My experience as an LAS James Scholar

Claudia Albuixech-Robinson is currently a senior majoring in integrative biology and minoring in chemistry and ecology & conservation biology. As a pre-med student, she hopes to attend medical school and become a doctor so that she can teach patients about staying healthy and help them with their ailments. Some of her hobbies include drawing, running, and listening to music.

Claudia Albuixech-RobinsonIn my first year at U of I, the James Scholar program was admittedly a bit nerve-wracking. I joined in the midst of the pandemic, and online classes proved to be more difficult than I expected. I worried if I would be able to handle being an honors student at all. In addition to anxieties about weed-out grades, the Honors points system was daunting to me. What are academic and enrichment points? I need how many? How am I going to get those sixteen points if half of my undergrad is online?

Luckily, there were a multitude of opportunities to get those academic and enrichment credits. As a biology student, freshman year was the easiest to make progress in the academic category through LAS 122 (the college introductory course for LAS honors students) and honors discussion sections for IB and MCB 150. Once sophomore year rolled around, I was on my own to scan through syllabi and email professors for getting Electronic Honors Credit Learning Agreements submitted. This transition presented an opportunity to distinguish myself from other students and allow for connections and additional experiences. Because of this, I was able to lead discussion courses, invest more time in the subject by doing short research essays, and have additional time with professors in smaller discussion sections. By the end of the fall semester, I found a message in my James Scholar portfolio saying that I’d acquired seven academic points and advising me to start completing enrichment activities for enrichment points.

Enrichment points, I’d argue, have rewarded me with some of my favorite memories during my undergraduate career. As a volunteer at Carle I practiced humility, time management, and communication with other volunteers and hospital staff. As an Honors peer mentor I shared wisdom with students past their courses, answered their questions about general college life and being a James Scholar, and saw my freshman year self in them. As a facilitator for meetings of Mi Pueblo (a registered student organization that gives students a way to practice their Spanish) I practiced leadership and creativity. These snippets of enrichment activities address only a portion of the types of people I have met and the valuable skills I’ve obtained.

I want to emphasize that academic and enrichment points are not there to intimidate young freshmen—They are there to push you to flourish as a student and future professional in whichever path you lead. It’s understandable to be scared when you’re just starting out, but know that you aren’t selected to be a James Scholar just because of scholastic performance; this program is for those who go above and beyond in all aspects of life, and those sixteen points are a representation of that. I wish you the best in your future endeavors as an honors student!

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Claudia Albuixech-Robinson