Her international trip was through the United Kingdom. She believes the most significant result of her Honors Program experience was the creation of life-long friendships with students and faculty members.