PROFILE: Honors Scholar Takes the Trip of a Lifetime

“Every day we woke up and thought, ‘We have no idea what we’re doing.’ Then, we’d do it, and we’d come back and say, ‘I can’t believe I just did that!’”

University of Cincinnati Honors Scholar Ashley Allemang took the trip of a lifetime over spring break last March when she traveled with 22 others with the

Honors Scholars

Program to Belize. The 20-year-old biology major from Kings Mills, Ohio, was interested in gaining some real-world experience by studying the ecosystems on the barrier reefs and using her minor in Spanish to explore a Latin American country. But she found so much more.

“You could see that the coral was damaged. Belize has one of the highest protected land mass ratios, but the coral is still damaged and at this point, nothing is being done to save it.”

Ashley Allemang

Ashley Allemang

The 10-day trip has become a spring break tradition for the Honors Scholars Program. Students have previously traveled to Hawaii and Key West and are planning a journey to Costa Rica for spring break 2004. In Belize, the students explored the reefs, the rainforest and the Mayan ruins, as well as the culture. Ashley stresses it wasn’t your typical college student’s spring break adventure. “We were up at six in the morning and we were asleep by 10. We’d take two-hour bus rides in busses that weren’t air conditioned. I think someone said the temperature got up to 104 degrees that day.  But there isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t want to go back.”

The UC’s Honors Scholars Program provides courses, programming and social opportunities for UC’s academically-talented students. This fall, the total number of Honors Scholars at UC will jump to 1,700, compared to 1,400 last year. Dave Meredith, director of enrollment management for the UC Honors Scholars, says a record 480 incoming freshman will compose UC’s largest class of Honors Scholars since it became a university-wide program in 1991.

Honors Scholars

Honors Scholars

Ashley started earning UC college credit when she was just 16 by joining UC’s Post Secondary Enrollment Option Program (PSEOP) when she was a junior in high school. By the time she entered her freshman year at UC, she had already earned 52 college credit hours.

Science has long been a passion for Ashley, who says she’s loved the field since she was a little girl. In Belize, she says she was the only person to get excited about seeing leaf cutter ants. “They were the coolest things ever. They run up a tree and cut off pieces of leaves, and you can see them carrying them – these tiny little ants and these huge leaves. They take the leaves underground, and then a mold grows on the leaves and that’s what they eat.”

She took on an additional challenge at UC over the summer, after she was awarded a summer fellowship through the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program that works to recruit more women to the science and engineering professions. Ashley was awarded a research fellowship in the ecology program of Kenneth Petren, UC assistant professor of biological sciences. She’s studying the behavioral ecology of  juvenile geckos. “I’m taking care of 125 juvenile geckos. They’re charismatic, and they’re hyper. They run real fast up your arm and down your sleeve!”

Her advice to new students is to “explore how to get the most out of your education.
“I never thought I’d be going to Belize in college. I applied for the WISE fellowship and never thought I’d get it. Now, I’m learning the basics of being a scientist, and I’ll be presenting my research at the end of the fellowship.

“My advice to new students: Look for all of the opportunities that are here. This is the time that you can really make things happen!”


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