From Politics to Particles:
CLAS Honor Students Appreciate the 
Diversity of a Liberal Education
CLAS Honors Program 
Big Picture Thinking  
Alex Hooper      Because the study of economics is usually associated with the business school, many people don't realize that CLAS also offers students the opportunity to major in economics.  UF junior Alex Hooper, who studies international economics, chose the CLAS major for several reasons:  "Majoring in economics within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has enabled me to choose complementary classes in many nonbusiness-oriented disciplines.  I can take political science or languages courses, for example, that will help broaden my career opportunities."  

     After growing up in the tiny Gulf town of Cedar Key (population 500), Alex was excited to get to UF and to have access to all the options of a large school.  "I loved knowing that I could take courses in anything from accounting to veterinary medicine,"  he says.  In his first semester at UF,  however, Alex took an honors geography course that convinced him of the advantages of going Liberal Arts. "Every week, the professor took us on field trips to nearby places, such as downtown Gainesville or the UF football stadium, to look at and evaluate landscapes," Hooper explains.  "We discussed their physical structures, but we also had to record how each place affected us emotionally, and we turned in a paper on each location."  Completing over 10 papers for the class was a "wake up call" to Hooper, who says the experience taught him not only geography but college-level composition skills.  

     "A liberal arts and sciences education contributes to an integrated way of thinking," Hooper explains.  "What you're learning isn't as important as the way you learn it.  I might approach an economics problem in a way that an engineer might not.  I think when you specialize too much you can sometimes lose sight of the big picture."  

     This "big picture" thinking is reflected in the diversity of Hooper's extracurricular pursuits.  He plays squash and rugby, has participated in UF's student government and has traveled the country competing with the University's model UN team.  Perhaps his greatest experience thus far though, was his internship last summer with Microsoft in Seattle.  "As a Program Manager on the Microsoft Office team, I helped design wizards [document creation tools] and manage projects from the design stage through  development and testing."  

     As for the future?  "Right after college," says Alex, "I'd like to work doing something in the international finance/economics field, gaining experience in the world of international business.  I'd like to go on to graduate school, study international relations and public policy, and then eventually do public service.  In the end, I'd like to be working on the big picture, as opposed to just seeing it."  

 On The Ball
 Patrick O'Connor       
     With his perfect grades and outstanding basketball talent Patrick O'Connor, a Jacksonville native, could have gone to college anywhere.  O'Connor, who has a full academic scholarship (he's a Merit Scholar, a Florida Scholar and Robert Bird Scholar), chose UF over the Ivy Leagues after Gator basketball coach Billy Donovan invited him to walk on to the men's varsity team.  "My biggest goal in high school was to play college ball," Patrick explains.   And play he did--although not a starter, O'Connor got floor time in six UF games his first season and is looking forward to more floor time this season.  "I knew I would have had the chance to play a lot more my first year if I'd gone to school at Yale or some other northeastern college with a smaller basketball program, but I liked the idea of joining a bigger program.  I think playing here has made me tougher and humbler, and I've learned a lot."  

     But it was more than just sports that convinced O'Connor to stay in his home state.  "I was impressed with the academic programs at UF and the increasing quality of the education offered here," he says.  Thanks to a wealth of college credits earned in highshool, Patrick had all his General Education coursework completed his first semester, so he had the luxury of taking a few classes in different disciplines that interested him before having to declare a major.  "I knew I wanted a CLAS degree," he says, "because a Liberal Arts education offered the most diversity."  After taking several psychology courses and a physics and calculus course, O'Connor decided on Political Science.  "It makes sense, since I'm planning to go on to law school."  

     Amazingly, O'Connor has managed to both maintain a perfect GPA and involve himself in campus activities despite the pressures of playing college basketball, which includes weight-lifting and conditioning year round and two practices a day during the season.  As a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), he represents his teammates by bringing their questions and concerns to SAAC meetings.  O'Connor also participates in "Goodwill Gators," which gets campus athletes involved in community service activities.  In addition, he's preparing to join the pre-law honor society.  

     What's on tap for after graduation?  He's applying for a Rhodes Scholarship, which would take him to Oxford.  But whatever comes next, O'Connor is confident his CLAS education will pave the way.  "A Liberal Arts and Sciences education provides valuable skills that can be applied in any field, and I think employers and graduate schools know that."