University of Vermont

The Honors College

Honors College Alums - Balzer

Laura Balzer

Laura Balzer '08 reflects on her first year in the Honors College

Sometimes incoming Honors College students have certain worries. They worry that the Honors College curriculum will overwhelm their class schedule. They worry that the college will impede on their social life. But if Laura Balzer, a 2008 graduate of the Honors College had one piece of advice for incoming students, it would be to put such worries to rest.

"The Honors College was a good balance," Laura Balzer '08 said when reflecting on her academic and social life within University Heights North, the Honors College dormitory. "I liked the socials, where everyone got to just relax and hang out on a Friday afternoon, getting to decompress with friends."

Take Balzer's word for it. While we won't speculate on her social habits, one thing is for certain: During her four years at the University of Vermont Balzer worked to become one of the most accomplished undergraduates at the university. As a first year student, Balzer was a member of the inaugural Honors College class; she thrived in the college's small classroom setting, and majored in applied mathematics. In addition to keeping up with her rigorous academic schedule, she got involved in extra research early in her undergraduate career. UVM's unique opportunities for students to get in the lab from the beginning of their college career helped Balzer build up significant academic and research experience that enabled her to thrive. She was awarded a Goldwater Scholarship in 2007, one of the most prestigious awards available for students in the science, math, engineering and technology disciplines.

At the suggestion of current Honors College Dean Abu Rizvi, she applied for and was accepted into graduate school at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. After graduating in 2009 with a master's in computational biology, Balzer returned to the U.S. and has been working as a researcher for the University of California at Irvine. She's been applying to PhD programs for epidemiology, and plans to begin her degree as a fellow at the University of California at Berkley's School of Public Health in the fall. .

While her accomplishments have already taken her across the Atlantic, and then across the country, she says that none of it would have been possible without the people she met as an Honors College student. She describes former Honors College dean and current political science professor Bob Taylor as her "surrogate father," and maintains that the support system she found at the Honors College has helped her to continue to strive even after she left Burlington. .

"There are so many people in the Honors College that are willing to work with you, willing to give you advice and guidance, and even there to give you a hug if you've had a bad day," Balzer said. .

"The Honors College played a huge part in who I am today," she continued. "There are some lifelong partnerships I made there. Lifelong friends and mentors." .

Last modified April 01 2010 01:19 PM