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Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - Honors College students make academic, personal discoveries
By Katie Land, news editor

Graeme Harper, director of The Honors College
Oakland University’s newest crop of Honors College students are setting their sights high, while exploring the world of academia and their own potential.

Through an innovative new colloquium, “Making Discoveries,” students explore the nature of human discovery in fields such as the arts, technology, and medicine, as well as through individual and team excellence.

“Our students have really done a phenomenal job in this course,” said Graeme Harper, director of The Honors College. “It has been truly impressive to see the ambition, ingenuity and creativity that such young students are able to turn out, and back up through research. It is really extraordinary.”

The course featured large lecture hall speaking events and hosted guest lecturers ranging from NASA engineers and Gregg Garrett, president of CGS Advisors LLC and a winner of the 2012 Oakland Distinguished Alumni Service Award, to art and theater faculty and a viewing of the Meadow Brook Theater production, “The Haunting of Hill House.” These lectures were balanced with regular small group meetings, where students developed new friendships and received personalized instruction.

Honors College student Colleen Bielman
Additionally, students were asked to identify something they’d like to accomplish in their future careers, and outline how to achieve their goals. This opened a veritable Pandora’s box of ideas, with student projects ranging from the practical struggles of being a left-handed person in a right-handed world to developing a universal software for nurses to chart patient’s activities.

“This project has students actively and practically involved in their own academic and career goals,” Dr. Harper continued. “There are so many resources in the university setting to get started. It was exciting to see freshmen students speculate on what they could achieve in an entire career.”

Honors College student Aaron Garofalo
Freshman student Colleen Bielman’s project helped her make practical decisions about her academic career and future aspirations. 

Initially undecided, Bielman now plans to double major in vocal performance and musical education. Her project, “Teaching Classical Singers How to Belt,” gave her an opportunity to examine the risks and rewards of changing professional singing styles.

“This course formed a good transition from high school to college,” she said. “It really helped me to learn about myself and what I want to do. My inspiration for this project was my personal desire to learn about if and how a classically trained singer could learn how to belt. Belting plays a huge part in contemporary musical theatre, and I think it is important that I learn this style considering I have a classical background.”

For Aaron Garofalo, inspiration came from a number of trial and errors. The mechanical engineering major wanted to do something serious that would have a marketable value. His idea for an Equal Weight Backpack grew out of his experiences in his high school drumline and as a student, where a 
substantial amount of weight is located in one area, 
causing strain on a person’s back.

Honors College student Isabella Badalament
“My design would distribute weight in both the front and back of a person, to reduce the strain on your back,” Garofalo said. “The discoveries course made me think practically about solving an everyday problem. I don’t know if I will pursue this project in the future, but the engineering and design components would definitely be relevant to my major.”

Isabella Badalament took a very personal approach to her project, “Being Left Out.” She describes the trials and discrimination facing “lefties,” from the right-handed desks at universities to the arrangement of brakes in a car. Badalament was astonished to learn that her cousin, a left-handed medical student, had to learn to suture with her right hand.

“I want to bring awareness to this issue that affects 10 percent of people around the world,” the pre physical therapy student said. “Being immersed in The Honors College has been an amazing and challenging experience. I can’t imagine my college experience without The Honors College.”

This year marks the largest incoming class of Honors College freshman in university history. For more information about programs and events in The Honors College, view the website at

To learn more about the Making Discoveries colloquium, view the video below.