Freakin’ Awesome Honors Students: Mike McEntire

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Not everyone is lucky enough to know exactly what they want to do in life by the time they get to college, but Mike McEntire is one of those fortunate few. For Mike, the goal has always been to be a veterinarian, either at a zoo or an aquarium. Now, with applications out to vet schools in far off places like North Carolina State, Texas A&M and the University of Illinois, it’s a waiting game to see where his next steps will take him.

Originally from Sandy, UT, Mike graduated from Brighton High in 2006 and served a mission in Singapore and Malaysia before returning to his studies at BYU. Having long ago decided what direction he wants to go, the biology major has peppered his undergraduate years with internships and other experiences that have propelled him along that path. He spent a semester at a clinic called All About Pets, and one at the Mountain Horse Medical Center. He worked at Wasatch Exotic Pet Care in Salt Lake, and did a pre-veterinary preceptorship on campus. Then, in the summer of 2011, Mike was a veterinary services intern at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, where he got to work with seals and sea lions, penguins and sharks.

“I loved being there,” Mike said. “I got to help draw blood and give injections—it was awesome. I always thought I would like to work in a zoo or an aquarium but when I did, I was like wow, there’s nothing like this anywhere else.”

These days, Mike works taking care of the fish in the basement of the Widtsoe. It was his work there that inspired his thesis project, studying the effects of male dominance on female mate choice in poecilia gilii, a small but common live bearing fish found in the waters of Central America.

Mike even got to travel to Costa Rica to collect fish for the project.

“I was there for a week, and we just went through a couple of the provinces, collecting in streams as we went,” Mike explained. “It was pretty sweet.”

Back on campus, Mike serves on the Life Sciences Student Council, and volunteers with the campus Choose to Give campaign. He also works in a research lab, where he says he has come to love research.

“I really didn’t think I ever would,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, and there is so much room to improve our knowledge about all these different species. Every day is something new.”

Now, as life is about to take him onto a new school in a new city, Mike will have something else new to take along with him: a wife. Mike met Virginia in a class last fall, and discovered they were in the same ward a few days later. Now the couple is preparing for their May wedding.


Fun facts: Mike speaks Mandarin. He is the oldest of five kids. He swam competitively as a teenager, and once even got to swim with Michael Phelps. Like so many honors students, he loves to read, and considers books “medicine of the soul”. One of his life goals is to read all the Barnes & Noble classics. This fall, he has been taking the C.S. Lewis Honors class (Check out to see some of his thoughts on what he’s been reading), which he considers one of his favorites, along with an environmental humanities class he took with Dr. Oscarson.



Freakin’ Awesome Honors Students: Carson Bennett

“Our lives are a series of defining moments, strung together by passing time. Surrender fully to the moment, because it is not the moment itself that defines us, but how we choose to live in it.”

—Jill Hanna

Carson Bennett was a high school senior when he had one of the most important hinge moments of his life—you know, the kind of moment where you can feel some kind of cosmic shift in your entire life’s path wrapped up in a seemingly inconsequential decision; the type of moment that comes into brilliant focus only when one looks into the rear-view mirror of life.

He didn’t score the game-winning touchdown or sail around the world in a semester at sea. He simply took a creative writing class, and that, as Frost might say, has made all the difference.

It was in that class that Carson discovered a love for poetry. There that he first felt a sense of duty with regards to writing. There that the passing thought of going to BYU became both a possibility and a reality as his teacher recommended he apply for the Lavern S. Clark creative writing scholarship for incoming freshman.

And, because of that, it was there that the wheels were set in motion for even more life changing experiences down the road.

As a freshman at BYU, Carson entered a poem he’d written into a contest on a bit of a whim and ended up winning the opportunity to attend the Western Regional Honors Conference. There, he presented his poem and spent the weekend in a four-star hotel, listening to dedicated honors students from several states presenting their own findings on a multitude of topics.

“That whole experience opened my eyes to what I could become,” Carson said, adding that it confirmed his decision to pursue the Honors program.

A few months later, Carson set off on an even bigger eye opening experience: a full-time mission.

“I’d like to think that I would have gone on a mission if I hadn’t ended up at BYU,” Carson said. “But my freshman year was a dream and because of that, I had no questions about going. I believe the Lord knew where to put me.”

From 2009 to 2011, the Lord put Carson in Brazil’s southernmost mission. Then, once he was back at BYU, the Lord put Carson in the path of an old friend who was just returning from the Cambridge Direct Enrollment program in the United Kingdom.

“As I learned more about the program, it was another one of those “do this” moments, that inner pull,” Carson said.

So last summer Carson traveled to England and spent the summer studying, reflecting, and challenging himself under the guidance of Cambridge Dons, at the same time rubbing shoulders with other driven students like himself.

“Just being around so many people hungry for education, and being able to talk about it with them in an intimate setting changed a whole lot of things,” Carson said. Staying up until all hours of the morning talking with and learning from his peers led Carson to co-found the Curiosity Club, a group of inquisitive Honors students that meets weekly to foster camaraderie and learning about the world together.

“Cambridge got me asking questions,” Carson explains. “Those questions captivated me, and I found myself wanting to go after the answers.”

Carson will have plenty of answer seeking to keep him busy in the coming months—he’s just embarking on the thesis process, and intends to do something with witness literature and trauma theory.

In the meantime, he’s got his hands full as a junior balancing a double major in English and Portuguese along with an on-campus translation internship for the Church, putting the Lectures on Faith into Portuguese. He also serves as a coordinator for the Cambridge program and will teach the prep class in 2013.

An adherent to the belief that life isn’t a matter of what he has or what he does, but rather a measure of what he has become, Carson is happy living life in the moment—in the best possible way.

Fun facts: Carson was born in the Big Easy (New Orleans), but considers Holladay, UT his hometown. He is a pescetarian (a vegetarian who eats fish) and plays guitar, intramural volleyball and enjoys participating in triathlons. If you keep your eyes open while crossing campus, you might see him reading “The Odyssey” as he walks between classes. As if mastering two languages wasn’t enough, he’s currently learning Spanish and Hebrew (which just may come in handy since he’s considering joining the foreign service when he grows up). 

By Way of Introduction…

**Cricket, cricket**

 **Tumbleweed tumbling**

**Echo- Oh- Oh- Oh?**

Yup, this blog has been neglected for a while, and the time is [beyond] ripe for us to repent of our sinful ways and formally introduce you to your 2012-2013 Honors Student Advisory Council members.

But before we do that, we want you to know that we have had a blast working together so far this semester, and we are looking forward to involving each of you even more in the months to come. We hope you will come to Honors events and service projects, get involved on our committees, and maybe even consider writing for, or being featured on the blog (look for profiles of Freakin’ Awesome Honors students on the blog every Friday starting this week).

We are also super excited about the changes we’re implementing, like the inauguration of the Honors Representative Program, Great Works societies, and the activity board. We hope you’ll take the time to send us your feedback and suggestions for these projects or anything else relating to the Honors Program. It is our job to find ways to make a great thing better, and to be your connection to administration, but it is your ideas and input that truly generate change. Every one of you is a part of BYU’s Honors legacy!

And now on to the introductions. Better late than never… right?

meet HSAC





Photo © 2012 Sarah Kay Brimhall





Ta-da! Here we are… don’t we look friendly? (We are, and we want to meet YOU!)

Admittedly, we’re all a little bit the clichéd Honors student: overachievers with full plates and what some might consider a hearty appetite for punishment. But we, like so many of you, prefer to think of ourselves as possessing a healthy dose of enthusiasm for being challenged, and a genuine curiosity about the world around us. As it turns out, this is one of the few things that ALL of us share.

Though we are as racially and religiously homogenous as you might expect (this is BYU after all), we are about as different as people come. Between the twelve of us we represent a dozen different majors or emphases and just as many distinct minors. We hail from seven states and two countries, speak eight languages, and represent a vast spectrum of political, social, and personal convictions (not the least of which is the rather divisive issue of our respective devotion to BYU athletics).

More specifically, we are:

Trevor Anderson


Senior, Biophysics

Thesis: Comparisons and characterization of amantadine derivatives against the Influenza A Viruz M2TMD proton Channel, with Dr. David Busath


Michelle Gessel


Senior, Interdisciplinary Humanities

Thesis: From Lake Bonnevile to Rock Climbing, a History of Rock Canyon, with George Handley


Rachel Dabb


Senior, Communications: Advertising

Thesis: How nonprofit organizations tell their story


Brooke Ward

Online Publications

Senior, Communications: Public Relations

Thesis: Persuasion and the Silver screen: Mititgating ethical barriers for prosocial activism in entertainment television, with Dr. Robert Wakefield


Evan Finlay

Alumni Liason

Sophomore, Public Health


Zack Smith

Honors Representative Liason

Senior, Political Science Pre-Law

Thesis: How the Founders affect conservatives today, with Dr. Quin Monson


Jordan Baker

SAC Representative

Junior, English


Tory Anderson

Honors Advisor Liason

Senior, Linguistics

Thesis: Episodic Memory in Syntatic processing with a cognitive architecture, with Derryle Lonsdale


Brendan Coutu

Symposium Chair

Senior, Biochemistry

Thesis: Mass Spec Lipidomics, with Dr. John Prince


Katie Richards

Great Works Chair

Sophomore, History


Annie Pulpisher

Service Chair

Senior, Humanities: Environmental emphasis

Thesis: Theatrical adaptation of “San Manuel Bueno Martin”, with Gregory Stallings


Sarah Kay Brimhall

Graphic Designer

Junior, Graphic Design

Breakfast and Service Opportunity

The Honors Program is hosting a breakfast and service activity this Saturday. The activity will begin in the Honors Lounge in the basement of the Maeser building.

At 9am a pancake breakfast will be served and at 10am we will head over to SCERA park in Orem to clean up the park.

The Honors Program will provide transportation to SCERA park from the Maeser building at 9:45, but you are welcome to meet us there at 600 South State Street in Orem.

Orem city parks will provide all the tools, gloves, etc. that we will need. We recommend you bring a water bottle and wear weather appropriate clothing. Currently the forecast predicts the weather will be sunny and the high will be in the mid-50s .

Community Action Photos and an Opening Social Update


The Honors Program had a great service experience at Community Action. The students who attended repackaged toilet paper for distribution.

The Honors Program also donated the canned food students brought during the opening social. Altogether, the donations weighed 188 pounds! Thanks to everyone who donated food at the opening social and who came to the service activity.

Thursday Service Activity

by Sean Fisher

The BYU Honors Program is having a service activity at Community Action on Thursday, February 16th. Meet at the Maeser building at 6:15pm to commute to the Food Bank (or meet at Community
Action at 6:30pm). We will have a brief tour before the service project. Please
bring a canned food item to donate. Also, remember to wear closed toed shoes and long pants to
prevent accidental injury.

For more information about Community Action, you can contact them at 801-373-8200 or visit their website:

This is a fantastic way to start a longer-lasting relationship with a respected, local service
organization to help our community. This may also help you in your efforts to complete the
Honors Service Requirement. There are many opportunities for students to get involved in
helping Community Action accomplish its mission. Simple tasks may include: sorting cans,
filling food boxes, stocking pantry shelves, etc.

The Community Action promise on their website reads, “Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the
spirit of hope, improves communities, and makes America a better place to live. We care about
the entire community, and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.”

Community Action’s goals to help individuals establish self-sufficiency, one step at a time,
coincide with the Church’s doctrinal views concerning self-reliance and provident living.

Mark your calendars for the Honors Symposium

The Honors Symposium will take place on Wednesday, March 28th. Senator Bob Bennett will be speaking on “The Evolution of American Politics.”

Tickets go on sale in 350 MSRB for Honors students on February 9th. They will be $10. On February 23rd tickets will increase to $15 and will then be available to faculty and alumni.

As always, you can check the upcoming events page for information about this and other Honors Program events.

Opening Social: Ice Skating and Broom Hockey

It’s the beginning of a new semester and time for the Honors Program Winter Opening Social.

Join us at Peaks Ice Arena, Saturday, January 14 @ 9:00pm.

Skating, Broom hockey, and refreshments are free when you bring a canned food item! ($1.25 without food donation)

Event Schedule:
9:00-9:45pm Ice Skating
9:45pm Dr. Lawrence Rees, Physics Department, Great Works in Science experience
10:00-11:00pm Broom Hockey (closed toed shoes required)
Directions and further details are available at

Join the facebook event here


Movie Screening: Life is Beautiful (1997)

On Thursday, December 1, 2011, the BYU Honors Program will be hosting a screening of the film “Life is Beautiful.” The screening will begin at 7:00pm and will be held in room 321 of the Maeser building. Please come and see this incredible and touching film!

(Note: Although the original film was rated R, we will be watching a new release of the film that has been re-rated as PG-13. See you at the screening!)

Link to the Facebook announcement:!/events/203895483023058/

View the movie trailer here:

Chinese Closing Social

by Ashlee Gerlach

For the past six weeks, Honors students have celebrated China’s vibrant culture by attending movies, activities, and lectures focusing on both modern and ancient China.  On  October 28, students participated in a closing social marking the end of the Great Works Chinese emphasis.  The Chinese closing social was an activity to remember, filled with crafts, contests, and a delicious Chinese feast.

The night started off with a lesson in the art of kite making.  Using dowels, construction paper, glue, and string, students were able to construct simplified replicas of ancient Chinese kites.  During this activity, facts about the inventions of ancient China were read.  For example, did you know that the Chinese were the inventors of the fork?

Attendees also had the opportunity to make crossbows out of pencils, pens, rubber bands, and bamboo skewers.  Students were then let loose to try their hand at using their newly made “weapons” while enjoying a contest to see who had built the farthest shooting crossbow.

Towards the end of the social, the upcoming country of focus was announced.  The next six weeks of Great Works activities will be centered on the customs, culture, and unique contributions of Italy!  Future activities will include showings of “La Strada” and “Life is Beautiful”, a lecture about Italian architecture, creating buildings out of sugar cubes, and an Italian Christmas party!